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About a month ago, we rolled out a new feature: instant self-answered questions.

So far, the reception has been mostly positive, and I've definitely seen some really good stuff posted in this form.

But I've also seen something else, a side-effect you may have seen discussed here on MSO:

Ignore for a moment the specific details of the Q&A pairs discussed in those two posts, and note the following: three poorly-asked questions, questions that ordinarily would have been closed, down-voted, and/or edited... But instead sparked a small outrage among the members who came across them.

Now, we've known for years that self-answered questions can be problematic. Asking is hard. Answering is hard. Asking a question when you already know the answer can be even harder to do well. But that is - or rather, that should be - beside the point: plenty of people ask really terrible questions without bothering to answer them, and we've certainly managed to handle them over the years. If normal community-moderation is failing when it comes to self-answered questions, that's a problem.

These are edge-cases at the moment. But if we're trying to encourage more use of this form to share knowledge on Stack Exchange (and we are), it's something that needs to be faced. I'm presenting one possible solution below (in true gratuitous self-answer fashion), but what do you think? Would some other option work better? Is this even a real problem?

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I like how this was self-answered... oh the irony... –  Mysticial Jun 22 '12 at 22:38
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It just occurred to me that the Stack Overflow and Server Fault links each have one word for text for two-word site titles, while the Gaming/Arqade one has two words for its text for a one-word site title. Well played. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 22 '12 at 22:52
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I wish I could pretend that was intentional... –  Shog9 Jun 22 '12 at 22:57
    
Can we have statistics on the new feature? Has it really led to worse questions or answers being posted? So far, I've only seen fears and anecdotes, not data. –  Gilles Jun 23 '12 at 2:08
    
@Gilles see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/137353/… It has led to ignored questions if anything, with what appears to be a slight bias toward upvoted posts relative to others (if I'm reading that right) –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 3:11
    
@BenBrocka “I suspect the complaints fall into "vocal minority" territory rather than an "actual problem" one.” So the guy who ran the numbers thinks there's no problem? Nice, let's not waste time looking for a solution then. –  Gilles Jun 23 '12 at 7:39
    
@gilles continue to open meta posts on problematic examples; the more noise there is on metas, the more seriously it will be taken. In my experience anyway. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 24 '12 at 6:40
    
Ugh. Here is a... problematic example. Although it's probably unfair to blame the self-answer mechanism for it. stackoverflow.com/questions/11193015/website-estimator-coding –  Pëkka Jun 25 '12 at 16:13
    
@Discount Gucci Handbags: Because he didn't use it at all. The self-answer was posted manually. Anyway, off to the spam box it goes, with a 100-rep penalty to boot. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 25 '12 at 16:54
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@Disc: heh, that reminds me of another set of "self answers" that came up on U&L recently... One person using a sockpuppet to ask a (plagiarized) question, so that he could then answer it (with a plagiarized answer). Now there's a situation you could legitimately call "rep whoring"! –  Shog9 Jun 25 '12 at 19:34
    
It turns out, I have another answer that I wrote on a different meta site. This really is my favorite use-case for Q&A sites. –  Jon Ericson Jun 27 '12 at 19:32
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6 Answers

How about forcing self-answers posted immediately to be Community Wiki? This would accomplish four things:

  1. Emphasize the question. Good questions are important; bad ones should be dealt with quickly (edited, voted on, closed).

  2. De-emphasize the author. If folks are getting hung up on self-answering for its own sake, this makes that less obvious (without actually hiding anything). Which in turn should aid reviewers in focusing on the quality of the content instead of...

  3. End charges of "rep-whoring". IMHO, this is a bogus allegation anyway, twin to FGITW. But it's certainly a common enough charge.

  4. Reward finding an existing question to answer vs. posting a new one and self-answering. Since votes on answers are worth more than votes on questions, and answers tend to attract more votes anyway.

The down-sides?

  • Potentially seen as a revival of CW as a "Get out of jail free card" for otherwise-undesirable behavior.

  • Can be "worked around" by simply manually posting an answer seconds after asking the question, thereby turning what was intended to be a convenience function into a handy way to shoot yourself in the foot.

  • Confusing (since CW is always confusing).

