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I'm thinking about this answer who do have a (small) interpersonal solution and a big lifehack part with very distractive pictures.

After reading this answer for the first time, what I remembered from it was that OP should buy something to carry is own water. And I absolutely did not remember the interpersonal part ("just ask").

The problem with that is that:

  1. I absolutely wasn't looking for a lifehack solution
  2. It can give people the wrong idea that lifehack solutions are acceptable

So, what do you think?

Should we remove the lifehack part? Just the pictures? Something else? And, more generally, what about other answers that have the same issue?

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    One general note here: If we're discussing the editing of answers, it's nice to leave a comment under the specific answer we're discussing, and give it's writer a chance to chime in. I see the answer has already been edited, but we didn't ask the writer for their input here... – Tinkeringbell Jan 2 '19 at 15:18
  • @Tinkeringbell I was more looking for a general rule here and only use this answer as an example, but you are right and I will try to remember that for next time. – Ælis Jan 2 '19 at 15:24
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Bring back the "lifehack!"

Our goal at the end of the day at IPS is to help people with their interpersonal interactions and make their lives just a pinch better. This answer explains what OP could've done better in the situation and--while that could've been a full answer in and of itself--the answerer then went the extra mile to try to help the OP out in future cases.

They give OP the tools to get through this situation again, but realizing it's only a stopgap measure, they show OP how they can avoid the problem altogether in the future.

Were the answer solely consisting of "Just buy this thing so you don't even have to worry about other people next time," I'd agree that it's not an answer fit for this site. However, I think we need to remember that one of our end goals here is to help people. If the answerer wants to include some quick non-interpersonal advice as an aside from someone who's been in a similar situation, I don't think we should delete that--as it will only hurt others in the same position looking for this question.

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  • But what about the fact that it decreases readability? Do you think (as Tinkeringbell suggested) changing those pictures into links would be a good solution? – Ælis Jan 3 '19 at 16:09
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Interpersonal Stack Exchange is a site about interpersonal solutions for interpersonal problems, but that should not prevent us from also offering practical advice on the actual situation people are dealing with in addition to, and following, interpersonal advice. Being able to do so is in service of our mission to assist people in resolving their interpersonal issues.

This meta frames the answer as offering a “lifehack”, but I reject that framing. The advice given, in addition to interpersonal guidance, was on that the querent may want their own water bottle or hydration pack and explained a couple of options for how that would work. I would hope that we don't nowadays consider “have your own waterbottle and a holder for it” to be a novel trick or shortcut or “hack”, it's just practical advice.

In our capacity to provide practical interpersonal advice on resolving peoples' interpersonal situations, I think it's healthy and necessary to be able to also go into brief tangents into practical non-interpersonal advice. Very often an interpersonal issue is a symptom of some other practical issue, and it's in service of helping them resolve the situation to be able to advise on resolving that practical issue:

  • If someone is saying “My colleague gets upset at my loud cooling fan, but I need it” we should be able to not only provide advice on the interpersonal situation, but also should be allowed to point out there's quiet cooling fans available and point to one or two as examples.
  • If someone is saying “My wife gets mad at me because I can't budget”, it should be reasonable for us to offer advice on the interpersonal situation but also provide them with some resources around budgeting.
  • If someone may experience an interpersonal issue over not having their own water bottle when cycling, it is worthwhile to advise briefly on bicycle hydration options. It's a semi-obscure topic, and might be totally obscure to many readers.

We're not Everything Stack Exchange, and cannot/shouldn't dive 100% deep into these topics, but we are dealing with things that spring out of other issues. Those of us with relevant expertise in these situations should be able to illustrate their alternative options. Forbidding this would be capping how helpful we can be, removing it would be actively unhelpful to our ability to help.

If we subjectively don't like how much of a proportion the answer is spending on the non-interpersonal stuff, we can suggest changes in comments. If we think the wording is awkward or that it can “read better” we can do the same there. But we should not forbid that at all.


Sure, the images were quite big — we can make them smaller:

<img src="https://i.stack.imgur.com/zJjds.jpg" width="200">

The width can be set to any pixel value you like. Specify just height or just width (not both) and the browser will handle maintaining the aspect ratio on its own.

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The answer basically came to the conclusion, that after 2 or 3 times there wouldn't be a way to ask for water in a non rude way, precisely because there was a practical solution on the askers part. If there was no practical solution (as the asker seemed to think,) then different interpersonal solutions would be appropriate.

So I think it is essential to show that there is a practical solution, to equip the asker with the foundation for an interpersonal solution. Now he knows it would be rude to consistently ask for water, because that would rather inconvenience his friend, instead of inconvenience himself abit by finding a practical solution.

Giving a longer explanation of the practical solution is appropriate because it shows how easy it would be.

So I think the answer is fine.

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There is nothing inherently wrong with a question having content in it that doesn't directly answer the question. Supplemental information can add a lot of value to a question. It can provide additional context to understand a situation, or an easy way of avoiding a situation in the first place. We certainly don't want to discourage people from having any supplemental information in their posts. It's only when there's so much of it that it obscures the actual answer or when it's entirely unrelated to the question that it becomes a problem.

As we are having this discussion we need to distinguish between the different types of posts with extra information in them.

  • Posts that answer the question and have additional information that supports that answer.
  • Posts that answer the question but have so much supporting information that it's readability suffers.
  • Posts that are just supplemental information and don't answer the question.
  • Posts that "technically" answer the question but are overshadowed by a lot of tangentially related information.

How we approach answers with "lifehacks" should depend on what which of these categories the answer falls into.

If a post answers the question and the extra information supports that answer and doesn't hinder readability, nothing needs to be done. The answer is good as is.

