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I've noticed quite a few cases (here's a recent one) where people not only vote to close a question, but then also answer said question. At best this is just silly, and at worst it is totally hypocritical and seems almost like rep whoring (since often the closers answers are the only ones that remain to be voted on since no new answers can be given).

If you want to close a question, it makes more sense to simply add a comment if you feel the need to say something. This also leaves the option open for the author of the question to delete it if they want to. If the author realizes they've asked a duplicate, or they want to avoid the onslaught of downvotes that can often accompany a closed question, they should be allowed to delete it. However, if any answers to the question have upvotes, the author can't delete it.

So why do people answer and close? Should we try to crack down on this sort of thing, via either new features, clearly stating it in the FAQs, or just getting the word out through commenting when we see it?

EDIT: Just to clarify, I'm asking this in relation to SO, not MetaSO.

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examples please. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 10 '09 at 16:41
    
Here's a recent one: stackoverflow.com/questions/1109641/… Users Jonathan Sampson and Jeff Yates voted to close and also answered. –  XMLbog Jul 10 '09 at 16:46
    
@Jeff and Welbog: I added a recent link. –  gnostradamus Jul 10 '09 at 16:46
    
User Jeff Yates also voted to close and posted an answer. –  Thomas Owens Jul 10 '09 at 16:47
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stackoverflow.com/questions/1107943/… Another one, this time from Greg Hewgill. In this case I would have posted a comment with the same text as his answer. –  XMLbog Jul 10 '09 at 16:49
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stackoverflow.com/questions/1105258/… Another example. Didn't get closed but I voted for it and answered it. –  tj111 Jul 10 '09 at 16:53
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This is exactly why reputation needs to be regularly recalculated (or at least a targetted rep recalc triggered for those who posted on closed questions), because one "cannot" get reputation for posting on a closed question. Yet, because the recalc is never done, these users get to keep their illegitimate rep pretty much forever. –  Ether Jan 31 '10 at 18:46
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Especially when it's a flamestarter like this stackoverflow.com/questions/13078736/… . Answer and get upvotes of supporters of yours side of the flamewar and close to have no competitors. –  Vladimir F Oct 26 '12 at 8:14
    
I tend to answer then vote migrate. I often have no account on the migration target so if I don't answer right then (answers move when migrating) I miss the chance. –  Joshua Mar 19 '13 at 20:04
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In cases where someone votes to close the question as "not constructive" or "off-topic" and also answers the question, it seems to be a plain and simple case of rep whoring. –  user93353 Apr 22 '13 at 7:01
    
I know this is late to the party. I don't close and answer often, but will do so for well-written off-topic questions I feel have a good chance of getting migrated. The rep would appear on the destination site, and if I can provide a good answer I see no reason not to. –  Ex Umbris Jun 27 '13 at 2:46
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I occasionally vote to close as a duplicate after answering. I typically find the duplicate after researching to improve my answer. –  Duncan Jul 1 '13 at 21:02
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@Quantas94 can you explain your bounty? What kind of recent changes would've changed the relevance of the existing answers? –  CodeCaster Jan 11 at 13:11

15 Answers 15

up vote 30 down vote accepted

For questions about Stack Overflow itself that should have been asked on meta site in the first place, this is the accepted way to handle it. The question should be closed (and later deleted), but go ahead and give the asker the answer they were looking for first so we don't leave them with an absolutely horrible experience for it. Also, mark your answer as community wiki (though sometimes I forget). I take a similar approach for duplicates, as well.

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Can't you easily give them an answer in the comments? –  gnostradamus Jul 10 '09 at 16:51
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You could, but since it really is an answer that's kind of pointless. –  Joel Coehoorn Jul 10 '09 at 16:55
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"Why do some people answer in comments?" meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4217/… - Can't please everybody it seems :) –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 10 '09 at 16:58
    
I can kinda see your point. With regard to making the answer wiki, does the author still have the chance to delete the question even if a wikied answer has upvotes? –  gnostradamus Jul 10 '09 at 16:59
    
@Jonathan: So true. =) –  gnostradamus Jul 10 '09 at 17:06
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"so we don't leave them with an absolutely horrible experience for it." This is exactly my thought behind answering and voting to close at the same time. If I know a quick answer or website to point them to, why not? –  Troggy Sep 20 '09 at 22:09
    
-1 for "...and later deleted". Being active in reopening closed questions I find this statement misleading and harmful –  gnat Jan 2 '13 at 9:21
    
@gnat Notice the condition in my answer: this is only about questions that should have been asked on meta in the first place. If you're re-opening those, you're doing it wrong. –  Joel Coehoorn Jan 2 '13 at 17:29
    
@JoelCoehoorn I see, thanks for explaining –  gnat Jan 2 '13 at 17:48
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This still seems hypocritical. If the question deserves an answer, then it deserves the best possible answer. Answering and voting to close deprives other members of the community to provide a better answer. –  Adrian McCarthy Jan 2 '13 at 18:47

If I know the answer (or can be helpful), I'll give it. If the question isn't supposed to be asked, I'll vote to close. I see it as generous, not hypocritical - after all, I didn't make the rules.

