I've realized that something I've been doing may be (borderline?) unethical, so I'd like your opinions. There have been questions, such as this identify-this-actor and this identify-this-music that I feel have been closeable as off-topic according to our rules. In fact I voted to close both of them. The actor one is (as of the time of this question) on-hold.

I have also answered them. I've even received at least one up vote for each answer, which gives me rep.

This means that the questions themselves are answerable, but I do not believe the question asked in each case fits within the on-topic rules of the site.

  1. Should I remove the answers I've made that gave me (and may give me) rep?
  2. Should I vote to close and not answer future questions, even if I am able?
  3. Should we (those with enough rep and attendant powers) clean up existing answers on fully closed questions?
  4. If 1 and 3 were yes, what if the answer was already accepted?
  • 1
    2) is definitely a question of personal attitude and I think the site has a broader guideline to not answer them if you yourself deemed them inappropriate, but I'm not sure about it either. But whatever the answer to 2) is, 1) and 3) seem waaay too extreme. If we prevent answering closed questions or not, we're not supposed to delete valid or even correct answers to existing questions. But good question.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Aug 23, 2014 at 16:12
  • 1
    I agree with @SonnyBurnett on this one - we are one of the 'softer' stack exchange sites, and I think the only option which is valid (and a personal attitude thing) is 2.
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Aug 23, 2014 at 16:27
  • Don't beat yourself up over it. It's perfectly acceptable to give a good answer (and reap the rep rewards) from a bad question. Placing it on hold isn't the same as deleting it. The whole point of the "on hold" is that it gives the OP scope to improve it.
    – user7812
    Dec 7, 2015 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


I think it's a very complex situation with no clear answer for a number of reasons:

  1. Identify this actor questions are only off-topic because of 1 abstention.

    The 16 people who were involved in the vote were split at between 8 upvotes and downvotes each, with 1 person abstaining from voting on the other option.

    This, combined with the fact that these off-topic questions and answers still get upvotes indicates the community is still not in agreement on this situation.
  2. 2 out of 3 Reversal badge winners on StackOverflow are from answering closed questions.

  3. Answering bad/off-topic posts only encourages more of the same.

    - Oded♦
    Though I disagree with this as off-topic posts are made by people who either don't research what the site is about before they post or have but didn't care.

As SonnyBurnett and iandotkelly mention in the comments it is a matter of personal preference, and mine is to only answer a question I know to be off-topic if I think I have an exceptional answer.

  • 3 is taken way out of topic. Thats just SO's mod view, on a bad answer, a link only answer to a resource question. Quality answers are good regardless of the Q's quality. also see this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4283/…
    – cde
    Oct 8, 2015 at 3:47

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