Off-topic on Stackoverflow: that's enough
13 January 2014 No Comments
I stumble on questions marked as "off-topic" weekly, every time with valuable, non biased answers. Most of the time these answers are better than any other found on the internet.
Arguably, you wanted to deter trolls and to prevent sterile "I prefer" comments. But that's not what's happening. People are behaving. Valuable answers are up-voted and emerge on top. Should any troll spawn, he would be quickly down-voted to see his comment fade into oblivion. You already have a secret weapon against trolls : your community. And it works.
So we have topics of interest with quality answers, judging by the number of votes on the question and replies. Then moderators come in, mark the question as "off-topic", triggering numerous comments from frowning users, and as they're right do to so, other people actually up-vote these comments.
The overall topic quality and readability is actually degraded by the "off-topic" banner and the ensuing comments.
What should you do when enforcing a rule causes inconvenience instead of solving a problem ? Amend the rule, of course.
Otherwise, there might be an open gap for a "SO off-topic x vs y" quality site.