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I have been criticised for posting answers that don't adress the question itself but the intent behind it or are somehow related. I understand that I shouldn't be noisy but I find in some situations it provides additional information (like in the answer linked above). Or should it just be a comment then? In order to not put too much noise in that post itself I want to discuss this here.

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  • "Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative..." (How to Answer)
    – gnat
    Apr 16 '14 at 14:24
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    I've wondered this myself. I like to look at this as answering the situation. Sometimes, actually the majority of the time, people do not know what they are actually asking and 42 can be as good of an answer for their question as an appropriate answer could be,
    – Paul Muir
    Apr 16 '14 at 16:20
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Thank you for your participation on our Workplace SE Q&A community site! Our goal is to become a resource of knowledge for future visitors with career questions, general workplace problems, and other topics listed in our help center.

One of the principle challenges that Stack Exchange strives to solve is what's known as the forum problem, where forums and chat rooms simply don't scale very well, as described in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective:

Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

… eventually the experts (i.e. people who are teaching you stuff) get drowned out and you are left with an experience that looks more like the magazine rack at a grocery store than a book shelf at Harvard. — Robert Scoble

Before I found Stack Overflow, if I had a problem that I needed to solve which required research on the Internet, I found I would carefully craft various search terms that led to what I thought may contain solutions, or information that might lead to those solutions. Instead, I found myself swimming in a sea of forum posts, which oftentimes consisted of people asking the same question, people posting information that was based on nothing but guesses, and people berating other users for their lack of knowledge.

Sometimes there would be people posting tangential information, which still wasn't what I was looking for.

Oftentimes, the answer might be buried on page 29 of a 52 page thread, halfway down the page. In the worst cases, I might go through the entire thread and still be left empty-handed.

Then one day I found Stack Overflow links start popping up in my search results. I didn't know why, but the content always seemed to have the answer to my problems. It got to the point where I found myself clicking on only those links and ignoring the other search results.

It wasn't until I started participating and learning about how Stack Exchange communities work that I realized why these sites are so helpful:

If you're a professional, and you're searching for the answer to a problem, you can tell relatively quickly whether or not the content behind that link will solve your problem or if you should keep looking elsewhere.

Even on Stack Overflow posts that didn't have the answer, I could still make that determination in less than a minute, and that lack of noise is what makes these communities so powerful and helps them scale.

If you have helpful information to add, my suggestion is to try and add it in as part of a larger answer to the question that's being asked. This helps ensure that our content is useful to all the hundreds and thousands of future visitors searching the Internet for answers to their problems. We want them to land on Workplace SE and tell as quickly as possible whether or not the answer is here. Hope this helps, and thanks again for participating!


I saw your edits, and I cleaned up your post a little bit based on your reasoning in your edits. Nice edits! I feel like a little bit of detail goes a long way!

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    +1 for "If you have helpful information to add, my suggestion is to try and add it in as part of a larger answer to the question that's being asked" Apr 18 '14 at 12:50

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