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Let's put things on the table first: When you post a question with its answer, it may appear to users that you are just trying to "show off" or just wanna get some up votes. So where would you draw the line between useful Q&A posts, and when would you think She/He just wants the up votes - spammer? Consider the following:

  1. I have just opened a new open source project, and the question is Is there any open source projects for X. And the answer is Sure [link]
  2. I have just opened a site for programmers that I want to advertise, and direct some traffic to there. Should I ask Is there a site for X and answer with Yes [link] is a great site for that
  3. After a few hours/days of research I finally found out about feature X in a program/framework/IDE. Should I ask Is there feature X for ... and answer with Yes, do 1. 2. 3.

I assume that in these cases a full disclosure in the answer would be appropriate, but what do you think?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

When you post a question with its answer, it may appear to users that you are just trying to 'show off' or just wanna get some up votes.

Yeah... You can pretty much consider immediate self-answered questions as the ultimate FGITW.

Of course, FGITW is generally considered a good thing, even if it does piss off the folks who get hung up on the "game" aspect of it all. In my opinion, the "self-answering rep-whore" is just as much a non-issue as the "gun slinger rep-whore" - a caricature that folks trot out when they can't be bothered to come up with legitimate criticisms.

On that note, here are some legit criticisms to go with your examples:

  1. Not only is this spam, this type of question is explicitly discouraged thrice over in the faq:

    You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.
    ...
    ...avoid asking subjective questions where …

    • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
    • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  2. See #1

  3. This is actually a good question, but it's phrased very, very poorly. X is your objective here, lead with that. Let's say X is a waffle maker (all the best IDEs make waffles now) - you'd ask:

    How can I make waffles in Eclipse?

    ... and then answer that. Say X is adding a list of numbers - you'd ask:

    How can I add a list of numbers using jQuery?

    ... and then answer that. This may seem like a small difference from your wording, but it's important: there may well be ways to make waffles or add numbers that, while not an intrinsic feature of the tool, can still solve the same problem. As animuson notes, it's a good idea to ask questions (whether or not you intend to self-answer them) in a way that doesn't encourage a simple yes or no answer.

Note that in all three of these cases - and in nearly every other case I can imagine - moderating self-answered questions follows the exact same pattern as moderating any other question or answer. Spam is still spam if someone else asks the question, there are always multiple ways to ask the same question, and a bad answer can make even a good question worthless (while a good answer can justify keeping a lousy question, albeit with some edits).

The only exception I can think of where self-answered questions should be treated differently would be in the case of a straight-up wiki such as those that make up the community here on MSO. The goal here is to have a single comprehensive answer - so if the answer is incomplete or flat-out wrong, you should fix it rather than posting a competitor to it, even if that means re-writing the entire answer from the ground up. These are fairly rare though.

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We tend to generally limit them to problems that you've actually faced, normally being recent problems you were struggling with and found the solution to, and you want to share it.

As for your examples:

  1. No. This would be considered advertising. The question isn't even a real question by Stack Overflow's standards, as it creates a list.

  2. No. Still advertising. Lists again.

  3. Eh, kind of. Asking yes/no questions isn't looked upon too favorably by a lot of users. If you could rephrase the question in a better way to identify the problem rather than just asking "yes or no" then it would be more acceptable.

The key problem being identified here is intent. Any immediately-self-answered question which contains links to projects, blogs, etc that you personally work on is going to throw up the "he's advertising" flag, naturally. It's very difficult to tell if someone intends to advertise or intends to actually help. As long as you provide a lot of details in both your question and answer and just provide the link as reference, people will generally leave you alone.

I think people have the most difficulty with forming an acceptable question to which they can provide the answer. Now that you have the answer, it's more difficult to go back to what the problem you were having actually was. Working backwards isn't much fun, and those who I've seen give this a try tend to give short two or three line questions that are extremely broad and unappealing, then provide a full-out blog answering it. This is what makes other users so suspicious, as the question is usually very poor quality and close-vote-worthy.

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It's very difficult to tell if someone intends to advertise or intends to actually help. -- Absolutely. Though I could understand if someone was moving their product support over to Stack Overflow that they may wish to "pre-populate" SO with entries from their FAQ. Assuming the quality were high enough (as stated in your next sentence), I'd be content to leave them alone. (Maybe even upvote if they were really good. :) But quality is the key. –  sarnold Jun 19 '12 at 0:49
    
I agree with most of this, but I don't think "intent" is really the main issue: unlike Martin, most actual spammers don't come straight out and say, "I'm posting this to advertise my product/project/service". Even without the list, even without the self-promotion, those first two examples fail because there's no actual problem being solved. –  Shog9 Jun 19 '12 at 1:33

Frankly I would be uneasy with any of those scenarios. I'm totally self-taught, which means that, historically, I have self-answered most of my own programming questions. That's why I don't ask very many on Stack Overflow!

The one question that I have asked, I self-answered a few days later when I finally found out the answer. But under most circumstances, I don't think I would ask a question that I could already answer; that doesn't seem to be the point of the site.

I think the third case is probably a gray area. I could even imagine asking a question that I knew the answer to just because I thought it was a really good question; but in that case, I probably wouldn't self-answer.

The first and second cases sound to me like disguised spam.

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