I just saw a self-answered question that was very trivial. The answer could easily be found by Googling the title of the question. I voted to close as "not constructive" since I don't think this kind of question is appropriate for SO. Is that the right thing to do? Here is the question:

How to install a specific version of a ruby gem?

I don't think SO needs to become a dictionary of every minor technical question.

  • 5
    Totally agreed. Related: General Reference questions create low-quality dead ends for Googlers
    – Pekka
    Jun 10, 2013 at 14:58
  • Deduct 1000 rep and disallow questions for 2 weeks. The user has been around long enough to know better. Jun 10, 2013 at 15:21
  • @user414076 You are too kind. I'd also suspend. From the ceiling. By his thumbs.
    – yannis
    Jun 10, 2013 at 15:24
  • 3
    @Yannis, I throw my support to your candidacy in the next SO mod election. Jun 10, 2013 at 15:29
  • 5
    @user414076 Thanks, but I'm trying to control my alcoholism. Moderating SO would throw me off the wagon in an instant.
    – yannis
    Jun 10, 2013 at 15:31
  • 7
    "I don't think SO needs to become a dictionary of every minor technical question." Well, actually that is what SO was for...
    Jun 10, 2013 at 15:34
  • Note that the original question has now been reopened. (Following 10k views in 6 months.)
    – mjs
    Dec 16, 2013 at 17:18

3 Answers 3


Treat the question no different than if it hadn't been self answered. What would you have done if someone asked this question and didn't have an answer?

If you felt that there wasn't enough research done then downvoting is the first thing to do.

Generally you wouldn't close a question just because there's not enough research done. If the question is too broad, vague, etc. it may be appropriate to close it as "not a real question". Closing as "not constructive" doesn't seem at all appropriate here.

Also make sure to treat the answer entirely as if it wasn't the OP posting it. If it's a good answer vote it up, if it's not then consider voting it down, editing, and/or commenting.


The appropriate action for poor self-answered questions is the same as for poor questions in general.

  • Downvote the question.
  • Judge the answer on its own merit.
    • If the answer is also trivial, then you could just leave it as that.
    • Else, if the answer is good, then you should upvote it.

Trivial questions could get good comprehensive answers. All of this, of course, if there does not exist a duplicate or it is not NC or NARQ.


I asked this question. I considering myself to be a fairly active user of SO, and this is the first time I've asked and answered such a trivial question. The reason I did so was that though the first Google result does indeed answer the question (and in fact this was how I discovered the answer), it is from a source I consider non-canonical. It's also 6 years old, which would ordinarily lead me to think that the answer was outdated.

In addition, and surprisingly (for such a seemingly straight-forward question), the next few search results were also not great, and hence I asked and answered the question.

  • 2
    I don't know, it's not like it's an undocumented feature. If you had read the documentation on gem install, you would have found the answer. Jun 10, 2013 at 22:50

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