This answer just popped up in my review queue and the author even states that it is not really answering the question.

So I'm wondering, do we flag it anyway? Do we leave it in place?

I do think this particular one is a good answer and like the fact that it questions assumptions that lead to that question in the first place, so I tend not to flag or downvote it, but I'm also aware that there have been discussions about the issue.

  • That's an interesting one. I think that it's useful to leave there, even if it's just a "big comment" since it will help future visitors to the question. – Telastyn Dec 19 '13 at 18:16

The first thing to consider is our target audience. We're writing this content for people coming from search engines who have the same problem as the asker. So let's look at this issue from their perspective. If you're searching for ways to turn down a promotion politely, chances are you've already made your decision. In this case, coming across material that tries to talk you out of it may be considered noise. Our goal isn't to try and talk people out of decisions they've made but instead to provide answers to help them solve problems they're facing.

The answer linked would be analogous to looking in the dictionary to find out what the word "superlative" means, only for Webster to pop out of the monitor and go "no, you really want to look up the word 'zoology'" and then redirect you to the entry on zoology. You would be frustrated, and you'd have a tough time using the dictionary as a resource if it magically redirected you to stuff you weren't looking for. Most of the time when we have a problem and Google it, we expect to find answers to that problem and not some other problem.

What's more, consider that one of the other ways we add value is that users can quickly determine if the page they've landed on will be helpful. Less is more, and if you've ever had to search for something in a forum, it can be frustrating when you've looked through 30 pages only to determine that nothing there is helpful. On Workplace SE, we want people to know within minutes whether or not the answer to their problem can be found on the page they landed on.

Now, had the question been framed around how to determine whether to accept or decline a promotion, this post would have tons of value. If it's truly worth preserving, perhaps there is a different question where that answer would have value and could be re-posted. If you find such a question, feel free to suggest that in a comment to that answerer. We're happy to leave a link to that as a comment on the question.

Additional note: On such questions it may be helpful to edit out trigger words and trigger phrases like "this doesn't answer the question", as I've almost accidentally removed material that did answer the question. Sometimes we all get set on auto-pilot, and seeing the trigger words/phrases may alter our perceptions.

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    I don't know about this. Sometimes I'm searching for something and I think "superlative" is what will get me there. This is where our site can add some intelligence that dictionaries (and other search targets) cannot. I have to imagine people searching towards a solution without firm terms make up a not insignificant portion of the traffic... – Telastyn Dec 22 '13 at 0:19
  • @Telastyn - I see where you're coming from, but if the content is valuable, what's stopping us from finding another question where it fits better and posting there? What prevents us from posting "related: <link>" under such questions to link related material? It's possible to still cater to the people who haven't made a decision, without letting the site get bogged down by the same noise that makes us despise noisy forums. Many times, less is more. – jmort253 Dec 22 '13 at 3:07
  • @jmort253 This leads me back to this comment where I suggest creating a fork of a question if it's too fragmented or off for some reason. I think the kinds of answers that this question is about are another symptom of the same issue: getting the OP or people searching for similar patterns to think in a different direction. Maybe the forking approach is worth it after all. – CMW Dec 25 '13 at 3:44
  • @CMW - The thing to consider when forking a question is to make sure it is significantly worded in a way to where it doesn't end up getting viewed as a duplicate of the parent question. There have been examples of people successfully asking "follow-up" questions where they reference a previous question, and sometimes those posts do well, as long as they're substantial enough to stand on their own. In other words, the pitfall is what you see a lot of the "answer-my-own-question" crowd do. They'll ask a one-liner question but give a full, novelized answer that's way too broad. – jmort253 Dec 25 '13 at 8:35
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    [cont'd] The key is to still make sure both questions and answers can stand on their own as great Stack Exchange posts without it seeming forced. – jmort253 Dec 25 '13 at 8:36
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    I think any solution to these of close-but-off-topic answers will require careful balance, so we don't litter the site, with less than useful information – CMW Dec 25 '13 at 8:43

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