Is it acceptable to post questions to which we already know the answer if it is a particularly interesting and obscure science fictional factoid? For instance today I found out that the origin of the term credit card came from a seminal work of science fiction.

  • I've tried a couple of times to get trivia games going in chat with very limited success. Not enough activity, not enough people who know the same parts of the SF multiverse that I do, or something... Jan 15, 2012 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


There's no rule against posting a question you know the answer to. (Hey, how are we to know?) And this is a good question -- it's also not something that shows up as soon as you Google for it.

  • 3
    Agreed. Our mission isn't to answer the asker's questions. But to answer googler's questions. So it doesn't really matter if the asker knows the answer. In fact, if the asker also wants to answer the question, that's cool too.
    – DampeS8N
    Jan 15, 2012 at 20:53

Asking and answering your own question is explicitly allowed (linked from the FAQ).

Please do it only if the question and answer are truly interesting. If the answer took some research on your part that you're now sharing, fine. I'm not convinced that the etymology of a word fits (or even that it's on-topic).

  • It was just a bit of history that I stumbled across and wasn't a matter of research. Just thought it would be an interesting bit of trivia to share a la jeopardy. Jan 16, 2012 at 17:33
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    Doesn't this rather conflict with "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." ... "If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here." also in the FAQ? I can see it for very significant, unique information, perhaps (as you suggest in your answer).. But it seems to me that this could very easily degenerate into a 'Hey, lemme post lots of neat things that I know' issue. Perhaps a 'Rhetorical' or 'Information' tag could help limit / differentiate them?
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 2:37
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    @KeithHWeston If your motivation to post is “it took my hours to research and I know there are others who'll be interested”, it's fine. If your motivation is “I want to post something, anything, on the subject”, it's not; but that's not really related to being self-answered (a discussion starter could be just a question anyway).
    – user56
    Apr 2, 2012 at 7:33
  • Understood, but it still seems to conflict with "only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face."; not saying it's wrong, but that the FAQ seems to have an inherent contradiction in it. Perhaps the part I just quoted needs updated.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 13:19
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    @KeithHWeston The idea is that if it's a problem you faced at some point, and you managed to solve it by yourself, presenting the problem and your solution is as good as it would have been if you'd asked the question, then solved the problem and answered it.
    – user56
    Apr 2, 2012 at 19:45
  • Makes sense; in that case, I would say that this doesn't apply to things like the April fools post that got me into this discussion; it had no real dilemma, but simply an invented one. Would it be safe to say that it should only apply to questions that you ACTUALLY HAD / did not know the answer to, at some point? This would eliminate invented questions like the April Fools one that got me into this discussion.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 19:50
  • @KeithHWeston Right: it applies to questions you actually had at some point (or questions you're posting on behalf of someone else, e.g. if you're a teacher and you find that students often ask you a particular question). Even if you know the answer, they should be questions, not puzzles.
    – user56
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:04

Some people (including prominent developers, but I can't find links to the posts I'm sure I've read about this...) use StackOverflow much like this - where they once would have written a blog post outlining a problem they had and how they found the solution, now they write the same information into a SO question and answer.

Although it's allowed, I think in the vast majority of cases it works better to not do this (except on meta). If there's something sci-fi/fantasy related that I really want to know, enough that I'm going to do my own research into finding it out, then I think the first thing I do is write out the question on the site. While I'm trying to find the answer myself, other people might help me out, and if they don't then I can hopefully answer it myself.

I think this is more efficient, and it avoids appearing like you're just trying to gain rep. The end result (a high-quality, interesting, question and answer on the site) is the same.

If it's something that doesn't actually need any research - e.g. the "factoid" or "trivia" mentioned, then I don't think the problem there is that you know the answer, it's that the question/answer isn't substantial enough to be interesting.

For your specific case, I'm not sure how you'd ask that question without knowing the answer (i.e. if you don't know that the origin of "credit card" relates to a sci-fi story, why would you ask on this site?). I would find it more interesting if it was something like:

The term "credit card" was first used in 1887 by Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward, while the first bank-issued credit cards arrived in 1946, and did not use that term (the "Charge-It" program from the Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn, NY). Did the convergence on "credit card" as the name for these items arise from Bellamy's work, or was the name independency invented and popularised by someone else (it's a "card" that you use for "credit"!)?

(This is tenuously sci-fi, given that it's asking about the influence a utopian book had).

This includes the "factoid", but expands it out into a larger question, to which I don't have the answer.

  • The issue of "appearing like you're just trying to gain rep." is what had me bothered about asking the question. But it was, to me, a fascinating bit of history that I wanted to share. Jan 16, 2012 at 17:29

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