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My apologies if this is a repeat, I searched, but I couldn't find anything quite like this.

There are times when users (particularly very new users) post a question as an answer to an existing question. I just ran across one today. The problem is that we have no way to answer an answer; it has to be reposted as a question. (We could comment on the question, but this just abuses the system, degrading it to something like a limited forum.)

I think it would be useful if the questioner or a moderator could convert an "answer" to a new question (preserving the owner of the question, so they can easily find it in their user page). It might also be useful if comments to the converted "answer" were preserved as comments to the new question; though this is very optional.

I do think the "answer" should be the responsibility of the user, but many of these are just drive-by users. If moderators could also access the function it would cleanup the existing question/answers, set a good example for other new users, and make it easier for people to search. Many of these "answers" simply languish without being moved to a new question as the users never come back.

Thoughts?

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marked as duplicate by Shog9 Mar 6 '13 at 23:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Interestingly, I think all that's needed to do this in the database is blank out one field and set another. –  Jon Seigel Jun 9 '10 at 18:01
    
BUUUUMP! We need this so bad. –  Won't Jan 26 '11 at 14:11
    
@Will, there's a 'new' problem raised if this suggestion was implemented - that the chance of the 'author' accepting a correct answer is basically zero. An answer to that of course is another suggestion I've had - high rep users can vote to accept answers (perhaps restricted to questions that have lingered for some amount of time). That in turn raises more issues (should the 'accept' be attributed to the voters, should there be a 3rd state between answered/unaccepted and answered/accepted questions... Or is there an alternate, more elegant, solution. We'll only have more problems with growth. –  Chris S Jan 26 '11 at 15:03
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true, but that issue could be solved by messaging the user. You get a notification at the top the next time you visit the website, "Your answer has been promoted to a Question! Click here to see your question and select an answer!" –  Won't Jan 26 '11 at 18:32

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+25

I like this idea in theory, but I think implementing it might cause more problems than it solves. In addition to what Jeff said, you'd need some sort of migration notice for "answer questions."

Including a migration notice defeats the purpose of reducing clutter and noise, although it does help with logical organization and solves the problem of questions being unanswerable due to being posted in the wrong place.

Not including a migration notice is no good because the asker of the "answer question" probably wouldn't understand what happened. (Neither would anyone else other than the migrator, for that matter.) In addition to this not being helpful for anyone, it would lead to a number of possible bad reactions:

  • asker re-posts the "answer question"
  • asker posts as a real question which is then obviously a dupe
  • asker gets frustrated and leaves, spreading the word that SO sucks
  • &c.
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+1, Agreed. Since I first ask this we've talking about it quite a bit and it seems like it would cause more problems than it solves. I think Shog's response is our best option - If it's a good question, repost it yourself; if not flag it so a mod can dump it. –  Chris S Jan 26 '11 at 18:17
    
If the migration notice was visible only to the original asker, it might not be a problem with clutter... –  bdonlan Jan 29 '11 at 13:13

We generally want the people asking to do this work themselves; if they can't figure out our system well enough to find the ASK QUESTION button, the odds of them:

  • asking a good question
  • once asked, following up on their question

... are pretty dang slim.

So I am against this, on the basis that it doesn't pass the "require a minimum amount of effort from the asker" bar.

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4  
If it is, somehow, a really good question, some reader could always just ask it themselves and garner answers, rep, buxom asker groupies, etc. –  Shog9 Jun 9 '10 at 21:36
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Additionally to the fact that many of these questions-as-answers aren't very good, even the decent ones usually won't make much sense if they are separated from their host question. Usually they are like "I'm also doing this, but my [foo] is a [bar], and I'm getting an error". Without the context of the original question and the answers provided there this often won't make sense. –  sth Jun 9 '10 at 21:43
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...but I'd like to see some way to handle these question, besides flagging for deletion by a moderator, which basically just says "piss off" to these new users. But commenting to get them to ask their answers as questions instead is also only rarely successful. I do it from time to time, but it's not fun and some easy way to handle such posts would be appreciated. I'm not sure what that way should look like, though. –  sth Jun 9 '10 at 21:56
    
And about the commenting: I just clicked through 30 random posts from this new and improved query, and from those 30 people that posted questions (of varying quality) as answers, at least 20 couldn't be convinced by a comment to ask a question instead. Not counted are of course those that deleted their "answer" after asking a question, but I doubt that that would be very many. –  sth Jun 9 '10 at 22:17
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@sth: When these are flagged I typically look to see how active the person is. If they haven't been seen for weeks or months I'll go ahead and delete. If they've been back since they left the faux answer I'll leave a comment and come back and check on them later. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 10 '10 at 16:37
    
