I've noticed a trend lately towards multi-page, super-comprehensive answers. I have a few issues with this.

First, if such a huge answer is really necessary, the question was too broad and general in the first place, and should have been flagged as such.

Second, this is a Q&A site, not an Encyclopedia site. Chances are the "real answer" that the OP wanted is buried somewhere within the mega-answer, but the mega-answer reads like a Wikipedia page on a US President.

For example, to answer this question, do we really need Lamp 1 on/off examples of a generic bus architecture? Difference between OBDII and CAN

Or this. It really boils down to controlling torque and increasing friction. So does EVERY POSSIBLE friction increasing tactic have to be listed? What is the most efficient method of getting your car unstuck from snow?

Discussion? Am I way off base here?


2 Answers 2


tl;dr: yes, sometimes long answers are useful and might be necessary.

Case in point: my answer on the question about effective compression.

If you reread the original question, you can see that there are several things going on there:

  1. The OP has the basic question of why does this motor require higher octane but not this one?
  2. After a little reading, it's clear that there's a reasonably complicated approximation going on, clouding the issue.
  3. After a little more reading, you realize that the OP is using a poor approximation, leading to flawed conclusions.
  4. The OP seems to be in an information gathering mode, seeking further background on a complex subject.

Given all that, it would be super rude for me to just say "your effective compression approximation is wrong" and move on.

So, what I did was to write up a bunch of background, arrive at some general guidelines and then compare the original approximation with one that I feel is better. The OP and the community seem to agree that I did a pretty good job (which I appreciate) and I think I've helped the OP as well as others who are interested in the same subject. Remember: a good post is a better Google target.

Moving away from this specific example, remember that we are talking about cars now. No two cars are identical. Some cars that seem like they should be on paper can have wildly different issues (e.g., suspension geometry questions). We often have to give longer answers just to cover the bases. The fact that this also provides reference material for people writing future answers is that much more useful.

Obviously, a short urgent question like "help, help I'm on fire, what do I do?!" isn't the best candidate for a Tome of All Knowledge. For those, shorter is obviously better.

  • I accept "sometimes".
    – kmarsh
    Feb 8, 2016 at 16:37

I disagree completely.

My favourite answers are the ones that have a quick summary, and then the full answer so I can read further into the specific pieces that interest me most.

One of the points of Stack Exchange is to have the answer here - not in various places. So sometimes the questions need to be extensive. Some over on one of the sites I moderate have hit the character limit, which is up around 30,000 characters, I think. And they have gained an immense amount of upvotes, implying many people find them useful. An example here!

The two examples you have given aren't typical examples however - the snow one was aimed at providing a list (not common for SE, but valid in this instance I think) and the OBDII question would probably work just as well without all those examples, but it is fine with them.

  • Was going to add my own, but I think you've said most of what I was going to say. I could not agree more with you. I would add that sometimes a short answer is all that's needed. There's nothing wrong with a long answer though. As you well know, I've got quite a few of those myself. Feb 1, 2016 at 23:54
  • Those answers are typical of what I'm complaining about. I want an answer here as well. The problem is the here is buried in the answer somewhere.
    – kmarsh
    Feb 2, 2016 at 3:14
  • @kmarsh - Are you then suggesting all long answers should have a "TL;DR" statement so as to find the root of the answer quickly? Feb 2, 2016 at 11:44
  • Just to play @kmarsh'a advocate... I have to think that many votes for mega-answers are people that are just impressed with the work that was put towards it, and they loose a little subjectivity. Not many will say, "Man look a all the work that went into that, but he sure could have said it much more succinctly, no vote from me!" On the other hand, high votes do mean that people liked it for one reason or another - there's no getting around that.
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 2, 2016 at 13:47
  • That is a good point, and I think as Paul said, if it is a good long post, that's fine. Same as a good short post. Both short and long posts can be good or bad, but I don't think it is the length that is the issue we should focus on.
    – Rory Alsop
    Feb 2, 2016 at 15:16
  • 1
    Yes @JPhil1618 yes that is the point. And some long answers are justified, especially for general how-does-it-work questions. But there seems to be a trend to blow up answers that don't need it. That's what I call the tl;dr answers.
    – kmarsh
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:05

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