Reading on Meta StackOverflow, the consensus there seems to be that 'bad' (i.e. poorly researched, lazy, duplicate, etc.) questions shouldn't be answered, as this just encourages more questions of the same type (see this answer).

However, I wonder what is, or should be, the norm here. Taking as a case in point, this question ("How to set about constructing Nootropic stack for learning a particular skill") is clearly not what this site is intended for: it's ill informed, it's about self-help, and probably worse, self-experimentation, and it is, for want of a better word, a bad question.

However, I still posted an answer, because:

  • there were a number of misconceptions shown in the question which I believed should be addressed; and
  • This information might be beneficial for others (although admittadly I didn't provide the references I should have).

My question is this: Should such questions be responded to, if doing so could increase the knowledge base available on this site, and be of use to others, or should we cut them a wide berth, so as not to encourage them?

  • 1
    We haven't really discussed this, so thanks for the question! However, we have discussed that self-help questions like that should instantly be closed, and thus if done on time, in principle can no longer be answered until improved. :)
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 9:06
  • Fair point. Should I remove my answer in that case?
    – Eoin
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 9:38
  • 2
    I would leave it for now, it's useful to guide this discussion.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 11:32
  • 3
    A useful question; very poor questions do seem to be taking over CS.SE lately, so perhaps some community cycles should be spent on faster or more effective ways of discouraging or improving bad questions (or encouraging good ones).
    – Krysta
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 13:16
  • 1
    I don't have time today to write a full answer, but basically my advice for what to do when seeing a bad question is to (in this priority order) 1. Flag or vote to close, 2. Edit to improve, 3. Comment asking for edits, 4. Answer
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 13:21
  • I posted some related thoughts here. Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 19:28

2 Answers 2


"Bad" is a relative term.

Duplicates should be ammended with a link to the supposed duplicates. I have often asked questions (here and especially on SO), that were rated to be duplicates, where the supposed duplicate had a decisively different angle and the answers did not help me, or where I simply did not find the duplicates because not knowing the answer I did not know what terms to search for.

This lack of knowledge is often also the reason for poorly worded questions. It think it is part of the duty of experienced / knowledgeable members so ammend "ignorant" questions, because a certain level of knowledge is necessary to chose the right terms and the appropriate frame of reference.

Generally, I feel that as long as everybody and their grandmother are encouraged and allowed to become a member of this site, we cannot be elitist.

  • I generally agree, I just answered this one today and included my justification in a comment to the question. Commented May 6, 2014 at 2:55

I have minimum rep and so have little "right" to respond here. But I do like and care about cognitive sciences and was excited to see that there was a SE site for it.

On English Language and Usage, the site is what I consider appropriately moderated. Questions showing no research are down voted and bad questions closed either by the community or the mods. On that site, even when I close vote, I still usually provide an answer (in comments), because, well, it's easy.

On this site, answers are not easy; they require an investment of time.

If people are willing to answer poor questions, I don't believe they should be punished for it, however, I think bad answers should be down voted.

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