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This question was spured by this answer but it applies in general. Is it approriate to answer a question with just "Go ask someone else" with no other context or attempt to provide guidance?

My thought is an answer that just says ask someone/somewhere else is not appropriate at all for Stack exchange. We exist to provide answers to questions and help people. We should not be sending people elsewhere for help that is on topic.

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    No, if thats the answer vtc and comment ask x. We can't answer those, so we shouldnt. – Raoul Mensink Nov 23 '16 at 16:56
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    Without an explanation, an answer like "Go ask <someone else>" may become useless in case if someone else posts an opposite opinion. For example, if someone posts a claim like "Avoid asking <someone else>", how would it help reader to pick of two opposing opinions? At the very least I would suggest author editing it into a better shape, to meet How to Answer guidelines – gnat Nov 23 '16 at 18:39
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    If you ask a question which makes one wonder, "why are you asking us?", then that answer follows naturally. It is one of the reasons why I loosely interpret "unclear what you're asking" to also mean "unclear why you're asking (us)". There are plenty of questions here of that variety. – Masked Man Nov 24 '16 at 4:50
  • We have far bigger problems with closed questions. For one, we have a phenomenal close rate. For another, a startlingly high percentage of closed questions have answers that are basically OK. So to a new reader what is closing? A random inconvenient thing that can happen to you, that apparently has little to do with whether people can answer the question. – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 14:40
  • @djechin feel free to ask that question here on meta. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 6 '16 at 15:43
  • I just don't exactly have a proposal yet. General grips and rants get DVed on meta. Your problem may be symptomatic though. – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 16:22
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Is it acceptable here to answer a question with “Go ask someone else?”

No, because you should be voting to close instead. If all you can say is "we can't answer this question" then that's about as clear a sign as you can get that either:

  • the question doesn't belong on this site, or
  • the user posting the "answer" doesn't have the right knowledge or experience to answer the question

In the former you downvote and vote to close. In the latter case you just downvote. To be clear, neither scenario automatically means that you should be downvoting the question.

Note that this only applies to answers that say "ask [person]" and nothing else. The only time this type of answer would be appropriate is for simple questions like "Is it okay to ask my manager for X?". But even in those cases, while "Yes, ask your manager" is a valid answer, I'd consider it too short and easy. You'd expect the answer to provide a sample script of how to start that conversation or to give reasons why the question is appropriate.

  • and while you vote to close, another couple mediocre answers appear while the answer saying "go ask your manager" is omitted. In this situation I would strongly consider answering, then VTC. – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 1:16
  • @djechlin That's not something I can agree with and it's often seen as very hypocritical and point whoring on here. There are systems in place to deter bad answers and close votes should be cast quickly on a community this size. That's not always the case but doesn't mean we should resort to things like that. Just leave a comment to explain why it's a bad question. If people don't read that or don't see the close vote (which new users can't of course), then an answer that says the question can't be answered won't help much. – Lilienthal Dec 6 '16 at 9:41
  • That reason isn't quite correct because some of the questions we close actually have answers that correctly answer the question. In this case the answer is too terse or generic to be of interest to us but it's not wrong. In SO it's "write my code for me" where someone elects to do it. So closed questions do have lingering answers that are good as far as the OP, not to mention future readers, are concerned. Thank you for acknowledging "that's not always the case" but I'm really claiming this is not exceptional at all. It just happens all the time. – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 14:37
  • More succinctly, closed questions with answers are basically in an inconsistent state. Some of those answers are sort of good. It sends the message that closing a question is mostly an inconvenient thing that can happen to the OP because see all these other closed questions with good answers. To a new reader it's not really even clear what closing is all about because it's certainly not about questions being unable to answer. workplace.SE also has a phenomenal close rate. We're doing something bigger wrong still. – user42272 Dec 6 '16 at 14:39
  • @djechlin That's really another discussion though and I'd suggest asking that as another question because I'm fairly sure most people would disagree with answering questions you've voted to close. – Lilienthal Dec 6 '16 at 15:06
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    Over at Hardware Recommendations, I usually just leave a comment on off-topic questions, simply stating that the question is off topic, and will likely be closed, and try and point the usually new user in a direction that may be more appropriate, be it another stack, or another website entirely. This comes across as a little more polite than just voting to close, and less likely to alienate new users, though who knows how many actually come back, likely a lost cause, but I am a sucker for those. – NZKshatriya Dec 7 '16 at 6:43
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"Ask your manager" may be rather succinct, but in some cases it is perfectly appropriate and correct.

