1

This is something that I think is a bad practice.

When people answer bad questions(especially those with 50k+ rep), they are making the questions themselves more legitimate and giving them more views.

Often these questions are closed, not before people answering get a handful of votes.

Also, it seems to be a "stat stuffing" move. If you can be the first major contributor to answer even a bad question you are bound to get some votes. Even if the question adds no value to the workplace, it can be a quick move to get some rep.

Does anyone else feel like there is harm in answering bad questions?

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4

Yes, this is bad practice, and is explicitly called out in our Help Center.

Answer well-asked questions

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...

  • ...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
  • ...solicit opinions rather than facts.
  • ...have already been asked and answered many times before.
  • ...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
  • ...are not about the workplace as defined in the help center.

Don't forget that you can edit the question you're answering to improve the clarity and focus - this can reduce the chances of the question being closed or deleted.

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  • 1
    Way to use a source! – Ronnie W Jan 17 '17 at 15:16
5

A few votes to a high-rep user is less than 1% of their scores. Also, we tend to attract haters as well. I get two down-votes on almost every question I answer, which again isn't able to generate any real harm to my rep either.

If you feel that an answer or a question deserves a down-vote, then use your vote to down-vote

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1

If I see a question which I think is either a poor question (i.e. I downvote it) or off-topic (i.e. I vote to close), then I don't answer it even if I think it's an interesting question. This is for something which sounds similar to the first of your reasons: getting answers encourages other users to post that sort of question in future - down votes don't matter at all to a new user, and most of them don't come back often enough to trigger the question ban. If we didn't answer poor / off-topic questions then it would discourage people asking poor questions and (in my opinion) we'd have a higher quality site. See for instance this question on Software Engineering1 - it's a question which is almost explicitly being asked because similar poor questions have been asked and answered in the past. If those questions were closed without any answers, new users might think twice about asking similar questions.

For avoidance of doubt, I don't think anyone is rep-stuffing here. To a very large extent, the highest rep users on this (or any other SE site) have got that rep by answering lots of questions. Maybe they're slightly less discriminating than I am about which questions they answer, but that's a valid choice.

  1. I'm not picking on that question, that poster or that site in particular. It's just one I happen to remember because I saw it today.
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