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gailcalled's avatar

Is it a good idea or a waste of time to guess at an answer, with no accurate information?

Asked by gailcalled (54570points) July 22nd, 2008

Thinking out loud is fun but is writing it down?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

17 Answers

wildflower's avatar

Sometimes bouncing ideas off one another without knowing the answer can get you closer to it. I think that works in written form too.

scamp's avatar

I don’t see any harm in it. After all, the top of this page says: Tap the collective
You ask a question. We get it to the right people.
Everyone discusses the answer.

gailcalled's avatar

As I think about it, maybe it depends on the subject. I was pondering in particular medical issues, where some answers, rendered with great authority but no knowledge, are perhaps dangerous to apply.

PupnTaco's avatar

Only if it’s a really good guess.

wildflower's avatar

Perhaps the key is to not misrepresent a guess as a certain answer. As long as any uncertainty is made clear, it can’t do much harm and potentially a great deal of good.

robmandu's avatar

I think, like a lot of things, it depends.

A good example where I think it’s important to cite a reputable source is this question about defrag’ing a Mac’s hard drive.

@richardhenry could’ve just explained that the Mac auto-defrags the files it needs to… but that might’ve left the door open to misinterpretation. There are third-party apps out there that will defrag a Mac’s hard drive. So, someone might mistakenly think that hey, if there’s something to buy, it must do the job better than for free. (And if you’re talking about Windows and it’s built-in defrag tool, you’d be right).

The citation itself lends a certain gravity to the statement as well as context.

Done improperly, messing with one’s hard drive incorrectly can lead to data loss. Not something you’d want to be cavalier about.

And like @wildflower sagely suggests, it is also important to point out one’s guesses as such. And make your experience in that area known, too. A professional or expert guess is a good thing to have.

I’ve found though, that in the cases where I might attempt an expert guess at something, that I almost always can provide a citation anyway.

marinelife's avatar

I am always somewhat puzzled as to why people answer with things like, “This is really off the top of my head. . .” or “I don’t know, but . . .” I guess I don’t see the point of answering a question when you clearly can’t help.

It is easy enough to skip over those responses, though, so as long as the poster admits they don’t know, I am OK with it.

jcs007's avatar

Well. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the Pythagorean theorem, my answer is 3 + a giraffe.

Answers people post can be constructive, depending on how you look at it. Someone’s answer may give you a direct solution. Others may help you think about the question in a different way. Answers like this one are here for entertainment purposes only.

I think this is what makes Fluther sooo much better than Yahoo answers. You don’t feel inferior, stupid, or unfunny for at least trying to answer a question, whether the answer is partially right, absurdly wrong, or downright entertaining.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Personally I find it really annoying when people “answer” a question by saying that they don’t know or that they think it might have something to do with “x”. The box that you click on says “Answer!” not “take a guess!”.

On the other hand, I would rather the person admit that it’s a guess than to state it as a fact if it’s not, but I feel like if you have an inlking about it, and you’re not sure, it’s not very hard to do a quick google search, and verify what you’re about to say, and that it shows some level of courtesy to the asker, and other potential readers of the thread.

Good question, Gail!

tinyfaery's avatar

If I followed chica’s rule, I’d never answer anything. Truth is I don’t really consider myself an expert on anything, but I have opinions on most things I’m at least semi-educated about. However, there are a lot of questions that do not really require much technical knowledge, just opinion, or personal experience. Plus, I like the random, funny, quirky, (sometimes) smart-ass answers.

I don’t ever click on computer related stuff, or questions about specific places or products. I know when I should just keep out of it.

scamp's avatar

Well said tiny!

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I mean, if it’s an opinion question, such as “what do you think of guessing?” then it’s anybody’s game. on questions that don’t require any technical knowledge, i would say that my “rule” doesn’t apply.

i would have to say that i agree with tinyfaery’s approach even if she doesn’t agree with mine.

i feel like people should act more like she does and, “know when (they) should just keep out of it”.

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

It’s a good idea to take a guess on a test. Even if you have absolutely no idea, you can just pick a random one or pick the one that sounds best to you. There’s still a chance you could get the question right, and it takes next to no time to come up with such an answer.

However, if someone asks you a question that requires an opinion, like if a certain movie or book is good and you’ve never seen or read it, there’s an instance where you shouldn’t guess, because they might end up disappointed or you might end up embarrassed by something you said and you wouldn’t even know it.

tinyfaery's avatar

@fly But if its the SAT, or post-grad test, you lose points for inappropriate answers.

nikipedia's avatar

@tinyfaery: SATs are the only standardized test I know of with a guessing penalty, if that’s what you meant by “inappropriate”. (Comments like this are why we need sub-threads.)

The only time I can recall hazarding a guess on a question I really had no clue about was on a physics question that I thought I could figure out if someone else jumped in with another puzzle piece. Instead I was swiftly corrected and looked like a doofus. So I’m not so big on guessing.

wildflower's avatar

I really don’t think guesses, approximates or partial information is a bad thing on Fluther. If you’re looking for one complete textbook answer, why ask a collective? Isn’t that what libraries are for?
If I post a question, I’d rather have the answer gradually reveal itself through a discussion and contributions than to have one absolute answer.

scamp's avatar

@wildflower I whole heartedly agree!

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