18

Many questions ask if something is possible (or where can I do x in y). Often the answer is hard to find out and in a good part of these cases the answer might be "no, that is impossible, you can not do this for a reason."

However I feel that we are (recently) too easy on answering that something is not possible. IMHO if I do not find def info on the net, I might leave a comment but I leave the question open.

This I do because it will be considered open and seen by other users who might know/google more/better than myself. Having a question answered, discourages other users from looking at it and it will go down the drain into question nirvana without a proper answer.

For example I waited three months to answer that SanXingDui art question even though I had that suspicion for all the time, I was waiting to find better sources. In that recently popular question on strike websites in France many people commented or answered that such a site would not exist only for one to be found within a day.

In a more scientific wording, I feel we should reduce our number of potentially false negatives.

Now this is my opinion and please answer and comment and vote wildly on here about what you feel about this topic.

Thanks to @Berwyn for pointing to these two related meta SO and meta SE posts. I still think it is useful to have such a separate discussion for travel though as in many cases it is not as easy to say something is impossible (and I don't accept "half an hour of googling around did not give me results" as impossible) in travel as it might be for programming. Also these posts discuss if it is OK to post "impossible" as an answer whereas I would like to discuss if we are too easy/quick in doing so.

19

As we all know from Cunningham's Law:

The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it's to post the wrong answer.

Hence, I wouldn't worry too much about this. If there's really a better answer someone will come out of the shadows and post it eventually.

  • 1
    Absolutely right @JonathanReez – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 7 '16 at 15:10
  • Didn't know that there's actually a rule for the essence of how the internet works! Thanks for pointing it out. – sepehr Jun 4 '17 at 17:28
8

This is a very valid concern, and one that I share too. I also came to this realization mainly after seeing the Lake Toba one, however, I think this is a side effect of people wanting to answer questions (whether for rep/bounty or not) even if they do not have direct experience with the topic. This is good for activity, but sometimes leads to questions being answered purely based on online research, which may not be exhaustive.

I think it's important for us who answer questions, to keep in mind that if you've only done research online, not to answer a question with 'no'. Rather try and word your answer more along the lines of 'there doesn't seem to be any ____ that have made advertisements/websites online'.

  • I can only agree. I'd even go as far as leaving these questions open = unanswered instead of answering what you suggest and rather leave a comment saying so. – mts Jun 2 '16 at 15:04
  • 1
    Good point. Comments are a good place to say 'I couldn't find anything about this online'. – Joel Damien Jun 2 '16 at 15:11
  • Do we leave questions open and unanswered indefinitely if people say 'no' in comments and nobody can answer anything different? – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 15:17
  • 1
    Yeah I would say we should. You never know when someone might come along with the right info and answer it properly. – Joel Damien Jun 2 '16 at 15:18
  • There are currently 214 unanswered questions - is there any way we can separate the 'most likely no' answers in comments from the no answers? @JoelDamien – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 15:23
  • @NathanShoesmith If you mean via some sort of mechanism on the backend of the SE network, like some sort of filter, then I have no idea, maybe a community moderator can answer though... – Joel Damien Jun 2 '16 at 15:41
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    Maybe these no answers are like a red rag to a bull and encourage yes answers to be found... – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 15:53
  • Good point @Berwyn - it's whether they are accepted though... – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 16:15
  • 2
    I must admit, I was a bit surprised that your Lake Toba answer was accepted. – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 16:20
  • Why, any particular reason @Berwyn ? – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 16:32
  • I just didn't think the OP would have accepted it as the answer. I might have suspected he would have voted it up to corroborate his own research perhaps. – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 16:33
  • As I said in my answer, they had done good research as it's pretty much all I could fine. – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 16:50
  • 2
    I really don't see anything wrong with leaving questions unanswered. Some people seem determined to supply "an answer" even if it's based on just minimal Googling and doesn't really answer the question. This site gets lots of questions; if you don't have the knowledge to give a particularly good answer, comment and move on to something else. – Zach Lipton Jun 5 '16 at 6:13
8

My take is that "no" answers should usually be based on more than the mere absence of information online.

So if I was a paragliding operator in Lake Toba (using that as an unfortunate example, sorry Nathan) but I shut up shop, or I went there last week and no-one knew anything about such a thing, then I've got some extra information that's not online.

If Indonesian law says that paragliding is illegal, then that's also a decent source, of course - it's not an absence of information. Or if there's a source that says "actually, the thermals round there are awful", then again I've something to add.

Justification - "No" answers aren't that helpful to future visitors. If I come in a year or two hence - or perhaps just a few months from now - I'm still going to look on Google. In fact, I've probably done that already. If you can tell me that as of June 2016, there were definitely no paragliding operators, or that there are unlikely to be any ever because of X,Y,Z, then that's helping my search.

2

I think that No, according to my research, that's not possible is a perfectly valid answer. In addition, it will remain the most probable answer until someone else comes along with at least one valid counter-example. At which point one either deletes the original negative answer, or watches it get down-voted into oblivion.

Note that this is no different than what normally happens when other answers become incorrect or outdated. I would therefore not be afraid of this problem. I wouldn't call it a problem either. Correcting and contradicting answers is an inherent part of Q&A.

