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It has long been site policy that answering one's own questions is both allowed and encouraged.

It has been established on our Meta:

Where does it say that a user can't ask a question they know the answer to?

And on the sitewide Meta:

Can I answer my own questions, even if I knew the answer before asking?

It has even been stated explicitly by Jeff Atwood:

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

However, the reality of the situation (on this and many other sites) is very different. Self-answered questions meet with a lukewarm reception at best (particularly if one mentions that reception!). If a question is self-answered within a short period of being posted, particularly if one uses the "Answer your own question" button, a cascade of downvotes is very likely.

Would a phoenix Horcrux be indestructible?

Did Dumbledore make a horcrux?

At the end of Zootopia, are Nick and Judy an item? (though there are other reasons here).

People do intentionally downvote merely because a question is self-answered, as mentioned recently in chat.

Some users have suggested that the policy mentioned in our Meta might not be valid, since it was made too long ago.

Given that the practical policy seems to be that self-answers are heavily discouraged, should we revisit the policy that they are allowed and encouraged?

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  • 3
    I don't understand why banning them is useful. If you know that they will be poorly received, either ask them anyway and be ready for downvotes or decide not to answer them. There's also nothing that can be done about the downvotes... if someone wants to downvote a question, they are allowed to do that. There's a difference between a downvote and a close vote, though... if they were disallowed, they'd be closed. – Catija Jun 14 '16 at 23:27
  • @Catija - Understood. There are suggested reasons for downvotes, yet people frequently downvote for all the wrong reasons. It's more that Meta suggests that this sort of behavior is encouraged, but the opposite seems to be true in practice. – Adamant Jun 14 '16 at 23:28
  • I think there's a line between something being encouraged and something looking like rep-hunting. People tend to dislike things that look like the only reason someone's posting it is to earn rep... I think there are cases where this is more of a valid concern than others. If you have a question you think is really good, it might be less controversial to just post it, give it a day and then post an answer... that gives other users the chance to answer, too... and if no one comes up with an answer, you can add yours. The community still gets the question and you still get some rep. – Catija Jun 14 '16 at 23:39
  • @Catija - I guess I can see that angle. Indeed, I did do that once (though in a case where I genuinely did not know the answer initially). But on that day, I would probably have hit the cap without that question. Reputation really wasn't my reason for posting, and downvoting on the assumption that it was doesn't seem great to me. – Adamant Jun 14 '16 at 23:44
  • Also, people downvoting based on what a user says in chat (which some rightly suggested was also behind some of the downvotes on my question in particular) is probably not a great idea. I don't think downvoting was ever intended as a means of expressing displeasure with the user, and I don't use it that way. – Adamant Jun 14 '16 at 23:46
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    @Obie2.0 Downvoting a question because it was self-answered, or because of what a user said in chat, is certainly 'wrong' according to SE policy, i.e. not the intended use of downvotes. That doesn't mean we can stop people from doing so. – Rand al'Thor Jun 14 '16 at 23:51
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    Self-answered questions tend to be reasonably popular. – Molag Bal Jun 15 '16 at 5:51
  • Just realized that I can find deleted self-answered posts too, if the user clicked the self-answer button: query. This question looks like it might be interesting: How strong was Harry Potter’s glasses prescription? – Molag Bal Jun 15 '16 at 13:26
  • @amaranth That one was copied from DVK's self-deleted How strong was Harry Potter's glasses prescription?, and then it too was self-deleted before DVK re-posted as Just how awful is Harry Potter's eyesight. So yeah, interesting. – Rand al'Thor Jun 15 '16 at 14:05
25

I'm not quite sure what you're proposing here; you seem to be getting unpopularity mixed up with off-topicness.


Self-answers are allowed ...

As far as clear unambiguous site policy goes, there's nothing wrong with self-answered questions. That's why you can't close a question for being self-answered. Close votes are meant to be cast according to site policy; if a question is of a type that the community has decided to be off-topic, then it should be closed.

