Can we (and should we) flag an answer as being off topic for the site (I'm asking about all sites, not just SO)? For some borderline questions I feel the question is marginally on-topic, but is such some otherwise reasonable answers to the question have nothing to do with the site's scope.

If all reasonable answers have nothing to do with the sites scope then I would vote to close the question (or flag), but I'm not talking about those questions.

One problem with flagging is that the answer is often reasonable in addressing the problem, just not from a the site's perspective.

Flagging still makes sense to me, but I'm asking what the actual policy is.

Edit ----- adding a (problematic) example

It does seem an example might help. This programmers question is about dealing with Aspergers Syndrome as a programmer. Part of why I didn't want to include it is that it's not a good question, and I've seen (but can't remember) examples with better questions.

O.K., it just got closed. Not surprising.

But it isn't very uncommon on programmers to have questions about, say, how to best to do pair programming when office politics are making it tough in some way. And maybe some answers could have to do with how to go about pair programming, and some could have to do with dealing with office politics.

Assuming the question doesn't get closed, what to do about the answer having to do with office politics? My feeling is that a reasonable policy would be that the question is (assuming sufficient quality in other ways) on topic for both Programmers and Workplace, but the answers on Programmers should focus on (or at least include?) solutions involving programming, and Workplace answers should focus on (or at least include?) solutions involving, er, Workplace stuff.

But what, if anything, is the actual policy? Should I flag the answers on programmers that have nothing to do with programming? Should they be deleted?

  • I spent a while searching for duplicates - my apologies if this has been answered.
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:13
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    Do you have an example of such an answer?
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:13
  • @Bart - I do, but I didn't want the specifics to unduly influence the discussion. I have seen examples from time to time in the past (mostly on programmers, for questions that have programming specific aspects but maybe also involve a general workplace issue. My personal feeling is that answers relating to the programming aspect are OK on Programmers (there is some disagreement over this), but answers that address the workplace aspects, even if otherwise helpful, probably should be removed.
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:19
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    Then it becomes rather difficult to answer this. Either it's not an answer, or it's a bad answer that deserves downvotes. Flagging an answer as "off-topic" is something I can't imagine doing, and I've never felt the need to use any other means than already at our disposal.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:21
  • 1
    Answers cannot be migrated to a different site. What do you expect done with such answers? Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:22
  • @MadaraUchiha - Great question. I think such answers should be deleted as off topic. But that doesn't show up as a flag reason (this is a somewhat rare case) and I'm not sure the issue has really been considered. So far I have not flagged such answers, but perhaps I should. People whose answers are so deleted will be upset though, fairly justifiably, since there isn't much to tell them that answers must be on topic. If they actually must - frankly I'm not sure.
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:25
  • @psr: I've answered. I don't think this is an issue. If the question is on-topic, there's no problem with having an answer which doesn't solve it the way you'd expect from Stack Overflow, Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:27
  • "for questions that have programming specific aspects but maybe also involve a general workplace issue"...that sounds suspiciously like a problem with the question, rather than the answer? If you have an example, by all means show it. Because right now we end up guessing what you might be hinting at.
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:33
  • Is this a good example of what you're talking about? (Be sure to view the original version of the Q, which I've edited.) stackoverflow.com/a/15371909
    – jscs
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 21:13
  • @JoshCaswell - It's different than what I've usually thought to flag, but it is a good example. But some examples would be more problematic, for example on sites with fuzzier questions it would be harder to edit out the off-topic parts of the question, since they provide context that maybe can't 100% be separated out. Also note that the asker of the original question had a "This isn't the issue" comment, so it really didn't answer the question asked. In more problematic cases, the asker would be pleased with the off topic answer.
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 21:23
  • I see -- I'm not sure how much the OP's opinion should weigh here, but of course in other cases he might accept such an answer, making it harder to clearly highlight the problem with it.
    – jscs
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 21:27
  • @JoshCaswell - Also I've seen cases where the off-topic answer is the highest voted, sometimes by far. Would be lovely if I could find them...
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


I think I understand what you mean.

User asks:

Why does X fail on Y language?

Accepted answer:

It's a problem with your Z hardware.

I see no problem with such answers. The question is on-topic, and the answers solved the problem.

  • Good answer, and I think for your example totally appropriate. But remember I'm asking about SE sites, not just SO, and they may have fuzzier problems, such that some aspects are on topic for one site and some for another. What if the only aspects addressed are not those on topic for the site the question was asked on?
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:54
  • @psr: Does it answer the question? Is it helpful? If it is, keep it. If not, edit/revise/comment/delete it. It's as simple as that. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:57

Given the very long list of proposed extension sites for Stack Exchange, and the ongoing process to incorporate (a substantial subset of) them into the Stack Exchange family, I would counter-suggest that all circumstances as described in the OP are only temporarily out of scope for Stack Exchange. Perhaps a We-Haven't-Categorized-This-Scope site is needed, to hold these questions and answers until a more specific site is open for business.

To address points raised below:

I am trying to suggest that rather than deleting such questions and answers, they be moved to a miscellaneous site. If the purpose of Stack Exchange is to be a first point of reference for interesting questions about the current state of human knowledge, are there any questiosn and answers that are truly out of scope for Stack Exchange as a whole?

Note that I am not suggesting to replace the waste bin with a publicly visible site. Rather that useful questions and answers, found on a site but deemed by that site as being out-of-scope, be relocated instead of deleted. I believe this presents a friendlier face to Stack Exchange as a whole, and serves to preserve positive contributions made by questioner, answerer, and commentators alike.

  • Say what now? What do any future developments of the SE network have to do with the appropriateness of answers (or questions) for a particular site? How does this answer the question?
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:30
  • @Bart: I am trying to make a positive contribution to meta, to get unbanned, albeit by thinking outide the box, and hopefully getting a few others to do so also. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:35
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    And I surely hope you get yourself unbanned by making positive contributions. But make them as clear and on the point as possible. I still don't really see how this addresses the question asked, besides in a very sideways manner. As for moving questions to another site, how would you prevent that from becoming SE's waste deposit?
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:39
  • @Bart: Is my suggestion getting clearer? Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:43
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    Yes. And it's a valuable suggestion (such discussions have been had for very valuable but off-topic content for example). It still in its core does not address the question asked all that much imho (it goes off on a tangent a bit), but at least it's clear now. ;)
    – Bart
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:45
  • @Bart: Thank you for your comments; they helped to clarify my own thoughts. I am constrained to work within the scope of questions asked by others, which limits me a bit. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:48
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    @Bart: I cannot change it until April 3; already thought of that, which is why I changed my picture. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:50

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