So we can't really have help vampires because we're not a work related site, and people aren't coming to use for help with their work. But what I'm talking about are people who will come in and ask questions, then come back later having more trouble because they've either not taken the advice given, or gone in the completely opposite direction.

This question for an example: Advice for stocking an Aquarium (45L)

Maybe I wasn't quite clear enough with my concerns that the tank could be overstocked, but I didn't want to outright say that they weren't capable of handling an overstocked tank either. my mistake on that one I guess.

Someone else put in an answer saying that they should get 10 tetras and that seems to be what the person wanted to hear because they commented 2 weeks later saying they put 10 tetras and 2 dwarf gouramis in the tank.

That person hasn't come back (maybe they're too mad because their fish died because we told them to get too many fish), but we've had a few that have come back several times and caused me to wonder why they haven't listened to the advice they were given in the first place. Some of them have turned out okay in the end, and some of them have just kind of disappeared. What I'm wondering though, is how we can keep them from becoming a hindrance on people answering questions.

It's kind of tough writing an answer for a question when you know the person asking it isn't listening, especially if they keep coming back you start thinking to yourself "what's the point?", but the question and answer are also for the benefit of future visitors to the site, and if the question is beneficial it should have an answer. So is the answer to just bear with it, or is there some kind of solution we can come up with to keep people who don't follow advice from frustrating the people who answer their questions?

4 Answers 4


It's not up to us to police users. They are coming here because they want help with things, and we should do our best to help them impartially. I know we all are concerned because unlike a lot of SE sites, the answers we give and the questions we get relate to living organisms, but at the same time, we have to remember that all we know about these people are their questions.

The moment we start judging people's worth as pet owners, it is going to get really messy really fast.

Also, at the end of the day, despite all the well researched answers we give and all the advice we provide, the asker can choose to go whatever way they will. Is it correct? Maybe not. But it is their choice, and if they come back and ask more things, then at least they see some value in what we offer.

Maybe this is me taking the whole thing personally, as I asked a few rabbit questions and had someone suggest perhaps rabbits weren't for me. But I think that one of the worst things we can do is refuse to remain impartial - we don't know people's motivations for asking, or anything like that.

We need to remember that at the end of the day, we can't force people to not ask things, and we shouldn't ever turn them away, either. The last thing we want is to be seen as elitist, judgemental people. I hate to think that people don't want to ask things here for fear of being judged. We need to be as welcoming as we can.

I am not really sure how this is a hindrance. Maybe I am misunderstanding the whole situation, but it certainly feels to me like we are assuming a lot about these people based on only their interactions here, which doesn't tell us much. Maybe they got busy. Maybe something happened in their lives beyond here and they never came back. We have no idea.

tl:dr I am not sure this is as big of an issue as it is presented, and I don't think there is much we can do - we are not here to judge people's worth.

  • For the record, I'm not concerned about judging people's ability as pet owners, but taking the worst answer out of the group, or continuing to do something wrong, because they want to rather than what's best for the animal. You're right though that I'm a bit more touchy about it as I normally would be, because our answers affect living animals. And that we have no control over what they choose to do in the end.
    – Spidercat
    Jul 18, 2014 at 1:39

It comes with the topic a bit. Aquariums in particular can be a very trepidatious adventure due to the money, time and emotional investment in being successful. When you're dealing with living fish, expensive pumps and difficult to source plants, trial and error becomes an increasingly scary manner of going about things. You need to get it right, the first time, which can mean asking lots of questions. When you arrive to a site that is comprised of nothing but questions, well - those dots are easily connected.

I'm personally still sitting on my hard-earned aquarium fund because I've simply not had enough time to properly research everything I need, things that can go wrong, or even the number of possibilities that I might be overlooking within the constraints of my budget. I'm not yet to the point where I'm ready to ask a bunch of questions, but knowing that is a skill.

Just do your best to help people within the amount of time you wish to give, and keep in mind that while we do expect people asking questions to be relatively confused at times, it's not unreasonable to expect them to be polite. There's a fine difference between taking full and reasonable advantage of the help you can receive here and becoming an imposition. Kids and young adults have often not fully refined the social skills needed to know the difference, so - don't be too reluctant to just say Hey, sorry - I just don't have enough time today to keep walking you through this step by step. Please let us know how it goes and I'll help if I can later or tomorrow, you've got pretty much all the advice you need now, I'm sure you'll do fine

They only become irritating if you let them (well, for the most part, there are always exceptional irritants on the Internet)


The only way to do this is to think outside the box and provide an answer that also considers possible negative outcomes and tries to provide "future-proofing".

Unfortunately, if the asker ignores answers to the initial question, then there isn't much one can do about subsequent questions.

If subsequent questions are consequences of prior questions, be sure to edit each question to link them in a proper timeline sequence. In this fashion, we help a future user who might also be following the same path as the "vampire".


The important thing to remember is that our answers are for not just for the people asking the questions, but for people who find the question later on. While it might be frustrating when someone takes the wrong advice or continues to do something incorrectly, it's necessary to push through that feeling and take the time to answer the question. Maybe not for the person asking the question, but for those future people who look for the answer.

It just happened to be that the person you saw wasn't interested in your advice, or didn't find it helpful (in which case you might want to take a look at how you can improve your answers). But what you didn't see, were the people who came across your answer later and maybe found it helpful. It's hard sometimes to visualize that, but it happens and that's what this site is for.

In the end we can't control what other people do, and sometimes it kind of sucks knowing that it's affecting a living animal, but we gotta move on to help those unseen people that need it in the future.

  • +1 "But what you didn't see, were the people who came across your answer later and maybe found it helpful. It's hard sometimes to visualize that, but it happens and that's what this site is for." Jul 18, 2014 at 10:23
  • That's what I was trying to "get to" with my "future-proofing" answer.
    – JoshDM
    Jul 18, 2014 at 21:47

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