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Recently I've seen several questions that can be easily construed as being opinion-based — hence off-topic — not only not closed, but also answered by moderators. For example:

Plus some others that are borderline.

I've already made clear my stance about opinion-based questions, you can see it in Why are questions asking for personal opinions (opinion-based) off-topic?

In case there are still doubts, that's not just my personal opinion. It's a clear guideline of the Stack Exchange network.

While I also can appreciate chatty exchanges, they are not a good fit for the Stack Exchange Q&A format. They don't belong here, and I simply can't see why they should. The internet is full to the brim with places apt to discuss personal preferences and ask open-ended questions. Stack Overflow and the rest of the Stack Exchange network were born with a different mission, and we, as its community, are trusted with keeping it true to that mission.

I feel strongly about this because I'm very much aligned with Stack Exchange's Q&A format and mission and I will be vocal when I see it deviating from it. When I want to ask random chatty questions I go to Reddit.

Now, elected moderators are supposed to drive the community and set the example. Among the Stack Exchange sub-sites I'm a member of, Chinese Stack Exchange is peculiar in that its moderators instead tend to not set the example, either due to an explicit approach of least interference or — I wonder — due to a misunderstanding of how this site works.

I can agree that moderators are not required to close specific questions. I can also agree that they may deliberately choose a passive moderation style — i.e. let the community cast some votes first and cast theirs only after some consensus becomes apparent.

However, some consistency is expected here. If they don't close off-topic questions because they are waiting for consensus to form around it, why do they answer it in the meantime?

I tried to be not vocal about this as long as possible, but since the trend is continuing and I find it especially egregious, I would like to bring this issue to everyone's attention.

tl;dr

A moderator answering off-topic questions is implicitly sending the signal that such questions are OK here, contrary to Stack Exchange format and (I would say) community expectations. Chinese Stack Exchange has few active curators, therefore mod proactiveness and adherence to guidelines is especially important in keeping things clean and on track.

Please let's discuss.

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  • Off-topic questions can be closed by user votes. Maybe I am more lenient when deciding which post is off-topic and which is not. Usually, if there are more than two close votes, I would go ahead and close it. As for providing answers to off-topic questions, I only give objective answers and always try to put in something useful to Chinese learners. I would put in a comment instead from now on
    – Tang Ho Mod
    Jul 29 at 10:09
  • Take "Help review Chinese names for characters in a wuxia setting " for example. I didn't say how I personally feel about the names, I just explained the meaning and how the general public would interpret them
    – Tang Ho Mod
    Jul 29 at 10:18
  • @TangHo I won't judge your moderation style. That's subjective. I'm arguing that you shouldn't answer egregiously off-topic questions in the first place, no matter whether your specific answer is based on objective facts. The main points are two: 1. mods set the example 2. opinion-based questions attract opinion-based answers (plural); even if your particular answer is objective, the likeliness of other users posting opinions is still high, and then the Q&A becomes a Reddit thread
    – blackgreen
    Jul 29 at 10:44
  • As an alternative, you could edit the question to make it on-topic then answer it. That might not always be possible though
    – blackgreen
    Jul 29 at 10:44
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I have to agree that these "help me pick a name for myself" questions are more towards the opinion-seeking, super-narrow, off-topic end of the spectrum. Indeed, in my opinion, they generally should be closed as opinion-based, although there'll be exceptions.

Not all questions work well in our format. Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.
Chinese Stack Exchange, Tour

We don't seem to learn much (if anything) about the Chinese language from such questions. Moreover, even if an answerer writes a useful answer to such a question, it's not easily found via search (especially if the title is "which name is better?").

Sometimes it's hard to tell though. E.g. the "use a character's name as one's own" question leans towards etiquette, politeness, normal practice, etc., when choosing a Chinese name. It's a bit different.

(I should also note that opinion-seeking questions are not always a bad thing, especially if they seek out some kind of expertise or experience, the ol' Good Subjective.)

Perhaps these kinds of questions are getting answered out of enthusiasm to help, maybe with some lingering doubts as to whether the question is close-worthy. I recall a related question on meta.SE: Closing Etiquette: Why Do Some Answer and Close?. Sometimes you're simultaneously not 100% sure a question needs closing, while being able to answer it, which puts you in a conundrum.

In any case, I agree it'd generally be best not to answer questions that should (or likely should) be closed. (Ideally they get edited into something suitable for the site.) And this is true whether or not there's a diamond next to your username. However, as you say, those of us with diamonds are meant to be setting a good example.

Hopefully we can focus our attention on questions which are likely to be useful to many others (i.e. 好钢用在刀刃上). I love "canonical" answers in particular, wherein a question feels satisfyingly answered. If a future user has a similar question, it's largely resolved by the earlier canonical answer. These tend to get shared around the Internet.

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