It is a bit discouraging to me when a user, especially one with high rep, answers a blatantly off-topic question. I don't at all begrudge them the rep earned by such an answer; I just feel it encourages more questions of the kind. But to each their own, I thought. People have their reasons; trying to be helpful is one of them, as is having a different opinion of what constitutes a blatantly off-topic question.

Also wanting to be helpful, I sometimes leave a comment and a link to ELL, or I'll just VTC. But sometimes I answer for my own reasons, and recently this comment appeared under such an answer:

Do you think this question is on-topic? I am curious to know why you would choose to answer a blatantly off-topic question? When you say "it really depends on the context", don't you think it is necessary to ask the Original Poster what he/she is asking?

I was a bit surprised. It doesn't feel to me that it's someone's business to tell other users what to do in so direct a manner. Knowing the commentor, though, it fit their personality, so...

But a few days later, I saw a very similar comment, also quite direct, by a different user admonishing someone else for the same thing. (It was a few days ago, and I can't remember the name to look for it. Searching by LQQ (Low Quality Question) would be too depressing.) But the tone was there, and I thought a bad example might have been set.

My question is, should this be encouraged as a way to deal with the problems we have here with LQQ? On the one hand, it's direct, and likely to make an impression on most newish users who commit this "infraction". On the other, it's kind of hostile and may create an atmosphere of rigidity.

This was addressed before in 2011, but maybe could use revisiting.

Alternatives to leaving such comments:

  • consistently leave polite * comments on the answers (and wait for the slew of meta complaints)
  • consistently downvote the answers, leaving a polite comment (and wait for the even greater slew of meta complaints)
  • downvote the answers without comments (and wait for meta complaints we can close as duplicates)
  • ignore and hope it happens with less frequency (knowing that new users always will take up the practice as they come across the site not knowing any better)
  • VTC asap and hope the question gets closed before anyone answers.

Others? Suggestions? Opinions?

Edited to add: My position (which I thought was clear) is that I don't think it's my business to tell other users when and when not to post answers. I guess what isn't clear is the question, Is it anybody's business to do this? If it's not, should we flag such comments? (From the above list of options, my choices have been the last two.)

*It's great that you're interested in answering, but in general, answering questions that show no research (or whatever the close reason is), is discouraged on this site... please see (appropriate section of guidelines).