  • 1
    If I may say so, and please don't take this as a criticism, but your cemetery answer illustrates this nicely. You provided a valid correct answer saying that the cemetery is closed. However, by some lateral thinking perhaps it would be possible to be a guest of the regiment, or guest of the supervisor, or the supervisor may make an exception, or perhaps there's another way to be there that isn't as a visitor and therefore isn't subject to the rules? So your answer is correct, but the conclusion may or may not be? – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 16:41
  • Valuable opinion but I personally disagree. I feel we got some amazing, knowledgeable and reasearched answers by leaving Qs unanswered and highly voted for long times. Putting a more often than not quick&dirty "no according to my research" can kill those questions and they will never be answered (see red rag/bull analogy by @Berwyn in comments to answer of @Joel). You have point that voting corrects with new answers were someone is thankfully quick to correct in may cases (see french strike website case) but I disagree for old and long-standing posts that fall into nirvana too quickly – mts Jun 2 '16 at 16:41
  • after a false negative answer. – mts Jun 2 '16 at 16:41
  • 1
    I feel we got some amazing, knowledgeable and reasearched answers by leaving Qs unanswered and highly voted for long times. I agree with this. Maybe a quick and dirty 'no' answer will kill the question altogether. However I think that the answers you have in mind all depend on someone with extensive local knowledge bumping into the question and taking the time to answer. In other words, we are talking about luck. Whether that is independent on the question already being answered I don't know. Interesting thought. – JoErNanO Jun 2 '16 at 16:53
  • 1
    @Berwyn I agree. Another answer other than 'no' might be the correct one. We won't know until someones contradicts my answer. :) – JoErNanO Jun 2 '16 at 16:54
2

I feel that a no answer removes a question from the unanswered list, and is thus therefore less likely to be found by a new user who might have certain expertise and searches the unanswered list for questions that they might be expert in. As such, I think a no answer deserves due care.

  • 1
    Totally agree but could you elaborate on due care? – mts Jun 2 '16 at 17:12
  • By "due care" I just mean considering the consequences beyond inserting the new answer. Probably the potential negative consequences are very small if there are existing answers there already. Obviously it's a judgement call... – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 17:43
  • The answer only comes off the unanswered list if it is approved. – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 17:52
  • "The Unanswered Questions tab shows questions that have no answers with a positive score nor an accepted answer. (That includes questions with no answers at all.)". So if just one person votes your answer up it disappears. – Berwyn Jun 2 '16 at 17:55
-2

Here is my opinion for what we should do;

If an answer like this is submitted; 'No.'* or 'No, that is not possible' something along those lines, the answer should not be allowed and removed.

If an answer is submitted saying 'No, I cannot find any information to suggest this,' I think this should not be allowed as answer - but as a comment

If an answer is submitted such as 'I am not aware you can currently participate in such opportunity. There is no information to suggest this and I used (sources.) You may find ... useful though,' this should be allowed This sort of answer is giving useful information and might actually help. The OP can decide whether they believe the verdict in the answer is correct and if to accept it.

If we want to challenge an answer, accepted or not, we can add bounties etc. Likewise, another answer can be posted.

We cannot just assume all 'no' answers are wrong, useless and bad, which I fear many people are doing. An answer is either a response or a solution. In questions asking 'Can I....' we are more likely providing a response than a solution.

If we say that you cannot answer 'No' this means that any 'Can I....' questions cannot be answered properly.

Just because an answer is upvoted or accepted, it doesn't mean it is necessarily right. Answers should be challenged where we know otherwise to the given answer.

  • Thoughts? Objections? @mts – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 19:33
  • It's hard here compared to your other answer to see what is your opinion really? As said in my comment to your other answer here and pointed out in my Q an answer clearly stating why something is impossible is good and should be given, but I do object to answers like "no, I cannot find any info on this". These last ones IMHO should be poorly received and/or downvoted to encourage giving them as comments instead of as answers. – mts Jun 2 '16 at 20:25
  • My opinion has changed slightly, more represented in this answer. As long as No answers have some research and proof of why they would Be a no, behind them, I think this is fine. @mts – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 2 '16 at 20:33
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    +1 A good quality "It looks like no based on X research" answer saves everyone time by detailing the things the answerer tried, and also makes it easier for someone to come along and think "Hmm... They tried X,Y, Z... but not Q... Aha!". Also, there's nothing better to provoke some answer-writing from that one person who does know that you can actually go dolphin riding in Denver, if you ask Jim who doesn't have a website or phone but can usually be found wearing a red hat in Joe's Bar on odd-numbered Tuesdays. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 3 '16 at 0:12
  • A flat answer of just "No" is not very helpful and is likely to be deleted as such. An answer of "No. Because X, Y, and Z reasons" is perfectly fine. If someone else comes along says "Actually, yes, because reason AA," then that's fine too, and the answers can be up/downvoted as people see fit. – Zach Lipton Jun 3 '16 at 21:57
  • This answer should be removed since it says No. – Fattie Jun 13 '16 at 12:44
  • 1
    Hilarious @JoeBlow – Nathan Shoesmith Jun 13 '16 at 13:53
  • 1
    heh! obvious but funny right? :) – Fattie Jun 13 '16 at 14:41

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