I don't see anything wrong with this. We're being strict, but generous. Additionally, I think it makes a good impression on those asking the question who may not be entirely sure what the scope of SO is. They'll learn about the scope, but also see that the people here are not psycho-thread-killers who want to dominate the platform - we're genuinely here to help.

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Ok then, how about a new feature: You can't get any rep from answers in a question you voted to close. Closing prevents competition. If the question deserves to be closed, it doesn't need to generate rep. –  Kelly S. French Jul 30 '09 at 16:42
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@Kelly - There's no way to implement this unless you can see the future, since questions can get reopened. Also, you can vote to close, but it may not be closed, so answering and voting to close seem perfectly fine. –  Peter Ajtai Oct 10 '10 at 2:50
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@Peter - Future state doesn't matter. Answers to questions to questions that you've voted to close shouldn't generate any rep for you, regardless whether the question has been closed/reopened/reclosed/etc. –  Kelly S. French Nov 9 '10 at 17:53
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One problem, is that your answer make stop the quesions being auto deleted. –  Ian Ringrose Mar 1 at 17:42

I do it precisely for the reason that "It may not get closed so, I'm going to go ahead and answer it anyway just in case"

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..or in some cases it may get reopened. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 10 '09 at 17:01

I'll most often do this when it seems iffy as to whether or not a question will actually be closed (very subjective questions, for instance). In those cases, i'll mark my answer Community Wiki, out of hope that, if i fail to close, perhaps i can at least encourage other authors to follow suit.

Occasionally i'll do the same for questions where i can't fit my reply into a comment, either because of length or formatting restrictions. Again, i'll mark it as CW.

If i remember, i'll try to go back and delete the answer if and when the question is finally closed.

Yes, it's a bit dodgy, but it is my hope that marking the answer CW will mitigate this (not that it's prevented some folks from accusing me of inconsistency or gaming, but i suspect they'd have found something to whine about anyway).

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I never realized that people use this CW with so much care. –  Arjan Jul 10 '09 at 17:30

I've done it a few times. Usually it's along the lines of "this isn't really programming related, but I happen to know your answer, so here it is." Worst case, they don't get the answer and the don't come back, same as if I just voted to close. But maybe, just maybe, they'll see it in time and get the answer they need and learn about how to use SO.

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I sometimes answer off-topic questions that belong on other SE sites and vote them off-topic. If they turn out to be migrated later, the answer will be migrated as well, and will compete with other answers on the proper community site. I don't usually care enough about off-topic questions to make the effort to watch if they get migrated so that I could answer once they are on the correct site.

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Do we have any numbers on whether the people who ask close-worthy questions tend to do so repeatedly, or whether closed questions tend to come from different users all the time?

Most of the answers here remind me of the most popular example of reinforcement I heard in psych classes in college. It comes down to this: if your kid is throwing a tantrum, don't give in. If you do, it teaches You, Jr. that throwing a tantrum is an effective method of getting what he wants, and he'll do it again. And the longer you wait before you cave, the more your kid learns that persistence pays off, no matter how angry you get or how much you say you're serious. Twenty years later, you're Christopher Walken.

The point is that if you answer questions that you vote to close, you're not really motivating people to ask better questions. You're just training them to expect some mean words with their answers. Of course, without evidence either way, that's just a theory.

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I have only answered a question that I voted to close once (that I can remember). It was a Blankman question that he had asked 15 minutes prior, but I hadn't seen this until after he had accepted my answer.

This really irked me to the point that I e-mailed Jeff about it to ask his opinion on the matter. I really wish I could take that answer back but it was already accepted so I couldn't.

I'm mad at myself for not having checked if the question had been asked by the same user before I posted an answer. Especially a user I know asks the same questions over and over again. I would gladly take back that answer and lose all the rep I gained from it.

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It's really not that big of a deal, since your answer can be merged with those on the duplicate. Who knows, your perspective may have even added something that may have been helpful to others. :) –  jmort253 Jan 2 '13 at 8:57

If I'm going to do this---and I do occasionally---I generally make my answer CW explcitly because of the reputation thing.