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Flagging this answer for CW. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 22 '12 at 22:38
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Those are some... pretty hefty down-sides. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 22 '12 at 22:39
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I don't think we should be using CW for this. Also why shouldn't the OP be rewarded for a good answer if the problem was a particularly knotty one? –  ChrisF Jun 22 '12 at 22:44
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IMO, it's just growing pains. Like Pekka said in the answer to the tutorial question, we should just treat them like anything other question and answer because they are. Fancy treatment of them is not the solution. Finding ways to educate users about this would be great, though. –  Matthew Read Jun 22 '12 at 23:17
    
Oh, that reminds me... –  Shog9 Jun 22 '12 at 23:28
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See this is the problem, people posting and self answering, then their terrible answers get downvoted into oblivion...oh hey Shog. –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 0:46
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...while the question stays open. How twisted is that? @Ben ;-) –  Shog9 Jun 23 '12 at 1:13
    
There is rep-whoring going on on various sites, and your suggestion is a good idea on stopping it. However, coming out against rep whoring publicly is an invitation for rep-whores to downvote you, as is happening now, and on my similar answer meta.stackexchange.com/a/137302/183708 –  Brennan Jun 23 '12 at 2:30
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@Brennan you know the real way to get rid of those rep whores is to make all posts community Wiki. Then remove rep completely. Then close up shop and delete everyone's accounts. Darn repwhores with their helpful posts. –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 3:06
    
@benbrocka Wait?! Are we all rep whores? Oh, the horror! –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 5:54
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@Brennan Bullshit. I downvoted this, and I certainly don't qualify as a rep whore. I downvoted because I don't see a problem that this proposal would solve, and I don't see why self-answers would have more of a need for CW than others, and I don't see a need to make a difference between instant self-answers and non-instant self-answers. –  Gilles Jun 23 '12 at 21:49
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Two thoughts.

  1. Part of the problem I see with self-answered questions is that people put so much effort into their answer that they forget the question has to be of acceptable quality as well. If the question is so bare-bones that it wouldn't be allowed as a standalone incoming question from the broader community, why does adding a giant detailed answer magically make it suddenly acceptable? It doesn't. If the question is unclear or barely more than a stub, it'll never get other answers, and any effort to improve the existing answer, whatever its quality, will be hampered by the fact that people have to basically read your mind because they can't understand what the underlying question is.

  2. People see that you are getting rep both for the question and for the answer, and getting rep for both feels a lot like intentional double-dipping. Particularly when the question is barely more than a stub (see #1, above). If your answer is so great and so useful, surely you could have found one of the other 3+ million questions that already exists out there and slapped your amazing answer on that question? Synthesizing a question just for the sake of adding your answer feels kinda slimy and/or lazy, unless you do it right and present it as an actual problem you really had and could legitimately find no good solution to, not just "here's an excuse to post this thing I want to post".

One possible solution is to "unify" reputation in these cases so intentional self-answers (that is, answers that come in within 1 second of the question being posted) don't get rep for both the question and the answer, but just the answer. This would at least unify the incentives a bit and prevent the perception, correct or not, of double-dipping.

edit: I also realized that forcing the question part of self-answered questions to community wiki at the time of ask is an easy existing solution. Downside is, that would also force all new incoming answers community wiki, too, at least if the code is still the same (I can't recall).

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To my knowledge, we haven't changed the "wiki question makes all future answers wiki" deal at all. ... actually, since we used it in the most recent election, yeah, that's still in place. –  Grace Note Jun 23 '12 at 0:25
    
Yeah, that would be a nice, easy solution but for the imposed CW on answers. Oddly enough, my only self-answered question on SO takes exactly that form (at the time, it was possible to create such things without too much trouble). –  Shog9 Jun 23 '12 at 1:17
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It seems like the "rep only from answers" idea doesn't solve your first part; in fact it focuses rep solely on the answer; who cares about the question now? And if CW affects all answers, that greatly reduces the desire to add competing answers...or use the feature at all, really. –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 1:52
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I'm not sure focusing on rep is the right approach, I (wait for it...) ran some numbers and it looks like downvoting self-answers is substantially rarer (3x) than other non-self answers; and upvoting is about 2.5x (call it equivalent) rarer. Nobody's waiting with bated breath on self-answered posts like on a normal question, no storm of up or down votes; just not a lot of interest in general. I suspect the complaints fall into "vocal minority" territory rather than an "actual problem" one. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 2:24
    
