So I was answering a question yesterday about lost saves, and I came back today to find the answer had been downvoted. There was a comment left saying

-1 For answering a question before it is clear what the problem is.

In that instance, yes it was pretty clear there were some assumptions that needed to be made, (in this case it was which platform) and the downvote was unjustified in that case. It has since been removed.

However is it generally frowned upon to provide some insight to an answer before the OP has provided all necessary information? There are some cases where you just cannot provide any answers, because there simply is not enough information, but what about if it's a less severe matter like platform or version?

Here is the original question. (It has since been deleted)


5 Answers 5


Part of the magic of the Stack Exchange system is multiple answers.

The question you reference is about Minecraft, your answer mentions PC and Xbox. If the OP meant Android, then that does not make the answer you gave invalid. You can update your answer to include android/iOS information, or someone else can answer for those platforms.

Point is, if future users search "Minecraft - we've lost our worlds…what do we do", they might find this question, regardless of what system the OP is using. If those new users were using PC, then you've answered their question.


While I don't know if I would have downvoted, I agree with the sentiment.

StackExchange, and each of its child sites, is supposed to be a community for experts to provide expert answers. Questions that do not define a specific problem should not be answered, because it is impossible to provide an expert answer without a clear problem space defined.

This doesn't rule out subjective questions, and even subjective answers if backed up with evidence. Two answers can disagree with each other and both be good, if they are both working in the same specific problem space.

What is bad is when an answer is a guess: if you think "Your problem might be this, but I can't prove it." If a question would trigger answers like that, it's probably a bad question.

This is why a lot of people dislike the tag.

Answering questions where you can't be sure of your answer is against the spirit of the site.

  • 2
    Having said that, if you know what the person is asking (even when other people think its unclear), then that shouldn't stop you from answering. Just yesterday someone commented something along the lines of "we need more info than just a crash log" - when for other people, the answer was apparent in the crash log
    – Robotnik Mod
    May 27, 2014 at 23:00

I am the person in question who downvoted the answer, and I feel I should provide insight into my thoughts at that moment.

This answer is the one I downvoted. It was posted after the OP had mentioned "Splitscreen" in the comments to the question, which, combined with the recent update of the game, made it likely to be an XBox question. (Though I admit that I pointed that out only after Ben has written his answer.)

Ben's answer at the time pertained only to the PC version, and was thus "not helpful" to the asker. The correct answer to that specific problem is strongly dependent on the version of the game. I believe no answer can be called "helpful" when the scope of the question is unknown.

I did revisit the question later, and removed the downvote on Ben's answer after his edits included an answer for the XBox version.

  • I rolled back the edit, since I specifically downvoted the linked version of the answer. I am aware that it has since changed, but so has my downvote.
    – MrLemon
    May 28, 2014 at 8:51

Considering I once asked for clarification on a Skyrim question whether the user was on console or PC and was chastised for not just posting the pertinent information related to both versions, I'd say the down vote was unwarranted.

Post as much relevant information as you can and edit accordingly. If you have to, break your answer into subsections for each version while still answering the question. It's hard to give too much information on an SE site. Short of spam of course.

  • I don't think the downvote is not warranted on this answer, it relates directly to the question.
    – Ben
    May 28, 2014 at 1:55

Maybe is because this person was waiting until question is clear and is upset because you going to "win" him (reputation and so).

I don't think there is problem at all with answering and, when the question is more clear, edit the answer to fit the exact needs (or delete it).

  • 2
    I dunno; attributing motives of that sort for downvotes is usually not a good idea.
    – Frank
    May 21, 2014 at 19:42

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