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There has already been a question regarding questions answered in comments. There have been a few situations when the question was closed unanswered by the community and then answered by another user in the comments.

What is the general policy with regards to things like this?

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Sometimes questions are closed falsely and some comments having some pieces of solutions help proving the question is not a dupe. I don't think there are generally policies for that however. –  Hugo Dozois Apr 17 '13 at 18:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Answering a closed question, or giving hints where to find an answer, in comments is almost always okay, no matter what the question is about.

There are a couple exceptions, say totally extreme cases like when the question was about something illegal, or deeply immoral, or asked in bad faith (trolling etc.). But other than that, answering a closed question in a comment is totally okay. I do it all the time for off-topic or Not A Real questions that are good, but simply don't happen to match Stack Overflow's guidelines.

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While generally OK, I worry that giving someone an answer anyway can encourage bad questions. Knowing that a question is not good for Stack Overflow and will get closed should be a deterrent from asking it. Expecting that you'll still get an answer because people are nice will convince you to ask it anyway, even if you know it will get closed. –  Jim Apr 17 '13 at 18:43
    
@Jim that's a fair point; note however that if you go on asking a lot of questions that get subsequently closed, there are other mechanisms to shut you out (the infamous quality filter). Also it happens very rarely that a question gets answered in comments - it's not as if it's a widespread phenomenon. –  Pëkka Apr 17 '13 at 19:06
    
Agreed. I'm not really sure how much/if it actually happens. Just some concerned speculation. –  Jim Apr 17 '13 at 19:18
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@Jim - If the question is off-topic, it will not harm the site if we give the OP some hints on where the info can be found. –  Bo Persson Apr 17 '13 at 19:53
    
Exactly. This whole worrying about lowering the site's quality seems imagineered to me. There are much worse things that lower site quality happening every day. –  Pëkka Apr 17 '13 at 19:55
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@BoPersson That's exactly what should be done. The question here though is about actually answering the question in a comment, not pointing the user to the right place. –  Jim Apr 17 '13 at 20:18
    
@Jim in that case, we're on the same page. If a question is "how can I do xyz" then to me, saying "this is not a good question for SO, but this web site has an example how it's done" is "answering" it for the purposes of this discussion... edited answer to clarify. –  Pëkka Apr 17 '13 at 20:48

Meh. Leave the comments be. Closing gets rid of posts that will not be useful to others (or has other issues), as that is the primary goal. Closing is not meant to stop the OP from being helped; that is more of a side effect.

So, if a user gets helped in the comments of a closed post, let it happen. It's nothing to worry about :)

If you want, you can flag as "off topic" though.

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I would have to defer this to @Jim on this one in the comment on the other answer. Leaving this be and no having generic handling of such situations promotes off-topic, non-constructive question to be OK for the site which could lower the quality of the site if left completely unchecked. –  Karlson Apr 17 '13 at 19:18
    
@Karlson it is completely unchecked at the moment. Do you have any indication it is lowering the quality of the site? I doubt it. (And even if it does - we have mechanisms to deal with repeat offenders.) –  Pëkka Apr 17 '13 at 19:29

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