@KevinMontrose Isn't that... a bad thing? Wasn't the intention of insta-answers to build canonical answers, and aren't canonical answers supposed to be a bit more interesting that the rest? Your numbers seem to suggest the community largely ignores them... –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 4:07
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@kevin well, it was really the questions I was thinking of, not so much the answers. And the perceived problem of double-dipping rep is the issue, even that's not the real problem, which is as I said -- Synthesizing a question just for the sake of adding your answer feels kinda slimy and/or lazy, unless you do it right and present it as an actual problem you really had and could legitimately find no good solution to, not just "here's an excuse to post this thing I want to post". –  Jeff Atwood Jun 23 '12 at 4:18
    
@Yannis - The point of SE is to build a base of knowledge, voting is a means to that end. Relative (self-answers do still get non-trivial voting, just less) lack of voting enthusiasm isn't outright bad, though it does indicate our incentive scheme isn't really suited for wikis/blogs/similar ("solo exercises" in my mind). The point I was trying to make is that (from a cursory glance at the data) there doesn't seem to be a habit of downvoting self-answers. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 4:20
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@Jeff - low effort questions are bad no matter the source, I'm just not sure there's evidence self-answered questions are typically of lower quality though. I'll look at voting on them too, tricky in that voting on questions is just rarer than on answers period. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 4:22
    
@KevinMontrose The tricky part is low effort questions with high effort self answers, we can't put them in the same bag with low effort questions, period. It's only natural for the insta-answer author to concentrate on the good part of the pair, and we can't really blame authors for doing so. –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 4:25
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For the question part of self-answered questions, looks like you're a little less 1/3 more likely to get an upvote than non-self answered questions. Odds of a downvote are almost identical. In aggregate community reception doesn't seem negative, there's less excitement around the answers (again, no-ones waiting on them). I'm feeling stronger in my "vocal minority" gut the more I look at the numbers. A chunk of qualitative examples may be called for. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 4:39
    
@kevin yeah, just look at 20 random "immediate answer" questions and see if there is a huge disparity in question quality vs answer quality. If a good immediate self-answer is seen as giving the paired question a pass on quality, that's a broken window. It says "we allow crap questions.. provided the answers are awesome!" and as you well know, bad questions are the ebola of Q&A sites. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 23 '12 at 4:42
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With respect to point 2 and the possible solution, I'll grant that on SO and the trilogy it's true, but everywhere else, there's a high chance the question hasn't been asked before: particularly on a site like Arqade, where new games are coming out every week, and people who play through games quickly help prime the site for googlers. If this is just special-casing for sites that have 3 million questions, fair enough: do what you have to do. But on sites that have far less than that there's real value to both the question and answer and neither should be disincentivized. –  user149432 Jun 23 '12 at 5:09
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@Jeff - With some random sampling questions don't honestly look much different from standard fare. There are some long ones, some short ones, proportions seem about equal. No widespread disparity in the quality of the question versus the answer. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 5:29
    
That being said, I could see shoving something into the Silver Bullet^W^W Community Review Tasks at a later date. I don't think the evidence supports drastic changes, but I can understand wanting some extra oversight on these. –  Kevin Montrose Jun 23 '12 at 5:31
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I strongly dislike the idea in 2., especially because of the very valid point in 1.: If somebody posted a horrible question with a brilliant answer, he deserves to lose rep for one and gain rep for the other. The users will lose yet another incentive to write a good question for their answer. Likewise, if somebody writes a well-researched, clear and non-localized question and answer it himself, he deserves to get from for posts. Anything else would send a mixed message: Posting questions to answer them yourself is explicitly encouraged, but you won't earn any rep from it. –  Dennis Jun 24 '12 at 18:14
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Random thoughts (mine, not random's):

  • Get rid of insta-answers

    Insta-answers are pointless (imho). If I have a problem that I happened to solve myself, I might post a question, only to verify my solution or get a better one. However, even if I get a far better solution than my own, I don't care, I've already solved my problem and moved on. I'm might check back months later on a lazy Sunday afternoon and do some refactoring, but other than that, why bother?

    Time to write a good answer (to a problem I don't have) > imaginary unicorn points

    And at the end of the day, it's just a UI trick, you can always self answer your questions if you really want to. Normal self-answers I get, you did some further research, had a light bulb moment and you want to share it with the world. But insta-answers are completely artificial.

  • Delaying the answer

    I'm guessing we aren't getting rid of them. Ok, let's keep them, and just delay the answer for a while, 15-30m, whatever, to give the community time to curate the question, close it, or even answer it. The delay could go away after you have a few successful insta-pairs (open question, both question and answer positively scored).

