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It seems to me that many people exhibit this tendency and I am looking for a good word to describe them. They love providing feedback but in a passive-aggressive way. They love giving their two cents but stop short of actually putting themselves in the position of having to commit to an answer.

For example, I might write the following sentence:

On the English Language & Usage stack exchange, certain ________ people are more ready to populate the comment section than they are to provide answers.

  • 5
    Perhaps "On the English Language & Usage stack exchange, certain people I share an affinity with are more ready to populate the comment section than they are to provide answers." You might consider posting a non-passive-aggressive version of this question on meta. – Phil Sweet May 2 '17 at 23:55
  • "Coaching", "instructing", "tutoring", "thought-provoking"? – Hot Licks May 3 '17 at 2:58
  • ;) touché Mr. Phil Sweet – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 14:14
  • Give Opie an answer and you've answered his question. Teach Opie to seek out his own answer and he has answers for the rest of his life. – Hot Licks May 5 '17 at 0:51
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This reminds me of the difference between "involved" and "committed" being like ham and eggs (the chicken is involved, the pig is committed).

"Uncommitted" sort of works, but maybe uninvested is better, as in not invested in participation. It's a usage based on one of the definitions of "invest": to involve or engage especially emotionally - M-W

  • Sometimes it's difficult to obtain any investment from Opie. – Hot Licks May 3 '17 at 3:01
  • fixer1234, I really like this answer. Some of the other answers miss the point that someone could genuinely need a helpful, full, actionable answer, but all they have access to are those who are uninvested in truly helping. I like it. That's right at the heart of what I was getting at. They aren't willing to put any skin in the game. – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 14:22
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Edit: To try to provide an actual adjective, "meddling" should work, although it may not be the exact same thing. The word below is a noun.

A kibitzer is someone who just stands by and comments without really participating, even if the advice is unwanted. It comes from Yiddish originally. I do not know whether that term is precisely what you need, especially since the "answer" part in your question is specific to Stack Exchange and similar sites, but it is what I remembered when I read this.

  • Oh no, it's NOT an adjective. I'm really sorry for not reading the question properly. – Inflationary_Bubble May 2 '17 at 22:19
  • @You forgot about kibitzing. – Laurel May 2 '17 at 22:42
  • meddlesome the adjective form of meddle. – alwayslearning May 3 '17 at 5:58
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    Thanks for the answer Inflationary_Bubble but I was more looking for a word that hits at the fact that helpful, actionable counsel is desired. Probably my fault for not making that clear. The person really needs and wants help but the only people around just want to opine rather than provide counsel. That's why I chose uninvested as my favorite answer. – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 14:53
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There is the sidewalk superintendent, which is defined as "any amateur critic or observer". (Dictionary.com #2)

Then there are the backseat drivers, who "any person who, by means of criticism, unsolicited advice, or the like, interferes in affairs that are not his or her concern or responsibility". These are the ones who like to "help" but wouldn't volunteer to "take the wheel" themselves. (Dictionary.com #2)

You can use a simile: they are like a gentleman-farmer, a person (farm operator) whose position allows real labor to be avoided.

  • Thanks for the answer, Canis Lupis. I appreciate it. I feel like backseat drivers isn't quite right because in this scenario the person driving really, really needs and wants actionable help but the person in the backseat just keeps opining rather than confidently saying with authority "You need to turn right now." – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 15:01
  • It's similar to a backseat driver but in this case it's almost like the driver NEEDS and WANTS the person in the backseat to tell them what to do, but the only people available want to give passing thoughts or uninvested commentary. "You know we are lost, right?" "Yes. I know that already. Can you PLEASE help me not be lost!" "Oh, that I can't help with. You figure it out." – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 15:02
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How about the phrase, 'unconstructive opinionists'?

  • Do you really want to hear my opinion? – Hot Licks May 3 '17 at 3:00
  • I like this one Areel Xocha. It hits at the heart of the issue which is that a solid, actionable answer is desired but none of the "helpers" are able to give anything truly constructive. P.S. not that all comments in the comment section are given by unconstructive opinionists but some are – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 14:25
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Quick-witted, insightful, knowledgeable, often humorous, and unwilling to do what is the OP's work--looking up a definition or two, consulting a thesaurus, and providing links to the result.

Often those willing to comment do not know whether they have a complete answer; they may be offering only their own knowledge based on their own experience.

Comments, even if later deleted, often inform an answer and suggest that the question may have complexities not at first apparent.

Some comments are more valuable than the answers.

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On the English Language & Usage stack exchange, certain noncommittal people are more ready to populate the comment section than they are to provide answers.

The American Heritage Dictionary:

noncommittal
adj.

Refusing commitment to a particular opinion or course of action; not revealing what one feels or thinks:
"His face was the color of a freshly baked pork pie and as noncommittal" (Thomas Pynchon).

ODO:

noncommittal ADJECTIVE

(of a person or a person's behavior or manner) not expressing or revealing commitment to a definite opinion or course of action.

‘Mr Brennan said he was aware of this, but he remained non-committal.’

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Trifling this is perhaps the word you are searching for although i don't think comments here are trifling.

adj 1. insignificant or petty 2. frivolous or idle

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/trifling

Or Petty:
1. Of small importance; trivial: a petty grievance. See Synonyms at trivial.

2. Showing an excessive concern with unimportant matters or minor details, especially in a narrow-minded way: petty partisanship.

  • good words to meet the spirit of the OP's question. .. and I also agree that they don't apply here. Why? Language isn't always a matter of a "right" answer but "what does this word evoke when used in given situations?"... which would require discussion, opinion(which belongs in comments), alternatives, specific doubts, etc.. Without chewing many words or answers over, things would be missed that would be useful to someone seeking ~understanding~. As you mention, discussion of specifics isn't trifling in a forum designed to discuss specifics. – Tom22 May 2 '17 at 23:36
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"Micromanagerial" would describe the actions of someone attempting to control the outcome of the work of others by focusing on the minutiae of how something is done rather than directly helping to accomplish it as-is. See: Micromanagement.

On the English Language & Usage stack exchange, certain micromanagerial people are more ready to populate the comment section than they are to provide answers.

In the context of this crowd-sourced environment, the work may be seen as question-and-answer pairs. How those pairs come about is subject to the particular environment at the time and the influence (to positive or negative effect) of the people involved during that time.

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certain pusillanimous people

adjective

  1. lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.
  2. proceeding from or indicating a cowardly spirit.

dictionary.com

  • Thanks for the answer dangph. I do appreciate it. Although this may very well be a part of the character for these folks, I thought uninvested hit at the specific issue at hand a little more precisely. – thomj1332 May 3 '17 at 15:05

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