... but that won't stop people downvoting them.

Unlike close votes, downvotes are for members of the community to use in whatever way they see fit. No meta policy or community consensus in the world is going to stop anyone from downvoting a post they want to downvote. Each user uses their upvotes and downvotes according to their own personal preference, not according to the will of the community as a whole. Some people might downvote every single Twilight question without for a moment disputing that Twilight is on-topic.


Another false premise on which your question is more or less based:

Self-answered questions meet with a lukewarm reception at best (particularly if one mentions that reception!).

Nope. Here are some examples of well-received self-answers, with question and answer score included (for a longer list, see this useful Data.SE query thanks to @amaranth):

Unfortunately, sometimes how a question is received will depend on who's posting it. (I know, I know: SE policy is "vote for the post, not the person". But once again, each user is free to use their upvotes and downvotes however the hell they want.) If you're a known rep maniac, people will be more likely to assume you just posted it to garner rep, and might downvote for that reason. This is why you and Valorum tend to be particularly hard hit by the Curse of the Downvoted Self-Answer. However, this isn't always the case - see the above examples posted by me during my rep-maniac period.


One last thing from your question that I should address:

Some users have suggested that the policy mentioned in our Meta might not be valid, since it was made too long ago.

Bull.

Policies established by the community on meta are valid until they're overturned by new policies established by the community on meta. Saying "we last had this discussion 5 years ago, shall we reopen it" is fine; saying "we last had this discussion 5 years ago, so let's ignore the consensus we reached then as it's too long ago" is absolutely 100% wrong.

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7

No, we shouldn't revisit that policy. Other answers explain why.

But I just revisited my own policy of allowing people who don't get the point of this site or its rules to run rough-shod and hurt people posting good content to the site and doing nothing to address it.

Your excellent self-answer gets 100 bounty.

I intend to make addressing things this way a habit, and encourage anyone else who strongly feels with the harmfullness and unfairness of downvotes on self-answered questions merely because they are self-answered to follow the same approach and offer your own bounties.

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5

I think being able to answer one's own questions is a viable and acceptable option as long as it is not being abused.

I shall use myself as an example:

  • I rarely write questions but when I do, they are not easily answered. I may ask them because I don't know and don't have time to do the research for myself at that moment.

  • I may ask them because they are something I just considered and thought it would be a good question to put on the board and I have NO idea of what the answer might be.

See: Is Tony Stark exaggerating about the potential espionage threat in the Marvel Universe?

  • This is an example of a question that, if no one can answer it in a few weeks, I may be forced to do the deed myself, if no easy answers can be found. Inherent in my asking of my questions, most easy answers are NOT available.

  • I am looking for insider information, a hard to find interview, a Twitter conversation or people who specialize in this kind of hard to find data. However, if such information is challenging to find, I may end up having to answer my own question because I felt it was important enough to ask, and should have an answer.

I believe it is still a viable option to allow the original poster to ask and answer a question if the community has not been sufficient to the task. The benefit is the answered question, not necessarily the rep gained. Writers here, in my opinion, have a good sense of people who are rep-farming versus people who are contributing interesting and compelling information to the site.

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  • good point, but is asking a question and answering it 1 minute later abuse or not? – Jungkook Nov 15 '17 at 9:53
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I have always considered the appropriate self-answered question to be a way of leaving information that might not be perfectly germane to the question at hand, but is related to the question, and that could be of use or interest to future readers.

Looking above I see thoughts on the self-answered question has changed over the years. However, the idea of users subjecting a self-answered question in order to leave information for future users works for me. I don't expect this will get a lot of votes, but I wanted to bring the subject up anyway.

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-3

IMO: The question in question, is a hypothetical situation, akin to saying Hey, I thought of this, what do you think? crossed with This'll get me some reps for sure! That is my opinion, and IMO, undoubtedly the reason for some of those DVs. The self-answer policy is neither here nor there.

