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I'm new to the site and I really enjoy it. I like teaching and I have a fair amount of graphic design experience. My question is general and it's about the question and answer system here on GDSE:

Should I answer questions which others might flag as too vague, open ended, unspecific, similar to another, inexperienced, lack of examples, or generally improperly asked?

I'm aware of the community standards. I see a lot of people come in and ask their first question and immediately have their question closed or flagged for one of the reasons above. This is probably discouraging to them and they may never come back.

I can usually see plainly what they're asking for and sometimes I have a useful answer. What serves the greatest purpose of helping people with their graphic design questions, answering sincerely or catching them up on a technical problem with their question?

If I can help why shouldn't I?

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On the one hand, the main effect of closure/putting questions on hold is to prevent answers, as there will be something problematic about them. By answering a truly closeworthy question, you are putting an answer out there that may cause problems (e.g., as it may be invalidated by the asker clarifying their question).

On the other hand, if you can plainly see what the question is asking for (as you write), there is a considerable chance that it’s not closeworthy in the first place. In this case, consider arguing why the question should remain open and editing it to clarify it. The edit-and-answer badges were specifically made to reward this behaviour. Also note that there are a few overzealous close voters on this site. Just that somebody votes to close a question does not mean that it will eventually be closed.

Some thoughts on some of the specific reasons for closure you name:

  • too vague, unspecific

    If you are sure that you understand what the asker intends, this is a clear case for editing the question.

  • similar to another

    If this is true, please do not answer the question. This site aims at having one question with answers on a given problem, not multiple ones. If you feel that your answer adds something to the existing answers of the duplicate question, post it there.

    If this is not true, try to clarify why the question is different from the existing one.

  • inexperienced

    This is not a valid close reason. If you see anybody arguing that a question should be closed for this reason, lapidate them with naval fluff.

  • lack of examples

    This is not a close reason per se. Admittedly many questions are unclear because they lack examples, but if you feel that you understand the question, the above applies.

  • Except that 3D questions are routinely, read:, all of them, closed for the inexperience reason. – joojaa Feb 25 '17 at 16:46
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    @joojaa: Aren’t they usually closed due to “3D is off-topic here” or tech support (because people were too lazy to enter a proper close reason)? – Wrzlprmft Feb 25 '17 at 16:59
  • They are offtopic mainly because they represent too much work, too basic, too little knowledge to sort out and rarely have anything to do with graphic design. – joojaa Feb 25 '17 at 17:03
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    starts collecting naval fluff – Vincent Feb 26 '17 at 11:59
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You should ideally let the person sort out their question, before answering. Knowing the answer is one thing but being able to, and being encouraged to formulate a good question is worthwhile.

Giving a person a fish will feed him for a day, teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime. Teaching a person to ask a good question, teaches them skills that will eliminate need for lot of questions. Additionally those questions they will ask are better formulated, and the asker is much more likely to understand the answer.

But yes, it's sometimes possible to read people's intention between the lines. You should try to avoid that. Doing this is one of the reasons people dislike dealing with say IT support and so on. It's a very good way of shooting yourself in the leg.

Also, if somebody can't be bothered to ask proper questions and interact with others, it's fine for them to go elsewhere. It's good to remember that nobody can be forced to answer. There are lots of unanswered questions out there that I or others could answer. Part of getting an answer is doing the work so that the persons able to help you see it as worthwhile.

PS: It is perfectly fine for you to have your own policy. As long as you can invest the time to make a meaningful contribution. You change the community by doing a change not asking for others to do it.

  • "Part of getting an answer is doing the work so that the persons able to help you see it as worthwhile" - this is the biggest aspect to me. If they can't help themselves, why would I want to spend my time and effort helping them? – Zach Saucier Feb 25 '17 at 19:03
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    Not sure about this, but will unaswered questions get deleted over time? Some guys just make an account and drop 3 lines which make little sense, then never ever come back to see if anybody answered. Will these questions remain in the database forever? Take a look at this one graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/85838/… the guy can barely explain what he needs and is obviously missing some very basic knowledge. I find these questions irrelevant in the long run. Is there a cleaning system in place? – Lucian Feb 27 '17 at 8:05
  • No unanswered questions will haunt you forever. Answering does not help either the answer needs to have a + vote of 2. That is why you need to close them. – joojaa Feb 27 '17 at 8:08

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