See here, for example: https://wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/47147/how-to-select-only-last-six-row-values-from-mysql-database

The question is obviously off-topic, as it is purely a SQL question, and has nothing to do with WordPress, other than the table being queried is a WordPress database table. The answer posted reiterates that the question is off-topic for WPSE, as it involves nothing more than SQL syntax. (The answer itself is probably low quality, as it's basically a link, with no explanation for how to implement the syntax in the context of the original question; but that's beside the point of this question.)

While I trust that the site mechanics will prevail with respect to the question itself, I am concerned that I often see answers posted to off-topic questions before the question receives enough close-votes (or moderator attention) to close the question. Providing answers to clearly off-topic questions is counter-productive to the purposes of WPSE, as it both dilutes the WordPress-specific questions and answers, and also encourages more people to ask off-topic questions.

So, what is the preferred way to handle? I can see at least three possible actions:

  1. Leave a comment on the answer, requesting that such answers to off-topic questions not be posted
  2. Downvote the answer
  3. Flag the answer

If option 1, it would probably be preferable to have some "boilerplate" text to use for such a comment, so as not to sound like a jerk when leaving the comment. If option 2, I wonder if downvoting and the loss of rep points would overly discourage someone who in all likelihood is merely trying to help, but doing so in a misguided/uninformed manner. If option 3, I wonder what the appropriate moderator action would be in response to the flag.

3 Answers 3


Personally I don't think this is worth a slap.

For those who do feel this is worse an action I would recommend comment.

Downvote seems overly negative and there isn't much mod would/should do here - destroyin such answers would be just wasting someone's effort (even if misguided) and question can be possibly migrated elsewhere so answers would instantly become completely fine in context of appropriate site.

  • Exactly. If the question has a simple answer (or existing answers), I'll usually answer it myself before migrating it to a more appropriate venue. That way the answer goes with the question when it appears on another site - a site where both the question and answer are appropriate.
    – EAMann
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 19:10

First: I closed the question.

The best option is a close vote and a comment (in my opinion).

Close votes are important because they generate a close message with all voters involved. The more the better – we are a community after all.

If you don’t have the reputation needed for a close vote (250) – flag the question.

The comment should help the poster to understand what she/he could do better.

When I close a question I don’t care about the answers already given. Whoever answers an off-topic question is probably aware of the problem … and doesn’t care too.

  • "Whoever answers an off-topic question is probably aware of the problem … and doesn’t care too." - In such a scenario, IMHO, a downvote would be appropriate, if someone truly understands site mechanics, scope, etc, and knowinglywillingly acts counter. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 18:46
  • "The best option is a close vote and a comment (in my opinion)." That addresses the question, but not the answer posted to the question. There is no close option for questions, but rather only link, edit, and flag. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 18:47
  • 2
    In the future, well-written (clear) questions like this that do have an answer should be migrated to the appropriate site, not just closed.
    – EAMann
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 19:09
  • @EAMann The question can still be migrated. I just thought it isn’t good enough.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 19:32
  • Since the OP didn't raise a stink about it, I'm not going to bother migrating this one. Just wanted to point out that "in the future" just closing an otherwise valid question isn't really a good idea.
    – EAMann
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 20:52
  • @EAMann During the last mod chat we were told to migrate only really, really good questions. And since this user is known not to improve his questions … I just closed it.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 21:05
  • That's why I'm leaving this one alone. I was trying to make a more general statement about off-topic questions that still receive quality answers.
    – EAMann
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 21:07
  • In another question, Rarst linked to this interesting tidbit about migration reversals. The interesting part for me is the reference to a "belongs on another site" option for close votes. How do we get such an option on WPSE? It would solve 90% of the off-topic question problems. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:16
  • @ChipBennett That’s a sub option of off topic. I guess it is available for members with mod privileges only.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:39
  • So how does that work? When non-mods close-vote as "off topic", a mod can choose to close and migrate, or what? Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:56
  • @ChipBennett Yes, there is a second overlay window where we can choose a site as migration target.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 0:04

Although the referenced question is presumably off topic (see below about its removal) for the technical scope of wordpress.stackexchange.com, it was clearly of-interest for a member of this same community. The original poster asked her question in good-faith. She reached out to the wordpress developer community hoping to find help with her wordpress development problem. Seems like closing it would be ungraciously harsh. I suggest something like the following:

JJ's Hierarchy of Thoughtful Closing

  • Is it spam? --> Example: Make money fast... --> Close with prejudice
  • Is it of interest to our community members, but out of technical scope and not within the spirit of the site? Ex: Wordpress marketing question --> Vote to close
  • Is it of interest to our community members, within the spirit of our site, but not within the exact technical scope, AND there is a more appropriate StackExchange site? --> Ex: Select last 6 SQL rows --> A modest attempt to answer the question, and gently point them to the other site. Ideally crosslinking to an existing question on StackOverflow.
  • Is it of interest to our community members, within the spirit of our site, but not within the exact technical scope, AND there is NOT a more appropriate StackExchange site? --> Ex: Trying to achieve file uploads and OP is open to coding a plugin or using an existing plugin --> Help the user - they have no where else to go.

Bottom line: If the post is written by a member in good-faith to the spirit of the community, ie searching out like minded people that have faced, and overcome, similar problems, then their question shouldn't be closed without at least having identified a more appropriate and responsive place to post that same question.

BTW - Since the question referenced has been closed, it is no longer accessible (at least via the link above). I think this actually serves as a good example how closing a question did not make our community a better place. The original posted waisted her time and meta discussion has been effectively gagged. Can this be right - was the question actually removed?

I personally think the stack exchange ecosystem makes it too easy to close questions. I answered a similar question here (https://wordpress.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3924/8972)

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