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Closing Etiquette: Why Do Some Answer and Close?

I've got some problems with answering and voting to close

Kev ♦ - He doesn't like when I vote to close question AND answer it. (when you meet him, please invite him here, I'd like to know his opinion)

Another people - Doesn't like when I answer not-programmatical question but not vote it to close.

However I think even not-programming-related questions deserve answers, because it has chance to be migrated

I'm speaking mainly about Facebook questions which are main problematic now

What should I do in case of Not-programmatical question with chance to be migrated to WebApps.SE?

What should I do when I close question? IS it really so bad to post an answer?


4 Answers 4


I feel I should pop my head above the parapets and respond.

This was the question where I added a comment to your answer (10k):


Chris has pretty much covered the reasons I added that friendly comment -

Tut tut...Voting to close and answering the question, you disappoint me genesis after the nice things I said about you on meta :)

(I was referring to my answer here challenging the perception that only More experienced users get more credit. I used genesis as a great example of someone who has been active on the site for only three months yet has accrued some serious rep in that short period and therefore under the presumption that he's given great advice.)

The question fell into the "Do not ask" category of questions because it was a one line "which one is better..." post and there was pretty much nothing else of merit. It clearly needed to be closed.

Given your very active participation on meta I would expect you to know the minimum quality standards a post should meet and know when to recognise a bad question, which you did by voting to close.

However it surprised me that you felt it was ok to answer this question as well, probably in the hope of gaining rep. The answer you gave wasn't particularly great either and if anything should have been a comment, hence the need to express (nicely) my disappointment in seeing it there.

So, yes the system allows you to do this, but it's morally dubious and as Chris says a wee bit hypocritical.

With regard to your second point, if you know for sure a question is off topic (but does have home somewhere else on SE) and you've voted to close and flagged to migrate then I don't see any harm in providing an answer. You've done your duty in helping to keep SO on-topic.

But if you know a question is way off-topic, not bothered to flag or vote to close, and posted an answer then you will run the risk of being downvoted for not trying to uphold the standards and etiquettes of the site. It can be viewed as encouraging the wrong type of question.

There's nothing personal here, I think it's fantastic that you've gained 12k of rep in just three months, that shows eagerness to help. But if you're gaining that rep by "any means possible" i.e. by indirectly encouraging bad questions through not voting to close and providing answers, then I see that as detrimental to the health of the site.

We need to be sending crystal clear messages about the standards we are trying to uphold and to do that you can't be sitting on the fence and spreading your bets just for the purpose of gaining rep, that just muddies the waters.

  • Okay. I will follow your answer. In case of bad question, completelly off-topic, I'll vote to close and not answer. In case of off-topic I'll try to close it as off-topic, flag question and answer. Thank you Kev for your opinion and I hope you didn't change thinking about me
    – genesis
    Aug 27, 2011 at 13:30
  • 2
    @genesis - if the question is off topic you still shouldn't answer - unless it's a candidate for migration.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 27, 2011 at 13:46
  • @ChrisF It's what I think. "In case of off-topic I'll try to close it as off-topic, flag question and answer" it was meant to be ready to be migrated
    – genesis
    Aug 27, 2011 at 13:50
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    @genesis: I agree with everything Kev says, but I'm sympathetic to occasionally wanting to provide a quick "answer" even while closing an obviously bad or off-topic question. Just leave a comment, and everything will be fine. :-)
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 27, 2011 at 23:44

We need to encourage people to either ask questions on the right site or not ask completely off topic question at all.

By posting an answer you are reinforcing the idea that it's OK to ask such question on Stack Overflow and diluting the "don't ask these questions here" message. So when someone else posts an off topic question they can legitimately say "but that question was answered".

Answering and voting to close is hypocritical - on the one hand you are saying "here's your answer give me some reputation", but on the other you are saying "no else should answer this". The only exception might be if the question is on the wrong site and you would have answered anyway. In this case posting an answer and voting/flagging could be useful. However, if the question hangs around too long then it still sends the wrong signals.

So if you see an off topic question you should NOT answer but:

  1. Vote to close with the most appropriate reason.
  2. Flag the question for moderator attention if the migration path doesn't exist.

