how-to-answer has a lot of good information on how to correctly answer a question, but doesn't address what NOT to put in an answer. There was an answer recently to a performance question which was specific to one part of the platform (not going into detail in order to not make it searchable), but the answer went on about general performance for that platform. Should there be a point about being on-topic? Asides that are relevant to the question are great, but going on for quite some time about marginally related topics merely clutters the answer.

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    Possibly related: stackoverflow.com/questions/9946811/… – Mat Apr 3 '12 at 18:14
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    "not going into detail in order to not make it searchable" No one is going to thank you for that. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Apr 3 '12 at 18:17
  • @dmckee I understand your point, but he flagged my comments as offensive for pointing out that his answer was simply a compilation of copy/paste from the msdn and I'm trying to not start a flame war. I think the point stands without a specific example anyway since this is not about something being offensive/not offensive, but about providing guidance for that is/isn't appropriate in an answer. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 18:22
  • @mydogisbox: did his compilation of copy/pasting from MSDN answer the question? – user7116 Apr 3 '12 at 18:26
  • @sixlettervariables No, it didn't. She was asking for a comparison of the layout panels and he gave a general overview of how to performance tune wpf. He both missed the exact content of the question and included a lot of off-topic material. Whether he did or didn't is orthogonal to my question anyway. My question is: should there be something about including off-topic material in answers be put in the how-to-answer post. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 18:31
  • If I thought his answer didn't answer the question at all then I would have simply flagged it. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 18:34
  • So... comments on why my question is getting down-voted? – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 18:39
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    Here's a comment: Are upvotes and downvotes different on meta? – Cody Gray Apr 3 '12 at 19:11
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    More to the point, I don't understand what in the world your problem is here. The answer @Mat linked to is perfectly fine. Good enough for me to upvote it. Who's complaining, and on what basis? We need to hash that out, not talk about vaguely about possible solutions in an overtly passive-aggressive way while trying to ignore the actual problem. – Cody Gray Apr 3 '12 at 19:12
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    "My question is: should there be something about including off-topic material in answers be put in the how-to-answer post." Um, no. Of course not. We can't create a comprehensive list of everything that you should not include in an answer. That's what downvotes, flags, and editing are for: to fix or remove problematic content in answers, or failing that, the entire answer. If you see a problem, we'll handle it. The notion of "irrelevance" though is quite subjective. If I thought it relevant enough to include in my answer, then keep your grubby hands off of it. – Cody Gray Apr 3 '12 at 19:13
  • @TheEstablishment ah thanks for the link. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 19:15
  • @TheEstablishment I think you have us backwards. The post you upvoted was mine (unless the previous person who had upvoted his answer removed their upvote at the same time...). The thing which prompted my question was that his answer was only marginally on-topic, so I was going to link the post on how to answer a question, but when I looked at the how-to-answer post there was nothing in there about what to not include in a post. Nothing passive-aggressive about it. I have no intention of flagging his post, or really doing anything more with that question. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 19:19

No, we shouldn't. For the same reasons we don't need an explicit policy about sarcasm, or warnings about plagiarism plastered everywhere.

There are all sorts of ways an answer can be bad - trying to enumerate all of them just encourages folks to find loopholes, and prompts others to get all legalistic about it in an attempt to circumvent the system to remove posts they don't like.

There's a big arrow pointing down next to every answer. Use it.

And if you decide to leave comments, be constructive, avoid talking about voting, and resist getting drawn into extended discussion. State what you see as lacking or unhelpful, and move on.

  • I agree with the substance of this answer, but I don't think it quite hits on what I was getting at. In the example the user was trying to be helpful by including off-topic information. A bit in the faq about what type of content is/isn't helpful is what I was trying to get at. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 20:01
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    There's an infinite amount of unhelpful content that could be included in answers. Tangential rants, pet stories, links to amateur splatter films on YouTube... That said, not every bit of tangential information is bad - indeed, some of the best answers are those that go beyond solving the asker's specific problem and try to help readers understand why it occurred to begin with, and how the solution works or was devised. – Shog9 Apr 3 '12 at 20:03
  • I agree, I just think some clarification about how far would be good. – N_A Apr 3 '12 at 22:13

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