  • 7
    I'll be the first to throw my hand up and say I downvote answers to questions which I have VtC, unless they're really good (we're talking Sven Yargs / tchrist / other ELU god level here). I don't usually also admonish the answerer, unless they directly ask for an explanation for the downvote. Then I try to explain in a neutral and dispassionate manner (though I am as inconsistent and moody as the next guy, to be sure). I usually only get aggressive in the face of truculence, arrogance, or self-righteousness (this is not a defense of my behavior, but a simple self-observation).
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 18:04
  • 5
    In recompense, I upvote or provide high-level answers to "quick and dirty" off-topic questions in the comments. I don't like to see (non-misbehaving) OPs walk away empty-handed.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 18:06
  • 1
    @DanBron - That's interesting. Not saying you should not, but I always thought the consensus was not to punish a user, but to vote only based on the quality/helpfulness/whatever of the answer. :-/ On that basis, I do DV bad answers to OT questions, but not as a policy. So thanks for the candor. Follow-up question then: without the comment, do you think that helps discourage the user from this practice? Mar 23, 2016 at 18:49
  • 5
    It would if I were on the receiving end. Especially once I saw the question itself is either downvoted or had been closed in the interim. It's a fairly common pattern on several SE stacks. It's also worth noting that even if it doesn't discourage the answerer, it's harder to delete questions, even closed questions, with one or more upvoted answers. Downvoting an answer to an off-topic question makes it that much easier to ensure we can completely remove the question later, and keep the site clean and tidy.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 19:25
  • 4
    I think that certain questions that are likely to be closed are easy to answer and easy to get a few rep points out of because of the dearth of other answers. I think if the approach @DanBron has were applied consistently, it might make folks think twice. Most questions that end up closed are really difficult to provide a high quality answer for, and answering a question before it's brought on topic is harmful to the site because it rewards undesired behavior.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 23, 2016 at 19:30
  • 1
    I've done it lots of times, and it often makes people pretty annoyed or even angry. Which is not a reason not to do it. Mar 24, 2016 at 4:48
  • In my early years here on ELU I think I was more likely to post answers to LQQs where the problem was lack of clarity / insufficient context, because I got a bit of a kick out of guessing correctly exactly what the OP was after. But obviously when you start playing that game, you win some, you lose some. And quite apart from the humiliation of having to delete your answer based on assumptions dispelled by a subsequent edit to the question, you're obviously just encouraging badly-posed questions. So I try to avoid answering based on assumptions now, and ask for clarification instead. Mar 24, 2016 at 15:56
  • @FumbleFingers - Appreciate the comment (honestly), and I, too, have long ago stopped bothering to answer LQQ and instead comment and/or VTC (with occasional exceptions.) I would also like to hear opinions on the appropriateness (or, if in favor, role) of commenters telling those who do answer to stop doing so. Thoughts on that? Mar 24, 2016 at 16:07
  • 1
    I appreciate the question (again, honestly). So I've upvoted it because I feel exactly the same as you that it's discouraging to see users (particularly, high-rep ones) answering manifestly Off Topic questions, and I'm diffident about taking them to task over this. I'll grit my teeth and post a comment very occasionally (to a high-rep user; it's hardly worth bothering with newbies, since they might figure it out for themselves soon enough). But I can't bring myself to downvote unless the posted answer has other really obvious flaws (unlikely with high-rep users anyway! :) Mar 24, 2016 at 18:14
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks. That's both informative and helpful. Much appreciated. :) Mar 24, 2016 at 18:32
  • I don't disagree with Martha's answer on the linked question (I still stand by my Accepted as a general rule of thumb comment to her summarizing comment there), but I only actually upvoted the one from Cerberus. Probably somewhat reluctantly (I honestly can't remember), but I thoroughly endorse KitFox's comment we should encourage downvotes on answers only after the question has actually been closed (which comment I apparently upvoted at the time). Mar 24, 2016 at 18:43
  • @FumbleFingers - I hate to ask, but would you be willing to post these thoughts as an answer? They thoughtfully cover just about everything I was hoping to see addressed and more, all in one answer. Either way, thanks for all this. Mar 24, 2016 at 18:54
  • 1
    @medica: Done. Though I must admit that whereas I was fully behind that comment from KitFox when she first made it and when I linked to it above, after going through the process of thinking it all through and actually posting an answer, I'm no longer quite so sure. (Plus I more than suspect KitFox herself wouldn't fully endorse the position if pressed! :) Mar 24, 2016 at 22:09
  • 2
    If a high rep user answers a LQQ, that is poor form but forgiveable if the answer is well-researched and brilliantly explained; however, if the same high-rep's answer consists of a one-word answer or a dictionary reference, then that is deplorable and I might very well smack their wrist :) (May I add, it needn't be always the same high-rep user either...)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 25, 2016 at 12:40
  • I've just come across this; I'm looking for (what I hope is confirmation on my take on) ELU policy here. Answers have appeared to the struggle with vs struggle against? question (Mar 17 2020 GMT) at least an hour after 'Does this answer your question? "Struggle with" vs. "struggle against"?', where good answers were posted. Isn't flagrant disregard for ELU's 'non-bloat, in ... Mar 18, 2020 at 11:30

8 Answers 8


As medica (the OP here) points out, this question has been raised before - but it was a long time ago, so I fully endorse revisiting the issue (and it's much better presented this time around!).

I should first admit that I myself have sometimes posted an answer where I probably should have posted a comment asking for clarification and/or closevoted for lack of sufficient detail/context. I enjoyed the "game" of sometimes making a lucky guess as to exactly what the OP wanted to know. But I now think that was a bad habit - not just because I could be humiliatingly wrong in my guess, but because it's counterproductive to improving the quality of (current and future) questions.

