Not a request per se but more of an observation. As Joel said in one of the podcasts he'd prefer to keep the question generic enough to be of maximum use and to add possibly solutions (that didn't work in the case of the question starter) as seperate responses.

Every time I try this I don't get anyone else posting responses because they see the same user is asking and responding. From here on end noone will post answers even though I have not selected my answer as the solution. Once I delete my response then people that adding their own responses again. So my conclusion is that this system doesn't work in practice.

So what is the best way to keep a question generic enough so that it is useful for others but also help people along adding responses that I haven't already considered?

edit: @jinguy I'll post an example but it's not about a specific question imho. In this example I've deleted my answer which is similar to the first other response, which only appeared afterward deletion. I'm sure there are more answers for that question too.

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    Links to the posts you speak of please. – jjnguy Aug 6 '09 at 13:46
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    regarding your edit: you should at least leave a comment explaining why that suggestion won't work. You may simply be bumping up against a more common issue: you want something obscure, and no one knows if or how it's possible. – Shog9 Aug 6 '09 at 14:31
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    FWIW - there's a difference between asking a question in a general way (leaving out details that are probably irrelevant) and asking a specific question with crucial details intentionally withheld. Compare: "What's a good algorithm for producing line-based diffs?" (language not specified - algorithm could be language-agnostic) vs. "My computer crashes - what's wrong with it?" (scenario, hardware, software not described, leaving millions of possibilities - chances of getting any help impossibly slim). – Shog9 Aug 6 '09 at 14:36
  • @Shog9: okay I've done so now. So perhaps this then indicate a bigger issue with following up on discussion on a knowledge exchange in wiki like systems such as the stackoverflow based sites.. Or that it's just a learning process. – svandragt Aug 6 '09 at 14:42
  • Asking good questions is hard... Ask anyone who's managed it. – Shog9 Aug 6 '09 at 15:08

So... wait longer before adding your own responses!

If someone suggests something you've tried, thank them and describe why it didn't work for your specific situation.

If someone suggests something you haven't tried, then try it...


Regardless of what Jeff and Joel say, there IS a community stigma towards people who answer their own questions. Most of the time it is completely benign, but the few times that it does reek of gaming the system is enough to turn off a good percentage of the userbase. I know I am guilty of it myself. If I see a question that has already been responded to by the OP, I will only post on that if there is something completely different that I want to say compared to their own answer.


Example from personal experience.

I waited one day before adding an answer with some suggestions I had received offline. Never saw any more answers until today, 8 hours ago. Almost 5 months later!

The answer I posted did mention that I was unhappy with the results of my own attempts, but I guess most users never read that far.

  • Well, your answer probably should have been posted as an edit to your question. (In this case) – jjnguy Aug 6 '09 at 14:21
  • Hmm... It's also possible here that no one had an answer. A quick glance at other waitn questions shows a lot of unanswered or single-answer questions, often with significant delays between the question its response. I don't think this is uncommon for niche questions. – Shog9 Aug 6 '09 at 14:24
  • I think this is a good example, and disagree with jinguy because the answer could solve the same/related problem for someone else and would be overlooked if it was part of the question. – svandragt Aug 6 '09 at 14:24
  • @Pacifka I suppose that the posted answer could be helpful to others; however, it feels to me like more of an update for his question. As it is now, I would have posted it as an edit, but it is fine as an answer. – jjnguy Aug 6 '09 at 14:30
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    IMHO, editing is a good way to help get answers to your question. It also helps by bumping the question. – jjnguy Aug 6 '09 at 14:35
  • @jjnguy: At the time I thought it deserved separation from the question as a possible solution(s). Shog9 makes a good point that it could be the fault of the niche. – Joel Aug 6 '09 at 14:41

I can think offhand of three questions with quick self-responses which I answered anyway. On two of them my answer was accepted; on the third, the OP accepted his own answer, but mine outscored his 13 to 9 (which reminds me, I wonder if the populist badge is in play on self-accepted answers?).

I don't personally see a problem. If I think I have a better answer, I'll post it. It is true that I might think twice, though, especially if I think the OP posted it just to accept his own answer.

I suggest you simply try to make it very clear that you are looking for better answers, not just trying to show off.

  • I'd say that last bit is the important part. – jjnguy Aug 6 '09 at 16:12

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