We have plenty of guidance about what constitutes an answer on a main site. However, Meta is very different from main sites (as we all know), and I don't know of any "Not an Answer" guidance regarding Meta sites.

It was my understanding that Meta, being primarily for discussion and debate, had a much broader view of what's appropriate in the "Answer" box. It was my understanding that in a policy discussion or debate, an answer can be used to raise major points of relevance, even if they don't . While I endeavor to actually provide some sort of resolution whenever I have the requisite knowledge or an opinion on the matter, I have used them to post relevant but non-definitive commentary, related questions, and potentially helpful information that doesn't directly lead to resolution. A user recently challenged my understanding of this as a response to this answer I posted.

Is my understanding correct? Can an answer on Meta be used to raise a specific point of relevant discussion/debate? Or must a Meta answer provide some kind of resolution to whatever problem or news the post describes? Does it depend on the original question/post?

  • 4
    Perhaps the best yardstick is that if you have a new question, you should ask it... as a new question.
    – Richard
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:12
  • 9
    Note that on meta, unlike on main, a "question" doesn't even need to ask a question (either literally or implied). That said, when the meta question is actually asking a question, you probably should be answering it, or trying to at least.
    – Servy
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:16
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    @Richard That isn't so clear cut when the "question" is really a statement of a potential problem that the site may face with implementing a policy being discussed.
    – jpmc26
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:34
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    @jpmc26 Sure, but that wasn't the case in the particular meta question you linked. If it was, rather than that meta question asking a very clear and well defined question, I suspect you'd have gotten a somewhat different reaction.
    – Servy
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Can an answer ask yet more questions? Is meta a game of questions? Are rhetorical questions sometimes asked in the course of an answer? Is this all getting confusing or tedious?

The specific answer that sparked this meta question is an excellent example of how discussion differs from normal Q&A. The question was whether certain topics should be allowed on a site and the answer raised the point that question titles appear in the HNQ list on other sites. Clearly this is an important consideration to the original question. It might be the seed of a new question or be properly addressed in the linked question, but that does not necessarily mean it failed to "answer" the discussion. It's perfectly fine to have an answer that continues the discussion on meta even if it fails to be a complete answer.

Now I would say that if possible answers to discussion questions should take a definitive stand on the central premise being discussed. "We also need to consider . . ." is fine, but "We should/should not do this thing because . . ." is better. Ideal answers to meta discussion questions attempt to persuade rather than ramble aimlessly. Think of it as an exercise in rhetoric.

  • 3
    I would consider posting a rhetorical question designed to make your point in an answer to be pretty radically different from posting a sincere question expecting an answer. I get the impression this meta question was asking about the latter, not the former.
    – Servy
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:51
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    To my mind rhetorical questions are just fine. Actual questions probably aren't
    – Richard
    Mar 7, 2018 at 22:03
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    @Richard: The point of the answer was heavily implied. Your proposed answer missed it entirely. Mar 7, 2018 at 22:13
  • I think you've misinterpreted the particular post in question: it's not really asking a rhetorical question, or even asking for clarification; it's actually asking about a new set of problems, that (and I think this is the important part) can/should be addressed in it's own post.
    – Möoz
    Mar 8, 2018 at 22:11
  • The OP asks about policy, whereas the answer asks about a system feature. I hope that makes sense.
    – Möoz
    Mar 8, 2018 at 22:13
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    @Möoz: It does make sense. But in context, it's clear the question about the system feature is an argument about the policy. If I asked on meta whether we should allow questions in answers, someone might ask if there's a way to post comments longer than 600 characters. The implied point is that comments are not subtable for good answers, so maybe answers shouldn't have questions. An ideal answer would connect the dots, but that's not a requirement every time. Mar 8, 2018 at 22:28
  • I think perhaps the mention of rhetorical questions has confused some users about your answer. If I'm reading your post correctly, that's just an off-hand reference (possibly even a lead in to a joke), whereas the rest of your answer here is talking about a different kind of question (the kind the linked answer exemplifies).
    – jpmc26
    Mar 8, 2018 at 22:54
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    @Richard Obviously, I'm biased here, but I'm confused about what you think that policy would accomplish. If a policy or community norm is being discussed for refinement or even change, isn't it better to have discussions about the relevant factors centralized in one Q&A? What's the pragmatic consideration for breaking off every subpoint that doesn't have an immediate resolution to a new post? How does doing so improve the quality of the discussion?
    – jpmc26
    Mar 8, 2018 at 22:57
  • @jpmc26 - The goal is to discuss the point raised, not to open the floodgates to someone using their answer as bait to provoke an entirely new discussion.
    – Richard
    Mar 9, 2018 at 6:18
  • @Richard When the topic is an issue the policy up for debate needs to address and possibly be adjusted to account for, how do you distinguish "new" discussions from ones that belong with the current policy Q&A? What's the criteria you want to use?
    – jpmc26
    Mar 9, 2018 at 12:21
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    Nobody forced you to comment on that answer, @Richard. Obviously that answer baited you into a new discussion, but it takes two to tango, ya know? Mar 9, 2018 at 19:05
  • @JonEricson - My comment was that it wasn't an appropriate answer
    – Richard
    Mar 9, 2018 at 19:06

I think the defining factor is what the "question" is, or the particular roles they play in meta.

Meta kind of covers the role the blog used to and is used for announcements

Something worth keeping in mind: when Jeff started the blog, meta didn't exist. The blog was meta: discussion, debate, even the first elections were all conducted there. Even after meta was created, it didn't work terribly well for announcements until we added network-wide featured posts in 2014
-from a comment by Shog9

If the question is an announcement - we're (ab)suing answers as a way to give feedback on the announcement - say for the shiny new post on openid getting deprecated, most of the answers are folks pointing out potential issues and pain points rather than a traditional answer, and that's pretty much how we roll.

These sort of announcements do not need to be official - The recent post on smoke detector adjusting thresholds mainly got feedback.

Ideally answers providing feedback should be substantially different (you can upvote in agreement, or comment to add on) from each other and actually provide feedback.

As a subset of those, we have massive lists of feature improvements and changes - which vaguely work like a traditional forum post. Answers here are literally meant to break up a insanely long list into system legal chunks, and they're more of an "infodump" than an answer.

I'd note, this is PROBABLY the hardest bit, since these arn't really answers but its one of the reasons we have meta at all - to have a place within the SE framework for people to interact.

We also have posts acting as community FAQs. There are a 'classical', and one might even say canonical case of community wikis - these should have a single answer covering the full range of topics.

It also acts as the user facing "issues"/Feature Request. Ideally answers here are closer to traditional answers - though naturally a official canonical answer is preferred. In many cases - its user supplied.

So, unlike a regular site, what a proper answer reflects the nature of the question.

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