If you see someone else has commented asking for clarification and/or closevoted for lack thereof, I would urge you to think carefully before posting an answer. There's no need to rush - potentially salvageable questions are just "On Hold" for the first 48 hours, and we should give the OP time to respond through revised question text (not just comments) if we want well-presented questions.

Of course there are plenty of Off Topic questions that are never going to be salvageable (they're inherently OT, or the OP is unable / can't be bothered to make requested improvements). Like many others, I get a bit annoyed if someone posts an answer to an OT question (not least because it hinders the closevote process), but I don't see how anyone can argue with the point made by Cerberus in the previous top-voted answer...

["punishment downvoting" is] contrary to the way the system is supposed to work, because the vote does not reflect the quality of the answer itself at all

Having said that, I've always found Kit Z. Fox♦ to be our most moderate moderator - and in that link, even she comments...

we should encourage downvotes on answers only after the question has actually been closed.

I should also mention that obviously new users don't have the rep to post an "answer as comment" to an OT question. But I assume most people are like me, in that they're only really irritated by high-rep users answering inappropriately (because they should know better).

One final point (incisively raised in Dan Bron's comments) is that there could be advantages to both ELU and ELL if we become more "exacting" ("less friendly", if you insist) on this side. ELL is naturally more "indulgent" because many OPs there are struggling with a foreign language anyway, but here on ELU we should be primarily focused on articulate users asking interesting questions.

TL;DR: Don't downvote correct answers to OT questions because that degrades the site itself. But keep a weather eye open for any such answers that you could feasibly downvote as "incorrect". And rather than posting snarky comments, just post a link to this very Meta question (if only to keep our dirty laundry off the main site! :)

  • Thanks so much. Great advice! Mar 24, 2016 at 22:08

Thank you for raising the question. In the meta question you linked to, the OP's accepted answer is to down-vote the answer to a poor question. However, the answer with the most up-votes advocates against it ('most' by a small margin - excluding my vote, it's 12 votes to the accepted answer's 8). In any case, answers on meta are simply opinions, so they aren't authoritative. Naturally, moderators' opinions carry more weight, but the often cited ones aren't from moderators.

To me, the issue is the intended purpose of up and down votes for answers, which the tooltips tell us is "this answer is (not) useful".

Voting down an answer one considers useful simply to protest the deficiencies of a question looks very much like an attempt to game the system, which should be on par with blindly down-voting someone's answers simply because the person is unpopular. It doesn't do justice to the answer, and it gives a false impression of that answer to later visitors. If the question is subsequently up-voted, whether because people start reading it in a different light or because it has been well edited, the answer might still be valid but its votes would be unfairly handicapped.

There is already a mechanism in place to address off-topic questions - vote to close them. To say that a useful answer hinders the closing process dismisses the possibility that the question, perhaps reframed, may not be so off-topic as to warrant closure. And if it really is that bad, the presence of answers shouldn't be regarded as a deterrent to voting to close the question.

In short, deal with questions using mechanisms that deal with questions.

It is inappropriate to discourage the posting of good answers to any question, including questions the commenter considers off-topic.

