... a new post? Is it the question as stated, or the problem that's obvious?

... a response? Is it the question as stated, or the advice as given?

I've not really posted in a while, been a few years actually. Therefore I was curious about how the current moderating staff would answer this.

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    So glad you asked! Thinking the problem needs revisiting. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


Is it the question as stated, or the problem that's obvious?

Personally, and as a moderator, I think the important part of a question is the question the OP asked, because what is an obvious problem to you may not be a problem to the OP.

A good example of this is "crying it out". Parents have different beliefs about allowing a baby to cry it out (cry themselves to sleep.) I don't advocate the practice. However, it's been taught for generations and is still a big part of parenting cultures around the world, and this is a global community. If a parent asks a sincere question about CIO, I believe the respectful thing is to not answer if some helpful advice can't be given.

"You're a barbarian if you let your baby cry it out!" is an example of an unhelpful answer, and unfortunately it's not an unusual response to such a question. It assumes the culture one identifies with is the only correct one. Often it's more kindly put, but still involves negative judgement not only of the practice but of the OP as well.

Because this is a recurring issue, we've had numerous meta questions discussing answers such that disagree with the premise:

What should moderators do with answers that disagree with the premise of the question?
What is the ideal response to a question based on a premise one does not accept?
How to respond when a parent is asking about something that is abuse?
When is an answer not an answer?
What is the policy/rules on answers that are rooted in negative sides of single parenthood?

The answer has been, if you can't agree with the premise of the question, skip the question.

Some people are unable to do this, and feel it is their duty only to educate the OP about their error. A recent example was about spanking. I thought it was interesting and worthy of discussion. When is spanking effective, and if it's OK to use corporal punishment at 5, why is it not at ten? I think there is a respectful way to answer the question which incorporates both views. However, most of the answers were not respectful.

A recent example of when an answer doesn't address the question was this post by an unmarried but culturally religious woman anticipating problems raising her children with her atheistic partner to whom she was not yet married. I don't think the OP was asking if she ought not marry her significant other, yet some of the answers did suggest that, and most were answers along the premarital counseling route. But not one answer concentrated on her question.

I assume the above is an example of what you are referring to when you mention "the problem that's obvious". (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

I don't want this to be a site that shows disrespect for OPs who ask sincere questions on a topic with which we happen to disagree. Luckily, this is the current opinion of the moderators, as well as the advice most often given by the Community Managers.

It would follow then that the most important part of an answer is the part that deals with the question asked.

However, having said all this, one can answer a question the premise of which one disagrees, and put in a respectful alternative as an aside. If the aside is the entire answer, it's not really an answer to the question.

I think the time may have arrived to revisit this question as a community, as there have been several questions in quick succession that invited many answers disagreeing with the premise. Either people don't agree with the guidelines or choose to disregard them. When it happens too often, it puts the moderators in an awkward position.

If you asked a sincere question about for tactics to raise a child in your religion when the world around them seems to favor atheism, I don't think you would welcome being told you were an idiot to believe in an invisible, unkind and unloving higher power akin to the flying spaghetti monster. Yet it's been done. If you were trying to deal with how to motivate a child who struggles with schoolwork, you probably don't want someone to tell you schoolwork is stupid, and useless in the real world, yet it's been done. Many such answers have been given because people have different belief systems which they believe are the only correct one.

