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I asked a question recently, looking for examples of an online tool. Per the FAQ, I answered my own question with a few examples that I had already found. I did this so that these examples would be included in the answers, along with the rest.

The question has received only down votes and insults saying that this shouldn't be done.

Should I not answer my own questions?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 5 '09 at 3:15

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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Presumably the person who downvoted you on this question was having a laugh?! –  Tony Andrews Oct 16 '08 at 16:32
    
There is a duplicate at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2706 - despite the headline the question is: "is it a good practice to post a question and answer it yourself immediately on stackoverflow/serverfault when you want to share your idea with community?" –  Peter Mortensen Aug 5 '09 at 22:49
    
Duplicate - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2800/… –  ChrisF Jan 19 '10 at 19:19
    
Related: Should I ask a question I know the answer to? –  Gnome Apr 6 '10 at 22:14
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can i choose my answer as best answer?? –  RSK Dec 13 '10 at 17:28

17 Answers 17

I was reading through this question, and it made me think of a few simple rules for questions + answers. Some of these are in the official question guide, but not all:

  • Don't ask a question you have the answer to already - If you figured it out, likely others will too. Let someone else who doesn't know the answer ask the question - then you can legitimately help them. If you really struggled to find the answer to your question you might consider posting with the last bullet point in mind.

  • Ask Real Questions - Don't try to imagine a situation then ask questions about it to get points. This doesn't help the community as much as a real question and situation would and it just creates clutter.

  • Don't try to create a wiki - Often if you are going to try to create a wiki it will end up being too broad of a topic for a simple Q&A site like stack. These types of articles are best left to a blog. Of course, there are some cases for posting "articles" as questions (see: Posting articles on Stack Exchange), but I think this should be done with the next rule in mind.

  • Remember that stack is a community -- expect feedback. That means you want to get feedback back from your question. This feedback might be more correct, easier to understand or simply more elegant than what you already wrote. Give your question some time to allow the community to respond then honestly consider these answers. Make sure you award the accept badge to the answer you consider to be the best, even if it wasn't your answer.

By the way, of course all the normal rules still apply (Research before you ask, look at other stack questions to avoid asking duplicate questions, include relevant code examples, etc).

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You should answer your own question, and you can get the Self-Learner badge for doing so if the answer has 3 votes.

Furthermore, in order to keep your accept rates up, you should consider answering and accepting those tricky questions nobody answered properly.

Jeff & Joel have specifically said this is allowed.

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Good point. There wouldn't be a badge for it if it wasn't encouraged. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 16 '08 at 16:37
    
perfect reasoning –  lImbus Jan 2 '09 at 23:37
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Could this answer be made community wiki? I'd like to link to this question from the FAQ index and make this the canonical answer to the question, merging the various answers to this question from 3 other questions. –  Sam Hasler Mar 5 '09 at 19:50
    
Sure, just done it. Sorry it took me so long to see your comment. –  harriyott Jun 24 '09 at 9:06
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The Self-Learner badge could also be interpreted as meant for questions to which one finds answers at a later time. (I don't mind people answering their own questions right away though, though I do like it when people prepare their answer, so can post that within seconds after posting the question. And I never understood the whole reputation thing, especially not for questions, so couldn't care about that either.) –  Arjan Aug 15 '09 at 16:13

It seems we all agree that answering your own question is acceptable.

I'd like to point out that the alert box that appears when you do so is intimidating. It certainly gives the impression that you may be doing something wrong.

Other than the haters, this may be a reason people may get confused on the issue. I was. I do understand the purpose of the box is to be sure you are entering responses in the correct spot (comments vs. answers).

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Welcome to Meta Stack Overflow, hiwaylon! This is an old question, and new answers are unlikely to get much attention. You'd probably be better off posting this as a separate question, maybe a feature request along the lines of "Please make the 'are you sure you want to answer your own question?' box less intimidating." –  Pops Nov 16 '10 at 19:25

There is at least one situation where I find answering your own question mildly annoying.

If I'm perusing the list of questions, looking for something I can answer, then see a question which I know the answer to, I like to jump on it. Help a fellow out.

Then I'm halfway done writing an answer and the little "Another answer has been posted" banner pops up. I refresh the page to see that the asker has immediately answered his own question, meaning that there was no actual question.

