Bad questions happen. Sometimes, people give valid answers to the question the saw inside of a bad question.

The Help page for answering questions highlights that some questions shouldn't be answered:

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...
- ...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
- ...solicit opinions rather than facts.
- ...have already been asked and answered many times before.
- ...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
- ...are not about governments, policies and political processes as defined in the help center.

Yet there is a badge for getting +20 on an answer responding to a -5 question.

Should it be the common practice of the SE to not answer, rather to correct or close bad questions, or hope a stellar answer arrives for bad questions?

To the question cited, it hits three of the five bullets.
"Does the overuse of the word fascism reduce its weight?" isn't explicitly about governments, policies, or political process.
It could be inferred what the question is asking, but that means the questions isn't inherently clear.
It closes by asking: "If so, does the word fascism denote a certain left or right political bias to you?" A direct attempt to solicit opinions rather than facts.

With those three facets, the questions requires a fair amount of guidance to answer it in full.


It's worth noting that the Reversal badge has been retired, in favor of the new Lifejacket and Lifeboat badges. More details in this blog post. The point is that these new badges focus on improving the question as well; it needs to have a positive score in the end for the badges to be awarded. Just posting a good answer to a bad question isn't enough.

Note that improving the question could be tricky, since edits need to preserve the intentions of the original author. Edits to make a question more clear generally do so, but it could be challenging to make a question less opinion based without conflicting the OP's intentions.


The points in the Help page are not about bad questions, but about questions which will be closed (point-by-point: unclear, opinion-based, duplicate, too broad, off-topic).

Questions which should be closed shouldn't be answered, as they shouldn't be here in the first place. Answering such questions might encourage further questions in the future. Additionally, as the question will soon be closed, there can be no further answers. If your answer is not a good answer, there will be no competing answers which would be more highly upvoted. If you think that you can edit the question so it will not be closed, that should happen before answering (so that you answer the valid question, not the invalid one).

On the other hand, questions can be bad without needing to be closed. They may be poorly researched, boring, contain too much non-relevant opinion, be poorly formatted, and so on.

Those questions should be answered, and that is where the badge comes in. It motivates people to answer questions even though they were not well received by the community.

Of course, it may also be possible to turn these bad questions into good questions by editing. I would highly suggest this (here is also where the controversy mentioned by Philipp comes in).

  • Additional reason not to asnwer soon-to-close questions: the question may need edits (sometimes drastic) to be reopenable - which would likely invalidate your answer in the best case and prevent the edits (since edits that invalidate existing answer aren't permitted in general) in the worst case. – user4012 Mar 16 '17 at 18:55

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