  • Don't award Enlightened and Reversal on insta-answers

    Enlightened would be unfair, if you insta-answer no one else has a chance of getting it. Reversal would be just silly, you'd be awarded with a gold badge for a horrible question (and a good answer, but it'd still be cheap gold).

  • Put a notice on the insta-answer

    Most people seem to have little idea of what insta-answers are, how they work, what's acceptable and what not. Let's advertise this beast a little bit more, with a simple notice on the answer saying "Hey, this is an insta-answer, check out this blog post to find out more...". The notice could go away after a couple of days, but I think it could help with the initial "you filthy rep whore" backlash on the Q&A insta-pair.

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+1 from me. If insta-answers are kept, maybe restrict the voting so that a person can upvote either the question or the answer but not both. Only allow Jeff's "double-dipping" on non-insta-self-answers. –  slugster Jun 23 '12 at 2:31
    
Love the ideas on getting rid of rewards! –  Brennan Jun 23 '12 at 2:32
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+1 for points 2, 3, and 4, especially delaying the answer. The delay gives the community enough time to determine if the question needs to be closed, but without the influence of the answer diluting the process. As for point #1, I'll pretend 1 isn't there ;) –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 2:37
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@jmort253 Keeping insta-answers is perfectly fine by me, not particularly fond of them but also not campaigning to get rid of them. Just felt the discussion would be incomplete without mentioning that we can just get rid of them. –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 2:42
    
I like your attitude. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em ;) –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 2:46
    
Points 3 and 4 are okay, though I don't see a particular point in denying the reversal badge specifically. Definitely don't like the delay; the inevitable cluster%$&^ of "What have you tried" then "JUST WAIT GUYS I POSTED THE ANSWER" and "Goddamn it why did I bother answering this question?" would be far more awkward than a few people being jerks and/or not understanding insta-answers. –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 3:03
    
@BenBrocka I'm under the impression that the main problem is people don't bother writing good questions when they insta-answer, not the jerks that don't understand the feature... –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 3:05
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@YannisRizos not sure, but the complaints I've been hearing thus far are mostly "people are jerks to self answerers" or "people who self-answer are jerks". I have seen less effort go into the questions posed for self answers, but that doesn't seem directly related to the social problems. –  Ben Brocka Jun 23 '12 at 3:15
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The problem with intentionally delaying the answer — It smacks in the face of one of the main motivators to help people who need it. It's not all about reputation and competition for everyone. Some folks see someone in need, and they are willing to devote a significant amount of time trying to help out... only to find out that they never needed the help to begin with. That seems equally slimy. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 23 '12 at 3:42
    
@RobertCartaino ...which brings us back to my first thought. Can't shake the feeling that insta-answers go against the core Q&A philosophy, we'll never get them right. All the value they've given us so far, we could have gotten from simple self answers, something doesn't smell right here. –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 4:02
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@robert yet again I have to point to a few self-answered questions I've made where I got even better answers than the ones I immediately self answered with. Like so: superuser.com/questions/201613/… How is that possible when the question is little more than a vague stub intended as the minimum amount of work necessary for me to rush right into the answer, instead of a clear, specific, well researched and explained question -- exactly what we hope (and almost demand) all questions should be? –  Jeff Atwood Jun 23 '12 at 4:22
    
@robert so your statement that "they didn't need the help" isn't really correct. There is always more than one way to do it, and me posting a self-answer should not preclude anyone else from answering (although, it is true, you want different answers and not duplicate ones). –  Jeff Atwood Jun 23 '12 at 4:24
    
Aren't most low-rep users already delayed 8 hours before being able to provide self-answers, out of fear they may use it for comments or edits instead? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 23 '12 at 5:48
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Delaying self-answers is bad for the community. If I already know the answer when I'm posting the question, delaying my answer would waste other people's time if they happen to think of the same solution. Putting a notice: to say what? The badge bit: ok, why not, but that's not specific to insta-answers. –  Gilles Jun 23 '12 at 7:50
    
@JeffAtwood I agree people can (and should) follow up with better answers when they have them, but the case I'm talking about is the proposed suggestion above of forcing a delay between question and self-answer. I'm only suggesting that people think they are helping a user in need, but later find out they didn't need help at all (when the delay passes, the author's pre-written answer is posted). At least with the self-answered posts you cited, the user (you) is up front about what you are doing. –  Robert Cartaino Jun 24 '12 at 21:50
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The answer to this question seems very clear to me:

From Jeff Atwood's comment:

If the question wouldn't be allowed on SO as it stands -- and these clearly wouldn't -- there's no way a self-answer should make it immune to the regular standards we have for all incoming questions...

