Sometimes I feel that a question has some value, but it is formulated in a unclear way, or it seems to ask two questions in one post, which is not recommended. Despite its value, the question is not suitable for RPG.SE (at least, for what I understand what are the Stack's requirements).

Usually, I write a comment asking clarifications and sometimes I even vote to close for "need more focus". In some cases, I think that the problem is quick to be solved and require minor modification, hence I prepare a draft of an answer, tailored for what I think the real question is.

I wait for the clarification from the OP or the decision on closing/leaving open process (when it is present) before posting a first version of the answer, for being consistent and for avoiding to provide an answer that does not actually solves the problem

Is this a correct behaviour? Or should I provide an answer to the question I think the OP is asking regardless the close/leave open process is going on?

For a practical case, see If you're Githzerai or have the Telepathy feat, are spell components required for the spell-slot-powered castings?: in this case, I thought that there are two questions instead of one, regarding two different game features. I voted to close and I refrain myself to post an answer.


3 Answers 3


You should re-think your close vote

It is, of course, possible to “think” you know what the question is asking, and prepare for that, without being confident enough to actually post an answer—in that case, a vote to close seeking clarification is appropriate. Answering probably isn’t.

However, in general, we close too many questions. The gatekeeping here has gotten extreme, and our falling activity levels in no way justify it. Questions are often closed seeking clarifications that are irrelevant, unnecessary, or “nice to have,” and they should not be. If you are thinking about answering a question, you should also be thinking about retracting a close vote. It won’t be the right call every time, but it may be some of the time. And the site would likely be better off if more people made that call more of the time. We err far too hard in favor of closure and clarification.

We are not here to seek question nirvana, we are here to solve problems. Good enough to answer is good enough to remain open.

Answering a question you know is problematic and will be closed is poor

Just handling the easy thing first—getting your answer in before 5 close votes have accrued, as a way to evade the site rules, is poor form, and runs the risk of the answer being deleted by moderators. Please don’t do that.

Tangential to the question, I know, but important enough to state at the outset.

Answering a question you “know” is fine but will be closed anyway can be good

Obviously, scare quotes on “know,” but very often experts understand questions that the wider community does not—something that appears unclear to those unfamiliar with the domain can, in fact, be perfectly clear to someone who is. (People probably shouldn’t be voting to close in such cases, but then there is no simple test for someone to know what they don’t know.) Answering such questions can “save” them, by making it clear that they can be answered.

But, of course, for it to be good, you have to be right. Still, no harm (generally), so no foul if you’re wrong.

Still tangential to the question, since you shouldn’t be voting to close such questions.

There is just barely room for both an answer and a close vote

The case is, “This question is borderline, and I think it’s over the line, but I’m not sure if the community agrees with me, and I have what I consider to be the best answer possible under the circumstances.”

This can justify both a close vote and an answer, maybe. It’s usually a mess when it happens, but I have done so a few times and I have seen others with considerable experience and whom I respect here do so sometimes, and it can rarely be the right answer.

Consider: sometimes, the best way to handle a question that could, arguably, be closed, is to answer it and demonstrate the problems with the formulation of the question. Usually such questions are problematic because they turn out to be far broader than the querent thinks they are. Sometimes the best answer is to point that out, and close the question for narrowing. Other times, the best approach is to answer the question and address the unexpected broadness. An answer affords more space to do it, and ultimately, because the user was unaware of the hidden breadth or depth of their query, there is an opportunity there to “answer” their query with the real information they need to know.

Any time that is the case, closure is a consideration. Sometimes I have decided quite unambiguously that a question should not be closed, but other times it’s been less clear. There are times where my answer itself demonstrated why a question should be closed—because I’d write a huge answer discussing various directions and facets of the question and still not coming to a singular answer, as a “see, this is the best the question can be answered, and it’s still not really answered.”

The other concern is Fastest Gun in the West, which shouldn’t be a concern but is. If you think a question should be closed, but it’s borderline and you’re not sure it will be, I think it’s reasonable to also answer it, saying “I don’t really think this question works, but if the community wants it like this, this is my answer.” Not ideal, but then, neither is the Fastest Gun in the West effect itself—it’s just something we have to deal with. Sometimes—rarely—answering and voting to close can be how we deal with it.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I slightly changed the text of the question, explaining that I do not always prepare and answer after my VtC. I do not if you feel to change some bits of your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 11:34

If you think the current question cannot be answered or should not be answered, then the correct thing is to close vote until the question is edited such that it could be answered.

If, however, the question can and should be answered then closure is unwarranted.

Closure and answering are mutually exclusive - a question cannot both be closable and deserve an answer. The goals are exactly opposed. Of course, different people might take different stances but the same user should not go for both actions.

Closure is for when a question does not meet the rules. This could be because the question:

  • Is not within the scope of the stack. For example, asking about a video game or even about cooking.
  • Is inappropriate for the format of the stack. For example, soliciting discussion.
  • Is in need of editing before it can be answered. For example, there is not enough information or there are too many questions to answer.
  • Et cetera.

Do avoid being overly eager with close reasons. A litmus test would be whether or not somebody else can edit the question without changing its meaning such that a close reason not applicable anymore. There is some information that only the question asker can provide. However, if other users can edit to remove ambiguity or otherwise end up with a question that is within the rules, then closure is inappropriate.

To similar effect, consider whether a question in its current shape is indeed answerable and on-topic. An edit might be a nice to have but ultimately unnecessary.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "However, if other users can edit to remove ambiguity or otherwise end up with a question that is within the rules, then closure is inappropriate." Please do not edit questions where you lack the information of what the intent is, even when that makes them stackable — answering a different problem that the querent doesn't have is rarely useful to them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 8:49
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu that's not what I was suggesting. As I said - questions that cannot and should not be answered are supposed to be closed. There are questions that can be edited. Some overzealous users tend to ignore edits as a possibility when closing questions. If the question is "Is bule or red die to be used for <foo>", then it's pretty easy to guess the user did not ask for a die related to a football player but a colour. (unless the system is built around football players). So closing is not needed here, as it's not so unclear as to need author edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 10:21

This is what I learned from other sites that might be useful to be applied here:

Answering and Voting-to-Close (VTC) a question gives a mixed signal about the quality of the question. Closing a question is meant to put it on hold so the OP can fix the problem within the question. Answering it might confuse the OP whether there is actually a problem.

Also, when the OP edits the question, there is also a chance that your answer becomes invalidated. If you fix your answer too, that's good, but sometimes people leave answers invalidated by edits (although arguably, you shouldn't edit an answered question in a way that invalidates answers), and no one knows or cares enough to do clean-up (downvote or flag your answer). This is worst case scenario.

So, please use only one or the other, not both.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly this, same goes for answering in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 21:20

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