If a post answers the question and the extra information supports that answer but it hinders the readability, we should treat it like any other post with readability problems and try to fix them while preserving the intent of the answer. This can be done either by asking the OP to make changes or by making edits for clarity if confident that you can do so while preserving intent.

If a post doesn't answer the question, we can treat it like any other post that fails to do so. Request clarification, suggest improvements, VTD if no improvements are made.

The last category is the most subjective to quantify and the most difficult to deal with. If you encounter a post that "technically" answers the question but has a lot of information that you can't see how it is related, the ideal result would for the answer to be edited so that it clearly answers the question and the additional information supports that answer. Unfortunately since you don't understand how the information is related you can't in good faith make an edit that preserves the intent of the post. Similarly since it does answer the question, treating it the same as a post that fails to is unfair. If we're reasonably sure that the OP is acting in good faith, and not using the fact that they technically answered the question to go on an unrelated rant, we should request clarification from the OP about how the content is related and try to work with them to improve their answer either by removing or editing content.


With respect to the answer referenced in the question, it does justify the existence of its supplemental information, and falls into the category of posts that answer the question but with diminished readability. The "problem" is that the answer gets carried away talking about all the, admittedly, cool, water carrying options available for cyclists these days. I felt that editing the amount of enthusiasm about gear down, and removing the large pictures, would improve the readability of the answer and pivot the focus back to its interpersonal core.

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    I see you already edited out the images completely. What do you think about resizing to smaller images, or just links to them? That way, the information is still there, it forms the kind of 'footer to the answer' that you mentioned, and no information would've been lost from the answer... – Tinkeringbell Jan 2 '19 at 15:22
  • @Tinkeringbell My concerns when editing was ensuring that additional content is in support of the "core answer" and didn't significantly hinder the readability. I think that the edits I made unambiguously improved the readability of the posts (potentially at the cost of some lost supplemental information). Making the edits you are suggesting could improve the posts even further if someone wants to devote the time to do so. – sphennings Jan 2 '19 at 15:53
  • @sphennings - If it was best to ask me to edit appropriately, why was this not done? I received no notification that there was a problem that one user had with the answer. It's also not really a lifehack, it's just a product. – JohnP Jan 2 '19 at 17:25
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    @JohnP I felt that I could edit your answer to "read better" without compromising the what I understood to be the core of your IPS answer and supplemental information. I weighed asking you to revisit an answer you had posted over a year ago against making what I felt was an edit to improve readability that was still faithful to what I thought was the main points of your answer and supplemental information. Not everyone responds well when they are asked to revisit their old answers. – sphennings Jan 2 '19 at 17:37
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    Nothing prevents you from rolling back my edit, improving on it further, or reediting the post to "read better" by a different approach than the one I took. While this meta question focuses on life hacks, I don't feel that Life Hacks should be treated differently than other supplemental information. Your answer is improved by pointing out how there's a difference between asking once and asking on every ride, and and telling the OP to find a water carrying solution that works for them. I hope my edit still communicates that sentiment to the OP. – sphennings Jan 2 '19 at 17:54
  • I think it would have been appropriate to have notified JohnP of this meta and request revision, and give this meta time to achieve some strong support of this course of action before carrying it out yourself. Going gung-ho and deleting half of an answer is highly inappropriate on any stack, and should be considered inappropriate here too. Providing practical advice for the situation in addition to — and after — interpersonal advice seems completely reasonable to me. – doppelgreener Jan 3 '19 at 15:57
  • @doppelgreener You're correct that pinging JohnP probably would have been the more polite option. That being said I don't consider this answer to be a departure of existing site policy. When I made my edits I tried to preserve the practical advice while improving the readability of the post as a whole. Supplemental information can add a lot of value to an post but that shouldn't come at the expense of the actual answer. – sphennings Jan 3 '19 at 16:18
  • @doppelgreener I've made a pretty substantial edit to this to better explain my position. I hope I've clarified that practical advice isn't a problem and that when editing, care should be taken to preserve the original intent of a post. – sphennings Jan 3 '19 at 19:19
  • While this is a reasonable new revision and the advice is sound, I cannot endorse it because the implication would be "and the actions I took were consistent with this advice or an example of following it" -- and they were not consistent with this advice or Stack best practices. Mistakes were made here, and I don't want to drag you over the coals; my concern is they should not be repeated with more edits like this one. This answer needs to address that the edit that took place was not an example of this advice so that others don't read this and go "yes, I can/should delete 2/3 of an answer." – doppelgreener Jan 3 '19 at 19:53
  • @doppelgreener Can we try to keep this thread focused on policy and not sidetracked into a discussion about the quality of my edits? If you feel that those edits were made inappropriately there are recourse available to you. You can revert the edit, talk to me in chat about it, flag a mod, make an edit that fixes the problems, or create a separate meta post about them. It sounds like you have ideas on how to improve my edits I'm interested in listening to your thoughts on them in The Awkward Silence if you want to reach out. – sphennings Jan 3 '19 at 20:07
  • Unfortunately I believe the edit and this discussion to be fundamentally intertwined; ones' words and actions are connected and will be seen as such. I cannot revert (users without edit privileges cannot do that), and was not sure suggesting an edit during an ongoing meta would be a viable option. I have done so though. It has been accepted so perhaps with the post revised that puts some space between this advice and that edit, which may make me feel OK upvoting this answer. – doppelgreener Jan 3 '19 at 20:24
  • @doppelgreener The edit improves readability over the original. Looks like the OP approved it before I could. :p – sphennings Jan 3 '19 at 20:33
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    @sphennings I'm glad we can agree that is an OK revision and an improvement. :) – doppelgreener Jan 3 '19 at 21:53

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