I don't understand the people critiquing a question in the comments such as,

  • You have miss-understood what is happening here
  • Your question premise is all wrong
  • That is not what is really going on here

And many more comments to the effect that the questions is wrong, bad or something else.

Forgive me if I am wrong but, is that not why people ask questions, because they want or need clarification of issues they have raised? And because they don't fully understand the situation and or just can't understand why something has happened the way it did?

Why the constant critique in the comments?

And most of all, "Is there really a bad question?" when talking about sci-fi movies? If there is, could someone please inform me what one is?

  • 5
    I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of comments.
    – Buzz
    Nov 10, 2018 at 6:08
  • @Buzz, hmmm, so saying a question is irrelevant or basically inferring that the question does not even need to asked is OK with you?
    – KyloRen
    Nov 10, 2018 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


From the help centre page on commenting:

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

Comments can be either positive, negative, or neutral. If the question premise is wrong or the OP has misunderstood what's going on, then that's important information both for the OP themselves and for anyone else who might read the post or attempt an answer, but it's not necessarily an answer by itself. Therefore, the best place for it is in a comment on the question. Such a comment might be requesting clarification ("did you really mean ...") or leaving constructive criticism ("you could improve this question if you understood that ...") or it could simply be relevant information, as described above.

You said:

Forgive me if I am wrong but, is that not why people ask questions, because they want or need clarification of issues they have raised? And because they don't fully understand the situation and or just can't understand why something has happened the way it did?

This is true, but questions can still be based on false premises. Consider, for example:

  1. "Why didn't Gandalf or Frodo fly to Mount Doom?"
  2. "Why didn't Frodo and Sam take the Ring to Mount Doom?"

Question 1 is one of the highest-voted questions on our site, a reasonable thing to ask even for someone who's read and understood The Lord of the Rings. Question 2 is a question based on a false premise, because the correct answer is "actually they DID". There's a difference between simply not understanding something and, for example, not having a clue about the whole thing you're asking about. It does require a certain degree of knowledge even to ask the right questions. Have you never been in a situation where you know so little you can't even begin to ask anything?

And most of all, "Is there really a bad question?" when talking about sci-fi movies? If there is, could someone please inform me what one is?

That's inherently subjective, since everyone will have different ideas of what makes a "good" or "bad" question. I would say yes, and there are a number of questions I've downvoted as well as many I've upvoted. Others might say no, and upvote every question in the interests of rewarding curiosity.

  • I agree whole heatedly with bullet point 1 and 3, but other than that, most people just want stir the proverbial "beetle dung", (Sorry, I don't want to go on a 10 year unpaid vacation for saying a swear word that might up set a snowflake in the Sahara desert) And lets face it, flags don't work here, b/c if it conforms to the be nice policy, then it is OK. As for No.2 , that is entirely based on who's view point you stand on. I really can't say much more on that without context.
    – KyloRen
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:33
  • 1
    A search for closed non-duplicates suggests there's been over a thousand questions that were in some way “bad” such that they needed to be closed, and that's just the ones that weren't also deleted. (Then there'd be all the open but negative-scored questions.) Nov 9, 2018 at 11:40
  • 4
    @KyloRen Why does "nice comments are OK" mean that flags don't work here? If a comment is giving useful criticism in a nice way, that's a good comment. If it's rude or condescending, then it doesn't conform to the be nice policy and would be deleted if flagged.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:31
  • So thats all you look at, if it is nice or not? Like I said, flags do not work
    – KyloRen
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:33
  • 3
    @KyloRen No, that's not all. But if a comment is perfectly nice and provides a useful and valid criticism of a post, why would it need to be deleted?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:46
  • OK, I will turn back to your example, "Why didn't Frodo and Sam take the Ring to Mount Doom?". Does this question need criticism? Any answer could attest to the fact that they did go to Mount Doom and that is that. Why the need for unnecessary comments?
    – KyloRen
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:49
  • @KyloRen It would depend on the exact content of the comments, but yes, you have a point. Technically, comments are transitory and may be deleted at any time. If there were a whole lot of comments saying "actually they did", I might delete all but the top one (no need to pile on), and might even delete all of them if there was no extra useful information in them (e.g. suggestions for improving the post). On the other hand, such a question would likely be downvoted, and it's useful for the OP to know why, so a comment explaining what's wrong with the question might be useful anyway.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 12:58
  • 5
    @KyloRen Why not just try flagging comments that you find problematic, and see if it "works" or not?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:03
  • @KyloRen I think you mistake the purpose of comments for "critique" while it's actually clarification. The comments aren't there to just blindly talk down questions, they are supposed to improve them to the point that they can be reasonably answered. The example you mention (from Rand's answer) is so entirely unreasonable to ask for anyone having remotely heard about LotR that we can't reasonably assume that's actually what they're asking. There is quite definitely more to it and we want to cut to the actual question with comments aksing for clarification, so we can answer it properly.
    – TARS
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:16
  • I've flagged—and seen removed—multiple comments on this site that talk down a person for asking a question. There's that "this comment is rude/condescending option", I use that if the comment fits, and ones that are basically there to make the person feel dumb for asking fit among others. "You've misunderstood" or "you've made a mistake in your premise" can be fine, but sometimes it gets rude and those can get flagged and removed. Nov 9, 2018 at 13:20
  • 1
    @TARS, if it was clarification I would not have a problem.
    – KyloRen
    Nov 10, 2018 at 3:59

