There exists a relatively well defined set of rules in the Help Center that help guide us to deciding what sorts of questions are on-topic and should remain open versus what sorts of questions are off-topic and should be closed.

Despite this, sometimes bad questions that need to be closed are answered anyway. Clearly not everyone is familiar with the help center, otherwise the off-topic closable questions wouldn't be asked in the first place--and even if they were, no one would answer them, and instead would simply downvote, comment, vote to close, flag, etc.

So if a user unfamiliar with the help center asks a question that the help center says should be closed, yet before anyone notices and is able to get the question closed, another user comes along and posts an absolutely excellent answer to the question (in spite of the fact that the question didn't need to be open for one reason or another), does that suddenly make the question on-topic and deserving of being open?

A posted answer doesn't effect whether I vote up or down on a question. A posted answer doesn't effect my decision to post a comment asking for clarity or context or suggest that the question should be posted to another SE website instead. Should a posted answer effect whether or not the question gets closed as off-topic?


2 Answers 2


Your question is self-contradicting.

If an off-topic question gets a good answer, is the question on-topic?

That's what you are asking, and the answer is no. A question can not be both off topic, and on topic.

So, if someone posts a good answer on a question that:

  • links to off-site code (github, pastebin)
  • someone else's code
  • pseudo code
  • a request for golfed code
  • fatally broken code

... is the post on topic? No it is not on-topic and the post should be closed (I am purposefully ignoring 'mostly working code', and 'review any and all aspects of the code' - those are covered in other meta posts.).

We (moderators and the community) do this often, and many, many questions are closed, with answers.

Some of them are locked for historical reasons. Many of them have been automatically deleted by the regular purging process that happens on the system (so they don't show up on the search - about 600). Some have been manually deleted by members/community and moderators.

The only problem I see is the upvoted/accepted answers to off-topic questions, that mean the question does not get deleted automatically.

Here is a good, recent example: LINQ equivalent of nested for loop to select and combine each element from two different lists

Is that question on topic? No, yet it has a +4 accepted answer.

If I could figure out who upvoted that answer, I would use my magic mod powers to infest their armpits with the fleas from a unicorn's butt (if that answer was on Stack Overflow, that would be a different thing though)

  • \$\begingroup\$ That linked question does irk me as well, and I suppose it can always be deleted after 60 days so that no rep is lost. The fewer "un-system-deletable" off-topic questions lingering around, the better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jamal
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 5:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If I could figure out who upvoted that answer... erhm.... *whistling* \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 9:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So answers posted to off-topic questions shouldn't be used as evidence to keep them open, and the question should be considered purely on its own merits--ignoring whether or not it has answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – nhgrif
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ That answer itself isn't terrible, but it's not good either. I don't think discussing that answer adds to this conversation though. Other than as an example of why such questions are off topic to begin with. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nhgrif - I have seen situations where what I would think is an off-topic question because it made no sense to me, is suddenly 'revealed' what the intent of the question is, by an answer that 'saw through' the bad question. In situations like that, it reveals my initial assessment was wrong, and the question is just a bad question, and not off-topic. Perhaps an edit of the description on the question would make the bad question good. \$\endgroup\$
    – rolfl
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 13:14

I'll try to keep this short and clear.

  • Does a good answer to an off-topic question make the question on-topic?

No. It does not. Questions and answers are to be judged on their own merit.

  • Should off-topic questions with answers be closed?

Absolutely. Yes.

The only bearing answers have on questions is whether or not they should be deleted. An off-topic and closed question with an answer should (generally) not be deleted.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this totally. Note though, that sometimes, what we thought was an off-topic question because it was unclear, or something, is revealed to be just a bad question because an answer has shown what the question should have been! \$\endgroup\$
    – rolfl
    Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 13:16

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