Let's treat these questions just like any other question. As a community, we need to train ourselves to hold these questions to the same standard we would any other question.

In fact, the community can -- and has -- stepped up to help fix these problems when they're encountered.

For instance, recently someone asked How can I style a part of a single character with overlays using a dynamic width? because he found the answer on his own and thought it would be great to document the solution on StackOverflow. Understandably, the question was closed as Not a Real Question. Here is the original revision before 5 or 6 people all collabratively edited the post and reopened it:

The Question:

I wanted to ask the following question:

Can i style just a part of a single HTML character? For example an "X" which is half-way red and then black?

While playing around with a demo fiddle, i figured it out myself and wanted to share my solution. It's really simple.

By the way, my intention was styling the Font Awesome [icon-star][1], so that i have an exact visualization of scores.

In the question, the op states his intention to answer his question. He broke the 4th wall!

When Jeff says "pretend you're on Jeopardy" what he really means to say is that we must ask our question as if we were the person experiencing the real, actual problem being faced. Then answer it separately, as if we were another person. In other words, pretend you're an actor on a stage playing the role of someone with a problem. Just like a professional actor, you must stay in character.

Self Answerer's Must Role Play:

For example, when self-answering, it's helpful to think of yourself as two people: jmort253(1) and jmort253(2). jmort253(1) has the question and posts it, including what problem he faced, what research he did, what alternatives he considered, and example code, if applicable. jmort253(1) should write the question from the perspective of someone who is having a problem and who simply cannot find the solution. In fact, in his role, he knows of no answer.

jmort253(2) on the other hand, sees the predicament jmort253(1) is in and answers the question, following all of the guidelines of "How to Answer", including real code and explanations and maybe supplementing the answer with a link.

Additionally, a third party coming to this page should not know that the question was self-answered. Imagine if usernames were hidden on all posts and everything was posted by Anonymous. There should be nothing in either question or answer that suggests it's self-answered or that something is amiss.

This is the true meaning of "pretend you're on Jeopardy".

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Or perhaps jmort253 and jmort254... –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 2:38
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...also: what is Jeopardy? –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 2:38
    
@YannisRizos - jeopardy.com It's a game show where contestants are read "answers" and they must answer in the form of a question. Gameshow Host: "It's a platform where experts can get answers". Contestant hits buzzer. Contestant: "What is StackExchange?". Gameshow Host: "Correct" –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 2:42
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Wrong! What is Experts-Exchange? would be the correct answer... ;P –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 2:43
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I just can't shake the feeling that 80-90% of the time, if you intend to post a useful answer that people care about, someone should have already asked that question at some point. That's why the self-answered question needs to be very clear in explaining that "hey, I looked everywhere, here is my research, I couldn't find anything". The point of the system is to help others, and yourself, but you must put helping others before helping yourself. It's not complicated: search first. Share your research. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 23 '12 at 4:28
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@JeffAtwood - I think this is exactly where I was heading in my answer. Just treat this as if it's any other question. –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 4:33
    
@jmort253 but I can't treat it like any other question, if the effort is there, just only on the answer. I try to see posts and not people (even wrote a small userscript to hide user information), but I can't completely ignore the fact that the author did the research just because he posted it at the wrong place. –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 4:47
    
@YannisRizos - If the effort isn't on both the question and the answer, then it either needs to be edited to bring it up to standards, or closed, or if the answer is the problem then the answer needs be downvoted/deleted. This is the same thing we do everyday on every question. If it's a duplicate of another question, it should be closed. I think you and I are in agreement on this, we're just saying the same things but in a different way ;) In summary, the op is writing 2 posts, and the op must adhere to the guidelines for both posts. –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 5:11
    
@jmort253 Obviously, I know the drill, that's not the issue, the issue is it's the same author. She wrote a great answer, I appreciate the effort, and then I have to downvote / close her question. Doesn't feel right. –  Yannis Jun 23 '12 at 5:14
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@YannisRizos - I think that's the risk/reward of self-answering. You either get rep for both a great question and a great answer, or you risk losing both. What we can do is empower people to succeed by making sure all of the information and guidance a self-answerer needs is available in the self-answer post window. Self-answering isn't for the meek or the weary. :) –  jmort253 Jun 23 '12 at 5:16
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As a frequent self-answerer across several SE sites, I feel like any solution will need to include a community-awareness element. Technical solutions probably won't work in isolation. Perhaps the biggest problem is the perception of "double-dipping". It's absolutely true that I often get a great deal mileage out of self-answered questions in terms of reputation. Since self-answers are often clear and generally useful, they tend to attract upvotes from people who stumble across them looking for solutions to their problems. And since questions tend to be evaluated in part by the quality of their answers, they tend to be upvoted too.

