Sometimes off-topic questions get fast answers that actually do answer the question, but they're irrelevant to the site. An example is this (now deleted) post with 7 upvotes on programmers which explains that you can't install OSX on an iPad.

Personally when I've seen these as a mod I tend to convert them to comments after closing the question. Yes, mods aren't supposed to judge the correctness of answers, but these aren't answers in the scope of the site. I also don't approve of positive reinforcement (upvotes/rep/badges) being given to people who are engaging in bad behavior (answering off topic questions) and encouraging other bad behavior (asking off topic questions).

As clarification, these answers also mean the off topic post will never be deleted. Quoted:

If the question is more than 30 days old, and ...

  • has -1 or lower score
  • has no answers
  • is not locked

... it will be automatically deleted.

So no, I can't just wait for the post to be auto-deleted. In fact, these off topic answers prevent the off topic question from being deleted. By converting the answers to comments the question will be auto-deleted.

My other options are manually deleting the whole question which means

  1. The asker doesn't see the post was off topic. It's just gone. (And they might ask it again)
  2. I'm being even more aggressive in policing the content
  3. I'm not letting off topic stuff fall out of the system naturally.

Should posts like this be converted to comments when the question is closed as off topic?

  • 3
    Why not just let them get deleted when the question itself gets deleted? Are you worried it won't get deleted within the 90-day period?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:22
  • I can assure you it will be deleted soon enough /cc:@animuson
    – yannis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:45
  • 1
    @animuson closed questions are only automatically deleted if they don't have answers. So unless you're saying "manually delete the question" that doesn't solve this problem at all
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:08
  • @BenBrocka: Yes, I'm talking about manually deleting questions. A question like that would normally be deleted by three users with 10k, at least it would at SO. Why doesn't that solve the problem?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:26

3 Answers 3


I don't think that those answers should be deleted or converted into comments, because of the following reasons:

  1. As far as I know, the only normal reasons for answer deletion are not an answer, very low quality, spam and offensive. From my point of view, neither of these applies to answers to off-topic questions.

  2. Answers to off-topic questions can be given in good faith, expecting the the question will be migrated to a site where both question and answer would be on topic.

  3. The positive reinforcement for answering is void once the question gets deleted.

  4. The positive reinforcement for asking doesn't depend on whether the OP obtains his response in an answer or a comment.

  • 1
    These questions won't be automatically deleted, in fact they're not deleted because of these answers
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:11
  • 2
    @BenBrocka: It might never get deleted automatically, but deleting the question manually makes more sense to me than deleting the answer.
    – Dennis
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:13
  • 1
    I can accept deleting them manually, but that either means I have to delete the question on-sight or I have the big maintenance burden of going back and manually culling the question after they've had time to read over their answers. I don't especially like either of those options.
    – Ben Brocka
    Apr 19, 2012 at 20:15

No, don't convert answers to comments because they're off-topic. They might be too long or contain non-comment formatting, and what would be the point anyway? If the question is off-topic, and it's clear that it won't be edited into topic or migrated, then delete the question. This will delete the answers as well.

Closed questions are deleted automatically only with very stringent conditions. It's up to the community to delete the bulk of closed questions, and on sites that are smaller than Stack Overflow and perhaps a few other big, established sites, it's up to the moderators. Any question that is closed, not as a duplicate, and isn't going to be reopened is on its way to deletion — see the Stack Overflow Question Lifecycle.

You should go through the closed questions every so often (every week, every month, something like that) and delete the closed ones (excluding duplicates unless they're really not contributing any useful search fodder). You don't have to delete every closed question, but when you see a closed question that isn't going to be reopened, delete it unless you have a good reason to keep it around (such as posting on meta and arguing that it should be reopened). Wait a few days after closing except in egregious cases (e.g. trolls), to give the asker or anyone else the time to vote to reopen or argue on meta. Don't delete a question if there's a meta debate about it. But after that, deleting the question is the normal response.

It used to be that deleted posts didn't contribute to reputation, or (with some caveats) to badges. They do now, which is stupid, but only if the post has been up for more than 60 days. So make sure to delete off-topic questions within 2 months.


I think that in certain situations answers to off-topic questions do need deleting.

Take for example off-topic questions where personal advice is sought in MedicalSciences.SE or Psychology.SE. There can be answers which can exacerbate the condition the OP is asking about, or cause other complications — even death if there are unforeseen implications to the advice given.

I am not necessarily advocating deleting the question as that will be done in the usual SE processes in the background regarding old closed questions. Plus, leaving the closed questions with their close reason highlights the issue and the fact that we will not allow them to remain open.

I have even seen situations where the comments area is used to overcome the closure and provide an answer. These should be deleted too in my opinion if the situation I described above occurs.

If there is no threat to safety of the OP, comments and answers within closed questions should remain as they stand for the reasons @Dennis and Gilles gave in their responses.

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