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I've recently answered this question: Excel Formula Query - IF/OR/AND very shortly:

=IF(OR(I3="Won",I3="Placed"),(F3*(H3-1))*0.95,IF (I3="lost",-1,0))

And received the comment:

Can you add an explanation to this? SU is looking for long answers with details about why it answers the question. Just giving a single line answer doesn't benefit the community as a whole.

I agree with the comment - in general. However I've some doubts

  • Many users are coming to the site just to ask one question, grabs the answer and forget the site. I've the feeling that even if I would write very nice explanation he wouldn't have read it. (There is a more general, better quality answer to the same question, but still my, "instant" one is accepted, requiring less work of the brain).
  • It's really a trivial question, anybody not being able to solve it, will probably also won't find this here, will just ask a similar question again; so I think writing a brilliant answer here, wouldn't really increase the knowledge collected here at SU.

So I prefer to invest minimal effort to these questions, and of course I'm very happy to add explanation if being asked by somebody who needs it.

How should I handle these type of questions?

That comment was very useful for me to warn that my idea may not be the same as the community's one. (so I don't have any problem with the comment, the question isn't whether the comment is right or not, but what should be the best practice for answering).

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    Many users view SU as a place to get a plug&play answer to their question. A better view would be that they submit a question to the knowledge base in exchange for potentially getting an answer for themselves. The expectation should be that answers will meet all readers' needs; they might have to read through more than what they wanted. The goal of answers should be to give the reader the tools to solve similar problems, not just the answer to that specific case. It's a bit like student homework questions, where they just want the answer handed to them rather than understanding anything. – fixer1234 Aug 8 '16 at 21:36
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    @fixer1234 I totally agree with your idea, but many users just come here for instant solution and without willingness to learn (see the other answer of the linked the question, does exactly what you've suggested, and still mine is the accepted one), my question is about questions of those users. – Máté Juhász Aug 8 '16 at 21:39
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    Forget the OP and what they want. :-) They may have submitted the question, but they aren't the audience. Ensure their question gets answered within your answer, but you're writing for posterity, not the OP. Just a bare formula can go in a comment if the goal is just to get rid of the OP with a snippet of code. Don't worry, either, about fast/easy rep. Most of those users can't upvote and usually don't even bother to accept answers. Pick useful questions, then write answers that will be upvoted by the community. Build a library of useful answers you're proud of, not 1-use throw-aways. – fixer1234 Aug 8 '16 at 22:04
  • Two other thoughts: 1) You may have jumped to the wrong conclusion. The two answers are very similar, The other doesn't have more explanation, it lacks a direct solution to the question. The explanation gets added to the solution, it doesn't replace it. Yours is better. 2) The OP doesn't say anything about not wanting an explanation, and there's no basis to assume that, If the question is trivial, it means the OP is a novice, so explanation is important. Some users don't want to be a burden, so they don't ask for an explanation. But they often respond with thanks when they get it. – fixer1234 Aug 8 '16 at 23:47
  • I did the other answer, which was supposed to help the OP understand the underlying concept. I was planning to elaborate it, applying the general description to the requested example, but the OP had already accepted the other answer, so I thought it wasted effort - assumption again he will never come back and nobody would care. Also, both answer coexists, so anyone can read both and combine the know-how in his mind. – Aganju Aug 11 '16 at 12:32
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    @Aganju, you mean people are supposed to think? :-) – fixer1234 Aug 11 '16 at 21:32
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    In my opinion the requirement of making the answer longer depends on fact if the question is just some one-time code fix (like for instance a syntax typo) or it's a general question for a way to achieve something that more than one or two persons can possibly have to deal with – Luke Aug 13 '16 at 16:54
  • @user1100671, if it's a one-time code fix that will benefit only the OP, then it isn't a good question for Super User. At one time, there was a "too local" close reason for questions that had no benefit for anyone else. That's what RedGrittyBrick's answer addresses--making the question useful for more people, in which case explaining the answer is relevant. Even a typo may not be obvious without a short sentence that identifies what was fixed. – fixer1234 Aug 13 '16 at 21:30
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I completely understand your position. I have often thought about this myself. This is my view on why I suggest more than a one line answer.

Yes, many people just want a quick answer and may never come back. This can be frustrating to know this when writing answers, but that should not deter us from giving complete detailed answers. You would be surprised the number of people who actually search and find past answers helpful. Many times I have received up votes for very old answers to questions the OP never commented on or accepted.

Each of us has our own definition of what a "complete detailed" answer is. Some extensive. Some brief. Nonetheless, it only takes a few moments to write a sentence or two to explain your answer (and give a reference if possible). The extra time it takes is minimal and it adds credibility to your answer and Super User.

Your answer was correct and what the OP wanted. I am just using it as an example of what I am discussing here. I may have answered like this;

You can use a nested IF statement to add more conditions.

=IF(OR(I3="Won",I3="Placed"),(F3*(H3-1))*0.95,IF (I3="lost",-1,0))

Looking at the bigger picture, how we answer can determine their experience level with the site. If they find the answer helps give a better understanding of what they are doing, they may come back. If it is just like every other forum to them where the answers handed to them, they may not see the value in returning.

