13

Let's say the guy who made all the wands for the Harry Potter films is secretly a SFF.se user and wants to test our knowledge / research skills, so he posts a picture of a bunch of wands and asks "To whom do each of these wands belong?"

For example:

To whom do each of these wands belong?

a rack full of wands

Would that be a bad thing to do? Meaning, even though he knows the answer since he's the one who made those wands and is an expert on the subject, is it OK to ask the question and allow others to search for an answer?

For another example, let's says the user who asked What are the names of all the sci-fi vessels in this artwork? is actually the original artist of that drawing and just wanted to see if SFF users could successfully ID all the different ships - Would that change anything? Would users frown on the asker and downvote the question when/if they discovered that he's the original artist?


I personally think that it is acceptable as I find these picture-identification questions really enjoyable.

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    imo whether or not you already know the answer or is not an issue at all. If you post the answer yourself or the question is trivially Googleable or it comes off as an attempt at promoting your wand business, then you might get downvotes, but those are all separate issues. – Ixrec Feb 10 '16 at 7:41
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    More than Half of the questions I see on the site can already be answered by the OP (considering the level of answers they give on other posts).. – Prakhar Londhe Feb 10 '16 at 14:08
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    You can, but be prepared to get downvoted and called a rep whore. – Valorum Feb 11 '16 at 2:51
  • But the question scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/118070/… seems to be a spam sluice advertising for merchandise. – PJTraill Feb 11 '16 at 12:30
  • Do you have a big format image where we can read the inscriptions? The question is already answered. I would like to just see the imagine in a bigger format – Joze Feb 11 '16 at 12:54
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    @PJTraill If you actually click through this website it links straight back to an answer on this page which suggested that wording as a joke. Basically, that bit is a joke and not a real advert. – Bob Feb 11 '16 at 13:39
  • Identify questions such as these are generally meant to be a challenge, sometimes quite fun, for the users. If you already have the answer, it goes against the spirit of the question, IMO, and I'd surely DV. Share the fun. – user31178 Feb 11 '16 at 16:04
  • @Richard But you don’t actually get any rep from answers to your own questions, do you? Or am I misremembering? (I thought I’d read it on the help pages, but the only thing I can find now is that you don’t gain any rep from accepting your own answer…) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 11 '16 at 17:21
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - If you ask and answer your own question you get double upvotes; on the question (5 points each) and on the answers (10 points each). The downside is that many users hate self-answered questions and will call you rude names and downvote you as a matter of course. – Valorum Feb 11 '16 at 17:48
  • @Bob: Aha, I didn’t think of that, but I see in the edit history that you are right; it appears to have brought him so much grief that he has removed it. – PJTraill Feb 11 '16 at 23:34
  • Curses! I've been caught! I knew that spaceship question would be my undoing. – Rogue Jedi Feb 12 '16 at 2:14
23

Can a user ask something they already know?

Yes, definitely.

  • As b_jonas said, asking and answering your own question is definitely allowed by Stack Exchange policy. The system even makes it easy for you to do this, by including a special checkbox that allows you to submit question and answer simultaneously:

    enter image description here

  • It's also fine to ask a question you know the answer to even if you don't post the answer yourself. Stack Exchange is about building a database of quality questions and answers, and it doesn't really matter who posted those answers (except to one's personal reputation). There are several users and moderators across the network who make a habit of posting good questions whose answers they already know but allowing others to answer.

    In the same way as an established user can answer a new user's question in order to help the latter with their problem, an established user can also ask a question which they could answer themselves but allow other users to answer instead, perhaps newer users who haven't had much of a chance to post answers.

Personally, I've asked many questions to which I know (or could easily find) the answer but allow others to post answers instead. That way, the site gains a quality question and one or more quality answers without people worrying that I only posted this question to bolster my own reputation. And when I do self-answer, I never use the checkbox shown above, but wait to start writing my answer until I've finished writing the question, thus "levelling the field" a bit.


Let's say the guy who made all the wands for the Harry Potter films is secretly a SFF.se user and wants to test our knowledge / research skills, so he posts a picture of a bunch of wands and asks "To whom do each of these wands belong?"

