So here's the situation. I have almost discovered something that is super important. There is a huge reward for it from a private firm, and the person who brings it forward will become very famous. But there is an issue which remains unsolved, there's something I need to verify.

I've done all the research I can, online and print, and can find nothing. Should I post this question on Stack Exchange? Is there any way the credit can be traced back to me?

Let's assume, yes, there is an SE site for this. Should I ask?

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    About what? Is this thing even something we have a site for? Can you be a little less vague? Also, are you asking what we think you should do or whether it's allowed? – Catija Sep 25 '17 at 16:40
  • Yes, hypothetically, let's say there is an SE site for this, and the question is well within its policies. SHOULD I do this? – Aravind Suresh Sep 25 '17 at 16:42
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    There's no answer to this question... it's completely a judgement call and subjective. Different people will have vastly different answers. – Catija Sep 25 '17 at 16:47
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    Possible duplicate of Can I use this site as a brainstorming/voting site? – gnat Sep 25 '17 at 21:33

The key here is the scope of your question. Say you intend to enter one of those "build a working tricorder" contests. You don't ask "how do I build a tricorder?" That's far too broad, that's asking other people to do your work. You set to working discovering, inventing, tweaking, calibrating, debugging and so on and along the way you discover that when your foobulator gets warm, it gets more flexible and this causes issues for your grabbard. Now you're free to ask (on the appropriate site for each):

  • how can I keep a foobulator cool under load?
  • is there a way to keep a foobulator rigid even when warm?
  • do all grabbards require a rigid substrate?

Or whatever. A very small, very specific question. You don't provide context about working on a tricorder. You don't ask other people to make decisions for you. You ask the information you need to make a decision, whether that's a design decision, how to implement something, or confirming you've discovered something.

On the matter of credit, once you have made your discovery and been rewarded for it, there is nothing wrong with thanking the helpful people of [site] who contributed many small details and facts that were helpful along the way. That doesn't mean you don't deserve full credit for coming up with the questions and making good decisions with the help of the answers.


I would add a small answer, if your idea is 'patentable', as it's hard to tell with your question.

You must take care to not write something that can be considered prior art online. Such could make your idea belong in the public domain.

A quote from an intellectual property lawyer:

If the invention in question was described in a printed publication published anywhere in the world prior to the patent applicant inventing it, then no patent can be obtained.

If the invention were publicly known in the US, but not necessarily patented or published, prior to the patent applicant inventing it, then no patent can be obtained.

For further discussion I suggest asking on Ask Patents SE.

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