6

I think I've done this at least a half dozen times in the past few days, either in comments or before it actually gets closed. I don't think my answers are unreasonable, since people frequently report back with some sort of thanks or upvotes.

Examples:

It's kind of annoying to have to do this, and I suppose it might link back to the other discussion.

  • Can you clarify what you mean by It's kind of annoying to have to do this? I'm not sure which aspect you're specifically referring to with "this". – Sterno Mar 28 '12 at 17:46
  • 2
    To head off possible problems, I suggest that for the sake of this discussion, let's assume the kind of closed questions we're talking about the ones that were closed with a valid reason, and not "oops, the closers made a mistake, that was actually a valid, on-topic question". Because otherwise we're just going to be arguing about whether a certain question should have been closed or not. Discussions about whether or not a specific question should have actually been closed would be best in a separate post. – Sterno Mar 28 '12 at 17:57
  • +1 It's about time we've had an official discussion on this. – Wipqozn Mar 28 '12 at 21:18
  • @Sterno "this" being answering questions when people might not be coming back to look for the answers, and the potentially having the answer go away even if it's correct. – Decency Mar 28 '12 at 23:47
  • @Decency So is the annoying thing that the question is closed even though you're able to answer it? If so, it might be worth another meta topic to discuss why that's the case here. It's definitely the community theory that just because a question can be answered, it doesn't mean it's a good fit for this site. The ITG and Game-rec discussions list a lot of reasons why these questions, though helpful to people, are considered a bad fit for StackExchange. Likewise, I could probably get a C# question answered on Gaming.SE, but just because it can be answered here doesn't mean it belongs here. – Sterno Mar 29 '12 at 1:21
5

I am of the mindset that answering a question knowing it should be closed is pretty low. It's just a way to sneak in some quick rep. I think posting a short answer (game-rec, ITG, etc) as a comment to a closable question is OK, but let them know why the question is bad for the site, point them to the FAQ, and possibly invite them to chat.

I am not saying if you have an answer on a closed question you are a bad person. There are lots of times a respected user answers a question and later realizes it's a dupe or closable in some other way.

Just use common sense. If you know a question doesn't belong, don't post an answer. If you suspect a question is iffy, you can always ask people in chat what they think.

  • 2
    Also, all closed questions that are not exact duplicates are subject to deletion at any time... so the effort of answering a question, knowing it doesn't belong, doesn't pay off in the long run. – juan Mar 28 '12 at 20:05
  • @JuanManuel - Excellent point. – user9983 Mar 28 '12 at 20:07
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    @JuanManuel Unless it manages to stick around for 6 months before being deleted. Then you get the rep anyway. – Sterno Mar 28 '12 at 20:09
  • @Sterno I'm fairly certain you lose rep when it's deleted. – user9983 Mar 28 '12 at 20:19
  • @Sterno, they won't once I have better tools – juan Mar 28 '12 at 20:28
  • I don't do it for the rep at all, the number only means something if you think it means something. I just look at it from the perspective that if I know the answer to question that someone's curious enough to spend the time to ask, it would be pretty selfish of me not to answer it. – Decency Mar 28 '12 at 23:45
  • @OrigamiRobot I had my facts a little wrong, but there are circumstances in which you keep the rep for deleted posts. It's not 6 months. It's 60 days, and your post needs a score or 3 or better. – Sterno Mar 29 '12 at 0:59
  • @Decency Sorry, I was by no means trying to imply that you or anyone else is doing it for the rep. I just wanted to point out that there are indeed circumstances in which you'll keep the rep for answering a post that gets deleted. – Sterno Mar 29 '12 at 1:03
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    @Decency - I was not trying to imply that you were doing it for the rep. "Knowing" is the key word. If you really want to answer a question that you know should be closed, do it in the comments. – user9983 Mar 29 '12 at 1:49
4

I'm not aware of any policy per se, but closing a question is meant to be a signal that SE can't or won't handle the content of a question as it stands. It can either be a prompt for the asker to improve it, or to be a signal that the type of question is unwelcome here.

