See here, for example: how to select only last six row values from mysql database

The question is obviously off-topic, as it is purely a SQL question, and has nothing to do with WordPress, other than the table being queried is a WordPress database table. The answer posted reiterates that the question is off-topic for WPSE, as it involves nothing more than SQL syntax. (The answer itself is probably low quality, as it's basically a link, with no explanation for how to implement the syntax in the context of the original question; but that's beside the point of this question.)

While I trust that the site mechanics will prevail with respect to the question itself, I am concerned that I often see answers posted to off-topic questions before the question receives enough close-votes (or moderator attention) to close the question. Providing answers to clearly off-topic questions is counter-productive to the purposes of WPSE, as it both dilutes the WordPress-specific questions and answers, and also encourages more people to ask off-topic questions.

So, what is the preferred way to handle? I can see at least three possible actions:

  1. Leave a comment on the answer, requesting that such answers to off-topic questions not be posted
  2. Downvote the answer
  3. Flag the answer

If option 1, it would probably be preferable to have some "boilerplate" text to use for such a comment, so as not to sound like a jerk when leaving the comment. If option 2, I wonder if downvoting and the loss of rep points would overly discourage someone who in all likelihood is merely trying to help, but doing so in a misguided/uninformed manner. If option 3, I wonder what the appropriate moderator action would be in response to the flag.

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2 Answers

Personally I don't think this is worth a slap.

For those who do feel this is worse an action I would recommend comment.

Downvote seems overly negative and there isn't much mod would/should do here - destroyin such answers would be just wasting someone's effort (even if misguided) and question can be possibly migrated elsewhere so answers would instantly become completely fine in context of appropriate site.

Exactly. If the question has a simple answer (or existing answers), I'll usually answer it myself before migrating it to a more appropriate venue. That way the answer goes with the question when it appears on another site - a site where both the question and answer are appropriate. –  EAMann Mar 28 '12 at 19:10
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First: I closed the question.

The best option is a close vote and a comment (in my opinion).

Close votes are important because they generate a close message with all voters involved. The more the better – we are a community after all.

If you don’t have the reputation needed for a close vote (250) – flag the question.

The comment should help the poster to understand what she/he could do better.

When I close a question I don’t care about the answers already given. Whoever answers an off-topic question is probably aware of the problem … and doesn’t care too.

"Whoever answers an off-topic question is probably aware of the problem … and doesn’t care too." - In such a scenario, IMHO, a downvote would be appropriate, if someone truly understands site mechanics, scope, etc, and knowinglywillingly acts counter. –  Chip Bennett Mar 28 '12 at 18:46
"The best option is a close vote and a comment (in my opinion)." That addresses the question, but not the answer posted to the question. There is no close option for questions, but rather only link, edit, and flag. –  Chip Bennett Mar 28 '12 at 18:47
In the future, well-written (clear) questions like this that do have an answer should be migrated to the appropriate site, not just closed. –  EAMann Mar 28 '12 at 19:09
@EAMann The question can still be migrated. I just thought it isn’t good enough. –  toscho Mar 28 '12 at 19:32
Since the OP didn't raise a stink about it, I'm not going to bother migrating this one. Just wanted to point out that "in the future" just closing an otherwise valid question isn't really a good idea. –  EAMann Mar 28 '12 at 20:52
@EAMann During the last mod chat we were told to migrate only really, really good questions. And since this user is known not to improve his questions … I just closed it. –  toscho Mar 28 '12 at 21:05
That's why I'm leaving this one alone. I was trying to make a more general statement about off-topic questions that still receive quality answers. –  EAMann Mar 28 '12 at 21:07
In another question, Rarst linked to this interesting tidbit about migration reversals. The interesting part for me is the reference to a "belongs on another site" option for close votes. How do we get such an option on WPSE? It would solve 90% of the off-topic question problems. –  Chip Bennett Mar 28 '12 at 23:16
@ChipBennett That’s a sub option of off topic. I guess it is available for members with mod privileges only. –  toscho Mar 28 '12 at 23:39
So how does that work? When non-mods close-vote as "off topic", a mod can choose to close and migrate, or what? –  Chip Bennett Mar 28 '12 at 23:56
@ChipBennett Yes, there is a second overlay window where we can choose a site as migration target. –  toscho Mar 29 '12 at 0:04
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