You can do both - vote to close as off topic and flag - as this sends a public message that the question is in the wrong place as well as hopefully getting it to the right place.

  • 3
    You're saying "here's your answer, hope it helped" and then showing them that they need to ask questions differently on our sites. Aug 27, 2011 at 10:11

There are three kinds of reasons for closing a question, and the answer is different for those three kinds.

  • Closing as a duplicate: do not answer. If the question is a duplicate, then the question under consideration is supposed to be answered by the answers to the other question. If you think the earlier answers are lacking, answer the earlier question, not the one you're voting to close.
  • Closing and migrating: it's ok to answer if you would have answered this exact same question on the target site. In other words, it's ok not to wait for the migration to happen before posting your answer, if you know the migration is going to happen. It may be better to leave a comment on the question, to educate the asker that they should have posted the question on the site in the first place.
  • Closing as unsuitable for Stack Exchange (i.e. off-topic with no migration, not constructive, NaRQ, etc.): do not answer. Voting to close means that you think the question cannot be answered at all. For closure as general reference (on the sites where it exists), post the link to the “standard reference site” as a comment. Answering an off-topic question, in addition to giving the wrong message and thus being bad for the community, also does the asker a disservice, because if your answer is wrong, there will be no expert around to refute it. Only if the question is a good question and is going to end up on a site with the relevant expertise, is it ok to answer the question (see above).
  • Nice. However, just nitpicking: how can one know something is going to be migrated? (And Jeff's opinion on answering duplicates has changed over time: Dr. Strangedupe: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Duplication. I still agree duplicates should not be answered though.)
    – Arjan
    Aug 27, 2011 at 12:07
  • I'm sometimes answering questions I'm flagging for migration to tex.stackexchange, if they would be also on-topic on Stack Overflow (and I happen to know the answer). Aug 27, 2011 at 12:26
  • @Paŭlo Ebermann - in those cases migration is probably not warranted (but that's a different discussion).
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 27, 2011 at 12:35
  • @ChrisF: I think in most of those cases migration will be better for both the asker and "the internet" (which we want to make a better place), as the question will get more and better answers there. (And tex.se seems to want these questions.) But you are right, this should be discussed elsewhere. Aug 27, 2011 at 12:43
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    @Arjan Let's say the criterion is: if the question wouldn't have made anyone bat an eyelid on the target site, go ahead and answer. If you think the question might be ok on the target site but you're not sure, don't answer. Aug 27, 2011 at 12:45
  • See the blog link that Arjan posted where Jeff explicitly states it's good to answer duplicates. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:00
  • @LanceRoberts That blog link has nothing to do with the question at hand. It's about duplicates (which aren't the focus of the question), and it's giving advice on when to treat a question as a duplicate, it's not saying anything about closing and answering. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:07
  • @Gilles, I was only talking about general principles, I didn't even look at the question at hand. And here, I specifically addressing your first point. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:09

All questions deserve good answers.

It's just fine to vote-to-close and also answer the question (though there are certainly individuals who don't like that behaviour). There's nothing wrong with answering non-programming-related questions, and then voting-to-close or flagging them.

Keep answering, keep closing.

  • 9
    You should not answer a question on a site that doesn't have the expertise to evaluate the answer. Posting an answer if no one will be around to point out any mistake does a disservice to the asker in addition to doing a disservice to the community in general. The only case where it's legitimate to answer and close is when you know the question is going to be migrated to a site with the right expertise. Aug 27, 2011 at 11:30
  • @Gilles, see the links that Arjan posted in the comments to the question, especially the blog link. Aug 27, 2011 at 17:59
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    Read that post. It doesn't say you should answer and close. It says you should be very conservative when considering questions to be duplicates. Once you've made your determination, either answer (if it is not a duplicate) or close (if it is a duplicate). Doing both wastes everybody's time. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:06
  • @Gilles, It doesn't waste the OP's time. He needed an answer, and one was provided. It's called the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done to You". Aug 27, 2011 at 18:08
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    Exactly: if I post a question and it turns out to be a duplicate, I'd rather have a batch of answers that have been vetted by the community than a quickie answer that everyone else will be ignoring. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:09
  • @Gilles, I don't ignore those answers, just because the question is a dupe. People should still vote on those. Aug 27, 2011 at 18:10

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