7

Consider the following scenario:
A (new) user asks a question that is related to a specific plugin. It may or may not employ core functionality, but is at least borderline, if not entirely, off-topic. It however is not badly phrased and does show some research effort (apart from having ignored the Tour/Help/FAQ).
Regardless, you know the answer and could help the OP without much effort or researching. It's an easy type up.

Pro for answering:
Humanity. Altruism. The want to help.

Con of answering:
It would encourage further questions of the kind, by the same or another user.

Specific example, just now: Remove All in One SEO Pack Widget while posting

The OP could have phrased the question more generic. She didn't though. She does show research effort. Also, she knows the plugin-specific part of the answer (to be precise: she knows the handle of the metabox she wants to remove and she knows how to do it). She could have asked "Why can I not remove a (!) metabox from an edit screen? What am I doing wrong?". If she had phrased it that generic, it would have been an in-scope question...
I could tell her that she's using the wrong hook. That is (or could be) plugin independent.

I left a comment to a question that should point her in the right direction. I did close vote the thing. Still, I could type up a solution quicker than asking for your opinion on meta. I however don't feel like encouraging off-topic content.

What is the right thing to do?

6

If you can rework a question to bring it on topic, then go for it.

You will have to keep an eye on some things if you chose to do so. For one you want to ask for clarification in the comments and give the OP a chance to do it by her-/himself.

Another thing is to not move the question to a higher level than the OP actually understands. This wouldn't help them at all. Moving it too far away from the original question just for the sake of having one more answerable question will also not help the OP. I think you got a very good feeling for that anyway.

Do not encourage asking off topic questions by answering them. This will just increase the needed time to clean up.

If you ain't got the feeling that the OP will benefit from your edits: Leave it. If you review the OPs other questions (if there are any) and you can see that the questions constantly ignore the topics handled on this page, then please do not answer.

If you can close vote a question and the question is close worthy, then close it.

There are also a constant amount of people on all StackExchange network sites that jump on off topic questions and answer them, just because they can, they are easy and they bring reputation. Therefore they answer everything that they can answer. The result is that the question will get closed, then removed by the community bot and similar mechanisms and those people then have a reputation drop. And the people who have chosen to ignore scope at the very beginning are those who get most angry when their reputation drops, open Meta discussions and throw dirt at the community. This again is a waste of time for anybody.

So, if you see people answering such questions, you might want to consider downvoting not only the questions, but the answer itself as well. Finally it's up to you, but from what I've seen so far, those answers are likely to be of bad quality (and mostly link only) and not worth keeping as reference.

  • So, is leaving a "comment to a question that should point her in the right direction" still appropriate? I would be inclined to assume it is appropriate to direct the OP to an existing answer or the proper SE network by leaving a comment. – iyrin Oct 12 '14 at 4:07
  • If your goal is clarification and a better question, then yes. If it is an "answer light", then no. If you want it migrated, flag it. If it's a duplicate, do the same - or if you can vote on it yourself, then close vote it (to migrate it). – kaiser Oct 12 '14 at 10:46
1

I feel strongly that border-line scope questions should be answered. This is clearly an unpopular answer by high-rep users, but as someone slight more representative of the masses, I can tell you it is insanely frustrating to see so many questions closed as off-topic.

I would guess 15% of the questions I've encountered recently have already been closed. Every one of them addressed my specific issue.

I totally understand that that each community has their defined scope, but if each community becomes for purists, by purists, then it is a sad community that will probably atrophy and not attract new users.

I see the problem here, on Stack Overflow, and LEGO, and electronics. The question I just came from was off topic. My LEGO bridge question was accused of being off-topic on the LEGO site, my electronics power supply question was accused of being off topic on the electronics site, and the above Wordpress Plugin Question is off topic on the Wordpress site. I know, crazy, right?

I give a slight pass if someone can point the original poster to a more appropriate Stack Exchange site, but not when the original poster's only recourse to then go scour the wild's of the internet for another, more helpful, community. Let's not become that community that turns away those in need.

  • I can't find the WordPress question you are referring to. Also your LEGO bridge question is open and the same goes for your power supply question. I'm sorry, but I don't know what you are referring to. You also haven't explained (or linked to) what the 15% of questions are. If they are off topic, well... then they are. – kaiser Oct 24 '14 at 16:24
  • The LEGO question was only accused of being off-topic, and some goes for power supply. Both were asked in the early days of those sites so it was seemingly harder to close without discussion, but the point remains. – JJ Rohrer Oct 28 '14 at 11:09

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