  • "The answer has been, if you can't agree with the premise of the question, skip the question." This is a recent policy in the last couple of years and I vehemently disagree with it for Parenting. It works on other communities with concrete subject matter (stackoverflow, for ex), but here the questions tend to be general and the answers philosophical. While a response may appear to be "unfocused" or not address the original question directly, it can still have "huh I hadn't thought of that" valid information. (this tends to be my technique, look at my history) >Next comment>
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 4:55
  • Parenting as a job is about knowledge and solutions. Whatever the problem is, you bring your own experience and knowledge to the solution. That means that "how do I convince my parents about school" (a supremely flawed premise of a question) may truly deserve a response outlining the consequences of choosing to ignore the advice that people have tried to give. Bottom line is this: I've seen a couple of posts here on meta about figuring out how to attract experts and 'evangilists'. You're not going to do it by censuring rational users and removing thoughtful posts. >Next comment>
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 4:56
  • Parenting is an ambiguous art, and expecting advice to be fit into very specific lines on a subject as abstract as parenting will do nothing more than chase people away. "I spent :45 writing that post and it was removed because of rules? Fuck it, I'm out." For the first time in a couple years, I looked on here, and thought maybe I'll start posting again. Most of the lectures I give my 3rd 4th and 5th kids aren't about the problem, it's about the world around the problem, to fix the problem themselves. If that's not good enough, then forget it. Good luck finding new people to participate.
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 4:58
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    Last thing: I'm not looking to have a conversation in the comments. As you confirmed in chat, "moving comments to chat" is a death sentence. What was probably an otherwise vigorous (not heated) conversation was removed from public view and eventually deleted. Anyway, you've made it excruciatingly clear what your stance is, and have stood firm in the face of withering criticism to the moderation. I just wanted to say my piece. Good luck.
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 5:03
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    @monsto This is a recent policy in the last couple of years Sorry, but that is incorrect. The roots of that policy go back 6 years, shortly after the site came out of private beta. And as I'm sure I said to you years ago when you last complained about being in the minority regarding your opinion of this topic: complaining in comments, no matter how frequently you do so, will not result in a policy change. Post your own answers if you want it to change.
    – user420
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 12:43
  • @Beofett I think you may be on a different point than I'm talking about. You admonished me, a few times, on the "premise" rule. At no point did you remove or edit my response to fit it. My big complaint then was not "premise", it was random edits, esp by random users, and ESPECIALLY the inconsistency with which it occurred. Guiding a poster to keep a certain "order" in mind when posting is far different from "if you can't agree with the premise of the question, skip the question" which is diff in spirit, and far more aggressive, than the bold line in the post you linked.
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 22:08
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    Hey man . . . bottom line is I wanted to help. I've got a handful of ancient posts that are worth a couple hundred points a year that give indirect and ancillary advice on topics and don't always directly answer questions. And neverminding me and my specifics, this forum has changed a lot since the last time I looked. Removed posts everywhere and a generally combative nature amongst the mods... and you're trying to figure out ways to attract knowledgeable posters. As I said, I wish you luck.
    – monsto
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 22:16
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    @monsto I linked that post because you claimed the "don't disagree with the premise" rule is new, "in the last couple of years". That post isn't about the "don't disagree with the premise" specifically, but it is where the rule originated. The meta discussion that resulted in that rule was, iirc, one I was involved in, and which I did enforce. So your claim that this is all new stuff committed by Draconian moderators who are ignoring"withering criticism" is unsupported by the evidence.
    – user420
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:33
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    As I'm sure I've said to you before, I like many of your posts, and appreciate your contributions to this community. But essentially what you're saying is that you think the rules are wrong, because you personally disagree. The rules are established by the community, and can change, if that's what the community wants. One person complaining and threatening to leave again is not the community, though, and the fact that the majority of your complaints are in comments, rather than questions or answers where they can be voted on, hinders any chance your feedback will result in meaningful change.
    – user420
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:39
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    @monsto - I believe - and I might be way out of line here - that you should post an answer which can be voted upon. You certainly have enough in your comments to just put them together and post a coherent one. Are you spending so much time on comments because comments can't be down voted? How do all your comments help the community? I'm not sure they do, and I for one want to see a discussion in answers, which would be more helpful. If this is a community you want to help focus. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:42
  • Oh, I'm sorry. I see now that @Beofett already pointed that out. Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 0:48
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    With regard to the spanking question, I think closing the question was a mistake and sends mixed signals, suggesting that the people who posted deleted answers got their way in the end. The excuse for closure is highly questionable if this is really supposed to be a global site.
    – Warren Dew
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 21:48
  • @WarrenDew - I agree that nothing was ideal about that situation. Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 2:31

Both are important, but the question that is asked is more important.

For this reason, on successful stack exchange sites, answers are required to answer the question first, but then are allowed to disagree with the question's premises and provide alternative solutions which may be better.

If you can't accept the question's premises even for the sake of argument, you are extremely unlikely to be able to provide an answer that is useful in the sense that it actually helps the asker of the question. Most likely, your answer will be seen as argument rather than a genuine attempt to help, and will be ignored.

However, if you can accept the question's premises for the sake of argument, you've demonstrated that you do understand the question asker's point of view. That shows the asker that you might be worth listening to, and establishes a basis for paying attention to your subsequent disagreement with the premises.

  • I think that this is an exceptionally good approach.
    – user420
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 12:58

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