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Answering your own question, even if you know the answer before asking, is acceptable and encouraged according to the FAQ:

There are already numerous posts that answer their own questions. There's nothing wrong with it. It's even encouraged.

It's likely that others have the question for which you have the answer but can't find it anywhere, so post away! You can even accept your own answer.

Jeff Atwood (StackExchange co-founder) wrote a blog entry about it. I get criticized for doing this - in one case by a high-rank user. Examples:

Others have complained about being down-voted for doing this. I almost always solve my own programming problems, and sometimes I think the information would be useful to the community. I put effort into writing a clear, useful, well-formatted answer and it is discouraging to be accused of not following SO etiquette. I think this has the effect of limiting the content available, since people will simply choose to not post useful information to avoid the backlash.

What if a change in the UI of StackOverflow could influence user behavior? Perhaps something added to a question to clarify SO guidelines on self-answered questions? Any ideas?

How about this added to the bottom of a question that has a self-answer (I'm sure the wording would be different, but you get the idea):

This is a self-answered question, a behavior encouraged by stackoverflow. Vote on this answer as you would any other. You may offer an alternative to the original poster's answer.

Update: After flagging the comment on the IDENTITY question, it remained for at least 15 hours before it was removed. Unfortunately, this is when a question receives a lot of voting activity. During that time period, my answer received +1, and a different answer +3. Now, I'm willing to accept that the other answer is that much better than mine and select it as the solution - but I suspect some of the voting behavior was based on the comment that made it appear I was using bad etiquette.

I will continue to flag comments like this, but I don't think it is the solution to the problem. For now, I will try to cleary indicate in my question or answer what I am doing (as @MatthewRead suggested) and that it is acceptable SO behavior. I will also heed @TheGhostofChristmasPast's warning and avoid using the same block of text (in effect, a "signature") on each question.

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I've upvoted this question because I am aware of this issue (as well as other behaviors which also receive criticism from the community but are officially acceptable, like anonymous downvotes and less-than-100% accept rates), not because I feel that a UI change is required. –  Kevin Vermeer Jan 5 '12 at 21:32
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I upvoted the IDENTITY question and answer because they seemed to deserve it. I wasn't as fond of the other. Neither judgment has anything to do with the self answer. This is a prickly thing with people who don't understand that it is supported/encouraged behavior. Don't know what to do about it that doesn't generate lots of noise, though. –  Andrew Barber Jan 6 '12 at 16:46
    
What did that comment say? (Also, part of your above update does not seem to be part of the question, hence noise, I'd say.) –  Arjan Jan 7 '12 at 15:44
    
@Arjan I can't remember it exactly, but something like "Why did you answer your own question almost immediately? You also did it here, here, and here (links to my other questions). Was this even a real question?" –  Keith Walton Jan 7 '12 at 16:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Posting two answers to the SQL-speech one causes me to raise an eyebrow. They could be one, and the second isn't an answer by itself.

That said, you're right that there's nothing wrong with sharing solutions to problems you've encountered to help people in the future. There is a problem with posting solutions to problems you've never had, though, which the user commenting on the IDENTITY question seems to suspect.

You might try including something like this at the top of your self-answers:

I encountered this problem earlier and managed to find the answer myself, so I thought I'd post it here in case anyone else is searching for the solution to this issue.

It won't deter everyone — some people just don't like it, regardless of site guidelines — but hopefully it helps some view it in the right context.

Making the post CW would also probably help, but it is sad that it would. You're not creating a real wiki and people shouldn't care that you receive rep for a self-answer as long as it's a good answer. I would personally just accept the rep hit (and you're still in the positives from those questions) and not abuse the feature.

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Every question and answer I have posted was a real problem I had to work through and solve. I try to phrase the question in a way that someone who had not already solved it would. I didn't know the solution to the IDENTITY question two days ago. I googled it, got several SO hits, and incorporated everything I learned into my solution. –  Keith Walton Jan 5 '12 at 21:53
    
@KeithWalton Yes, I assumed that. What I'm saying is that you should consider making that clear in your answers. –  Matthew Read Jan 5 '12 at 21:55
    
I like your idea about the disclaimer on self answers. I may start doing that. –  Keith Walton Jan 5 '12 at 22:00
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@KeithWalton I'd advise against that, as it's the same as a signature, "hi", "thanks", which are expressly forbidden by the FAQ; it's clear on both your question and your answer who the creator of the post is and it can be seen by anyone reading the question and answer. It will more than likely be removed and if flagged enough times, may cause moderator action. –  casperOne Jan 5 '12 at 23:04
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Wow. A little context doesn't hurt anything and is nothing like a greeting. I would call that heavy-handed. –  Matthew Read Jan 6 '12 at 16:37
    
@KeithWalton: The second self answer made it seem like a blog post or an extended discussion. Both of which are not constructive. –  user7116 Jan 6 '12 at 17:47
    
@sixlettervariables I understand that, and I will merge or delete it. It was added long after I was originally called out for asnwering my own question, and I don't believe it was the reason for the criticism of my IDENTITY question. I will avoid multiple answers in the future. –  Keith Walton Jan 6 '12 at 17:51
    
@sixlettervariables I have merged and voted to delete the extra answer on my speech recognition question. Apparently I can't just delete my own answer outright. –  Keith Walton Jan 6 '12 at 18:30
    