If closed questions keep getting answers in the form of comments or fastest-gun-in-the-west answers, closure goes from being a learning experience to an annoyance to be worked around. If I was a new user who had a propensity to ask bad or off-topic questions, but nevertheless got what I was looking for regardless of closures or down-votes, I'm not sure I'd have any incentive or motivation to improve or change what I was doing.

Pragmatically, I'd separate comments from answers though:

  • If you answered in good faith but the question got closed anyway, no harm no foul. Just keep in mind that the question might either be heavily revised to be reopened (potentially making your answer obsolete) or deleted (meaning you'd likely lose any rep gained from the answer).

  • If you left a comment after the question got closed because you wanted to make sure the OP was helped, I think it harms SE more than it helps. You've helped the OP, but you haven't helped SE produce a lasting artifact that can help others. To that end, I would prefer it if people didn't add answers-as-comments-to-get-around-a-closure.

4

I have done more than my share of this sort of thing, (I like to ANSWER ALL THE THINGS!) but I've largely attempted to stop. I found as I "calibrated" myself better to the community, I could do a better job of detecting what questions were likely to be closed, and I largely avoid trying to answer them.

Getting Closure

A closed question is one that doesn't belong on the site for whatever reason - part of closing is saying "this question should not be answered" for one reason or another. Sometimes closure is a temporary thing so that a question can be focused or improved, but the ones you seem to be linking to are more the "off topic" type than the "needs improvement" type.

Closing requires 5 votes from community members with the close vote privileged, or moderator intervention. Sometimes questions are controversial, and sometimes it's possible to salvage a borderline question with a good answer. However, you're opening yourself up to controversy when you do so. You're effectively saying "I don't agree with the community's decision to disallow answers on this question."

Therefore, I'd say if you look at a question and you know it will be closed (it's clear from comments or from pending close votes that closure is imminent, it's off topic according to the FAQ, we have established Meta policy on the subject, etc) I'd suggest not answering it.

Also, as a general rule, don't vote to close a question (or flag it for closure) and answer it. This sends mixed messages - "I don't think this is appropriate for the site, but it should be answered" is a bad message to send.

Commenting

When it comes to comments, I tend to feel like things are a bit more lenient. Sometimes you can help a person or point them in the right direction, even though the question is likely to (or is already) closed. Some are more wary of this approach than others - we don't want to encourage people to post questions that will clearly be closed on the hope that someone will answer it in a comment instead. The overall goal is to keep the site as on-topic as possible.

It's important to note that extended discussion via comments is discouraged. Frequently you'll find people inviting the asker to chat, where many of the "off-topic for the site" topics are discussed on a regular basis. This is a better way to handle things in many situations, since it directs the asker and any other users viewing the question to the proper place for such a question. The only downside is the rep requirement may keep first-time askers from participating.

  • I'm a big proponent of "tell them why it's being closed and point them at chat in a comment," so +1. – Ian Pugsley Mar 28 '12 at 18:04
  • @IanPugsley, yes, when I intervene and close, I try to always leave a comment - the Pro-Forma Comments extension works nicely for this, see this chat conversation for my template, or scroll up a bit to see Tim Stone post the link to stackapps where you can get it. – agent86 Mar 28 '12 at 18:34
  • > You're effectively saying "I don't agree with the community's decision to disallow answers on this question." That about sums up my opinion, yep. If I invite the user to chat and leave the answer there, no one can find it in the future, potentially not even the user himself, which rather defeats the purpose of a Q&A site that's looking to attract users, doesn't it? – Decency Mar 28 '12 at 23:50
  • @Decency, chat messages are generally not deleted, (and are google indexed), whereas closed questions are routinely deleted. Generally questions are closed due to site policy, which we hash out on Meta in what is sometimes a long and complicated process. We might not agree with every bit of policy, but as community members, we have to uphold it. Sometimes there's subjectivity in the close process, which is why closing takes 5 votes. If you spend some time trying to understand the policy, you may find that you agree with it more often, and/or that you can suggest improvements. – agent86 Mar 29 '12 at 17:59

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