Check out these two recent questions:

  1. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/129497/looking-for-advice-about-my-employment-salary-situation (now deleted)
  2. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/129500/java-developer-interview-questions-regarding-sql

The text of the first question has been replaced by the OP to "Please delete thanks". In this instance OP cannot delete the question himself because there is an answer to it. The answer starts by saying:

This is off-topic for Programmers, but I'll give you my advice:

The second question is a wall of text, story of OP's life type of question. It's still open at the time I'm writing this, but if not improved it will be closed. There's also an answer to it that appeared after a comment clearly pointed out the (obvious) problems with the question.

Strictly speaking, we shouldn't try to answer obviously off topic questions, as discussed in this earlier meta question. For question (1) the answerer even acknowledged the question was off topic, and I fail to see any point to the answer whatsoever, other than rep-farming.

For question (2) it's a little bit more complicated. There's a core question in there that might even be a good question for StackOverflow. I can't blame an answerer for going for it, if (s)he truly believes the answer will be migrated. But there are all sorts of wrong with the question and chances are it will be closed very soon and the answer is NOT one that would fly well on StackOverflow.

Now I've personally answered quite a few extremely low hanging fruits, I'm no stranger to rep-farming and I don't really have any problem with answerers. But to me, both questions were obviously at the very low end of the quality spectrum, and I'd prefer it if people refrain from answering those, especially with casual answers (i.e. short, without facts and references).

For question (1) the OP lost the ability to delete his post because of the casual answer, and now we have a question that says "please delete" and a judgement call for a moderator/10K users, as deleting the question will also delete a positively voted answer.

I'm fully aware that answers can be updated as well, and that several of us opt to answer fast and improve later, and I hope that's the case with these two answers. If not, please don't post answers on obviously off topic / bad questions, especially casual ones.

Thoughts? Arguments? Cookies?

The first question and one or possibly more answers on the second one were deleted. although that's more of a guess, as the current answers where posted as is (no edits) and wouldn't have sparked that post.

  • I have other related examples, but I really don't have much time right now to look for them.
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 4:31
  • Just a side note: the user in the first question defaced the question body in an attempt to get it deleted, so it was.
    – user8
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 4:52
  • @Mark Updated the answer. I though of reverting the edit when I first saw it, but then it occurred to me that it's still his content... btw deleting the question doesn't really help this discussion :( any possibility of undeleting so more people can see what I'm nagging about? (and then delete again, after the discussion matures? or is it too much trouble?)
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 5:15
  • Agreed. The further I go is to answer quickly-answerable questions in the comments while flagging it. This comment does not imply I flagged your question =)
    – Matthieu
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


The fact is, in most cases what is obvious to someone is not to another person.

Take this question as en example. ChrisF commented that the question is off-topic. Is it? Well, as it was at the beginning and with php tag, it strongly feels as Stack Overflow or Webmasters.SE related question, which has nothing to do with programming in general. Remove the tag, slightly reformulate the question, and it doesn't seem off-topic any longer (even if I would rather say it belongs more to Webmasters.SE).

If the question was "How to set different languages for different crawlers in PHP?", then yes, it would be a Stack Overflow question. As is, it's not the best candidate to be closed as off-topic.

Even in much more obvious situations, there are still a few reasons to answer anywhere:

  • Imagine the question belongs to Stack Overflow, and it will  be migrated, for sure. I have an account on both Stack Overflow and here. Do I really need to wait until the question is migrated, then search for it on SO, and then answer? It's much easier to answer now and, at the same time, to vote to migrate. For the community, it doesn't change anything, except that the question is answered earlier.

  • I don't answer for reputation. I answer:

    1. To help people,
    2. Because I like answering questions related to general programming,
    3. Because some of my answers might be useful for community.

    It means that there is no reason to not answering a question before it's closed: the answer helps the OP, I enjoy writing the answer (well, I don't enjoy receiving "The answer is closed" notification while writing the answer for the last ten minutes) and the community may still read the question and the answer, since closed questions remain accessible by every user, unless deleted.

    If you answer just to get rep, then yes, you may want to avoid doing it on a question which will be closed.

  • If there is a good answer to a closed question:

    1. It will bring people to Programmers.SE when they search for the same subject on Google,
    2. It will be useful if somebody wants to post a similar question: not only he'll know it's not constructive, too localized or whatsoever, but his question will be already answered.

What will hurt, is:

  • If people would answer to the old low-quality questions, making them appear on the home page.

  • If the sole purpose of answering a question which will be closed would be to gain reputation.

The first point may be a problem, but from what I've seen, the low-quality questions are closed quickly enough for that. The second point is a non-issue, IMO. Most users who post low quality questions rarely accept or upvote answers, and other people won't upvote your answer just because you made an effort answering a closed question: they upvote if your answer is good; if it's good, it's welcome on SE websites.

  • 1
    The fact is, in most cases ... What I actually mean, and possibly should have written better: If it's obvious to you that the question is off topic, please refrain from answering (and my examples where casual answers). As for migrations, I did write I can't blame an answerer for going for it, if (s)he truly believes the answer will be migrated. That said, if more people adopt your approach, the problem (that I think exists) would be extremely minor, if at all existent. There was no action to improve the question, in those I referenced (when I wrote the meta question).
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 13:41
  • @ZaphodBeeblebrox: I totally understand. That's why I wrote the second part of the answer ("there are still a few reasons to answer anywhere [...]"). For example, if the deleted question you refer to wasn't, in my opinion, too localized and interested me, I would probably answered it in a less localized way, giving general suggestions for developers in a similar case. Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 17:33
  • To be honest, I don't think there is an actual issue, more of a minor trend. Most answers that fit what I'm describing are downvoted. But the answers that prompted my meta question where actually upvoted (at the time). A good answer on a bad question would be fine by me. A bad answer would also be fine, if properly peer review. But upvoted bad answers on a bad question is what made me shiver. And of course, I'm not expecting anyone to share my opinions on what's good and bad. I tagged the question as discussion, and until your answer appeared I wasn't getting what I hoped for, so thanks :)
    – yannis
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 18:19

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