But, at least for me, self-answered questions are actually more work than one regular question plus one regular answer. The answer part is especially labor-intensive since I know many of the pitfalls the asker will run across (since I'm the asker). My answers try to cover all the angles. However, in my zeal to provide the best and most complete answer, I've found that my questions tend to suffer neglect. Quite often, the question has just one sensible answer: the one I provided.


Therefore, I suggest defining a set of "best-practices" or community-enforced requirements for posting self-answered questions:

  1. Search diligently for existing questions that can be answered with the knowledge you wish to share. (As an aside, many of my self-answered questions begin life as true questions that I discover a solution to in the process of researching the question. Searching for a previously-asked question is one of my early steps.)

    Recourse: if the community discovers that a duplicate question exists, the self-answered question should be closed. Closed questions gather fewer upvotes than open questions.

  2. Write the question from the perspective of someone truly struggling with an answer. Be as clear as possible about the difficulties and list some dead-ends that might be chased down. Don't save all your firepower for the answer.

    Recourse: the usual suite of tools should be used with special attention to self-answered questions. Close undeveloped questions as "Not a Real Question". I can't think of a better case for using that reason than a poorly-worded self-answered question—it really wasn't an open question.

  3. Provide an encyclopedic answer. Don't just answer the immediate question, but fix it two (or even three) ways. Give the reader everything they might need to answer related questions themselves.

    Recourse: write a better answer or an answer that fills in the gaps. Nothing makes me happier than the ask a question I already have an answer for and have someone else answer it better than I did. Since self-answers are designed to provide long-term, generalized help, better answers will garnish more reputation than mediocre answers.

  4. Edit questions and answers diligently to respond to comments and criticism. Tend your blog-like posts as if they were, well, your own blog.

    Recourse: comment on and edit posts that are not as good as they can be. Let the author know that the quality of their work matters to you and that improvements are appreciated.

Conclusion

As a rule, people are good at detecting "cheating" and try to punish it. Since self-answered questions bare some marks of illegitimate reputation grabs, folks who write them must be especially careful to go about asking and answering with integrity. The community should be aware that such posts are often designed to make the internet a better place rather than building reputation on the site. The later, however, is a welcome side-effect.

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I see these posts as a way for people to put up mini blog posts with a comprehensive write-up of specific topics or areas of concern. I'd love to be able to do this personally, since I feel I have the ability to contribute blog-quality content, but don't necessarily want to stand up my own blog to do it.

But there has to be some understanding about how these posts fit into the larger body of questions and answers on Stack Overflow, especially with respect to duplication.

A canonical post is supposed to replace any number of more localized posts. It is not a duplicate of those posts, and should not be closed as such. When someone asks the "headers already sent" php question, they post their specific code. The canonical post is supposed to replace those posts with a more general and comprehensive post.

There needs to be some sort of "post notice" letting the community know that this is a canonical post, and is intended to replace any number of "frequently asked questions" on the subject. The post (and its answers) can still be vetted in the usual way with votes, but there needs to be some leeway with respect to closing as a duplicate.

I'm on the fence with regards to CW. While I always CW and protect FAQ posts on Meta (which is our closest model to these canonical questions), if a person is going to put in the effort to write up a canonical post, they should be able to earn reputation for it.

I don't think the answer needs to be delayed. That kind of defeats the purpose. Nor do I think double-dipping is a problem. If people think the OP is getting too much rep from the post, they can just refrain from voting.

On Meta, there is a special tag for canonical posts: [faq]. I would support a similar tag on Stack Overflow.

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If we are supposed to use this feature for "canonical posts", it needs official backing. I've tried creating some that were then closed as "not a real question" because some users felt those questions should come up organically. –  Pëkka Jun 25 '12 at 15:08
    
That's what I mean. Excellent content should never be subsumed by pre-existing, merely average content. –  Robert Harvey Jun 25 '12 at 15:27
    
@RobertHarvey - This related post is one you may be interested in: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/137491/…. –  jmort253 Jun 26 '12 at 5:45
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