  • 3
    I agree with your view!
    – user66974
    Mar 24, 2016 at 10:54
  • Thanks @Josh61, I'm glad to finally be able to articulate that view in an appropriate and current forum. :)
    – Lawrence
    Mar 24, 2016 at 11:06
  • Thanks for this answer, which addresses nicely the downvoting of answers to OT questions. Just so I'm clear on this, do you also feel that discouraging an answer to an off topic question with a comment is inappropriate? Or only if it's a good answer? (Sounds sarcastic, but really not trying to be.) Mar 24, 2016 at 13:47
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    @medica You're welcome. Let me start by saying that I make thoughtless comments from time to time, so take the following as just articulating an ideal. If the answerer feels the Q is on-topic, even marginally, their opinion should be just as respected as that of any non-mod who feels it isn't. If This is off topic because XYZ is acceptable as a comment to the question, then so is It isn't because .... We can ask each other why we think a question is on-topic, but any stronger, and the comments can seem coercive and thus inappropriate. After all, the other person just might have a point.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 24, 2016 at 15:02
  • @medica It's taken me almost an hour to compose that short comment in answer to your follow-up question, but I'm still not sure I've gotten to the heart of the matter properly. Still, given the ability to vote and flag, perhaps this is sufficient (for now) for a recreational activity.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 24, 2016 at 15:02
  • 1
    Very helpful, and much appreciated. :) Mar 24, 2016 at 15:37
  • I agree that downvoting good answers on bad questions is inappropriate, but I disagree that there is never any merit to commenting on those answers. Mar 25, 2016 at 1:52
  • 2
    @curiousdannii I'm glad we have agreement on the issue of down-voting good answers to bad questions. On the issue of comments to answers, my reply to medica doesn't object to airing opinions or to asking for reasons. The objection is against coercion. Put another way, if someone in essence says "Drop your answer" and you reply "No", they don't often say "Oh, alright then."
    – Lawrence
    Mar 25, 2016 at 2:01

We don't need to comment on or downvote answers to supposedly off-topic questions because:

(1) Not everyone agrees as to whether a question is off-topic. That is why there are votes. If you think it is off-topic, vote to close.

(2) Downvotes ideally should be reserved for wrong or misleading answers, not correct answers that simply answer questions you don't like. If you don't like the post, vote to delete after closure.

Having said that, users are of course free to comment and downvote as they wish. I am sick and tired of many such comments and downvotes though, which often come from non-experts parading as experts.

As an aside, sometimes I feel that more effort is spent on policing the site (via these comments, closevotes and downvotes) than actually helping people and answering questions on English, which I believe should be the true spirit of ELU.

  • I don't necessarily agree with this approach (clearly, given my earlier comment under the question), but I think it's a legitimate position, so I won't downvote it. That said, can you do me a favor and clarify your last sentence? "Non-experts" in what field? Not English, because we're talking about site moderation, not evaluation of the merits of the answer. Aren't high-rep / trusted / whatever users considered "experts in site moderation" by definition?
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 20:46
  • @Jasper Reputation is the mechanism used to detentions who gets moderation powers on SE. The idea being that with the daily rep cap of 200 points, someone would have to hang around a while and get a sense of the norms and standards of the site in order to, eg, earn the privilege to closevote questions. At 20k you get every moderating power not reserved for actual diamond mods. Every 1K beyond that you get more delete and close votes to further shape the standards of the site.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 21:07
  • @Jasper But it is true that sometimes seemingly simple questions can be deceptive, and can admit profound answers. My personal take on that is questioners get out what they put in: if an OP posts a "simple" question but has obviously spent some of their own time and effort researching it before asking strangers on the internet to spend their (presumably more expert in this particular topic, and therefore carrying a premium), usually give the question the benefit of the doubt. What gets my personal goat is the lazy, fire-and-forget mentality OPs carry over from Yahoo! Answers.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 21:13
  • @Jasper I sympathize with that position (worth adding to your answer btw). My take is that observation is a side-effect of the fact that we don't get enough good, interesting, meaty questions of theoretical English for people to actually answer. There's a lot of policing because we're constantly barraged by low-effort, uninteresting questions of usage. Now, ELL has taken the opposite tack and is biased towards helping OP, and is unquestionably a friendlier site. But while I occasionally learn something interesting from their expert answers, their questions are almost universally boring.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 23, 2016 at 21:27
  • I love your new nickname :)
    – user66974
    Mar 24, 2016 at 7:43

My position is that it is helpful and useful to post a comment on a question to explain why you feel the question is off-topic. Voting to close a question as off-topic goes right along with that. I would that both these things were one and the same.

