Should we discourage answers to off-topic questions? I know a lot of members like to answer any and all questions, even when they are off-topic. For a question such as this , I think that answering will just encourage more (test/certification) questions, and presumably we don't want that.

I'm tempted to downvote just to discourage answers. How do others feel about this?


I understand the sentiment, but I also see that people are just eager to help others, which is a good thing. Also, for some people it may not be clear that the question will be voted off topic at the moment they answer.

So I don't think downvoting the answer is the solution here, since a downvote would suggest that it's a bad answer, while it may be a very good answer to a question which happens to be off topic. It also discourages people to answer questions which are on topic.

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    If you feed the bears, they will keep coming back. – Ron Maupin Mar 11 '16 at 16:03
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    @RonMaupin I don't believe the people answering the questions are the 'bears' we are trying to keep away. If anything, we want to encourage people who take the time to answer. – Eddie Mar 13 '16 at 23:52
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    No, the bears are the ones asking off-topic questions. While I don't think voting the answer down is what should be done, we don't want to encourage off-topic questions by providing answers here, since the person asking will just want to come back here. – Ron Maupin Mar 13 '16 at 23:55

Questions asked here are not carved in stone. They can be edited to become more-or-less acceptable. They can be moved to other exchanges. The score of an answer should reflect the quality of the answer, independent of the question. For the same reason, voting down an off-topic question should not be ones first instinct.

Down voting answers simply because the original question is off-topic is a spiteful, retaliatory action. We don't do that on SE.

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    I agree. If you hover your mouse pointer over the up or down voting arrows, a popup will tell you what each is for ( Questions: "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear" and "This answer shows no research effort; it is not useful or clear" Answers: "This answer is useful" or "This answer is not useful"). I don't often cast down votes on questions or answers; I would rather improve them. – Ron Maupin Mar 30 '16 at 15:03

I think the community is doing a great job by rapidly closing off-topic question, thus preventing answers, and it's enough.

Additionally I would down-vote the question (with appropriate comment when possible) and not the answer.

I agree with Teun Vink, that this could discourage people which are potentially great members and that's worse than having a few answers to off-topic question.

On a side note, there's some question that are off-topic - mainly because they are educational questions- but well asked, giving all relevant details and showing some research, and those are generally better received. Should we restrain ourselves from answering those also? I feel that in this specific case we can answer while at the same time educate the user about what is on-topic and how to use this (great) site.


I'll come clean and say that yes, I've either answered an off-topic question that hasn't yet been set to off-topic or provided an answer in the comments section where it has. But never about certification ; )

I completely understand Ron's "Do not feed the bears" sentiment, however I believe that outright discouraging off-topic questions (especially with down-voting), especially from new users, may discourage those users from asking excellent on-topic ones at a later date (or from participating entirely).

Today's n00b may be tomorrow's ninja.

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    Just to make my position clear, I didn't advocate voting down answers to off-topic questions. In fact, I was the first to vote up Teun's answer. I was merely making a comment. I have actually answered off-topic questions, while voting to close the question, and making it clear that the question is off-topic and should be asked elsewhere. I don't think there is a good resolution to this question, other than pointing out, in a comment, that the question is off topic to the answer. – Ron Maupin Mar 19 '16 at 5:22

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