Inspired by this question, and Ran G.'s comment, what is the "best" practice (in terms of the maintenance of the health of the site) for questions that appear too simple to be correctly asked, but where the questioner fails to reply to requests for clarification?

In the case linked above, several comments were posted pointing out the obvious solution, plus other ideas, all leading towards or directly requesting clarification from the questioner. Given the case where the questioner does not respond with alacrity (a side question is how long to wait?), three courses of action seem to be open:

  • Wait longer.
  • Answer the question despite the apparent triviality.
  • Close the question (perhaps as "not a real question" - though this is a somewhat uncomfortable fit).

The first option clearly is unsatisfactory after a certain point, open, unanswered question that can be easily answered or removed shouldn't be left sitting around.

The second option is not bad. There's a certain argument that what we might consider trivial is still useful to someone (though in the case cited, it seems more that someone didn't even read the question they wrote), and answers can always be edited or deleted later if the questioner does eventually clarify things.

The third option is more tricky. If the question is actually poorly asked, then the "not a real question" option is perfect. In this case however, the question is clear and "well formed", it just appears too simple to be real.

In this case, I went with Ran G. and answered the question, but it nonetheless seems worthwhile to clarify what threshold an apparently trivial question passes before it becomes a "real question".

tl;dr A question seems trivial, answer or close?


I think posting the trivial answer is the trivial solution. That is, if (and only if) the question is somewhat SE-good; the usual guidelines apply. If not, close as NARQ.

We have always made a point of being open to all levels. We should not double back now, only because the volume and thus the number of "easy" questions increases.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A question with a trivial answer is good for the "proportion of answered questions" metric, but only if someone actually upvotes it. The other reasonable outcome is if the question is closed. Given that many people don't want to upvote trivial answers to questions that can be answered by a simple search, it seems there will be many questions with a trivial answer that has no upvotes, as has happened with math.SE; this would make the site look bad by SE's metrics. $\endgroup$ – András Salamon Jun 22 '13 at 14:33

I voted to close the question earlier, and I think that is what should be done. Since the question is basically already answered in the question you link, the OP should definitely clarify what exactly is confusing to him: it perhaps doesn't help the OP in any way if someone just repeats the definition, if you will. I'm not saying that this is what you did (I didn't read your answer).

We don't need to decide how long to wait. The OP can clarify at any point, even if the question is closed. It can then be reopened. If the OP never returns to clarify, as I understand it, closed questions get removed after certain time.

As it is, the question is not any different from any other question that doesn't include any personal effort.


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