No one wanted to know the answer, because the asker wasn't actually having a problem when he wrote the question. Even if I beat him to his own answer, it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't be helping him, he already knows a working answer.

This situation just wastes my time.

I don't mind answering your own question, but I would like it if one would only post a question if they (at the time) want an answer that they don't have. It's fine to answer your own question later if you discover the answer, be it trial-and-error, research, or a combination of other people's answers.


The difference would be akin to a man asking for the time.

  1. The man asks if anyone has the time. No one answers right away, but someone does mention that it's sometime after 10 o'clock. He realizes that there is a clock on the wall and mentions aloud "Oh, never mind, I see that it is 10:40."

  2. The man asks if anyone has the time. One person speaks up "It's ten fo..." but is interrupted by the first man who, while checking his watch, states "It's 10:40, just in case anyone wanted to know."

For the sake of argument, let's assume that it will always be 10:40 in whatever room this man is in.

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Even more: if that single self-answered answer is the correct answer, then it cannot be accepted as such. So the question will have one non-accepted answer forever. That's a (small) issue I think. Especially for easy questions such as How do I get the size of a Linux or Mac OS X directory from the command-line? at superuser.com/questions/22460/… –  Arjan Aug 15 '09 at 17:20
    
Oh, I stand corrected, apparently one can accept one's own answer. –  Arjan Aug 18 '09 at 9:39

I think that the main reason that people bagged on you was because you posted an answer only seconds after posting the question.

If your question was one where a solution could be worked out from the question (eg math questions, what’s wrong with this line of code, etc.), then it could have been explained in that typing out the question in a formal way caused you to view the problem in a new way that led to a Eureka! moment, allowing you to answer it immediately.

However, your question was one whose answer could not be derived from the problem (you asked for examples of sandbox webapp sites). Therefore, the fact that you posted an answer in less than a minute of the question, people (in my opinion rightly) found it to be quite suspicious, and that’s why you got hit.

If you’re going to do that sort of thing, at least wait an hour or so before posting an answer. That way it looks like you continued researching the problem while waiting for someone to post an answer, and found one on your own (ie, the whole point of having a self-learner badge).

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So... it's OK to do, as long as it's done deceptively? –  Lawrence Dol Feb 3 '10 at 0:41
    
No, it’s okay to do if you actually continued looking for an answer on your own while waiting for others to respond. I know what you mean though, my phrasing does makes it sound like that. –  Synetech Feb 3 '10 at 19:31

No, it's okay to answer your own question. Ignore the trolls. Every web community, no matter how good, has a few.

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Hey Bill, In this example, Did I do something wrong? –  user173320 May 3 '12 at 14:43
    
@gdoron Nope, I left a comment there. –  Bill the Lizard May 3 '12 at 14:48
    
@gdoron You can flag it as "other" and ask for all comments to be purged. Please wait a short while though, to give jAndy a chance to read my response. –  Bill the Lizard May 3 '12 at 14:53

You should, as Jeff Atwood repeatedly states in the podcasts, this site is about building a knowledge base.

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Stack Exchange sites are not only useful for the original question asker, but for everyone else who has the same problem and finds the question later (could be thousands of people for some questions). If you had a tough question for SE but already found a good answer, and think there's a chance one or more other people could use it, please ask it on the appropriate SE site. That's why Joel and Jeff encourage it so much. Nothing wrong with being the first answer. –  MGOwen Sep 2 '10 at 5:06

Answering your own question is perfectly fine, especially if it's the right answer.

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Can't explain why but that made me chuckle. –  DisgruntledGoat Aug 5 '09 at 16:27

The guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Jeff & Joel have specifically said this is allowed. However, posting a question for which you obviously have an already prepared answer is often seen as 'begging' for reputation, and therefore may not get as many upvotes. On the other hand, asking a question often leads the asker to find the answer for themselves, so they usually aren't downvoted either.

