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I posted an answer here to a... not-so-great question. Why was it downvoted? The answer I gave was unarguably the best possible answer for that question. Are the people who didn't like the question taking it out on the correct answer by downvoting my answer? I understand it was only one two three downvote(s) (thus far), but it still doesn't make sense for that to have happened. Again, I gave the best possible answer to that question, even if the question wasn't great.

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    Given that a sizeable number of people think that the question should be closed, I'd imagine you were caught in the backlash, people downvoting you for answering an off-topic question. – Valorum May 30 at 21:26
  • @Valorum Well, I answered it to help out the OP, even though he didn't ask a good question. Am I at fault here? – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 21:26
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    My personal rule-of-thumb is that if I see people answering questions that are blatantly off-topic, I downvote them. Pour encourager les autres – Valorum May 30 at 21:36
  • @Valorum The OP's question had something to do with SciFi, not blatantly off topic! – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 21:40
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    Without having voted either way, my gut tells me that maybe the downvoters just thought that such a bad question didn't deserve an answer, and are punishing you because you tried? It sounds strange when I put down there, but it's almost the only thing I can think of. – DavidW May 30 at 22:18
  • @DavidW I ask you this: Am I at fault for doing that? Someone needed help and I gave it to them (without condoning their question, might I add)! – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 22:21
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    No, absolutely not. You're stuck in someone's overly-broad free-fire zone. Well, I suppose you're "at fault" to the extent of any other bystander who tries to intervene in a fight and gets punched in the face... :-P – DavidW May 30 at 22:31
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    Yes, you're at fault. Answering off-topic questions encourages people to ask off-topic questions. – Valorum May 30 at 22:41
  • @Valorum Why do you think the question is off-topic though? It's a poor question, sure, but it seems answerable and on-topic. – Rand al'Thor May 31 at 5:54
  • @Randal'Thor - If memory serves there have been over 700 editions of that book, not including various ebook editions (probably into the thousands). Without knowing which edition, the question would only be answerable by listing all of them, which feels "too broad" to me – Valorum May 31 at 6:56
  • And for the record, although I downvoted the question (for being a bad question) I let it go for being too broad (and didn't downvote the answer) because I felt that you could answer some element of it by providing a general location for a single edition. – Valorum May 31 at 6:58
  • @Valorum That strikes me as an overly literal and pedantic reading of the question. What the OP wants to know is where to find the quote, which we can help them with by saying e.g. "it's about halfway through Chapter 7 of Book 6, just after this and before that". – Rand al'Thor May 31 at 6:58
  • @Randal'Thor - Indeed. Which is why I let it slide. – Valorum May 31 at 6:59
  • @Valorum Heh, jinx :-) But here on meta you do seem to be arguing that the question is off-topic and should be closed. – Rand al'Thor May 31 at 6:59
  • @Randal'Thor - Well, since he's looking for a citation, giving him a single page number would actually answer the question nicely as long as you provided the book edition in Oxford Referencing format – Valorum May 31 at 7:00
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I'm one of the downvoters here, both on the question and the answer.

NB, obviously the whole explanation below only engages me. I'm not speaking for the other voters, who may have other reasons to up/downvote.

I downvoted the question because it was too broad (and voted to close as such).

I downvoted the answer because I felt it was not helpful. Not unhelpful to the OP, mind you; tomorrow they'll have a page number to cite, alright, good for them. But our aim isn't to help the OP. It's to build a repository of knowledge, and in that, the answer is unhelpful to the site.

First, because in general, answering off-topic/too broad/unclear questions (dupe is another matter) sends the message that the question will get answered anyway, and we don't want that. It's against how the site works. You, the answerer, may argue that you didn't know/think it was closeworthy; you're free to think whatever you want, my downvote isn't on you, it's on an answer. Had the same answer been posted by anyone else, I'd have downvoted it as well, regardless of the user. For instance, I'm one of the downvoters on Fuzzy's answer to another off-topic question that was asked today, even when Fuzzy is both a high-rep user and someone I've had nice, friendly talks with in chat.

Second, and in continuation of the first point, downvoting answers to closeworthy questions helps with the automatic cleanup of the site. The whole read is here, but basically, closed and negatively scored questions will eventually be automatically removed after some time (because they're basically noise), provided they don't have an upvoted answer. By downvoting answers to those, downvoters send the message in point #1 and make it easier for the thing to be deleted. Actually, that's sort of encouraged by SE philosophy - read Is it reasonable to downvote answers based on opposition to the question?, the answers there and the main Meta questions linked to.

So all of this is very general so far but it doesn't really tackle your . And that's the point where I probably come off as a big jerk1, because at first, I only skimmed your answer, saw that you provided one page number for one edition. Didn't fit my idea of helpful for this question, didn't fit my idea of "meh it's neither really good or really bad, so I won't vote", but clearly fitted my idea of the first two points above, so DVed.

