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Should I post an answer to an off-topic question after flagging it?

I seem to find off-topic questions that I can give a good, useful and correct answer to. (The specific question tonight is this one, but it's happened several times this month now). Other users have clearly deemed the question worth a response; I think I can provide a better response based on the original question and the provided comments, but I also don't think the question fits well on StackOverflow.

By answering, I feel like I would validate the question's existence on SO. On the other hand, other users clearly deem the question appropriate enough to warrant answers.

What's the consensus for this situation?

  • 4
    did you consider adding a comment instead of an answer in cases like that? – gnat May 24 '12 at 21:28
  • I second the comment. In place of a full answer, give a hint or link if the question at least has some technical merit. – mario May 25 '12 at 0:23
53

Generally speaking, answering questions that should get closed encourages bad behavior.

This is how I handle it:

  • If the question is a real question, constructive, not too localized and on topic on another SE site:

    • Vote/flag to migrate.

    • Answer the question.

  • If the question is not a real question, not constructive, too localized or off topic on all SE sites:

    • Vote/flag to close.

    • Don't answer the question.

My criteria are consistent with the penalty for answering off topic questions:

You lose all reputation gained on questions that get deleted within 60 days, but you keep reputation gained on migrated questions (on the target site).

  • 15
    If you don't answer a question that's likely to be deleted, then you won't complain later when your reputation decreases because your answer got deleted with it. :) – animuson May 24 '12 at 20:27
  • 8
    If you don't answer, your answer won't be upvoted. The upvote makes it more difficult (someone needs to downvote you) to have the automatic cleanup of the question take effect and thus requires manual delete votes to destroy. – user213963 Sep 12 '13 at 22:13
  • 1
    @animuson : reputation decreases including bounties? – user2284570 May 10 '14 at 23:46
  • 2
    "Answer the question." - Huh? Its off-topic. Please provide a citation where the action is authorized under the site's governance and rules. The best I can tell, it just encourages bad behavior. Its one of the reasons we have so much off-topic garbage on Stack Overflow. – user173448 Jun 12 '17 at 8:36
  • How does "Vote/flag to migrate" work? I can imagine that the person doing the flagging will accumulate a lot of "declined flags" and then be barred from flagging. (In practice, flagging seems to have a lot of gaps at times). – user173448 Jun 12 '17 at 8:36
  • @jww, There are many off-topic questions with useful answers, but most of them are "too old to migrate." This makes it difficult (if not impossible) to migrate them. – Anderson Green Apr 8 at 20:29

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