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I recently asked a question and shortly received an answer.

  • The question was kind of a big topic and raised a number of specific questions, however it was centered around a very specific issue and I specified what I wanted to see in an answer.
  • The answer touched on a small corner of the topic, then wandered to a different topic. I feel that while it originated from the same topic, it completely failed to address the gist of my question, much less the specifics asked for.

This question is not about the quality or content of that particular answer!

The issues I would like to raise is how tightly coupled the subject matter of answers should be coupled with the questions they handle.

  • Must they be point for point matches of the question?
  • Should they specifically address the topic, but do so by relating whatever material they feel is relevant?
  • Should they be allowed to use the question as a launchpad to make a point on any related issue?
  • Is there another different balance to be struck?
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  • Note: I removed the link to the question and answer that triggered this thought for two reasons. 1) This was never about calling out an OP about a bad answer and I don't want it to focus on him. I wanted to bring up a general issue for the community to think about before it becomes a personal issue on one persons answers. 2) The answer was removed (by the OP?) and so isn't a relevant item to reference. – Caleb Jul 11 '12 at 14:33
  • Thanks for your feedback, we will take it into consideration. This is pretty much what we already do. – ashes999 Jul 11 '12 at 16:39
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As a moderator of another religious oriented StackExchange site, I would like to offer something of my 2c from experience there.

Allowing answers to wander too far from the subject matter of the question will degrade the quality of your site. It doesn't matter if the content of an answer is correct or even valuable as freestanding content. The value of the StackExchange Q&A format is directly related to how specifically questions are addressed. Answers that make points on related topics without focusing on giving a clear direct answer to the OP's question are a net loss. They dilute the on-topic content and make it harder for people to find answers to THEIR questions.

How you handle these is a hard decision that you'll have to make as a community. In general I would suggest two things:

  1. If the answer successfully answers at least some part of the question, no moderator invervention is required but the community should step in to downvote and comment, not because the content was necessarily wrong or bad but to show that it missed the mark of being applicable to the question. On the flip side, answers that are most specific in dealing with the question should be rewarded with upvotes to bring them to the top and make it easy for future visitors to get their answers right away.
  2. If the answer fails to address the question at all, in addition to the steps above, posts should be flagged and deleted. Moderators can intervene to remove un-related content right away, however their intervention is not always required. High reputation community members can also vote to delete content that has collected enough downvotes (meaning people have to be doing #1 too!) and even if no action is taken, the flags serve other purposes to help the system run smoothly.

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