I've been wanting to leave my thoughts on this matter for a while now. It's been difficult for me to articulate my feelings about this, but I'm going to try.
Is this a problem at all?
Yes. I believe it is a problem, albeit not an earth shattering "this will ruin the site problem" it is a problem. More often than not, these kinds of questions get answered with the same types of answers that we would write for any question. After all, "an answerer isn't obliged to focus their review on the question".
However, you see, that's a confusing thing for people who aren't familiar with how we work. That's different from any other Q & A site out there. OP has a problem, so they asked a question and expect an answer to that question. Some one answering to their post may or may not address that question.
If OP's actual question isn't addressed, they are likely to get confused and frustrated. This leads to a poor experience in my opinion.
If so, is there anything we can do about it?
Yes. I believe there are a few things we can do.
We can close them.
Recently there was a (now deleted) question asking about code behavior. The question was otherwise on topic, but OP didn't really want a code review. They had a problem to solve and wanted an answer to a direct question. I voted to close using the "Other" reason and left this custom close reason.
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about understanding the behavior of the code and not a request for a review of the Code.
This sends a clear message to the OP that their question is off topic along with why it is off topic. We close an off topic question and OP learns a little bit about being a good citizen here on CR.
We can flag the question for migration.
Until we are 100% out of beta, the only direct migration path we have is to our meta, but posts can be flagged for moderator attention asking for a migration to another site. Please only flag for migration if:
- The question is off topic here.
- You're confident the question is on topic for the target site.
- It's a new question. (There are time limits on migration.)
- Any answers on the question would be acceptable answers on the target site.
- As a general rule of thumb, don't migrate crap. We don't like it when people do it to us, let's not do it to others.
We can leave a comment letting OP know that we think the question is a better fit for another SE site.
If you're not entirely sure the question is off topic here, then it may be best to just leave a comment letting OP know that they might get a better experience on another SE. Again, please be sure the question would be on topic at the target site. If you're not 100%, point them to the target site's help center and meta. Like migration, we get upset when people point off topic questions to our site, let's not send off topic questions to theirs. Also, if you know the question will need some rephrasing/reformatting in order to be a good question on the target site, please let OP know that too.
Of the three options available to us, I like this one the least. It often leads to cross posting and a lack of understanding about the target site can lead to two bad questions being posted. Personally, I prefer to just close off topic questions.