Now that I've seen this meta question, I've read your answer entirely, and my downvote stays for a couple reasons:

  • well, as said above the "one page number for one edition only" thing isn't helpful. IMO, and as I hinted at in a comment, the only answer which would somehow be a fit would be one detailing each page for each (English) edition of LOTR there ever was. It's a definite number, and I guess it's doable, but this site isn't here to make such "page number" reference lists, IMO. Or we could have a gazillion answers, each for one edition - come on.
  • now that I've read it again, I've noticed your last line:

    (Note that I am answering this to help you out, but it is still a very poor question!)

    ... I have a two problems with that. First, it has nothing to do in the answer as it's a comment. Then, it states the answer acknowledges the question is poor, but the answer still allows the question to exist on this site because of its (the answer's) existence. And... circling back to the above, I'm not fine with unfit stuff laying around, especially when enforcing of its survival is done while acknowledging it's "poor".

  • And now in this meta, you say:

    The answer I gave was unarguably the best possible answer for that question. [...] Again, I gave the best possible answer to that question, even if the question wasn't great.

    "Best possible answer" is highly subjective in general, and not all questions can have a "best" answer (when they can even be answered in the first place). And I didn't want to go there, but I will anyway, the tone in these quotes is incredibly cocky.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can have very good answers to very poor questions, and we should keep those, but you can't have very good answers to all the poor questions, and these we should discourage.


1 If I didn't already. I tried to keep this answer formal and I don't feel like it comes off as rude, but that's up to the reader, so if one feels like I'm crossing a line, don't hesitate to tell me in comments. I'm open to feedback, always.

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    Thank you for your post. I have a few concerns, though: I didn't just give a page number. I gave a location that would remain constant throughout all editions. That, in my opinion, is the definition of a helpful answer. Furthermore, I don't mind if you decide to vote to delete my answer so the site can be cleaned up, but this situation reminds me a lot of a locked post. It should remain there for historical significance. This is one decision I will stay out of, because the OP's question has already been answered. Another thing: You say that it is not our purpose to help the... – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 22:50
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    ...OP. I completely disagree with this sentiment because this is why Stack Exchange is structured in a Q&A format instead of a dry Wikipedia page. And finally, regarding your last sentence, I completely agree, but my answer was a very good answer to a very poor question, and it should, therefore, remain. As I previously mentioned however, go ahead and vote to delete. I don't care. (BTW - I don't think you were being all that rude! I've only been here for two months...) – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 22:52
  • @INTERESTING 1/ well, I didn't mean your answer was a one-liner (agreed, there was some exaggeration in the "just one page"), and yes, the chapter number is context... But it's still not helpful to the site as a whole. 2/ I don't want to have to manually delete closed questions that are scripted to be removed, that's the whole point #2. We have that automatic crumb collector for a reason – Jenayah May 30 at 23:56
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    3/ no, it should definitely not stay for "historical significance". It's not even 1 day old, if we're being pedantic, that's not history - but TLDR, per the main Meta post on historical locks, it's not eligible because it never really had any kind of positive reception. 4/ on "do we help OP or everyone", we do help OP, sure, but see this answer by a former employee - we shouldn't help OP when it has negative impact on the site. – Jenayah May 30 at 23:56
  • Why would this be an overall negative impact? – Voldemort's Wrath May 31 at 0:28
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    @INTERESTING because it implies closeworthy questions are still okay, which they aren't. Historically this is more of a problem with help vampires on technical sites like SO and people answering help vampires questions, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be followed on other sites. – Jenayah May 31 at 0:35
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    Why do you think the question is too broad? It's a poor question, sure, but it seems answerable and on-topic. – Rand al'Thor May 31 at 5:57
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    @Randal'Thor because of the sheer amount of LOTR editions, and number of page number that involves. "Too Broad" may not be 100% pedantically correct, but that's the closest there is to "IMO, this isn't a fit for the site and is close-worthy, as we're not CTRL+F.SE". See also my comments there and in the meta answer – Jenayah May 31 at 9:17
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    @Jenayah "we're not Ctrl+F.SE" sounds like "question is poorly researched", which is a reason to downvote, not closevote. Questions about on-topic works are generally on-topic. See also this comment re different editions and page numbers. – Rand al'Thor May 31 at 11:18
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    @Randal'Thor feels like we're going around in circles here. You know my general position on "closevotes as super-downvotes"; in this case, this was DVable at will, but that wasn't why I VTCed... I VTCed because it was too broad for the page number thing, had it been asking about the chapter location I'd probably have only downvoted. Yes, I could edit it this way, but 1/not OP was asking and 2/ no obligation whatsoever for readers to edit the thing. It's in big part OP's responsibility to make sure the question is a fit for the site, which IMO it wasn't – Jenayah May 31 at 11:26
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I didn’t downvote but I don’t think it is unreasonable that people have downvoted it. The question asked for a page number, and the only page number provided in your answer was one which you said is probably not the one the questioner was looking for. The rest of your answer is nice, but is not something the questioner requested. Thus, I could see that people would feel that you didn’t really provide a good answer to the question.

Now even if the above is true, it wouldn’t be your fault that your answer doesn’t really suffice. The problem here is that the question as written isn’t specific enough to enable a good answer. In such a case, the question should probably be closed rather than answered ineffectively.

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