Commenting on an answer to a question that you feel is off-topic to explain to the answerer that you think the question is off-topic and therefore they ought not to be answering it, well, that's presumptuous and inappropriate.

I also don't feel it is particularly necessary to downvote an answer on a question that you feel is off-topic if your only reason for downvoting is because the answer exists, not because the answer is bad or lacks research. That's not to say you should upvote it either. You could just leave it alone. However, that is up to the discretion of the voter.

That said, please don't answer questions if you think they are off-topic -- although you should feel free to post helpful advice or answers as comments to help the user, even though you voted to close the question (which I will politely assume that you did since you bothered to leave a comment about topicality). For example, I feel it's friendly and appropriate to say "We don't handle methods of patching it up with your auntie on this site, but you might try bringing her a new orchid for her garden the next time you visit" in a comment. It should not be an answer.

  • I hope the "you" here doesn't refer to me; I don't post such comments. My question is, is this appropriate? If it's not, what should be done about it? Maybe that wasn't very clear. Mar 24, 2016 at 1:24
  • @medica "you" as in the generic. If you get those comments on your own answers and it is bothersome to you, I'd flag them for mod attention.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Mar 24, 2016 at 1:44

I strongly support offering polite advice to newer EL&U participants regarding the unwritten preferences of active site users and the likely consequences of disregarding them. Offering such advice has three potentially beneficial effects: (1) it sets a tone of civility in direct interactions with other users, as a model for the newcomers; (2) it conveys information about what I as an experienced site participant take to be the reality of how things work here, including information that may not be evident from the explicit formal policies of the site; (3) it combats the notion that this is a closed (and elitist) country club whose members are hostile to newcomers, by indicating that newcomers who adapt to the "unspoken rules" of the site are very welcome here.

These three enumerated benefits have the greatest chance of being effective when experienced users offer relevant advice to newish site participants, of course. The longer a person has been active here, the less likely he or she is to be ignorant of general tendencies and preferences among active users, and the more likely he or she is to have worked out a personally satisfactory balance between accommodating majority preferences and flouting them. I rarely post advisory comments about how to get along at EL&U to users with more than a few hundred rep points on this site because I figure that the advice is unlikely to be helpful to them or beneficial for the site as a whole.

I believe that most newcomers—and especially most newcomers who are likely to contribute to a stronger EL&U community—want to know what other people think they're doing wrong, if for no other reason than to be able to do it anyway from an informed position rather than from an unwitting one. If someone at my table politely informs me that I have a piece of spinach stuck in my teeth, I can decide whether to remove it or not—but at least I know that it's there; what I don't want is to be humiliated by the form of the announcement or to be left ignorant of the problem.

  • 1
    it combats the notion that this is a closed (and elitist) country club whose members are hostile to newcomers That's adorable! Really.
    – deadrat
    Mar 26, 2016 at 0:32

The first time I got this type of direct challenge in a comment, I told the commenter to fuck off (but not in those two words). In return I got what seemed to be a hurt and plaintive response that the intent was to make ELU a better place. This made me realize the extent to which some people care about the quality of the site (or rather their perception of its quality). I call these collected folk by the abbreviation CPVPV, and if you're a paid-up member, I think you have a duty to inform the errant answerer of your views. And I think the answerer has a reciprocal duty to take your comment seriously, which is to say, not to do what I did at first.

You say that you're discouraged by off-topic answers, and you've confined yourself to ignoring and hoping. That seems a recipe for more discouragement, and I see no reason for you not to act in good faith. I would suggest the following guidelines:

  • If politeness is important to you, by all means be polite. I don't care about politesse, so I think it's importance in commentary is in inverse proportion to the reputation of the answerer to whose post you're responding.
  • Downvote whatever moves you -- question, answer, or both. But leave a comment to announce what you've done. A driveby downvote (a curse upon this site) may leave readers with the impression that the answer is factually wrong, and it gives the answerer no clue as what the answer lacks.
  • Don't stalk repeat offenders. If sweet reason (or bitter hectoring, for that matter) fails, and the answerer has told you about mutual irreconcilable differences, there's no point in creating a cycle of recrimination.
  • Don't flag comments if you're a third party (unless, of course, the comments are abusive).

