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I just answered a question about somebody trying to circumvent some network restrictions, I understand that that kind of questions fall under the "system misuse" category, however, I answered because I think that the answer can be useful for other users with more benign intentions (bypassing an oppressive government firewall for example).

However, I was just wondering, is answering any kind of "bad question" in this site considered a way of "encouraging" them and therefore a bad thing?

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    Answering Off Topic/ Bad questions implicitly encourages them. – Iain Feb 18 '14 at 15:05
  • I think a comment with RTFM is as good as they should get and in the type of "I want to bypass the security my sysadmin put there" ... well a "we won't help you do that" comment is good with a Flag as off-topic. But an answer that helps them, no! – ETL Feb 18 '14 at 18:16
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    @ETL I don't think you should even bother with that. Odds of the the comment making a damn bit of difference are about 0, and often enough, the OP gets all offended and starts being an ass. Comment arguing ensues, and it's probably just better to close the question, delete it, and hope the OP who couldn't be bothered to read the FAQ before asking a question just goes away and bothers someone else. – HopelessN00b Feb 18 '14 at 19:55
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I say yes, it is. If nothing else, answered bad questions can be used as a precedent to ask more bad questions.

  • I think everybody deserves help, especially if they don't know how to ask for it. IMHO the right way to respond to a "bad" question is to guide it to be a good question, not to reject it. Not everybody appreciates this or understands that the greater goal of this and similar sites is to be a persistent store of knowledge. Be forgiving in what you hear and rigorous in what you say. – quadruplebucky Mar 1 '14 at 2:03
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We explicitly prohibit questions regarding circumventing corporate IT policies, so questions such as the one about using an ssh tunnel to bypass a corporate egress firewall should not be answered, but just closed outright.

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    +1 Also, we do not meddle in the affairs of Governments, even oppressive ones. I have opinions on what laws people should or should not follow, as does everyone, but Server Fault isn't the place for such discussions. – Chris S Feb 18 '14 at 15:40
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For my money, yes, it is; I've long felt it's shabby to both answer a bad question and vote for it to be closed.

That said, if I feel sorry for the questioner, particularly if it's clear they're way out of their depth in the sysadmin pool, I will sometimes put a hint or a pointer in a comment.

  • I do that sometimes, but usually only when I'm giving them one of those "go hire a professional" non-answers. – Magellan Feb 23 '14 at 4:36
  • I think that's perfectly justified. A near majority of questions here (loose stats) are clearly in the deep end of the pool. Better to tell them to get out before they drown. – quadruplebucky Mar 1 '14 at 2:21

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