As with all answers, if we don't like the answer we can downvote. If we like it we can upvote. Or you could even add more text to make the answer better.

There's no need to quibble over appropriateness.

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    If the answer is ask your manager there is a close reason of company specific that is far more appropriate – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 26 '16 at 3:24
  • Since we can't change our minds on close reasons, some percentage of them are going to be wrong. Fixing that requires fixing SE, not Workplace. – keshlam Nov 26 '16 at 17:38
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I think in some cases "Ask your manager" could be a legitimate (generally applicable) answer. It doesn't automatically imply company-specific. I agree with you on the specific answer you link to, though. – user45590 Nov 28 '16 at 10:45
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    @Dan1111 - it is certianly applicable as part of an answer in some cases. But if that is the only thing in the answer then I completely disagree – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 28 '16 at 13:33
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I think the answer to many questions boils down to "Ask the person who can answer this." Sometimes it's company policy questions. Sometimes it's interpersonal workplace situations. Sometimes it's career development stuff.

I'll agree that it's best practice to provide more explanation and context in an answer to that effect than I did in the answer above.

However, I think it is perfectly acceptable to answer, "Ask your Manager/Boss/Co-Worker/HR/Lawyer, and here's why."

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    to me content of "why" part is what makes or breaks such answer. If it is presented as baseless hand-waving like "we can't tell" this hardly makes an answer. I expect why part to be properly backed up and well presented explanation helping asker understand whom and how to contact to address their issue – gnat Nov 23 '16 at 18:35
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    "Ask the person who can answer this." is very often the correct response. – Joe Strazzere Nov 23 '16 at 23:44
  • Ask the person who can answer this, and here's why: because that person can answer this. Sounds good enough to me, no need for additional fluff. Although it points to a question smell. Example: Q: Can I go home early today? A: Ask your boss, because only he can answer this. (or, to put it more bluntly, why are you asking us instead of asking him?) – Masked Man Nov 24 '16 at 4:55
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We often get questions of the form "X has happened: this seems strange! What do I do?"

Answers tend to come in one of three flavours:

  1. This apparently strange behaviour is actually common practice and here's why... / a common problem and here's what you can do...
  2. No idea, ask whoever did it / someone with authority / someone who knows your circumstances and can give better advice.
  3. No idea, but I have a theory...

The OP is hoping for an answer in category 1, and indeed that's a useful contribution to the site. Thing is, that answer may not exist, and so Category 2 is often good advice and might be the 'right' answer. Category 3 is pure speculation and should probably be downvoted.

A Vote to Close is right for cases where there is little to go on and the only plausible answers are opinion, but in other circumstances, I feel it is excessive, as it essentially endorses the category 2 answer - whether or not there is a genuine category 1 answer 'out there' which the OP would accept or which the community would prefer to an 'ask someone else' answer.

There are of course better and worse ways of writing an 'ask someone else' answer.

-1

I think there are some situations when that is an appropriate response. In particular, I think it is an appropriate answer when doing so means elevating the problem so someone else can make a decision. For example, consider the situation where you and a colleague disagree on how to fix a bug in your widget. You are both set on your solutions and won't change your minds. How do you move forward? Ask your boss. Now I'd expect there to be some explanation to go along with it, but the general advice to consult your superior is appropriate.

However, in many cases "Ask your boss/HR/lawyer" is the correct answer because there is no generic answer and we at the Workplace can't know all the details needed to properly answer. This is correct but not a good answer and is an indication of a bad question that should be closed instead. (Only answer well-asked questions) I think that the linked question falls in this category. The OP is asking how to fulfill the company policy defining self-assessment. The OP's manager, who knows the company and its policies, is the best person to give direction here.

  • I would add to that list ask your vendor. – Rui F Ribeiro Nov 25 '16 at 6:44

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