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I have asked a similar question over on StackOverflow about this practice, and the general consensus is that answering bad questions is a frowned upon practice.

To explain; when a bad question is asked that is quite clearly off topic, or unclear, it should not be answered - only closed.

The idea is that once a bad question is answered, and the answer is upvoted, that question will remain forevermore, be of no use to anyone, and generally degrade the overall quality of the site. It makes sense.

Should/Is the same ideal practiced here? It's fairly understandable on StackOverflow, they require heavy moderation considering the sheer amount of questions they get per day. However on other sites (for example, here) I have noticed that it is a bit less direct.

So how do we identify and deal with questions that should be closed and not answered?

  • If the question is clearly off-topic and is going to be closed, but I know I have the answer, I just answer in the comments. – Elise Jul 14 '15 at 5:19
  • That was the practice one of the guys on SO stated as well - answer in the comments so the OP knows for next time, but don't provide a proper, full answer, so the question will automatically be removed after the grace period. – Ben Jul 14 '15 at 5:21
  • If its a new post, it is more likely the person is unfamiliar with the arqade definition of quality. Rather then downvote, flag, and generally tell off the user, I try to edit the question into what would be expected to give the new user a sort of "case example". – user106385 Jul 14 '15 at 6:06
  • @Timelord64 in some situations though, that can completely change the intention of the question. Getting clarification from the OP might be a better track to go down, rather than guessing their intention and (potentially) getting it wrong. – Ben Jul 14 '15 at 6:10
  • Whatever the case, there must be enough agreeing with me, as I am not actually publishing the edits, myself – user106385 Jul 14 '15 at 6:16
  • We don't have automated question removal on Arqade - this is handled manually by mods or users with >10k rep, and answer upvotes (or quality for that matter) generally don't factor into it at all. We've seen some absolutely great 'shopping rec' questions from around 2010 with 20+ upvotes on the questions and answers get deleted after being closed - the most recent was one about sources/communities for SC2 replays. – Robotnik Jul 14 '15 at 6:31
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I don't think a policy either way will work.

We can discuss this until the lazers come home, but Stack Exchange is not a place for hard-and-fast rules for situations like this. Quite simply, the vast majority of contributors don't visit meta, or chat. We can have a policy of not answering, or not commenting, but there's no way to enforce it, and I don't want us to get into the habit of removing helpful information from a question because rules.

If a question is off-topic, vote to close it. If you feel helpful, add a comment explaining why it's off-topic. If you're feeling double plus helpful, invite the user to come and ask in chat, where we love handling discussions.

If a user leaves an answer or comment-answer, personally I'd advise to leave it be. 90% of the time, the asker probably isn't going to come back anyway, and any 'educational' reasons for not doing it are probably optimistic at best as to their efficacy. Please don't flag these for mods (not that anyone is at the moment, afaik).

TL;DR: I don't think there's a problem here at the moment, and I see no reason to try and create one.

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