Why do I do it? Usually because I think the question

  1. is good on it's own merits
  2. is likely to be closed
  3. shows that the asker is suffering from some misunderstanding that could cause him or her trouble
  4. has no answer which would tend to dispel the misunderstanding.

in short, I'm trying to be helpful to a confused soul.

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I'm afraid I'm occasionally guilty of the behavior described. I vote to close if I think the question should be closed/deleted, and I answer if I think I can be helpful (sometimes requiring "amusing" to be interpreted as a kind of helpfulness). They're kind of independent considerations in my process.

I probably ought to mark community wiki if I vote to close, but I don't because I'm a big rep whore. (Though questions on the fast track to closing are rarely-to-never worth any rep to speak of, except for TheTXI who inexplicably seems able to harvest them like fruit ripe on the vine. So maybe I'm only a medium rep whore.)

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You know, I just did this (reference), and while I don't do it often, I don't think it's too inappropriate. In particular, when something is inappropriate for SO, but there is a relatively straightforward and easy to compose answer, I figure the best way to go is to let them know the answer (if it's easy for me to answer), and also to let them know that SO isn't the right place to ask it.

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I've spotted this behaviour a few times. And I always downvote the answer.

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What about answers given by those who do not vote to close, but actually should know better...? –  Arjan Feb 8 '10 at 14:11
    
@Arjan: I think you've hit on an even bigger problem than the one we're discussing here: 3k+ users who still don't clearly understand the goals of the site. –  gnostradamus Feb 8 '10 at 16:43
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This seems to go against what votes are for (to categorize answers as helpful or not)..... Also, what if the answerer is answering in case it gets reopened? Or they weren't sure that it will get closed? Or they just wanted to be helpful and save a click for people who get to that answer and then have to click again to reach the original. –  Peter Ajtai Oct 10 '10 at 2:52
    
@PeterAjtai, an answer that leads to more bad quesions being asked is not helpfull –  Ian Ringrose Mar 1 at 17:39

I have also answered questions that I have voted to close. Especially since I am now a moderator I try to be mindful of the fact that this can block competing answers and I limit that behavior.

Nevertheless the concern over "reputation" may be unnecessary. If the community likes the question it should be reopened, and if not it should be deleted. (Or as Ianzz reminds in his answer the question may be migrated to a site where the answer is appreciated.) If this is done within the window where reputation does not become permanent (90 days I believe) then no "ill gotten gain" takes place.

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"it is totally hypocritical and seems almost like rep whoring (since often the closers answers are the only ones that remain to be voted on since no new answers can be given)."

You've answered your own question. Voting to close. (just kidding)

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Since closure reasons may change from time to time, this answer only reflects current time situation, which is 11 January 2014. Previous or new changes in the closure logic changes is not (and can not) reflected to the answer as it should be.

There is two separate objectives in this action:

  1. Helping people
  2. Doing your duty

Why SO and other SE sites exist? Because some people needs help and some can help them. From this point of view, doing your basic duty (maybe duty is not the correct word in here) in SE is help people if you can. so if you want to contribute, then help if you can.

Also, each SE site have its own moderation logic and rules. Since (most of the) rules are decided by the community itself and you are a part of the community, you can take part in those discussions to shape the community. But you must do your duty as it is, if you wish to contribute. If it is about closing a question and question do not fit, then you may feel yourself free to vote for closure even if you already answer it.

So two community duties on a cross-road right?

But whom to help

If question is self-descriptive and you know how to help. Then you can answer it if leaving a comment is not enough. Because helping people is important in here. But also this community do not accept some question prototypes. Let me explain with two examples:

  • Asking advice in choosing a tool : This is opinion based and do not have a valid answer (since it may change from person to person). But I see no problem about giving your advice. Because Question owner needs some advice and you have yours. But also do your duty and vote for closure since it is opinion based and answer may become lessly true in time. In this form, it do not offer much future reference to other users. But do not forget, you may get upvotes, but as time passed and your answer became out-of-date, you may receive downvotes too.

  • Doing somebody else's homework: Is it helping to that person? In fact no. S oyu can not count answering a such question as helping him unless you do not give a complete answer but show him how to solve it. Voting for closure -in fact- is helping him since you ask him do show some effort and try to do it and ask what he had tried.

So from this perspective, helping people ( by answering or not answering) who need help is the most important thing, second is doing one of your community duty and help community be better in shape and scope.

But, if you thing answering a such question will not help the person and is done just for reputation, then you can feel free not to up-vote or to down-vote a such answer. It is all up to you. Down-voting that answer might be right or wrong according to person but here is a community and everybody have his right to vote.

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