There is a trade-off between being a welcoming community and keeping the site in high quality, leaving only good questions and answers.

A new user has asked an off-topic question here, I found an answer to his question in 5 sec, so instead of voting to close I answered his question. Is that bad?

  • 2
    If you found an answer in 5 secs, does the question show any research effort? As noted in our how-to-ask a good question has already been thoroughly researched, and the effort is shared in the question.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Feb 9, 2021 at 18:17
  • "If breaking and following the rules takes the same effort, why not just break the rules?" This is your question made much more general, more broad, and I think asked this way makes the answer pretty clear.
    – Andrew
    Sep 20, 2021 at 15:42
  • @PatLudwig, Andrew, first I think that you both right. Second, if you agree about the trade-off between welcoming and quality, then I think that answering the question gets more welcoming value than reducing quality value. From your comments/answers I get that you think the opposite: that the welcoming value is less than the damage in the quality value.
    – Cohensius
    Sep 20, 2021 at 16:02
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    @Cohensius - you ask us to choose between being welcoming and having high quality. I would submit that the goal should be both. This may not be the easy path, and I would agree that this site can be less than welcoming at times. How can we improve without sacrificing quality?
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Sep 22, 2021 at 1:15

2 Answers 2


You should not answer questions that you know are off topic, and you should vote to close them.

The policy on these site is that we accept some questions but not others, and the rule is that we close questions that we do not accept so that they cannot be answered. Among other things, this serves to ensure that other readers of the site will only find on-topic questions, and to ensure that we do not incentivize people to ask off-topic questions.

We should be welcoming to new users, as you say, but that does not exempt them from following site policy. What it does mean is that we should make an extra effort to help them understand how the site works, including the rules that apply to their posts.

  • O.k, I agree, however how closing and -1 a new users question is an "extra effort to help them understand how the site works, including the rules that apply to their posts"?
    – Cohensius
    Feb 9, 2021 at 7:57
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    Closing does help. The close message contains an explanation of why the question was closed, along with multiple links to help topics with further information. Down votes are more complicated. It may seem like an unwelcoming experience, but downvotes also serve an important content curation purpose.so I'm reluctant to say that people shouldn't use them at their discretion. Plus, they're anonymous, so there isn't really a way to address that behavior directly.
    – murgatroid99 Mod
    Feb 9, 2021 at 8:12
  • why this meta question gets a down vote? What have I learned from that?
    – Cohensius
    Feb 9, 2021 at 8:24
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    I didn't say that downvoting directly teaches anything. People cast their votes as they choose, and I have no power over how others choose to use that ability.
    – murgatroid99 Mod
    Feb 9, 2021 at 8:27
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    @Cohensius - voting on meta is a little different. Some users vote to express agreement or disagreement with the question. This is supposed to be restricted to things tagged feature-request but in practice, I think it gets used a bit broader.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Feb 9, 2021 at 18:22

Because it makes it appear as if those questions are on topic on the site when they are not. Even if the question is closed future users can point to it as an example of why they asked their off topic question that may not be as simple to answer as the other one. In the end questions that receive answers are a signal to other users about what kind of questions they can ask and expect answers for even if they are off topic on the site.

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