I take your point about the tone of comments creating a hostile environment and an impression of rigidity. But the train has long left that station.

  • So as long as we're polite you're fine with us continuing to comment on your answers? Mar 26, 2016 at 23:08
  • So you'll welcome comments even if we're not perfectly polite? If so that's a change from before, so thanks. Mar 26, 2016 at 23:30
  • @curiousdannii Perhaps that first bullet point isn't as clear as it should be. There are a number of parties to the type of conversation in question, and by answerer, I mean the person who posts an answer to a question considered off-topic. The politeness I'm talking about is that bound to comments addressed to that errant answerer. It doesn't matter at all for comments addressed to me. I think it's important only for comments addressed to low-rep, errant answerers.
    – deadrat
    Mar 26, 2016 at 23:37
  • @curiousdannii Welcome, hmm. What I'm trying to say is that my response to comments addressed to me is unrelated to how polite they are, and my response to comments addressed to other people is influenced by the rep of the person receiving a comment. I don't think this is a change in my attitude, but then I might not be the best judge.
    – deadrat
    Mar 26, 2016 at 23:43

Yes, we should leave comments discouraging users from answering off-topic questions.

No, we should not flag such comments.

If you close a question you are actually preventing people from answering it. Why would you vote to close if you think adding answers would be a good thing? Why would you keep quiet about that before or after such an answer appears?

As I'm answering a question I watch for close votes. What I'd rather see are comments telling me what's wrong. Sometimes they change my answer. Sometimes they mean the question should be edited. Sometimes they mean I should rethink answering and vote to close myself.

A comment affects my behavior far more than the close vote counter does. The counter just makes me hurry.


How to react to a questionable question is the most critical thing anyone acting to moderate this site can know. This defines what the site is about. I don't come here to talk about cooking.

However, our boundries are fuzzy. They will ever be so.

Questionable questions are tough to judge precisely because they are hard to understand. This means a questions quality varies from reader to reader based on the assumptions they make. Even more troubling is that the questions quality changes as it attracts answers. Answer a questionable question well and you can save it. Suddenly it's getting upvotes. Answer it badly and watch it go to pot.

It's tempting to just close everything that is questionable. No answers means the quality isn't going to change and surprise you without an edit from the OP. This can be comforting. This isn't always in the best interest of the site.

We close questions to show people what we don't consider to be good examples of questions. We don't close them because they confuse us and we don't feel like answering. Be careful of your motivations. If in doubt take the time to reread. Make a comment. Wait. A bad answer to a bad question isn't the end of the world.

To allow a moderator to feel like there is time to wait it's entirely appropriate for them to voice quality concerns in a comment. Answering a question without addressing those concerns is bad for the site. Answering a question in a way that does is good for the site.

The site is designed to make us race to answer questions. The close process actually accelerates this rather than slow down the race to answer a questionable question. This is frustrating.

Other than adding a stern label to the question, forbidding answers is precisely what closing a question does. It's understandable that a moderator, halfway through the close process, would feel frustrated seeing an answer come in anyway.

The problem is, once the answer comes in the questions quality has changed. It's not yet time to react. It's time to reread the question and answer and think about how this will look a year from now. Once you do that, start commenting and voting. If you haven't already, consider closing. Watching a questionable question attract bad answers and doing nothing is just wrong.

The key is, don't let your frustration show. Be polite and convincing. If the answer came in after a concern was raised and the answer doesn't address the concern then it is entirely valid to point that out. Just be prepared that the result might be that the answer is improved and your point is made moot. They may even edit the question. No matter how well you've memorized the sites rules you aren't god. There are things you don't understand. You can be surprised.

