9

I can't find anywhere in the FAQ or rules that say a user can't ask a question if they already know the answer. I see constant references in comments and answers to this being prohibited, but, please direct me to where this is spelled out as I can't find it. Implying that because the questioner knows the answer it's not a question is a semantic game that anyone can play, but the definition of a question in the dictionary certainly doesn't say that if the asker knows the answer it's not a question. If there is going to be this sort of a prohibition, that's fine but it's unfair to close a question for this without it being in the rules somewhere.

Further, if the asker knows an answer but suspects that there might be more than one answer, but doesn't want to bias the answers by sharing that up front, it becomes perfecly reasonable to ask that question, so I don't even really understand the prohibition's motivation in the first place, if there is in fact one.

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    Where are people saying you can't ask questions you already know the answer to? – OghmaOsiris May 2 '12 at 7:06
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    @OghmaOsiris I just see it said, I'm not trying to point out any specific instances from the past, just going forward. No one's ever said it to me, I was just curious. – Nathan C. Tresch May 2 '12 at 16:54
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    See also Can I answer my own questions, even those where I knew the answer before asking? . If you see anyone saying that self-answers are not accepted, please point them to the FAQ and optionally one of the meta threads on the topic. – user56 May 2 '12 at 20:15
  • The reality check, I believe (to if you should, not if you are allowed to), is will the information you provide be of use / answer a question someone else is likely to have? If so, a question and answer seems reasonable; but, at least to me, only if it takes a bit of work; things that are easy to find don't add much, it's the obscure question that you thought up, then did the research to figure out, that is valuable. As in most things, good sense will usually tell you if it's worthwhile. Then again, hoping for good sense on the internet just shows that I'm an unrealistic optimist. :) – K-H-W May 3 '12 at 0:41
  • @KeithHWeston I've seen people say "you already knew the answer" on certain SE sites and then threaten to close the question because of it, I guess I'll just say where although I'm not trying to disparage anyone, it's happened on Skeptic before, and then I saw it mentioned here in an answer about why a question was closed, so I decided I wanted clarification. – Nathan C. Tresch May 3 '12 at 0:47
  • @NathanC.Tresch - Well, I used to be one of the people who believed otherwise about self-answer questions, and got show the error of my ways :) -- In general, though, I think you will find SciFi SE is a bit friendlier than a number of the other SE sites -- Not meaning to disparage them, but there are several I've seen that seem to be populated by people laying in wait to jump on questioners about why their question is bad. Here... We seem at least a LITTLE friendlier; YMMV, that's just my experience. Anyway, my personal test on such a question is 'would I add this data to a Wiki article?' – K-H-W May 3 '12 at 0:53
  • @KeithHWeston Which is why I asked my question here and not on skeptic. :P – Nathan C. Tresch May 3 '12 at 0:58
  • @NathanC.Tresch - Sensible.. And I'll take it as a testament to our approachability :) – K-H-W May 3 '12 at 1:00
19

Actually, the FAQ explicitly states you can ask and answer your own question (right under the horizontal rule):

It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

It's an urban myth that it's prohibited.

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8

It's ok. This official Stackexchange blog post : http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/its-ok-to-ask-and-answer-your-own-questions/ goes to say:

So …

if you have a question that you already know the answer to
if you’d like to document it in public so others (including yourself) can find it later
it is OK to ask, and answer, your own question on a relevant Stack Exchange site.

To be crystal clear, it is not merely OK to ask and answer your own question, it is explicitly encouraged.

As mentioned here it's even explicitly encouraged to post questions you already know the answer to.

And that's written by Jeff Atwood one of the founders of Stackoverflow.

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  • +1, as this has more information than the one I accepted, but @Keen shared the same link earlier, and I'm under the impression that it's polite to accept the first answer that answers the question. – Nathan C. Tresch May 3 '12 at 0:38
  • @NathanC.Tresch The best guideline for accepting answers is "The bottom line is to accept the answer that you found to be the most helpful to you, personally." – Beofett May 3 '12 at 12:49
  • @beofett Awesome, thanks. Both being equally helpful in this case, I think that my point still stands that the first answer would be the polite one to accept. Thanks, I actually have wondered about that. – Nathan C. Tresch May 3 '12 at 13:00
1

There is a difference between answering your own question because you did more research later, and asking a question you intend to answer "immediately" - remember you should only ask questions about "actual problems you face".

If you ask a question and later find the answer, answer your own question!

If you mentally "ask" a question, do some research and find the answer, and think someone else might one day benefit from it as Jeff's example, sure. I think this makes less sense for this site than Stack Overflow though.

If you're actively trying to come up with question/answer pairs for the site, just so you can ask and answer them, you're often just adding noise. It's not against the rules, but Stack Exchange has a mechanism to handle questions that meet the rules but are still bad - downvotes. And you'll probably get some of those if your questions are artificial.

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    You are wrong, read this: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/… – Gilles May 3 '12 at 0:29
  • @Gilles: What I wrote doesn't disagree with any of that. You can ask and answer your own questions. You should also only ask questions based on actual problems you face. – user1030 May 3 '12 at 9:11
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    (Admittedly, this site has a broad definition of "problem" but I think my point is obvious. Don't sit around trying to think up clever questions for the site; invariably they won't be clever. Ask the questions you really have.) – user1030 May 3 '12 at 9:26

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