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I occasionally come across questions that are clearly OT for PMSE, such as this one: https://pm.stackexchange.com/questions/11361/first-web-development-private-contract, where the OP has asked a decent question in a good way and I feel I want to help rather than close.

On this issue, and others, I have some useful tips and guidance to give them that might also be useful to other readers in a similar position, but I also feel posting an answer to an OT question does not send the right message and encourages other OT questions.

Any thoughts on how best to deal with this kind of situation?

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    +1 for wanting to find a way to help. – Mark Phillips Apr 20 '14 at 23:40
  • Ah... the OP has now removed it! :) – Marv Mills Apr 21 '14 at 19:54
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The best way to help, for good, off-topic questions, is to suggest the user look at the list of Stack Exchange sites and see if there is a site where the post would fit. Ideally, the user would delete the post from our site; otherwise, you could flag it for moderator attention. Assuming the question is a good one, you might consider following the user to the other site and then answer in that community instead.

In this specific case, the question was both too broad and off-topic. So the first issue would be to ask the asker to consider reducing the scope of the question, and then to ask another question if a certain problem is still not answered. If this question weren't too broad, it may arguably be a good fit for one of our new beta sites, Freelancing SE, which is a Q&A site for questions about problems in freelancing, consulting, and self-employment.

While we do want to help people, it's also important to remember that having focus is what makes a Stack Exchange site successful. If you can imagine a world where programming questions, cooking questions, bicycling questions, and physics questions all exist in the same community, you may find that information becomes too diluted, and the sense of community and recognition you may feel with other users likely becomes too fragmented to identify with people who you have something in common. On Project Management SE, we definitely have a core group of people who answer questions, and I can easily recognize you as one of those members.

In the blog post, Why Can't You Have Just One Site?, Stack Exchange co-founder, Jeff Atwood, covers the reasons for splitting up Stack Exchange communities:

The whole point of these sites is to form a community around specific topics. There’s nothing more toxic to a community, in my experience, than not being able to set boundaries around it. To define what it is, and is not. If you allow discussing everything, you have allowed discussing nothing. There is no (good) community that can form around “let’s just talk about everything and tag it”.

Additionally, this same concept carries over externally. Project managers who search the Internet for answers to problems end up finding our site, thanks to Google's amazing search algorithms. On sites where there are no identifiable groups of core experts all talking about and rallying around the same topics, the noise can be overwhelming.

It is for these reasons that we diligently focus on ensuring we as a community stay on-topic, so that we continue to provide value to our target audience.

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    No probs @jmort253, I fully support the ideals here and all the reasoning behind it, which is why I did not want to post an answer to an OT question :) Thanks for the tips on redirecting the OP in cases like this. – Marv Mills Apr 21 '14 at 19:55
  • Anytime. Thanks for all your participation and being a part of the PMSE community! – jmort253 Apr 22 '14 at 2:25

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