A debate seems to have arisen over my answer to this question.

Did Erwin König Exist?

The OP accepted it, meaning that he apparently saw value in it.

I took the OP's acceptance to mean, "This is a pretty good answer, even though it wasn't quite the one I was looking for," or "this may be the best answer obtainable" (because I cited General Chuikov, rather than the "usual Soviet propoganda sources.")

Then a couple other commentators pointed out (correctly), that my answer didn't answer the question EXACTLY as it was posed. One of them cast a down vote. This strikes me as being "more royalist than the king, more Catholic than the Pope."

When the shoe was on the other foot, I UPVOTED (but will not accept) a "pretty good" answer to one of my own questions, even though it was not quite what I was looking for. It was basically the hardest question I could think up, and I was thrilled that someone would even TRY to answer it. (And the response pointed out that my question might not have been clear so I added an extra word for emphasis.)

Has any other book in history been as "prescriptive" as Mein Kampf?

On another site (the now defunct Economics site), a moderator pointed out that I hadn't answered the OP's question. My reply was: "The OP asked FOUR questions. I answered ONE of them. To the OP's satisfaction" (he accepted it).

So should we allow some leeway in answering questions? In my case, at least, I sometimes am not clear in my own mind what I mean when I pose a question. So I will tend to upvote any answer that I consider to be "in the zone." Since I want answers, I won't hold answerers to a "strict construction." Should others do so?

  • 1
    Ultimately, the answer to your question will vary considerably depending on the question or the OP. That is one of the drawbacks of a site like this. We can only hope to set examples for others to follow and then hope the community will establish some form of consistency. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 22:02
  • @StevenDrennon: Fair enough.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


There (sadly) has been no other answer to that question. Some folks don't like to have their accept percentange on their information page drop. I've seen cases on other stacks where a low accept percentage has been used against a poster, so its somewhat understandable. For this reason, I think a lot of people will accept an answer even if they don't believe it answers their question. (Although a quick check of my percentange will show you I'm not one of those people) So on a one-answer question like this, IMHO an acceptance doesn't nessecarily mean much.

That being said, I generally have no problem with answers that don't quite answer the question as posed. Sometimes there's an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Some times the question itself is somehow wrong (bad assumptions typically). Some times the question isn't really answerable with the knowledge available to us today (possibly the situation here). However, a "redirection" answer should probably make it clear that is what you are doing.

As someone who has made rather a lot of "not quite answer" answers, downvotes on that technicality are just part of the price of doing business. Hopefully its valuable enough that you get more up than down.

There is a fine line there though. If you're just making a short point on that same topic, really you ought to be writing a comment.


To be honest, even if I didn't act with any downvote or comment, when I saw your answer, I've had a sort of deja vu.

Because I've made a long search to find the valuable answer to the same question, but failed, just because I thought that adding such informations as your answer wouldn't add anything new.

That's also the reason why I didn't add any answer to your question about Main Kampf.

But with time passing by, I find my own answers for other questions also not always strictly covering the topic, especially when the question is too broad or problematic from other reasons.

So from my point of view the problem here is not the answer, but the question, which is one of those that will probably never be answered.

  • In my case, I did my best to fix/improve my question. And in answering the other question, I gave my "best" answer (a "high level" Soviet source.)
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 18:48
  • I think it's much easier to provide an answer to your question, which is OK (and also interesting). But I just didn't find a good one. :) Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 18:51

If there is a direct answer to the OP's question and you know it, you should give that one first, of course.

On the other hand, this site is not only for the OPs, but for everyone who searches for Q&A. And they might have found the question on a search and be very happy with a more broad answer. So answes should be allowed to go into some nearby regions. That's just helping everyone.

That's basicly on the liens of http://tex.blogoverflow.com/2011/10/overkill-is-a-good-thing/

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