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What's wrong with simultaneously posting a question and its answer? More content is good for the site and if people get their answers without having to ask it, then it is better. –  Casebash Jul 9 '10 at 12:39
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Joel, sadly, you're correct about the unjustified (IMHO) negative sentiments to Q+A posted together. I just posted a question stackoverflow.com/questions/15178903 to which I couldn't find a good answer anywhere on the web at all. I spent days coming up with a good answer, and it seemed beneficial to share it with others. The fact that I spent many days thinking and solving the problem is obviously masked by me posting the question and answer together. Is there anything you think can be done to prevent the negative reactions? Thank you. –  arielf Mar 3 '13 at 7:32

Answering your own question is fine by me. However, for FAQ-type questions such as this one, I think we ought to make them community wikis, so the rep is mainly based on programming knowledge.

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ScottieT812: I agree about making this a community wiki--I didn't realize that I could do that to my own question. It's done. –  flamingLogos Oct 16 '08 at 16:44

Answering your own question is perfectly acceptable, so I don't know why you got downvoted.

Considering that in the question you referred to, the timestamps between the post and your answer were less than two minutes apart, I guess asking a question just to immediately answer it comes off a little bit like showing off to some ;)

Might be better to put your examples in the question in future.

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I've done this, but explicitly stated in my question that I would give my answer separately. In your case, yours is the only answer to the question and may give the impression that you are just seeking votes to increase your reputation. I did not take it that way, though.

I also agree with @ScottieT812. This should be a community wiki question.

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You could also edit your question to include the answer, that way you wouldn't offend anyone. (Hopefully)

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No. Questions go in the question, answers are posted as answers. –  Thomas Owens Oct 16 '08 at 16:39
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I agree with Thomas. It would be messy to have question and the answer clubbed together. –  Rashmi Pandit Aug 5 '09 at 4:29
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Also, if you don't select any response as the answer to your question, your question will still show up as "unanswered." –  Matt Ball Aug 7 '09 at 15:52

Yes, you can definitely do this.

I've even seen people post a question, and then post a fully thought out answer to it about 30 minutes later. It was clear they knew the answer - they just felt it was an unanswered question that they could answer for the community. So feel free!

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In one case I asked a question, and then figured it out and posted the answer ~30 minutes later. I didn't know the answer at the time I asked the question, but once I figured it out I posted an answer. Just because it was 30 minutes later doesn't mean it wasn't a real question. –  janm Oct 16 '08 at 16:47

It's a tricky situation. I have questions in my head where I can think of a few answers, but they aren't the only answers.

Posting my own answers looks like I'm fishing for points; not posting makes everyone repeat work I've already done. Marking my answers as Community Wiki helps avoid that stigma.

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+1. I have been known to figure out 3 different ways of doing something, so I post my question and all 3 as separate answers, so others can at least tell me which is best of a bad lot, and hoping that someone will come up with an obviously superior 4th way -- perhaps based on one of those methods, so that person doesn't have to repeat all my work to create 4th way from scratch. –  David Cary Nov 13 '12 at 15:33

Lately, in cases where I saw that the original asker answered their own question (either as a direct addition to the collaborative wisdom or after some research), I tend to add a straight copy of the original answer (making my copy community-owned and stating clearly in a small header that this is a copy), in order to be chosen as "the" answer, and let the upvotes be given to the original answer (or any other the voters deem helpful).

I don't know if this helps, but I believe so. I like to see answered questions as answered. I also suggested in uservoice that self-answered questions should be allowed (and chosen!) only if your answer is community-owned (and therefore no rep points are given).

So others would vote up the question if it's helpful, vote up the answer if it's helpful (and no karma-whoring), and no-one would think that the person asking is just showing off or whatever.

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I don't see why you should forego the rep just because you answered your own question. There wouldn't be a badge for it if it wasn't to be encouraged. –  Jeff Yates Oct 16 '08 at 17:49
    
And yet, you can't choose your own answer as "THE" answer. It is a fuzzy issue. –  ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ Oct 19 '08 at 21:47
    
See, the reputation system is only a bait (and it works fine, consciously and subconsciously); the site's purpose is to provide the best possible answer to programming questions. –  ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ Oct 19 '08 at 21:50
    
You can choose your own answer as the answer now –  Casebash Jul 9 '10 at 12:41

It is great to answer your own question and it is great that you found the answer yourself.

Keep in mind, answering any question in a clear, concise manner is great for someone down the road that stumbles upon this question and easily gets the answer to the same question he or she had.

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