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
    Commented May 24, 2012 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
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 0:23

1 Answer 1


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).

  • 16
    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 StaffMod
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 20:27
  • 10
    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
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 22:13
  • 1
    @animuson : reputation decreases including bounties? Commented May 10, 2014 at 23:46
  • 3
    "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
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 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
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 8:36
  • Many off-topic questions are now "too old to migrate", so they may remain closed forever. Commented Jun 9 at 19:07

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