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Occasionally people (myself included) provide answers or comments to questions which are clearly off-topic. Here's an example I left a comment on.

I was wondering if this is okay, and considered as just trying to be helpful, or whether people think that it undermines the purpose of having off-topic questions and encourages others to ask such questions.

Do people think it's okay to leave a comment but not a full answer for example or should these questions just be left unanswered in any form?

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I think it's fine to be friendly and as helpful as possible to first users, even if their question is off-topic. Think of what goes around, comes around (or karma in modern day parlance). Even an off-topic question (which has to be closed) is a first point of contact for them. As first impression they probably take away two things: (1) the atmosphere, and (2) some idea of what type of expertise they can expect here.

I think there's little pedagogical value in refusing to comment on off-topic questions as a matter of principle. Doing so would only convey a cold atmosphere (which is already hard to overcome considering their question was closed).

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    I mostly agree. I think that if an established user is abusing the site by repeatedly asking off-topic questions, it's probably a good idea not to answer them. But really, the vast majority of our off-topic questions come from new users and aren't repeated behavior, and I don't see any problem with trying to help them out in the comments section. – snailplane Dec 30 '16 at 4:55
  • @snailplane I agree. An established user abusing the site will have been made aware of the site's rules. If answering their off-topic questions in comments has the effect of ignoring these rules and asking more off-topic questions, then one can only try to encourage them to ask on-topic questions by not answering their off-topic questions in comments. – Earthliŋ Dec 30 '16 at 7:20

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