Here is some of what I am thinking and do when answering questions:
What is the OP's level of knowledge or experience?
- Moderately Experienced
Is the question...?
- Highly Focused to a Narrow Technical Question
- Focused Theoretical Question
- Seeking a Wider Perspective
- Hopelessly Lost
Working down the lists, it is easy to imagine that a Technical user seeking a Highly Focused to a Narrow Technical Question requires far less verbiage than a Newbie who is Hopelessly Lost.
I also consider:
- If historical views are required.
- If technical explanations are required.
- If a better answer exists elsewhere.
- If confusion exists.
- If conventional wisdom exists within the question is wrong, outdated,
- If the question solicits a land mine field answer and special care
- If the user requires reassurance.
When answering questions I like to:
- Match the OP's level of knowledge, experience, and expectation as
much as possible.
- Remove ambiguity or confusion.
- Prove points with facts, references, or anecdotal evidence.
- Answer the OP's question(s) in the order given as much as possible.
- If the answer requires explanation, then add specific succinct
answers to OP's question with the explanation.
- Review the original question after the first draft of the answer and
- Remove or adjust anything that clouds the issue.
- Remove anything completely unnecessary unless it is for fun.
- Adjust the answer based upon the comments left to improve the answer.
- Reference other good answers in my answer when making a new point.
When I answer a question, I not only think about the OP, but the person who finds the question from a search engine. I try and weave both considerations together as much as possible. Sometimes, this requires a bit more work.
My shortest answer is 1 sentence and 1 link. My highest vote count answer is one of my longer answers. I have spent as much as 3.5 hours helping a single OP with an answer and chat.
Other considerations when answering a question:
- Whether I can support the facts and points of an answer.
- Whether I can appropriately debate any point or fact.
- Whether I can support contrary comments.
- Whether I can appropriately enter chat to discuss and solve a
- Whether I can address my weaknesses in answering any question within the question and this would be acceptable.
What I do not consider when answering a question:
- My Ego
- The distraction of personality.
When I answer the question I appreciate:
- Constructive criticisms.
- Questions regarding specific points.
- Other points of view.
- Points I have not considered or missed.
- Others experience especially in light of changes to technology.
- Expertise given.
I enjoy helping people with humor and experience as much as possible. I have been specializing in helping people who are less technical understand the world they live in better for 30 years which likely influences the questions I answer and the type of answer required. I focus on answering questions probably to a fault.
I hope this adds clarity to the discussion.
I did a quick survey of my higher voted answers, 6-25, and only found one short answer. The remaining were either moderate length or longer- mostly longer.
There are two types of people asking questions; those who want a quick specific answer, and those who want a better understanding of an issue. I tend to try and explain things to those who are confused or cannot find a good answer, so admittedly, I answer questions that require some explanation. Some questions only require a short answer. Some require more time. Whether a long answer is well received depends on the question and how much people are interested in the same topic, how the question is answered, and whether the question and answer is helpful. Granted, not all long answers will be up-voted. But there is clearly a place for longer answers and they can be appreciated. So as for the question raised here. It really depends on the user(s), the question, and the answer as to whether there is any negative effect.