I do hope that when you publish your findings, you'll make sure it's
easy for us to find after we've scattered to the winds!
Deciding whether or not (or how) to answer a question is quite
different from Researcher to Researcher.
A number of GARs refuse to answer questions asked in a certain "tone",
those that seem likely to result in a poor rating. Often, these are
referred to as "Potential smackdown" or "not even with a ten foot
pole" questions. Others will not answer if it appears that there is
enough information given for free in comments that an Asker might be
upset by the posting of an official answer.
(The latter is highly subjective. Where one Researcher might look at
a pithy comment and a single link as just enough to possibly satisfy
the user, others will tackle the question with an attitude of "I can
do better than *that*!" and produce a well written, well documented
article with half a dozen references or more.)
Personally, I do not factor potential ratings into my decision to
answer, and only cursorily consider comments. Ratings are a
subjective thing, and I find that if I fret overmuch about the
possibility of a poor rating, I end up shortchanging both the customer
and myself - the customer must wait for information while we fret and
dither, and I lose the opportunity to provide a useful service, learn
something new and earn a few bucks to spend on my children.
The little purple stars, while pretty, are just not that important to
me - I've been known to deliberately answer questions where the Asker
has promised outright that they'd give a poor rating no matter what
Who wants a one star rating and some money?
When choosing to answer, my primary considerations are:
1) Is the question interesting or amusing?
This one wasn't necessarily interesting, but it amused me to play it
straight and provide an actual answer, then run it through a l33t
sp34k translator in keeping with the Asker's question style:
wHaT iS a ComPuTer?? OMG LOL!!!11!
This one was of personal interest to me, as I suffer from moderate RA myself:
Research on rotuxin
2) Will I be able to handle the information competently and
thoroughly enough to provide value for my customer?
3) Will I learn something from researching the answer?
Sometimes, I answer questions that I have an inkling about, but need a
bit of explaining myself to really get it. This question about
ChexSystems was one such - I had half a clue, but wasn't sure if I
could gather enough information so my customer could have a whole
clue. The answer and ensuing discussion showed that I could, in fact,
gather sufficient information and present it well, and I learned
something new as well:
CHEXSYSTEMS: What ID info do they have access to?
4) Is the fee offered worth my while?
Certainly, I expect to be paid for my time and effort, but if the
question is sufficiently intriguing, I'm likely to take it on even if
the fee is very tiny. I often find greater benefit in learning
something new and helping a customer find what they need than I do in
collecting the fee, and sometimes - such as in the Rituxan answer - I
learn something that is more beneficial to me than money.
Obviously, this is just one Researcher's opinion, but I hope my
colleagues will chime in and add their perspectives as well.
Thanks for coming by, even though we're closing up shop.