I think making the self-answer CW is key here, and I don't feel particularly sad it's needed, as it simply makes it 100% clear that it has not been posted just to gain reputation. Especially, like Bo commented on another answer, if someone has a very long answer to a "problem" that nobody else has ever had, and also because 5 of @Keith's 27 answers are self-answers, 4 of which seem to have been known upon asking the question. (3 in the datadump, plus the recent IDENTITY post.) –  Arjan Jan 7 '12 at 16:12
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@Arjan Part of the reason I post is to earn rep. It's why I put effort into creating good questions and answers. SO is a game, after all. Awarding points encourages people to provide useful information to the community. I think the implication that my answers are not useful to anyone is incorrect. Take my speech recognition Q&A, for example. A lot of programmers eventually have pain when typing. –  Keith Walton Jan 7 '12 at 17:28
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@Arjan The criteria for upvoting is "This answer is useful...". 43 people have found my speech recognition answer useful. I think that even if only one other person has the same problem, it's still worth posting. –  Keith Walton Jan 7 '12 at 17:29
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@MartinSmith I think answering immediatly is the more sporting of the two. If I hold back my answer, someone else can waste a lot of time coming up with an answer that may not be as good. That just seems rude to me. If I post immediatley, they can judge if their solution is better before posting, and not waste their time otherwise. I will select whichever answer gets voted up the most as the solution. Being the first answer doesn't give the advantage it used to, since the sorting of answers with the same vote is random. –  Keith Walton Jan 7 '12 at 18:11
    
I hate those chatty introductions. Absolutely no need whatsoever. Would edit out and moan with extreme prejudice. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 19:23

Someone answering their own question doesn't really change the question in any way and, in my opinion, should not cause a change to the text of question on the page. Doing so would just add more clutter.

In general, I don't pay attention to who is providing answers on a question unless the answer is particularly bad. If an answer is good, I'll vote it up, bad gets voted down.

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It does make the question less valuable if someone has a very long answer to a "problem" that nobody else has ever had. Posting your blog entries here is not a good idea, even of you can formulate a question. –  Bo Persson Jan 5 '12 at 23:57
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I agree that blog-length answers are a bit much, especially when the whole answer is not needed to answer the question. But there still should be some middle ground between the minimum needed to answer the question and a full-length article. Would that be something in the vein of a "normal" good answer with a link to a blog post for more depth, examples, etc.? –  cdeszaq Jan 6 '12 at 14:01

This is the internet: haters are always gonna hate.

Your answers were well written, and make the community a better place. Since they weren't downvoted, I would just keep doing what you're doing and ignore the noise.

EDIT

About your edit: you're right that a bad comment like that can influence voting, and I'm surprised it took 15 hours for it to be removed. It's possible the mod queue was really heavy that day, or maybe the flag was at the bottom of the pile because of your flag weight. Next time I would respond to the comment with a link to Jeff's blog post, and flag for a mod to delete both comments.

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It's weird. The flag doesn't show up my my summary and didn't affect my flag weight. I'm not sure why. I will try as you suggest next time. –  Keith Walton Jan 6 '12 at 19:12
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Flags on comments don't affect your flag weight, IIRC. –  Andrew Barber Jan 6 '12 at 20:18

I may be wrong, but my perception of the problem is that you may have posted your answer too quickly. I don't think that people mind you answering your own questions, as long as you give other people a chance to answer as well. You could try waiting a day or two after you posted your original question to post your answer, thus reducing any misconceptions about you "rep-whoring." Also remember that if you accept your own answer it won't always appear on top: if someone else provides a stellar answer that receives even more upvotes, it will appear first.

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I think this thought may have some merit; I've seen people say as much. It seems an odd objection for them, but if delaying your own answer works... (I'd plussie if I had any left!) –  Andrew Barber Jan 6 '12 at 20:20
    
Is hoping to get reputation for a well-crafted question and answer unreasonable? Posting a question that I already have a great answer to and then holding it back seems disrespectful of other people's time. They are answering for the rep as well. They can look at my answer, and if they think they have something better they can add it. SO appears to sort the 0-vote answers randomly now, so everyone has the same "chance". –  Keith Walton Jan 6 '12 at 20:24
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@KeithWalton Yeah, I agree that it seems a bit disrespectful of other people's time to force them to come up with an answer that you already have. On the other hand, people may surprise you and come up with a solution that you haven't. My point in mentioning how answers are ordered is that if someone does provide an answer that gets a lot of upvotes, that answer will appear first and thus probably feel like time well spent for the answerer. –  Chris Frederick Jan 6 '12 at 20:29
    
"Give other people a chance"? They have until this website is shut down to answer; is that not opportunity enough? –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 19:25
    
@TomalakGeret'kal By "give other people a chance" I meant "give other people a chance to answer first." If you post a question and answer within minutes of each other it gives people a strong hint that you've already decided which answer you'll accept and that you're not necessarily interested in the community's input. By waiting even a bit, you're giving people a better opportunity to make themselves heard. –  Chris Frederick Jan 10 '12 at 21:27
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@Chris: It's not a race. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 10 '12 at 21:33
    
@TomalakGeret'kal Oh, I totally agree, but the same people who perceive it as a race are also probably the same people criticizing the OP. –  Chris Frederick Jan 11 '12 at 0:21
    
@Chris: They are, and they are wrong. And thus they can safely be ignored. :) –  Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 11 '12 at 0:34

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