# Should users answer questions that they think should be closed?

From time to time I come across posts that are closed by a user/users who has/have also submitted an answer to the question. I feel like this goes against the goal of closure, which is to prevent answers to questions that should not be on the site. It also gives the impression (to me) that the user/users think they deserve to give an answer to the question, but others should not (once the question is closed).

Am I missing something and there actually are situations where answering while also voting to close is fine (or even encouraged), or does this always go against the goal of the site and question closure? Showing how this relates to site policy is preferred.

I am the (or at least one of the) user(s) in question, and I think that your impression of my motivation is mistaken. Since at least part of your concern is your view of my motivation let me state my thoughts:

I vote to close questions that I feel don’t fit within the site’s scope.

Those two categories are not mutually exclusive. Some questions I am unwilling to answer are within the site’s scope, and some questions I am willing to answer are not. Of course, most questions that I vote to close I am also unwilling to answer, but not all. And I don’t think that it is necessary for those categories to match exactly.

Although you didn’t ask, I also think that up- and down-voting has different meaning than close votes. I have on occasion even up-voted a question that I also voted to close, particularly when I thought it was a good question that simply belonged on a different SE.

I am not trying to convince you to adopt my view, but hopefully this clarifies my motivation

• Thanks for the clarification. I understand that you think they are not mutually exclusive categories, but it seems like they are given that closing a question prevents future answers from being posted. If we should still be able to answer questions that don't fit the site, then what is the point of closing questions? Mar 2, 2022 at 5:07
• @BioPhysicist voting to close a question and closing a question are two different things (unless you are the last). But I agree with you, it seems silly for SE to have a mechanism to close questions and yet leave them accessible and the answers visible. If I were in charge of the policy then closed questions and answers would be inaccessible to anyone except for the author. But as long as the policy leads to closed questions and their answers being accessible then there will be some that I recognize as not fitting the site yet I want to answer (eg opinion questions where I have an opinion)
– Dale
Mar 2, 2022 at 13:21
• To make a question and its answers inaccessible except to their authors, vote to delete.
– rob Mod
Mar 2, 2022 at 14:50

I agree with you. There are many good (or even great) questions which are for various reasons off-topic as per current site policy or community guidance. I feel$$^\dagger$$ that while answering them may be satisfying, it sends the message that asking more questions of that type is to be encouraged.

If a question is very good but not a good fit for the site, I think the OP should be encouraged to reshape the question if at all possible. This is one of the few things that comments are actively for in this community, but I rarely see proposed content edits in comment sections to off-topic posts. If the question cannot be made on-topic through edits, then no answers should be posted and it should be closed. Providing answers to off-topic questions adds a wink and a nudge to the question closure which I would personally prefer to avoid.

If I were desperate to answer a question I believe to be fundamentally off-topic, I would create a chat to start a discussion. Unfortunately I find the chat feature on SE to be abysmal, which I would guess is a barrier toward getting this to be a more widely-adopted policy.

There are of course reasonable people who may disagree as to whether a question is on- or off-topic, so I don't downvote good answers to questions I think should be closed. However, I do think that the behavior you describe is contradictory, and I think a vote-to-close should preclude a user from then answering the question anyway and vice-versa.

$$^\dagger$$That begin said, I must plead guilty to occasionally answering questions which probably should be closed - in my case, typically because they should probably be migrated to the Math SE. I can only ask the forgiveness of the community for my occasional lapses in judgement, and that they accept this friendly emoji as a token of my regret :)

• "If I were desperate to answer a question I believe to be fundamentally off-topic, I would create a chat to start a discussion" I have also occasionally seen users just post a better version of the question themselves and then post an answer to that question. Mar 2, 2022 at 19:43
• @BioPhysicist That's definitely a better idea. A chat discussion would presumably be more beneficial for the original asker, but a new question would be more beneficial for the community. Maybe create a new question and then post a comment on the off-topic OP linking to it? Mar 2, 2022 at 20:22
• Yes, I think that is how I have seen it done before. The old question might have been closed as a duplicate of the new one in the case I am remembering, but I am not 100% on that. Mar 2, 2022 at 20:23

I agree with you we shouldn't answer posts that we vote to close or that should be closed, though I'm sure I have on occasion.

But when I do post an "answer" it is typically for homework and exercise type questions where my answer attempts to focus on specific physics concepts that the OP apparently does not understand, and not on solving the problem.

So I guess in response to @StevenG-Help Ukraine statement "Are we here to help people or follow rules ?", I sometimes bend the rules.

Hope this helps.

The fundamental issue here (for me) is :

Are we here to help people or follow rules ?

Now I'm quite keen on rules (what liker of physics could not be ?), but I'm mostly here to help people. To each his own but I assume that's the prime motivation for a lot of users.

Now help does not include doing homework for people or similar, so that's one rule I enthusiastically invoke. However there are going to be situations where a question is not really on-topic (e.g. veers off quickly into non-mainstream or personal "theory"/wild-idea) but where it would be perfectly reasonable (in my view) to help the poster by explaining how things really work. But you might feel you still have to Vote To Close. So there are situations (of which this is an example) where you might provide an answer without really trying to some sort of radical tearing down the system (which I don't have the hair for anymore :-) ).

There may also be situations where people write an answer but then feel that they should VTC after a rethink, or that they do the opposite - VTC and then come up with an answer they feel is reasonable to share and simply forget to undo the first part.

So there can be other reasons why people do answer questions they voted to close. I don't think they're necessarily bad reasons or good ones, they just different.

If there was persistent offending related to something serious (like the homework policy or wildly off-topic questions) then maybe that's something to flag to a mdoerator for higher level consideration, but beyond that I think it's trying to force people to think in straight lines too much.

• I want to help others too; this isn't just some legalistic post wanting to make sure we all adhere to rules for the sake of following rules. The site as a whole is helpful to users, and I want the site to have the best quality it can have. Unless you think the rules themselves are in place just to be in place? There is a reason closing a question stops answers from being posted, right? Just like how you agree with the homework policy (we don't want to turn the site into a homework help/tutoring site), question closure does go towards the goal of having somewhat decent questions overall here. Mar 3, 2022 at 17:00
• And the reason we want to make sure we have good questions here is so that people looking for answers to questions they have that have already been asked don't have to sift through bad questions just to find a good one that gets at what they want to learn. IMO providing answers to poor questions gets in the way of this. So, while I understand asking a rules question makes it seem like the goal is just to follow rules, the bigger picture is to think of how helpful things are overall, not just "did this one person get an answer on their post". Mar 3, 2022 at 17:02