A good percentage of the answers on this site seem to be off topic.

Very often, the answers analyze the situation instead of providing useful advice on how to deal with the people involved.

What I often see on this site:

  1. OP describes a situation where someone else is very obviously being irrational

  2. Someone posts an answer analyzing the situation, and confirming that the OP's suspicions that the other person is acting irrationally

  3. While the OP often feels vindicated, no useful advice on how to deal with the irrational person has been dispensed

So many answers seemed to be focused on whom is morally or legally correct rather than on addressing how to deal with people.

While this is less of a problem, sometimes questions are just vents or a desire for validation rather than genuine requests for how to deal with the people involved in their situation.

What can we do to keep the site focused on helping people with their interpersonal skills?

Edit: The answers question by no means prompted this question, but motivated me to finally ask it.

The top rated answer is legal advice... Convince somebody to stop flirting with me

  • 2
    Good question. I think we discussed these things in parts across the various earlier meta posts here. But still, glad you asked. :)
    – NVZ
    Sep 28, 2017 at 14:45
  • 3
    Could you add some examples that we can discuss?
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Sep 28, 2017 at 14:46
  • @ArwenUndómiel I would say that question mostly focuses on legal advice and procedures, where my intent at least, was to bring attention to this site not fulfilling its intended goal. I think this site has a cultural issue that needs to be addressed... Would maybe like to include that in my question, but it can be a touchy issue... Sep 28, 2017 at 14:56
  • Do you think all of the answers there fail to actually answer the question?
    – Catija
    Sep 28, 2017 at 15:17
  • Possibly more related but still not quite a duplicate: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1471/…
    – Catija
    Sep 28, 2017 at 15:26
  • @Catija yes, your question is actually more related. This question might even spiritually be a duplicate of your linked question... Sep 28, 2017 at 15:40
  • :D Technically, they're both my questions :P
    – Catija
    Sep 28, 2017 at 15:41
  • Yes they are :D I guess the issue is, this general thing gets discussed multiple times, but the answers usually involve procedures for moderation, but nothing seems to be getting done to address the cultural issue here Sep 28, 2017 at 15:42
  • 6
    We need flags. We need people to see these answers for what they are - non-answers. And until then, we're not going to have much luck limiting the answers on the site.
    – Catija
    Sep 28, 2017 at 16:02
  • @Catija to be fair, when i have flagged various non answers nothing happened. Which is why i stopped flagging them.
    – user288
    Sep 28, 2017 at 17:34
  • After reading and rereading this question a few times, I went back and edited my answer on the linked question. You made a reasonable point.
    – apaul
    Sep 28, 2017 at 23:49
  • Maybe another example - Is it ok to negotiate the price before buying online?. Regardless of whether someone agrees or not with my opinion, voting (or flagging) to close a question with a specific off-topic reason is the best way at the moment, since true on-topic/off-topic have not been defined yet. The question you linked has lots of discussion in the comments, but no votes to close.
    – user3169
    Sep 29, 2017 at 0:30
  • Another example: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1810/…
    – user510
    Sep 29, 2017 at 10:21
  • here is another question with very non-productive responses: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/4728/… Sep 29, 2017 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


Sometimes, analyzing a situation might help the OP become aware of the actual vs perceived problem (of course comments help clarify that). Analyzing may also help the OP answer their own question. I just think that some people are better at arguing why their answer works than others, so perhaps analyzing the problem is an attempt to get the message through. This really depends on the question and I don't think this is a black or white situation. Of course, other times this analysis might not be accurate or might not be representative of how the OP feels or what the OP wants.

I feel that your question is describing differences in approaching problems among people in general. We can't control for that. All we can do is make sure the answer is as balanced as it can be, leave a comment and/or flag an answer that completely fails to answer a question. This might also be subjective to some extent.


I'm'a go out on a limb here and doubt the premise. Should not the users define the culture of the site, instead of a (sigh) "vanguard party" in meta groups?

I'd suggest that if there is a rising tide of certain types of questions which posters believe are interpersonal, and close-voters find themselves straining every sinew to suppress them, well ... it might be worthwhile for the site culture-minded among us to re-evaluate our positions. For this reason I rarely vote to close (okay, more like never; I'm not sure if my account has that privilege, actually).

Clearly there are outliers which are blatantly off-topic (e.g., "How do I become a better COBOL developer?"), but I will recommend that in most cases the community can police its own culture by declining to answer OT questions.

Final note: in many cases, it is not clear to the poster that his or her question is actually a legal one. In the linked example, OP is trying to get someone to stop flirting with him. He lists all the things and asks, essentially, "What else can I do?" Whether or not there's some clever social-fu he can employ, or he should get a restraining order comes out of the comments, not so much meta-moderation.

Anyway, there's 2 cents, and I got to use the word I'm'a. I'm pretty easy to please.

  • While you make certain points that are valid, let me counter this with: 1. There is already a legal and career SE, what is the point of duplicating another SE? 2. Without a strong focus on interpersonal skills this site is thoroughly useless to me. I joined this SE to break myself out of the type of behaviors I am referring to (analysis of the situation instead of social focus), not to have it reinforced! Oct 3, 2017 at 14:29
  • 1
    @TheCatWhisperer something to consider ... there is a lot of overlap between IP and workplace SE, and that's to be expected. 'M not convinced we should punt to workplace for all in-office issues. Comments might refer someone there if readers think the issue is workplacey or legal enough. Point I'm long-windedly making is that I prefer that answers/comments redirect people to other SE, because there may be IP-style solutions that close-voters may not have though of. Again, mileage, variance, etc.
    – akaioi
    Oct 3, 2017 at 14:48

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