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    Answers are for everybody with the same problem. So the author of the question might not return, but somebody with the same problem, might be activte every single day. So while an answer must answer the question that was asked, it should also be useful to the community, which is the reason the community can vote on any answer to any question not just the author of the question. – Ramhound Aug 8 '16 at 14:39
  • Thanks @CharlieRB! I thought you mean more explanation to be added. And I also like differentiation from other similar sites. – Máté Juhász Aug 8 '16 at 19:59
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    I would actually take it a step farther than CharlieRB did and add a couple of sentences to explain the gist of the formula (nested IF construct and OR); what the formula does. Like Ramhound said, answers aren't for the OP, they're for anybody who might need it, and many are total novices. – fixer1234 Aug 8 '16 at 21:07
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    @fixer1234 I might take it just a step further. Show each sub expression separately, with briefest explanation. Then show how they combine. There's definitely a point of diminishing returns though. – Xalorous Aug 8 '16 at 23:04
  • @Xalorous this is exactly what I want to avoid. With those details efforts from the OP and me would surely not be balanced, and still not too big chance that another beginner user of Excel would find it. – Máté Juhász Aug 15 '16 at 18:09
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    Don't forget: people come here years later via google. They might need an explanation why this answer was correct at time of writing. – Bernhard Döbler Aug 16 '16 at 16:09
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    Yep, just had another up vote on an old answer from 2013. Even though it was not accepted, it has been useful answer to others who have up voted it. – CharlieRB Aug 16 '16 at 17:40
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It's really a trivial question, anybody not being able to solve it, will probably also won't find this here, will just ask a similar question again;

Don't forget you can also edit the question to give it a better, more general title, better tags and, if necessary, a clearer or more generalised form of the question body.

This will guide a larger number of future searchers to your detailed answer.

For example the title in the Q is currently

Excel Formula Query - IF/OR/AND

You might change it to something like

How to add additional conditions to an IF statement?

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Many users are coming to the site just to ask one question, grabs the answer and forget the site. I've the feeling that even if I would write very nice explanation he wouldn't have read it. (There is a more general, better quality answer to the same question, but still my, "instant" one is accepted, requiring less work of the brain).

It is really your own choice. While I would always appreciate an answer with an explanation, I realize that is not the case for everyone, and some are just looking for a way to get their stuff done as fast as possible.

I, personally speaking, don't like writing short answers. If I'm going to write an answer, I want to make sure it is nice and detailed, simply for my own satisfaction. No one can, however, make you write a long and detailed answer.

It's really a trivial question, anybody not being able to solve it, will probably also won't find this here, will just ask a similar question again; so I think writing a brilliant answer here, wouldn't really increase the knowledge collected here at SU.

This may not be true in all cases. Even if I'm asking a question about something I have no idea about, I would respect an explanation and would be more likely to accept and upvote an answer with one. Even if the OP doesn't care for an explanation, someone who stumbles upon the answer later might.

At the end of the day, it's your call, you can simply write a solution, or explain it, but keep in mind that one with the explanation is going to get upvoted and respected more.

  • Less detail answers are less likely to be upvoted and more likely not to be found helpful, if the person reading the answer, is aware there is more information that sould be shared. Keep in mind that answers are for everyone with the same problem, while this question might be trivial, your answer might also be useful to a more complicate problem. – Ramhound Aug 8 '16 at 14:41
  • Many people do want just a plug-in answer that they can use without expending any brain power. They aren't in the right place. SU is a knowledge base, not an answer service for the OP. BTW, I've seen many users who pop in with a question wanting a canned answer, which they might get. The next day, they realize there's actually some minor twist to their requirements and want another plug-and-play answer for that. If they got some explanation with the answer, they might have been able to modify it. The goal of answers should be to give the reader the tools, not just the result. – fixer1234 Aug 8 '16 at 21:16
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You did the perfect thing. You answered the question.

Some people would prefer that you invest more effort in "improving" the answer so that it fits better with their goal of this site being an excellent knowledge base. For instance, fixer1234's comment notes:

you're writing for posterity, not the OP.

However, when I write for SuperUser, my goal is to help people get answers to questions. I am less interested in turning this site into a pristine knowledge base. In fact, there is another site that I try to contribute to more, so that it is a nicer knowledge base. As for this site, I use it the way it was designed: as a Q&A site.

Someone asked a Q. You provided an A. Perfect! That's what the site was for.

If someone wants more explanation, they can ask for it. I think you needn't feel guilty for not proactively spending your time just in case someone else wants to benefit from your expended efforts, nor is there a reason why someone should feel bad for not working hard to turn this site into what somebody else is envisioning. Instead, you satisfied the OP, whom is the more important audience (since the OP was seeking an answer).

  • This is by far the least popular answer here, but it must be the only correct answer, right? If the goal was a canonical knowledge base for posterity, questions such as the example in this question would be deleted. "I need help writing this IF formula" questions pop up in the Excel stack multiple times per day, and none is any different than any other except in that they're all unique. But not one of them adds an iota of understanding to the community's knowledge base about how to use Excel. "Answers are for everybody with the same problem" is naive in the extreme... – Alex M Apr 11 at 20:58
  • ...Because future users with the same problem won't consult the existing knowledge base any more than the user who had THIS problem did. The only reason to answer trivial questions like this are selfish ones: to get the rep, to get experience writing documentation, or to get practice solving problems with other peoples' use cases. ..Right? – Alex M Apr 11 at 21:00
  • @AlexM : I'm not quite certain of your motivation: when you say "[r]ight?" twice, is that sarcastic? Is your entire comment challenging my premise? For your second comment, the answer is: no. Here is a non-selfish reason: to help one other person. & if I do that 5 times, instead of trying to abstract things into a single answer that might be helpful for seven people, and maybe only some of the people I helped return to see my answer, then maybe I only helped 2 people. That still may be two people I helped. I appreciate when people help me (even if using a method "inefficient" for the masses) – TOOGAM Apr 15 at 6:37
  • No, not sarcastic. I'm new. I'm asking. I guess I'm not necessarily asking you, because it's your position - clearly you think it's right. I just don't understand how/why it's not the majority accepted view when it's what actually happens. – Alex M Apr 15 at 15:37

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