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Too often I see a very well worded answer that falls into some common pitfalls:

  • Doesn't address the specific question:
    For example a question about a specific Qur'anic verse doesn't need a very long answer explaining why the whole Qur'an is correct and cannot be questioned.

  • Ignores the question entirely:
    A question about a specific verse doesn't need an answer stating 'don't worry Allah's book is perfect.'

  • Downright unsourced material 'explaining' something.

Alhamdulillah we have lots of enthusiastic answerers here, but I feel that with 20% more direction and focus we could impoverished the site by 80%.

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As I looked over the results of the Let's get critical: Mar 2014 Site Self-Evaluation, I couldn't help coming to the same conclusion you did. Since it's possible we got an unrepresentative sample, I randomly picked 5 more questions to look at:

  1. Inquiry about source of income ,haram or halal
  2. Is knowing baby's sex in the womb contradictory to Quran?
  3. Are human being the best of creations?
  4. https://islam.stackexchange.com/questions/11343/a-question-about-about-destiny
  5. Can nikkah be pronounced via Skype?

The first thing that jumps out to me about this sample is that at least 3 of the five questions could use very basic editing to improve English grammar and spelling. #1, #5, and perhaps #4 could also use some clarification about what the actual question is. (This is always tricky since I'm not an expert. Sometimes questions are more focused than they appear to an outsider because of precise definitions of technical terms.) As a first step, fix up questions quickly—before they are answered, if possible.

Second, I noticed an answer that consists of nothing but extended quotations from other sites. To the good: the answer was properly attributed. To the bad: why do we need a Q&A community if Google has the answers already? When this happens, there are two possibilities:

  1. The question isn't really the sort of long-tail, expert questions we look for, or
  2. The answer didn't really answer the specific question.

In the first case, the solution is clear: strive for more difficult, technical, unusual questions. A few months ago, I wondered out loud if too many of this site's questions are basic, commonly asked ones. Unfortunately, that remains the case. One of the great ways an expert can help the site attract more experts is by posting self-answered questions. Another option is to edit questions to make them more useful.

In the later case: downvote, vote to delete, and otherwise encourage answers to address their questions. If you can fix an answer, suggest an edit. If you have a better answer, post it. Sometimes, it's possible to read up on a question and rewrite some of the answers you find to produce a succinct summary that answers a specific question more directly than the alternatives. Don't be afraid to borrow from sources that other answers contribute if your answer turns out to be more helpful to the asker and the internet at large.

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You can comment on such posts and if you feel you don't receive a reasonable reply from the author you can down-vote the post if you feel the post is not really answering the question.

In extreme cases where the post doesn't have any relation to the question you can flag the post as "not an answer" and let moderators handle it.

Even better you can post a new answer, an answer that you think should have been the way the question should have been answered.

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  • But surely we should encourage current posters to improve their answers...I've tried both comments and downvotes neither of which seem successful.
    – Pureferret
    Mar 19 '14 at 6:14
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    @Pureferret, we cannot force people to write the answers that we would like. If commenting and down voting do not work and if it is not a really completely irrelevant to the question then I would say you have done what you could with the answer. If you are concerned enough about the question receiving a good answer the way you think it should be then just write one and post it and let the voting decide what people think is the more suitable answer.
    – Kaveh
    Mar 19 '14 at 7:09
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    There is also the option of editing the existing answer but be careful to remain constructive and not too forceful, e.g. if the author explicitly states that she prefers the answer the way it is or if you edit and she rolls back then don't engage in an edit war. Post your own better answer.
    – Kaveh
    Mar 19 '14 at 7:11

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