In the end, most visits to the site hit old answers that have long since been voted on. The process might not make you feel like it, but it's how we look in the long run that counts.

All that said, I know who this question is about. I've watched the guy for a while. He's stern and quick to judge. But I'm lazy and too forgiving. Somewhere between the two of us I think something good is happening for the site.

If I'm wrong feel free to tell me.

  • 2
    While it is slightly irksome for an answer to arrive during the process of putting a question on-hold, because (as you say) if a question is unclear it can't really be answered, I don't think moderators comment very often that it's unwise to answer off-topic questions. We simply close them; if the question is particularly egregious it may be deleted, along with any answers.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Mar 26, 2016 at 15:00
  • 1
    Right, but a question may simply be unclear to you, and 4 fellow close voters. Sometimes a question can be improved if the close voters take the time to explain their concern, constructively. Especially if done early. If a close voter takes the time to do this, politely, they shouldn't simply be ignored. If you're going to beat me with the moderation stick I'll take my lumps with a side of explanation if you please. I know it's a pain. But I do appreciate it. Mar 26, 2016 at 15:12
  • Infact, some of those explanations have led to my highest voted answers. I should send @RoaringFish a thank you card. Mar 26, 2016 at 15:35
  • @CandiedOrange - I appreciate that you responded to this question. The focus of your answer isn't, however, the focus of mine. I'm not talking about how to decide if low quality questions are in fact LQQ. My issue is with telling people that they are not allowed to answer such questions. I have no issue with other types of comments (e.g. "This answer does not address the OP's question, which is..."). Mar 26, 2016 at 17:11
  • @medica Your cited example doesn't say that you are not allowed to answer such questions. It questions why you would do that, admittedly in a harsh tone. My focus is directed at precisely such discrepancies in understanding. I'm calling for more communication and patience from all parties in a setting that puts pressure on them to act fast.Only with that understood do I feel comfortable telling you, yes, we should. But we should explain why. Speed limit signs should mention the speed limit. They shouldn't say: Driving, you're doing it wrong. Is that truly beyond of the focus of your question? Mar 26, 2016 at 19:28
  • 1
    Very few of our questions are closed because they're unclear, most are closed because they're off-topic. But because there are dozens of high rep site members who don't care at all about the site scope, they will answer these questions. This answer here completely misses the problem being discussed. Mar 26, 2016 at 23:11
  • @curiousdannii I am a user who answers questions that get closed. If I'm doing something wrong I want you to talk to me directly. How does that miss the problem being discussed? I felt the very reason we should "be leaving comments discouraging users from answering off-topic questions" was to help me understand why I shouldn't answer the question. It's not that I don't care but my highest voted answers are on questions people tried to close. If someone tries to explain why I shouldn't answer, please don't flag them for it. Mar 27, 2016 at 8:02
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    If someone thinks a question is unclear and someone else thinks it's sufficiently clear to answer it, then there's no problem whatsoever with answering it. This Meta discussion is strictly about people asking blatantly off-topic questions, such as those that ask for the definition of a word. This answer is about questionable questions, not blatantly off-topic ones. Mar 27, 2016 at 8:06
  • @curiousdannii You seem to be defining blatantly off-topic as something everyone automatically agrees on. If they did there wouldn't be someone answering. My answer is about communicating the fact that it is blatantly off-topic, why, and what to do about it to someone who doesn't understand or who thinks you're confused. Mar 27, 2016 at 8:13
  • The question itself acknowledges that for many questions people disagree whether they are on-topic or not. This question isn't about them. This question is about people who don't care about the site scope. Mar 27, 2016 at 8:14
  • @curiousdannii I don't see that judgement being made in the question. It allows for numerous motivations for answering the question. The question seems to be about whether we should be telling people who answer off topic questions not to. I said yes we should but went to a lot of trouble to make clear what I thought was the best way to do that. The answer isn't directed at people who think we should say nothing. It's directed at those who would say something. If you're not willing to read it in that light you won't understand it. Mar 27, 2016 at 8:29

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