Another form the same issue, answering what the user should have asked?

I often see posts in which the user asks a question, and then provides context that shows they are simply thinking about their problem in the wrong way. They are essentially asking the wrong question. Perhaps they don't know what to ask, or perhaps they have been chasing one form of a solution for so long that they ask something too specific. Most times, asking an open-ended "what completely different thing should I do?" would be considered off topic, but it is nonetheless the right question.

To add to difficulty of these questions, telling someone that they should do something completely different in an answer is, according to the FAQ, not a real answer. Telling them so in comments results (best case) in a comment discussion and no answer, or (worst case) with the asker ignoring, refuting, or angrily attacking the suggestion.

So, how should those questions be dealt with?


It depends. I don't recognise the situation you're talking about from your description.

If someone is apparently asking about a step, not the goal I generally link them that very section of that page I just linked and ask them to describe the goal, not the step.

If they're asking about how to do something and the answer is "don't do that, do this instead": I say so, and it would seem that's fine. I provided a genuine response to their situation after all, even if I didn't answer their question (which would not have lead them where they wanted to go).


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