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Sometimes there are questions along the lines of "Is there a lifehack for [problem]". In such a case, is it okay to post an answer along the lines of "No"?

It seems in a lot of cases where this has happened, the question has been closed because it doesn't have an answer. Is this how we intend the site to work in general? What if in the future a 'lifehack' does come up?

To clarify: Presumably the person casting the close-vote knows for sure that a solution does not exist. It requires 5 such people, with encyclopaedic knowledge of every existing lifehack, to close a question, after which it enters a path to deletion as a bad question.

I'm saying there are good questions, such as How to make washed fruit last longer in the fridge? that are being closed because they don't have appropriate answers.

  • 1
    not deletion! Just putting on hold. Deleting stuff is different to closing! – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:32
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    @AngeloFuchs So I come across a closed question that I have an answer for. But I can't add the answer because it's closed. I have to cast a reopen vote (if I have enough rep), and get 4 others to do likewise before I can post the answer. Can you see the problem here? – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 13:35
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    Then post a snippet of the answer as comment before casting the reopen. First thing I check when working the reopen queue is the comments, if a good reason is presented to the reopening I cast that vote. Questions get reopened all the time in all SE sites I'm active on. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:43
  • @AngeloFuchs What if I don't have enough rep? – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 13:45
  • Do the stuff that you are supposed to do when you don't have enough rep to do stuff you want to do. Thats a totally different question and detracts from the problem at hand here. Editing the question to make it more clear/on-topic is always a good way to have it reopened. Closed questions that are edited are automatically send to the reopen queue. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:51
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    @AngeloFuchs The problem is that we're preventing people who might have an answer but not have enough rep from participating. Anyone, even with 1 rep, can answer open questions. It requires 50 rep to comment on posts, so anyone under that threshold cannot add new answers in this situation. – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 13:54
  • Even with 1 rep you can cast suggested edits (and thus make the question reopen worthy). And even if its not possible. Answer other questions, ask good questions and you will have that 50 rep in no time. But I will leave this discussion here. Rep Boundaries to specific actions do not belong here. Ask a new question if you want to talk about that. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:57
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    @AngeloFuchs I have comments on this answer which address problems with using answerability as a measure for on-topicness. I list several reasons, but the most important is that a system where we close questions for lacking an answer, but will re-open them if someone comes up with one, requires a lot of daily maintenance by our user base. Too much maintenance for our user base to stay on top of, and so such system will have a huge impact on the quality of the site. – Wipqozn Dec 12 '14 at 14:07
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    I am concerned that some people may use high reputations for reasons unrelated to quality. I would prefer that low reputation folks have as much voice as possible without compromising the quality of the site. – user100 Dec 12 '14 at 17:38
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No is a valid answer, but rarely a useful one

No is most certainly an answer. However, simply posting the word "No", or "No, you can't do that." doesn't add any value, and you should probably expect to have your answer downvoted. You haven't added anything to the question that the simple lack of a "yes" answer already shows. However, if you provide some justification for how you arrived at your "no" answer, you might even end up with a good answer. This will be rare, though, as proving a negative is a pretty tricky business.

So, short version, a "no" answer is valid and shouldn't be deleted any more than an incorrect "yes" answer should be deleted, but someone who posts one without backing it up can probably expect some serious downvotes to occur.

Closing a question because you think it has no answer turns close votes into "No" answers that can't be argued with.

The separate idea that a question should be answerable to remain open is a very problematic one. It implies that you are certain the answer is no, and rather than provide that "No" as an answer with some justification, you're just going to skip all the work of convincing anyone and simply hit the close button. It effectively turns your close vote into a "no" answer that other users (without enough rep to vote to reopen) are not allowed to argue with. This makes your close vote amount to a really hefty version of the crappy, non-justified "no" answer that I just described as low quality above. This is worse, even, because if 4 people agree with you, no one can even post a "yes" answer until they gather up enough reopen votes.

In the hypothetical scenario that a question is closed as unanswerable and then someone comes here and has an answer, we now just placed the burden upon them of finding 4-5 other people that they have to convince to reopen it before they can post their answer. Where's the value in that? And how are they going to convince those people... their main weapon would be to actually post the answer and let it speak for itself. But they can't. So what... they have to start a meta explaining that they have an answer and that it should be reopened? A lot of people at that point, particularly newer users with low rep, will just shrug their shoulders and walk away. Who are we serving by doing this? What was the harm in simply leaving the unanswered question open? We're turning this into a lot of extra work and creating a huge potential for comment wars and drama for no reason.

Are you sure your problem with the question is really that it doesn't have an answer?

A lot of times, I think the problem is that the question is ambiguous or a pointless thought exercise, and the reaction of "There's no answer to that!" seems like a quick and dirty way to get it closed. But answerability is a terrible metric for topicality, and we should instead look closer at what types of questions we're really trying to avoid here.

  • To add to this, there are few ways to better state no than an open question with a lot of views, a high score and no well scoring answer. – Wrzlprmft Dec 26 '14 at 18:33
4

Yes.

If you're sure enough to post it, yes. If others come up with solutions that they think answer the question, and there is a 'no' answer, the voting system will automatically move the one people like to the top.

But don't close hacks that don't seem to have an answer. The reason is the one you mentioned. It's possible that in the future, someone might come up with something.

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    I think this is the only decision that we can continually be consistent with across all questions being asked – Zach Saucier Dec 12 '14 at 14:34
  • The voting system doesn't always move an answer above "No". See lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1600/… – user100 Dec 12 '14 at 17:19
  • @KevinJohnsrude Some answers are not good enough to be voted above a "no" answer – Zach Saucier Dec 12 '14 at 19:44
-2

The three situations in which you should cast an off-topic close vote are:

  1. The question asks about something everyday trivial ("How to drink a glass of water") that has no 'hackvalue' because the trivial solution is the obvious one, in all places on earth.
  2. The question asks about absurd stuff ("I want to fly") that is far outside what could be hacked together.
  3. The question can be fully answered with a variation on "do it carefully". (The grapes question is borderline in this respect)

Each question has the chance to recover if details are added that bring them on topic. That is the very reason close votes exist. Close IS NOT delete!

After being put on hold the questioner can:

  1. add "When both arms are broken and bandaged and can't be used and I don't have a straw."
  2. reword to: "I want to fly with my airplane east all day but don't have a compass."
  3. add "But I have the shakes and can't do anything careful" or add "without a fridge".
  • What happens when none of the three situations applies? I assume "no action, leave unanswered"? – badp Dec 12 '14 at 13:51
  • @badp Have an example? If yes I'd like to edit it into the answer to make it more complete. If no then you should not cast a close vote. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:52
  • This looks sensible, but I don't think it covers the situation I'm talking about - where it's unknown whether a solution exists. Should close-votes be cast in this circumstance? – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 13:52
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    @TomMedley No they should not be cast. If you don't know weather or not a solution could exist you should not cast a close vote. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 13:54
  • @AngeloFuchs Good, this is what I wanted to clarify. – fredley Dec 12 '14 at 13:55
  • I think the first situation is impossible to determine. See this post of mine for my reasoning – Zach Saucier Dec 12 '14 at 14:31
  • @ZachSaucier See my example in this answer. There is no cultural difference in drinking water from a glass. Ever. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 14:32
  • For the example it's easy to determine, yes. But in the general case it's much much more difficult – Zach Saucier Dec 12 '14 at 14:33
  • @ZachSaucier If unsure, don't close. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 12 '14 at 22:18

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