This is still fine, provided the guy doesn't engage in self-promotion while asking questions about his wares. For those interested, the Stack Exchange spam policy can be found at the bottom of this page.

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6

It is allowed, but that doesn't mean you should.

Some users, like myself, have issues with questions that are not asked in good faith. There are some questions here that were quite clearly asked because a user found a bit of trivia and decided to turn it into rep. That's not explicitly forbidden, but it also isn't very cool.

I would recommend the following guidelines:

  • Don't do it often

  • Before you do it, ask yourself some questions:

    • Is it interesting?

    • Is it significant?

    • Can you imagine other users asking the same question?

    • Would you upvote it if someone else had asked it?

    • Can you imagine people being led to join the site by this question - e.g., is it likely that people who don't know about SE might Google this subject and find their way here?

    • Are you asking because you think it will improve the site, or because it will increase your rep?

    • Is it worth asking? That is, how hard would it be to find the answer via the usual routes (in this case, a reverse image search)?


So, yes, you can do it, but please make sure it is a worthwhile post. The goal of this site is to provide well researched answers to relevant questions, and the goal of the users should be to make the site as useful and high-quality as possible. You gain rep along the way, but that should always be a side effect, not the end game.

A ton of picture identification questions aren't going to help many people, although they are often interesting and sometimes a LOT of fun to answer, especially when a group of people get together and assemble an enormous CW answer.

Most of the time, you should ask questions because you don't know the answer, but want to learn about it. Questions your already know the answer to should never be more than an occasional indulgence.

And more important than anything else, make sure that the question is worth having here. It should be interesting to other people, at least somewhat significant, useful, worthy of upvotes, and ideally, something that other people might have been wondering about as well.

Questions that fail to meet these criteria should be avoided whenever possible.


Although it goes without saying that we usually don't know whether the OP already possesses the information he or she is seeking unless he or she posts an answer shortly after posting the question, and it is rarely easy to determine with any certainty whether a question was asked in good faith. This means that it is incumbent upon each of us to maintain our own integrity for the good of the community.

Full disclosure: As far as I can recall, I have asked questions to which I knew the answer only twice: once here, once on M&TV. They were both Story ID questions about a particular movie. I asked here first, to see how long it would take for someone to find the (extremely obscure, almost completely unknown and forgotten) movie in question. Months later, I asked it on M&TV to see if they would be faster than SF&F.

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    I am not entirely sure your examples of doing so yourself really strengthen your otherwise very reasonable answer, seeing that you talk about significance, usefulness and site improvement and then bring up asking ID questions as examples. If you don't regard them as good examples, then I'm not sure adding them into that answer adds anything. Disclosure seems irrelevant when you're not saying "do as I do" but "do as I say" anyway. – TARS says Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '16 at 10:20
  • @TARS - I'd still rather get it out there and be up front and forthcoming. The examples aren't meant to strengthen my arguments, merely to put my cards on the table. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Feb 12 '16 at 10:26
  • Does this site exist to have good questions with good answers or to allow people to accumulate internet points? If it's the later, then I understand this stance. If it's the former (which I believe it is), then this stance potentially discourages good questions from being asked. – Ellesedil Feb 15 '16 at 21:00
5

I believe it is OK to ask such a question, as long as you also post your answer.

See It's OK to Ask and Answer Your Own Questions (on StackOverflow blog), which is linked from the "Ask Question" page. This is official policy all around the Stack Exchange network, as evidenced by the Help Center entry Can I answer my own question?

Yes! Stack Exchange has always explicitly encouraged users to answer their own questions. If you have a question that you already know the answer to, and you would like to document that knowledge in public so that others (including yourself) can find it later, it's perfectly okay to ask and answer your own question on a Stack Exchange site.

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  • But I think it would get downvotes... I don't think people like someone boasting off... – Prakhar Londhe Feb 10 '16 at 14:07
  • @prakharlondhe Self-answering questions does often, but not always, attract downvotes. Probably from people who think "this question was only posted to garner a double amount of rep" and disapprove. – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 '16 at 14:31
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    @b_jonas Why would it be important for the OP to also post their answer? – Ana Feb 10 '16 at 22:32

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