But, as you have learned, self-answers are to be conducted with the utmost scrutiny.

Everyone is willing to ignore this: (until you cross a certain point)*

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

*You found that point.

There's a fine line large area in between "actual problems that you face" and "chatty, open-ended questions". Try to stick to the shallow end.

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    Actually, I did not think of it, as mentioned in the body of the question. Someone else wrote a multipart question and cut that part out. I had already written an answer to that part, so I had to write a question in order to post it. I did not think it was so cool that I thought of it, because I did not think of it. I also was not really trying to get reputation, because I usually can get enough reputation without asking questions. I was really trying to get a good answer out there. – Adamant Jun 15 '16 at 0:32
  • @Obie2.0 - Be that as it may, the perception here was likely otherwise. – Mazura Jun 15 '16 at 0:35
  • I know. But I have never been anything but honest on this site. I always ask in chat before doing something that I think might be controversial. I did do that this time, and I interpreted the response I got as indicating it was acceptable. Worse for me, I suppose. – Adamant Jun 15 '16 at 0:39
  • @Obie2.0 - May it suffice to say that, it's not unheard of for the community to 'check' a user that they think is being a bit overzealous. This may be against site policy, but we're all human. I surmise that if any other user had posted this question, the votes would be very different. If I may be so bold: those DVs are a request that you think long and hard about your next post. "scrutiny" -The DVs request that you re-think your thoughts about "site policy". Because frankly, 'selfies' can go either way real quick. You're caught in the middle; I do not envy you. – Mazura Jun 15 '16 at 0:49
  • I really wish people had communicated through words first, downvotes second. – Adamant Jun 15 '16 at 0:52
  • The requirement for explaining your DV is a battle for another day ;) – Mazura Jun 15 '16 at 1:15
-5

Leave your question open for 24-48 hours (at least), see if anyone else knows the answer, then self answer if no one else knows, or self answer additional information to correct or complete another answer.

Self-answering is something that should be allowed, BUT its something that, at least on this site, we don't tend to like, at least when the self answer is immediate.

How I feel on the issue is that you should not ask and answer simultaneously.

It doesn't hurt you, the community, or your question, to hold off on self answering for a day or two, if anything it helps DRAW people to your question.

Answering immediately just looks cocky, and rubs people the wrong way. If you're a known user who regularly talks about rep capping, it also appears like a rep grab, whether it is the user's intention or not.

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  • Couldn't disagree more. – AncientSwordRage Jun 15 '16 at 0:12
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    @AncientSwordRage I bet you could. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jun 15 '16 at 0:15
  • @AncientSwordRage im simply offering a solution to the site wide feeling that garners downvotes to self answers, you almost never see a day or 2 later self answer getting downvotes, only immediate. – Himarm Jun 15 '16 at 0:16
  • Your first bold paragraph is not something we'll be able to enforce as a policy (what would we do - delete all self-answers posted within 24 hours of the question? nope). At best it's your own personal recommendation on how self-answers should be done, which is fine. – Rand al'Thor Jun 15 '16 at 0:18
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    @Randal'Thor we cant enforce anyone from downvoting self answers, despite our current meta standard telling us they are fine. IM proposing a solution a guideline if you will, you can still do whatever you want, but if you want to avoid stepping on toes..., im not saying it should be policy, this question is asking if we should revist policy, im offering a solution, instead of revisiting a policy that is generally correct, change how you self answer for the communities benefit. its still up to individuals to do this, but it works. – Himarm Jun 15 '16 at 0:20
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    In the situation the OP described, it would be actively harmful to wait a few days before answering: he specifically posted the question because he had already written the answer, and didn't want to lose that work. Making him wait would mean trying to save the answer locally, which isn't always easy (using a phone, using a public computer, using a work computer). I think the re-examining which needs to happen is on the part of those people who ignore site policy and downvote self-answers just for being self-answers. – Martha Jul 6 '16 at 15:05

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