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I noticed this comment from one of our established users:

I only answer questions I belive [sic] are extremely high quality – Ramhound (source; moderator only)

Assuming the questions are answerable in the first place, should I refuse to answer questions that are poor (or even average) quality?

  • I want to provide some context to that particular comment. I attempted to explain, I thought the question was sort of broad, and I admit I made some additional statements that were not exactly the most pleasant. The reaction I got, from the user, for trying and failing to get the question a little less broad, made me feel the author wouldn't have appreciated the answer even if I did submit an answer. Of course my reaction to their reaction was wrong. If asked to answer a question, I am going to be honest with people, and tell them I have high standards. I am honest to a fault. – Ramhound Dec 12 '14 at 21:14
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    @Ramhound - I admit that my post about "What are comments for" was for some of the activity you have done. I am still fairly new here and I have found that some of your commentary is not only sharp, but can be hyper critical. For example pointing out spelling and grammar issues, yet in those same comments about the errors, you have grammatical errors. What does this tone send to the OPs that visit. We should help by editing, no? You have had some good answers and I have up voted accordingly, but your comments or deleting them sometimes does not add to getting a good solution or helping the OP. – Carl B Dec 13 '14 at 2:05
  • @CarlB - Questions are meant to be permanent a comment isn't. So pushing somebody to address issues that will prevent somebody from comprehending the question is important. If the mistakes I asked to be fixed were not important, if they were not preventing me from helping, I wouldn't say anything. As for me removing comments eventually, because nothing has come from them, I am not doing that to clean up the comment section since no improvement to the question came from them. I have only one exception, which I won't speak of, because it raises my blood pressure when I think about it. – Ramhound Dec 13 '14 at 15:19
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    @Ramhound - It's possible to push without sounding rude or hyper critical. Don't just complain about their spelling and grammar, fix it for them the first time and tell them why you fixed it. For example: "Hey <user>, your spelling and grammar was pretty bad, I've fixed it for you now but please be more vigilant in future - high quality questions will attract better answers, and users will want to help you more. :)" – Robotnik Dec 18 '14 at 4:19
  • @Robotnik - When the problems are minor enough I will fix it for them and say nothing. When I feel the problems are not minor enough I say something. I could just not say anything and vote accordingly but that isn't really helpful. Besides while I can recognize a problem that exist, it does not mean, I feel comfortable enough to actual fix the problem myself. – Ramhound Dec 18 '14 at 12:01
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Two parts to this answer

  1. The fact that he made this comment openly on someone's question is fairly rude and sets the wrong tone for the site. I don't condone it.

  2. The practice of not answering questions of poor quality, is a valid one; but we don't have to flaunt it by telling people, passive-aggressively, that their questions are bad quality.

Regarding the second point: if a question is a poor fit for the site but is well-written and shows research effort, I'll either invite them to chat, or help them in comments. If it's a REALLY good question that for some reason is going to get closed, I'll attempt to edit the question to be less terrible, in an effort to salvage it so it won't get closed, and then answer it properly.

The absolute worst thing I do to a question / questioner is vote to close and/or downvote. I consider it helpful and courteous to provide a comment explaining -- nicely -- why I casted these votes, but I don't always do it, unfortunately :( That said, posting comments which don't help the user and just serve to discourage them, is bad. Unless the question is blatant spam and will be deleted in mere seconds, in which case, I occasionally pop a joke before the question gets nuked and the user account kersploded. But that's rare.

I always try to judge the intentions of the user, as well as how much research effort they put in. If I find that their intentions are pure and they genuinely are trying to learn something or figure out a problem, I will try to help them any way I can, and be courteous to them, even if it results in a back-and-forth over comments, or severe question editing, or politely voting to close. If their intentions are to be lazy and get someone else to do their thinking for them, I generally won't say anything to them.

If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I don't think I need to provide a source for this quote, but it has meaning even in the 21st century on a new-fangled Q&A site.

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Yes and no. Occationally a question that seems poorly research may end up having awesome questions.

And well, I think we're asking the wrong question here. I think what you're implying is "How best can I use comments when someone has posted a poor answer?"

If you have high standards, try to help others reach it. Comment on specifics. I'd consider the comment quoted to be low quality, spelling errors notwithstanding

Good comments take into account a few things for me.

  1. Comments are meant to be transient especially when it comes to questions. They're not discussion either. If a comment is super useful, it belongs in the post or elicits extra information for the post.
  2. Comments should be specific - What makes a question "inferior" here?
  3. Great comments Tackle an issue - How could the OP make his question better?
  4. The end goal of good comments should be great questions and answers

If something is horribly done, your close and down votes should do the trick

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