Can we (and should we) flag an answer as having nothing to do with programming? 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 programming.

If all reasonable answers have nothing to do with programming 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 programming perspective.

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.

I'm not sure everyone here would agree on whether such a question was on-topic. Let's say for the sake of argument that a good answer that did not include anything about office politics, only pair programming, was possible. (Though such an answer would have to briefly explain why that particular pair programming practice didn't raise the political objections the OP had to deal with).

Would an answer dealing entirely with office politics and how to deal with them be O.K.? It certainly might gather the most votes and be the accepted answer. What should be done in such a case?

  • Not sure if this is a MSO question or if particular communities should decide in any degree. I couldn't find a duplicate on MSO.
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 19:12
  • 1
    I wouldn't. If the question is on-topic, I'd like a complete set of answers that addresses the question, even the parts that are not programming-specific. Removing the non-programming-specific parts only results in incomplete answers.
    – Rachel
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 19:15
  • I asked on MSO - I don't think it's cross posting because that asks about SO and SE wide policy and this asks for Programmer's specific, but I wanted to disclose it. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/171742/…
    – psr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Topicality doesn't apply to answers, inasmuch as the answers answer the question. It only applies to questions.

The same principle applies to duplication; only questions can be duplicated. "Blue" is the same answer to the questions "What color is your car," and "How do I feel today?"


I think that part of the reason questions like the hypothetical pair programming and politics questions get closed is that they attract answers not related to programming.

But I don't think that is (always) the fault of the question, nor that all such questions should be off topic. I think it is the fault of the answers.

I think all questions should be assumed to be implicitly requesting programming (broadly defined, but still...) related answers (and ideally that should be made explicit through editing so it's clear to people who don't know that rule), and any answers not related to programming should be considered "Not an answer", and flagged/deleted.

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