If a person A asks a question which they understand to be on-topic, then later on some person B finds out that the question would have been off-topic if the asker A had prior knowledge that B now has, does that make a question off-topic, or does that mean that the answer is "Your understanding is flawed. The answer is not what you think: ."?

I'm asking about questions of the form:

On "StackExchange's 'Using Metal Detector's' Q&A Site"
Q: I cannot figure my metal detector out; I'm pushing the button but it's not doing anything. It's a model ABC. How do I use it?
A: The problem is not that you don't know how it works. Pushing the button would normally work, but the manufacturing company recently announced that metal detectors of model ABC were all broken in the factory but shipped anyway so all require service.

Is it more useful to leave an answer like above, or is it more useful to the community to leave a comment such as "it's broke, contact the company to have it fixed," down-voting the question, and giving the question a status of "put on hold as off-topic"?

Although there is a specific question of mine which prompted this meta-question, I care little for my question itself, especially since it did get an answer in the comments so I've been helped. I am asking hypothetically for future benefit to this community since this type of issue comes up frequently enough to be discussed.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Iain, EEAA, kasperd, MadHatter, Ward Mar 3 '15 at 6:56

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I don't see the relevance, either to your question or to any recently asked question that I have read. – Michael Hampton Mar 3 '15 at 0:16
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    Your Q&A is very abstract it's unclear what you're asking so voting to close appropriately. – Iain Mar 3 '15 at 4:52
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    Either I missed it, but I'd expect the first comment to be "Well did you contact the vendor of metal detector ABC?". And if the answer is no, I'd down-vote. Especially if the vendor has a forum that is used daily and well maintained. Like, say social.technet.microsoft.com. – Reaces Mar 3 '15 at 8:58
  • WOW, apparently ServerFault is completely different in its expectations than other StackExchange sites. At places like StackOverflow and others, the purpose of the main site is to help people, and the purpose of the meta site is to discuss the purpose of the main site (y'know, to be meta, as the name implies). I suppose I should not be surprised though, looking at other meta posts it seems that if you take a batch of the good ones, half of them are upvoted a lot and the other half of good ones are downvoted a lot. It must depend on the current mood of the regulars here. – Loduwijk Mar 3 '15 at 20:23
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    Yes, Server Fault is completely different in its expectations than other Stack Exchange sites are. Having said that, there's really no need to single out any community member, let alone the one you did. This question was closed with 5 community member votes, and for the reason that they felt it was unclear. We also know that at least 5 community members disagreed with it or thought it was not useful, from the downvotes, and at least 7 agreed with AndrewB's answer stating you need need a specific example in your question. Clearly this is not a case of a single user's feelings/opinions. – HopelessN00b Mar 3 '15 at 22:36

You're making this way harder than it needs to be by using an abstract presentation. Nor does it help that you're using an example that doesn't really fit within the Serverfault subject matter.

It's okay to disagree with how a specific Q&A was handled. The fact that you were directly involved in that Q&A doesn't matter so long as you're presenting your point of view intelligently and respecting that others are allowed to disagree with you. We would much rather be able to connect with the actual problem as you see it than waste precious unpaid minutes of our day trying to understand what you're even talking about.

Without a specific example, all I can really say is that context matters. It changes everything. If it was reasonable for you to not be aware of the circumstances in question, there's no reason to treat the question as undesirable. If you should have known this...say, you have no business to collect a paycheck without knowing this particular detail, and invested little to no research effort before coming here to ask about it...then that is less desirable.

In short, we can't give you a detailed answer to an abstract question. Give us an example of the problem and we'll have a discussion about the real topic you're after.

  • I did give a specific example. I gave you what is the meta-equivalent of a CCSSE, which is something that we specifically harp on people to do over at StackOverflow. What you're asking for is not a specific example, but an example of such a question as it was asked on ServerFault which included a reaction that we can discuss. If you want the one I had in mind, @HopelessN00b just linked it in the above comment. Thank you again HopelessN00b. At least you flagged that one and commented on that one more professionally than what I'm seeing here. – Loduwijk Mar 3 '15 at 20:41
  • Andrew, it does not really matter that my example "doesn't really fit within the ServerFault subject matter." That is irrelevant. In fact, I specifically chose that example for that very reason. I was originally writing an example with widgets and sprockets, but I thought the metal detector thing would work better since it is easier to think about. What I gave was a specific example, and I would expect any rational, professional person to see how it applies just as much as the linked question above, unless the person is a robot. – Loduwijk Mar 3 '15 at 20:46
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    You're too emotionally engaged, or at least that's what I'm gathering from the "more professionally than what I'm seeing here" remark. I don't think we're going to get anywhere with this dialogue and I'm simply going to end it here. – Andrew B Mar 3 '15 at 21:06

In my head it's obvious that it's better to leave it as a normal Q&A. The question asker may have thought that "it's broke" is a possibility, but if "it's broke" is believed to be less likely than other answers, then the question seems completely on-topic at first, and other people with the same question are better served by finding the useful answer.

  • It looks like you submitted this as a self Q&A, which suggests that you came here to present an opinion. Do you have an example of this? – Andrew B Mar 3 '15 at 2:40
  • I DID tag this as a discussion, which was one of the top tags available. Also, I have seen lots of meta posts in which people come here with an opinion and expect other people to present their opinions. – Loduwijk Mar 3 '15 at 20:17

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