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Last year I asked this question on meta about whether it's ok to answer off-topic questions. Today I saw this question from a new user which is clearly off-topic, but somebody had taken the trouble to answer it anyway, and seeing no problems with the answer, I upvoted it.

Now, maybe my Japanese is even worse than I thought and the answer was in fact wrong, but I was surprised to find that the answer had subsequently been deleted by a moderator. It doesn't seem to me that this is a good way to encourage people to answer questions, and leads me to once again ask about our policies on answering off-topic questions.

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The question What does this Image say? that you were asking about has several problems:

  1. It is off-topic
  2. It has attracted a number of downvotes
  3. Containing an image only, it is unlikely to be found by anyone (unless people are browsing low-score questions).

These are good reasons to allow it to be auto-deleted (see the relevant entry in the Help Center). However, having an upvoted answer on a question prevents it from being auto-deleted.

So there is a(n objective) difference between answering off-topic questions in the comment section (which you asked about in Etiquette regarding commenting/answering off-topic questions) and answering in the answer section. Namely, answers may save the question from auto-deletion, even on questions which are maybe best left for auto-deletion.

As for the question, I converted the answer to a comment — now the effort of the answerer is not lost immediately and visible to the OP. Question & comments will now stay around forever if the question has a positive score and auto-deleted otherwise. I think this is fair and consistent with the consensus on Etiquette regarding commenting/answering off-topic questions.

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    Very interesting. I didn't even know we had an auto-deleter. I guess my only concern is that it would be nice to let the answerer know why their post was deleted, otherwise it could leave them with the impression that their efforts are unwanted. Maybe this happened behind the scenes. – user3856370 Mar 25 '18 at 14:04

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