Is there anything wrong with these comments?

No. These comments are the starting point of an answer in some cases that someone else can look at and turn into a real answer. If a question is wrong because of its premise or the OP not understanding the situation, answers can and should address this. In fact in some cases the only answer can be "because you based your question on a false premise".

Why the constant critique in the comments?

These aren't critiques unless in the general sense, I suppose some specific examples might be but generally they are not. These are actually the starting points of answers, for other users to jump off of. These are a good thing, sure it'd be better if the users had answered in the first place stating the false premise and why but the comment is a good starting point.

And most of all, "Is there really a bad question?" when talking about sci-fi movies? If there is, could someone please inform me what one is?

Sure there can be bad questions, same as every topic can have a bad question about it. However, what makes a question "bad" is subjective so I can't really explain it for the general case and I wouldn't really want to. As long as the question is on topic it's fine to be asked, it might attract downvotes but even good questions get those.

  • So you are suggesting changing the content of the question, when the possibility that an answer has already addressed the issues. Would this not make the answer then less relevant?
    – KyloRen
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:02
  • 1
    @KyloRen No I am not and I don't think I even implied that. It is never okay to edit a question that invalidates the current answers.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:04
  • 3
    Hmm ... I'm not sure if it's accurate to say that such comments are starting points for answers. Not all of them are.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:16
  • @Randal'Thor They generally are but I've clarified to say "in some cases".
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:17

I would distinguish between three types of "bad" questions.

The first type is where the problem is not with the content itself, but with the structure (for lack of a better term). The most obvious example of this situation is a question that is lacking details. In such cases you will find comments "critiquing" the question, and asking for clarification. For example, comments might ask the questioner when he read the story, in what medium, what were some of the main plot points, etc.

In such a situation, these comments are perfectly acceptable. Of course, they should be written in a polite, nice way, but there is no way to address these concerns other than via comments. You can't post an answer saying "please provide more details", because that is not actually an answer.

questions are somewhat unique in this regard. However, other types of questions can also have structural issues. Perhaps it is not clear from reading the question what the actual question is. In such a case comments would be used to try to draw out what the actual question is.

Then there are the questions where the content itself is the problem. This group can be further subdivided into two categories. One category consists of questions where the question is based on incorrect premises, incorrect reasoning, or some similar mistake. In such a case where you can definitively state that the questioner is wrong, I would say that you should post an answer. I don't think there is a need for comments that undermine the entire question, because that's what an answer should do. So in these cases I tend to agree with you that there should be fewer comments.

The other subcategory is where the question is based on not-necessarily-correct premises, not-necessarily-correct reasoning, or something similar. In these cases you can't actually definitively state that the questioner is wrong. The questioner might not be wrong. However, there is nothing in the question to show that the questioner is right. So you can't really post an answer saying that there is no question because certain points are wrong, because that's not really true. The best you can say is that there might not be a question because the certain points might be wrong. In such a case comments would be the proper medium to express this. A simple comment saying something along the lines of "your question is based on unsubstantiated premises, so how do you know it is really a question" would be quite useful. The questioner would then be forced to explain why he/she feels the question is compelling, or admit that the question is not compelling.

Note that in either of these two subcategories it is still possible for there to be a separate answer that doesn't deal with the problematic aspects of the question.

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