Please keep two things in mind. 1, everyone who has commented or proposed an answer to this question is "from SO". I think the questions and users of SO are slightly different than SF, and the "questions as answers" are more frequently complete questions on SF. 2, I do agree that it should be the person's responsibility, but the drive-by users have no interest in keeping the site clean or searchable, and feel no responsibility for what they leave behind. –  Chris S Jun 11 '10 at 18:27
    
@Jeff the problem is when they do put lots of effort in the question. When they add (properly formatted) code and ask a legit question clearly, when we delete the answer they lose all that work. As I commented at the top, you can message the user that this has happened. The user would get a notification at the top the next time they visit the website, "Your answer has been promoted to a Question! Click here to see your question and select an answer!" –  Won't Jan 26 '11 at 18:34
    
@will I don't care -- they need to ask properly. At 2,600+ questions per day, we don't need their question if they can't be bothered to spend 5 seconds to figure anything out. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 26 '11 at 20:53
    
@Jeff oh well, then, delete with prejudice. –  Won't Jan 27 '11 at 12:49
    
@will I never brought up deletion here at all, only you did! My argument is that askers need to do a modicum of work -- getting an answer is a privilege not a right. Beyond that it is a judgment call. If Knuth "accidentally" asked a question as an answer, sure. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 27 '11 at 13:00
    
@Jeff So, do we delete questions-in-answers or not? Am confused. –  Won't Jan 27 '11 at 13:01
    
@will delete things that suck. If it's the WORLD'S BEST AND MOST WELL WRITTEN QUESTION-AS-ANSWER, submitted by Donald friggin' Knuth, then give it special treatment at your discretion. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 27 '11 at 23:14

Great idea. I think it would be slightly more work than changing a flag in the database, but not much. Questions have a couple of things that Answers don't have, like titles and tags. The tags could probably be copied straight from the original in 99% of cases, but I'd at least like the option to give the post an original title when promoting it. (I know I could just edit the thing after the fact, but I'm lazy.)

It might also be nice to auto-insert a link to the original post.

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I like the idea of auto-inserting the link to the original post. –  Randolpho Jun 9 '10 at 20:21
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Is this ever going to happen? I delete about five of these a day. –  Won't Jan 25 '11 at 21:57

I like the idea. As @Jon Seigel mentioned, it appears to be only one field in the Posts table that needs changing. Sounds like a great Diamond mod (or even a 10k + community mod) option.

For now, I suggest we flag answers that should be questions as requiring mod attention. The mod can then deal with it appropriately, if necessary.

Edit:
Of course, if somebody answers a question with a similar question, and it gets promoted to full-fledged question, it's highly likely to be closed as an Exact Duplicate (tm).

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I agree, if it's an exact duplicate, it shouldn't be converted to it's own question. It's really just for questions that are similar enough where drive-by users post a similar-but-different question as an answer. –  Chris S Jun 9 '10 at 18:54
    
@Chris S: I agree... but my point was less that exact duplicates shouldn't be converted to their own questions and more that "similar-but-different questions" will be closed as "exact duplicates". –  Randolpho Jun 9 '10 at 20:20

I think we might need some way for new users to bump questions to the home page (or at least contribute to "hotness" in some way).

Most of these "questions as answers" that I've seen would be closed as duplicates if posted as questions, so the way I see it is that the user has had the same problem found the question but can't see any way to say "Help, I'm having he same problem and none of the answers (if any) solve it." other than by posting an answer as if it were a discussion forum.

Unless they've been on the site before and contributed something else they won't have enough rep to vote the question up let alone edit it! They need a solution to their problem now, and they don't have the time to invest in the site at this moment. The only way they can do this at the moment is to post an answer - they don't want to post their own question as they can see that it's already been asked.

So do we need a "I'm having the same problem" button on a question and if it's clicked enough times within a certain period the question gets bumped? There would have to be limits on the number of times a user can click it and perhaps it should only be available to registered users to reduce people bumping their own questions.

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The "Me too!" answers on unanswered questions are only one side of the problem (a rough guess would be 50%). The other part are people that search for a solution to a problem, find a related SO question and then post their follow-up question as an answer. –  sth Jun 9 '10 at 22:24
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@sth - Perhaps there should be two buttons - "Me too" and "Follow Up", the latter being an alias for "Ask Question". Or perhaps not - it's obviously too complicated for some people as it is ;) –  ChrisF Jun 10 '10 at 9:40

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