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We get a fair number of questions here that are something like this:

How to do X


While trying to create/do Y I tried doing X and couldn't figure out how to do it. I tried various ways of doing X and nothing worked. How can I do X in Blender?

Even though the question is how to do X, I often see answers on another way to do Y that doesn't have anything to do with X at all. These answers are often upvoted, and not infrequently even accepted.

I have mixed feelings about such answers.

  • On one hand, the OP's original problem is fixed and end goal achieved. The OP is happy and the answer may even help some future potential visitors with similar situations and trains of thought as the OP.
  • But on the other hand, such an answer doesn't really answer the question at all, it just addresses some backstory/context specific to the OP. After all, if I was looking for how to do X in my own situation, I would probably want an answer on how to actually do X, not Y. And if I wanted to do Y, I would be searching for how to do Y, not X.

Personally, I tend to lean towards the latter viewpoint (though thinking back I have posted a few answers like this myself), but I don't really have any idea what do do with such answers either.

So do we (or SE in general) have any guidelines on what our policy is with regards to answers giving different ways of going about the OP's situation instead of answering the actual question? Are these answers OK, encouraged, or discouraged? What should be done with such answers?


To be clear, I am talking about situations in which the question is actually asking how to do X, the OP just also mentions to some degree that in their project, they are trying to do Y.

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Answering a question is not just a maths operation

Hi,

I think that the X you mention would rarely be X in reality. It is much more likely to be Xa, Xe, Xn, ..., and so on. In my opinion, a question/problem is a scenario not just one variable. Therefore, I am inclined to support @aliasguru's answer above.

PS: I would have just commented but I do not have enough rep points.:))))

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Introduction

Personally, I'm coming from a Design background. At University, one thing that we were taught is the design way of dealing with problems (or questions, in BSE terms):

Solving problems in essence means freeing yourself from the problem

(I hope the translation somehow makes sense, the original quote is German). In other words, if you really want to solve a tricky issue, sometimes you need to step back and rethink the issue itself. This leads to 'thinking out of the box'.

As an example, we were given the following scenario:

Each cigarette lighter is suffering from the same issue. Whenever you'll try to light a cigarette in strong wind conditions, the wind would extinguish the flame before the cigarette burns. Come up with solutions to this.

At first, you think of the problem as a flame being extinguished by wind. The solutions you come up with are all kinds of shields, tubes that surround the flame, higher power fuels, whatnot. Then, you run out of ideas.

At this point, you look at the top quote again, and realise something: The question made you think in a certain way. You were thinking of flames, not cigarettes! The problem to you always was the flame going out, while the actual issue was to light a cigarette in stormy conditions. BOOM creativity and ideas come back. The best solution in the end was to spawn a mini electric lightning (like those devices you see in action movies sometimes do put people out), as this one doesn't care about wind speed at all, and will also work indoors by the way. So, to forget about flames was necessary to get to a solution.

Why am I saying all this?

For me, it is valid to provide alternative solutions to questions, as long as the essence of the question is answered. Think about it: The OP has decided to ask the community because he or she navigated himself into a dead end many times. The solution he's looking is inspired by his own background, and many users have little experience yet in how to tackle 3D geometry, and also polymodelling. Some have a NURBS modelling background, and still think in that terms. So they tend to think their way, and that might be the reason why they fail to achieve X. A question which solves the actual issue, but not necessarily answers the question literally, can open much wider corridors and inspire new users in a very powerful way.

That's why for me, such answers are encouraged.

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    $\begingroup$ My issue with this train of thought is that even though the OP may come off completely satisfied, the purpose of SE is to create a valuable resource for everybody who uses Blender, and knowing how to do Y won't help most future people looking for a way to do X. $\endgroup$ – PGmath Aug 25 '16 at 13:31
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Sometimes there's an obvious end goal as stated by an OP, the OP has nothing invested in doing it any specific way other than what works and is a useful technique for future projects (like non-destructive editing where possible).

I think a good analogy is the problem of 'be careful what you wish for'. Do you really want the literal answer to your question, or do you want to get an answer which takes a different but educated perspective into account.

