If I see a question that, in my opinion, is off-topic for this site, should I answer it? Can I answer it and then vote to close it?


This has been covered before a few times on meta.SE:

If you believe that a question is off-topic, you should not answer it. If you have some information that might help the OP, you can leave a comment, but refrain from posting an answer. The reason is that we don't want to encourage off-topic questions. That is why questions deemed off-topic and closed do not allow new answers.

If you believe that a question is on-topic, feel free to answer. If it later ends up getting enough close votes from other users to be closed, you do not need to delete your answer.

What you should never do, however, is answer a question and then vote to close it. If you believe the question is off-topic, you should never have answered it. This practice can be seen as an abuse of the high-rep voting-to-close privilege: Writing an answer and then closing the question ensures that there are no other answers competing with yours for up-votes.


I worry that we're a little quick to shut a question down immediately. I see plenty of examples where there is a warning that the question as written is off-topic, but I think it's okay to wait a bit or otherwise encourage changes that will make the question answerable and on-topic.

I have answered off-topic questions when I think they have potential to be altered in a way that they could become on-topic questions. I won't ever complain if the questions and the reputation disappear. I do like to leave it to the OP to modify the questions because I don't want to hijack it into the question I want to answer, but there are times when I've also stepped in with an edit.

  • +1, I agree that we are often too quick to vote-to-close. By answering a question, you've essentially said that you think the question is enough on-topic that it should remain open. Aug 10 '15 at 21:20
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    The close process is designed to highlight that the question can be improved and reopened by using the words "on hold" initially. I guess it's still quite offputting though and we could be doing more to encourage people to improve questions when they are in that state. Aug 11 '15 at 7:37
  • I agree. Unfortunately, especially for the new member, the 'close' is taken a bit as "this is bad, go away" and it's rare that I see a good edit to fix closed questions. There are many times I see 3 or 4 close votes come in very fast, giving the poster no time to edit even if they wanted to. Aug 11 '15 at 14:44
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    I guess the feature I would look for is the ability as a high rep user to make an edit that is suggested to the OP. I understand that edits can be rolled back, but it would be nice if I could say "this is an on-topic question, is that similar to what you wanted to ask?", without prompting everyone to answer the question as I've edited it. Aug 11 '15 at 15:34
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    I guess putting a question on hold does allow for edits to take place without suddenly adding a bunch of answers. I think the main thing is that we reach out to new users and make them feel welcome to ask their questions and join the community. Aug 11 '15 at 15:51

I just answered and voted to close. I understand that this is against the convention and even noted so, with my reason for bucking the convention in this case, on this question https://money.stackexchange.com/questions/60775/leveling-the-playing-field-legal-tax-avoidance-for-individuals-just-like-the-b

(I would also say, to the extent that Ben Miller linked back to this Meta question in his comment, the SE links here are about off-topic questions - The question that I answered is definitely ON-topic and was closed b/c of breadth. The rationale provided here doesn't really apply directly, but I take the spirit of the point.)

My thought on this topic is that SE really has two choices for how to handle this:

  1. Decide that this is a rule, in which case the site could easily enforce it by preventing someone who has voted to close from answering (and vice versa), or
  2. Give a general guideline but trusting users with sufficient reputation to exercise judgement on potential exceptions.

They've currently done #2 (either explicitly or implicitly). For those who disagree with that decision, it seems like a "feature" request that should be made at the SE level, not a topic to discuss specific to money.

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    I understand your point about off-topic vs. too broad. However, let's look at what you just did. By voting to close as too broad, you've essentially said that "good answers" to the question "would be too long" for the StackExchange format, and that the question cannot "be answered in a few paragraphs." However, right before doing that, you posted what you presumably believe is a good answer rendered in a few paragraphs. Do you see the inconsistency here? Feb 23 '16 at 17:20
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    If you can post a good answer, why shouldn't anyone else have the right to attempt to do so as well? Feb 23 '16 at 17:23
  • I totally see the inconsistency and started my answer by noting it. My reason for voting to close was that this question was going to attract a lot of "crackpot" answers , including people signing up just to answer this one. In that regard, "close" was right. On the other hand there are users (more than 1 but definitely less than the full subscription of the site) who can provide a decent answer. In that regard, "open" was right. What I really would like is "restrict" to higher rep on this one. What I did was a compromise, in context of the question and the options available. @BenMiller
    – user32479
    Feb 23 '16 at 17:23
  • Also, as always, it takes 4 more to close and the question can be re-opened. At the time that I voted, it was not clear that the question would get closed. Since I viewed it as a "middle ground" question, I hoped to head off some political rants by having an answer down in the event that it was never closed or was closed much later. @BenMiller
    – user32479
    Feb 23 '16 at 17:26
  • I've written before about crackpot posters.. Answer them, downvote them, but there is no need to close and delete just to censor them and hide them. Feb 23 '16 at 17:29
  • @BenMiller I'll keep your point in mind in the future. At the same time, the site puts in rules for all of us that we have to follow. Everything else is left to the user's discretion and the community review mechanisms. That's the nature of SE, for better and for worse. In most cases, I'd agree with you. In this case, I exercised the levers that the site gave me to do what I thought was best at the time even though it's an exception to the "rule." Also, I stand by my answer on this meta question: If you feel so strongly, then ask SE to enforce your version of the rule.
    – user32479
    Feb 23 '16 at 17:37
  • I agree, you are free to do what you think is best, as am I. No hard feelings. :) Feb 23 '16 at 17:45
  • @BenMiller Great. I don't mind your comment and a little discussion. :) In the meantime, I deleted my answer for now since the question has actually been closed.
    – user32479
    Feb 23 '16 at 18:00

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