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Often times, I come across "answers" that are related to the question but don't answer the question that has actually been asked in the OP. Often times this occurs when the OP asks for an explanation of a proof, or how to finish a proof, and the answer gives an entirely unrelated proof. [The example has been deleted because it's not an actual example, see comments for discussion]

I usually downvote such answers and leave a comment explaining why, but it occurred to me that such an answer might be flaggable as "not an answer." Is that an appropriate action? Is that a better way to disincentive users who have a high frequency of answers like this than just downvoting them?

Note that this is not a listed reason here and is arguably discouraged here.

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    $\begingroup$ The stream of b--s answers by this OP is going on for quite some time now, so much so that it has become a specific problem which the mods, for reasons I cannot fathom, refuse to act upon. $\endgroup$ – Did Mar 28 '17 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @J.M.isn'tamathematician Some of them do, indeed, but the stream continues unabated... :-( There has to be a shortcut to the ever repeating cycle BSA posted / BSA downvoted / BSA deleted / three new BSAs posted in the mean time. $\endgroup$ – Did Mar 29 '17 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Did, normally, somebody reasonable who's racked up a sizable amount of downvoted/deleted posts would pause to consider what s/he might be doing wrong. It is unfortunate that we are not seeing that sort of people here. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Mar 29 '17 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ (At this juncture, I'd like to remind users with deletion privileges that looking at this page might be useful. Some of the entries there have apparently lasted more than two months.) $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Mar 29 '17 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ I have been observing the user for quite a while, yes. :) I've done my part in voting to delete some of the... less useful of the lot. I brought up the thing on deletion precisely because I think we're supposed to have a sizable amount of people with deletion privileges. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Mar 29 '17 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Stella While said user does have many answers worthy of deletion, this one most surely does answer the OP's question, viz. "Is there an easier way to prove this?". Gerry Myerson even emphasized this is in a comment. So it is a particularly poor example to use to make your point. Nor does it deserve to be deleted or so heavily downvoted. This seems to be an extreme example of history-motivated robovoting. Not exactly something that one should be highlighting. To reverse this nonsense, I have voted to undelete it, as should any reasonable user. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Mar 29 '17 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque You're right. The two are tied in my head, but there's no particular reason to assume the OP thinks like that, and they're not explicitly tied together. I'll remove the link to the question and search for a better example tomorrow. I'll also comment on the answer when it gets undeleted. $\endgroup$ – Stella Biderman Mar 30 '17 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not having the greatest of weeks, so may be I should shut up, but my suggested remedy once was outlined here - Declare questions answerable by a call to a CAS (or Wolfram Alpha) OFF-TOPIC. Yes, we lose some teaching opportunities, but we also get rid of tons of crap. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 30 '17 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ On another note, I am open to suggestions. The diamond mods asked SE staff about our options, and the answer was that we have no special way of constraining DrG. We can suspend the user (he was suspended once already), but under what rule? Causing disturbance? That might be warranted, but can also be a can of worms. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 30 '17 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ But community moderation is the option open to all. Downvote, vote to delete et cetera. It won't lead to a post-ban for this user because he is too high rep (a consequence of inviting many users who appreciate copy/pastable answers), but sends a strong signal. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 30 '17 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ I've spent mega time voting to close, or commenting on, or deleting this user's answer posts; but I've had to spend time, occasionally, in calling out clearly offensive posts directed to said user, which attack the person, but not the problem. Offensive posts are offensive, and they are no less offensive for the particular user we all know. If people restrained themselves to only pointing out what exactly the errors are, or downvoting and/or voting to delete, without personally attacking the user with sophomoric or sarcastic words, the restraint will be worth it. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Mar 30 '17 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'm really terribly sorry that this has become/been interpreted as a personal attack on that user. I did not even know about this context when I made this post. $\endgroup$ – Stella Biderman Mar 30 '17 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't direct my comment to you, Stella. No worries. Others just ran with the opportunity to vent about the user. Your post was fine, and it was likely good to have removed the post in question, subsequently; other users simply ran with it, and never seemed to answer your more general question. No worries, Stella! $\endgroup$ – Namaste Mar 30 '17 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @amWhy; while downvoting and deletion is fine, rudeness is not. I have seen not a few mean comments that could use some reining in before. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Mar 30 '17 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Stella, you've done nothing wrong. The problem you brought up is something that needs to be addressed. Not surprisingly this particular user has been discussed in meta earlier. Props for posting (and editing out the link to the not most convincing Exhibit A) $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 31 '17 at 6:03
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Say I am trying to prove a certain theorem. The attempt has bogged down in a technical snarl-up, at which point I ask for help. Suppose that the helper, instead of solving the snarl-up, bypasses it by directly proving the theorem in a neat way. Do I thank the helper for enlightening me? Or do I complain that the provided proof does not untangle the mess I created? Even if I were the latter sort of person, I would find it hard to argue that the provided proof has done harm, or that its provider should be punished for it.

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    $\begingroup$ It depends what one wants. If I want to prove a theorem and what I care about is whatever proof, my question ought to be for a proof of it. (My attempt or ideas would be provided as context and potential help to askers.) If what I want is a specific form of proof and I say say so clearly; and somebody provides a different one, then this person would not have answered my question. That said, it is true that some askers get this wrong when phrasing their questions. This is commonly referred to as XY problem. $\endgroup$ – quid Apr 9 '17 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ Now suppose I'm the third person, who didn't ask the question nor write the answer. I probably came to that page for just that sort of answer. Do I support it, having gained new insights? Or do I punish it for not answering someone else's problem? $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 5 '17 at 0:19
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The example has been deleted and I mostly read answers on this site (so I've done no moderation and have no particular interest in rule pages). That said, I think sites like these should always cast a very wide net on what's acceptable as an answer, simply because the audience for any given answer is way larger than just the OP. People who come around with a similar question but not enough time/interest/whatever to ask a whole new question often get key info from answers that are merely related to what the OP asked. The OP gets to mark their answer; let that be enough for them.

I pretty much only downvote things on StackExchange sites that I can't imagine anyone finding useful. Completely wrong answers are just the most prominent example.

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