Part of the Zen of BSE is to ask more information in the comments before answering. Often we have to unpack the information if the OP glosses over important details, knowing how they got into a situation in the first place can help suggest a line of answers. It's not unheard of that a new user takes a very roundabout approach to modelling something, I think we do them a disservice (and future readers) if we don't take a step back and give the alternative view.

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  • $\begingroup$ That was and is my intention as well. A good answer brings you further, enables you to see new horizons. It reminds me of a question asked here on how to model a piano key a certain way. The way the questions (there was more than one thread) were asked clearly showed this persons mind was so far trained in Solid Modelling. The task X was so narrow that anything except booleans was not accepted as an answer. If in this case you keep on answering X, this person never gets the idea of polymodelling. $\endgroup$ – aliasguru Sep 7 '16 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @aliasguru yes we have to use our discretion sometimes, even if the OP doesn't want to hear about it. A group of us take a step back and look at what the OP is trying to achieve and how, and those of us with more experience will try to persuade (with reasoning) a different approach. therefor only answer X as X if Y isn't a much better solution, else hint at Y. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Sep 7 '16 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ we don't get that many unhappy people, but if they are unhappy they tend to be more vocal , and they throw stones into our zen garden :) $\endgroup$ – zeffii Sep 7 '16 at 11:17
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X should be X

I agree with you on that point and often I feel that some people see SE/SO as some kind of game where the goal is to collect all of the achievements. So answering Y instead of X, as long as it is mentioned in the question, seems to be legit to proceed faster.

BlenderSE's goal should not only to be a Q&A or a FAQ, it should try to deliver quality content. But most of the time the problem is not necessarily on the side of the person who delivers an answer.

My problem with this is actually the exact opposite. We all know and love people who drop those annoying one-liners, right?

When X actually isn't X

Sometimes I catch myself answering X instead of Y, which would be the actual answer to the OP's question and most of the time the reason for this is that people don't give all the needed information in their questions, like ...

  • what render engine they intend to use
  • what's the purpose of their model (still render, animation, game asset)
  • what have they tried already

...in short: Well... relevant stuff.

So, you went through the process of creating a detailed-as-necessary answer on how to create a nice looking thingy for a still render in cycles and then you read the comment "Yeah, right... but dude, how does that apply to my question? I want to create a game asset".

Actually I remember at least one case where I completely lost any interest (aka being p'd off a little) in correcting my answer after such a comment and just let it stay there as it was. Some days after that it got UVd by someone who had the same problem but actually wanted to do a still render instead of a game asset. Problem solved, the upvoter was happy, I was happy again, case closed.

Quality Content

Quality content comes not out of thin air.

If someone answers Y instead of X for the sole purpose of gaining reputation we could at least comment that and remember him to stay on topic.

We get a lot if trivial questions that are answered in nearly every "Blender for Beginners" tutorial you can find on youtube, vimeo or (for those who prefer to read) on the various blogs and websites that pop up when you feed "Blender for Beginners" to google. In my opinion those questions should not be answered on BlenderSE directly, at least not for the sole purpose of "grinding" (to stick with game terminology) reputation.

There are quite some tutorial requests on how to create complete scenes, building game assets and exporting them to unity/UE4 and the like. Instead of answering those questions here over and over again or redirecting the OPs to related questions, there should be a possibility for us to create that kind of tutorials somewhere within BlenderSE or maybe outside of it.

I also suggest that we should improve the help section and in particular the "How do I ask a good question?" part. That certainly won't prevent vague questions and annoying one-liners but at least we wouldn't have to write the whole sermon into a comment over and over again. Those new users who are really committed to learning Blender would certainly try to adapt to the ruleset and over time become valuable contributors themselves.

Reviewing

We should encourage (not only, but especially) new users a little more to review their own questions and adding relevant stuff to them instead of writing it into the comment section. And we should quit answering vague questions for the purpose of grinding reputation.

If they won't do it and the topic seems to be interesting and important enough to us, we should do it on their behalf.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mostly agreed (although it's maybe quite difficult to differentiate between simple helping and gaining rep), but what does it mean "to stay OT" ? $\endgroup$ – Mr Zak Sep 4 '16 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MrZak - It should mean "on topic", I just realized, that OT is the abbreviation for "off topic"... ;-) $\endgroup$ – metaphor_set Sep 4 '16 at 21:22

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