Is accepting an answer discouraging more answers?

The consensus and my experience seems to be yes. Similarly, when writing self-answer questions, the fact that it already has 1 answer immediately seems to discourage people from reading either the question or the answer.

Maybe that's the point of these self-solved questions - people who are there when you immediately post it aren't interested, but in the future people searching for the same problem will find your post. But that seems to discourage writing self-answered questions if they will be viewed less than other questions and therefore also receive fewer votes.

Is there anything that could be done - highlighting self-answered questions in a section, or not counting the answer in the # of answers - to encourage people to write them more?

  • When did SO get a blog feature? – Anthony Pegram Jun 28 '12 at 3:55
  • It is the "Answer your own question" feature when asking a question. I considered doing it ironically when posting this :) – andrewtweber Jun 28 '12 at 3:55
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    They're self-answered questions, not blog posts. For that you'd see the WordPress dashboard – random Jun 28 '12 at 4:03
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    @random Regardless of what it's called, the purpose is to encourage the blogging aspect of the sites blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/05/encyclopedia-stack-exchange – andrewtweber Jun 28 '12 at 4:14
  • I wonder if people get discouraged by self answers because it looks like they have no place to contribute? Just a thought. – simchona Jun 28 '12 at 4:16
  • So the consensus is that accepting an answer lowers activity on a question. That seems like a pretty big deterrent from writing self-answered questions to me. – andrewtweber Jun 28 '12 at 4:33
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    You don't actually have to accept an answer y'know. – Shog9 Jun 28 '12 at 4:35
  • @Shog9 For my first post I didn't accept my answer until a few weeks later because it was hurting my accept rate. For the most recent one I haven't accepted the answer yet but I think the fact that it even has an answer is hurting it. – andrewtweber Jun 28 '12 at 4:37

A few likely reasons:

  • Asking good questions is hard. Just look at all the folks failing every day! Just because you can write a good answer doesn't mean the question's quality will match. To say nothing of picking the right title - if you ask about implementing a multi-domain login system and everyone's searching for cross-domain cookies, you'll get passed over.

  • You'll get fewer competing answers, fewer editors, and hence fewer instances where your question is bumped to the front page.

  • Just having an answer means your question will get fewer views, since the folks scrounging around for questions to answer will skip it. Once your answer is up-voted, it'll drop out of the Unanswered lists. And as you noted, there's a fairly strong belief that accepting an answer further discourages new ones (and thus views).

Of course, the folks who do share your problem and find it by searching will probably be more engaged in terms of providing useful feedback than drive-by readers. But you might have to wait longer for them to show up.

(Then again, I've answered others' questions where my answer didn't get a single up-vote or accept for months or, in one case, over a year. So it's not like this is limited to self-answers)

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  • Thanks for the answer. I agree with all of your points, but I guess what I'm trying to say is - is there anything SO can do to bump good self-answers so that they don't just fall through the cracks? Maybe not - maybe it's just up to me to write the question well and as you say, over time people will find it when they need it. – andrewtweber Jun 28 '12 at 4:54
  • Self-answered questions have the same chance and opportunities as any other question. Need more attention? Post a bounty. Don't like your question being ignored if it's self-answered? Write an ordinary answer in two days. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 16:12

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