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Today I came across a question that wasn't actually a question. Rather, the author read an interesting factoid and turned it into a question, adding the factoid as an answer straight away. The reason I say it isn't a question is because there was never a problem or something that the author didn't know. In other words, there was an answer first and then a question was posted to give that answer a place on the site. At least, that's how I think things must have gone.

It's unclear to me what the policy on this is. On the one hand, the help center clearly states that self-answering is explicitly encouraged. However, I don't think this should be interpreted to mean that self-answering negate flaws in the question.

On the other hand, the help center also states that questions should be based on actual problems that you face. However, that's also a pretty slippery slope because while it seems clear to me that this question wasn't an actual problem, the author can always claim that it was, and there is no way to disprove that definitively. On top of that, it's the answer that makes it seem clear (to me) that this is the way things went, but as we have previously assessed, the answer itself isn't a problem.

I vaguely remember reading something about such situations in the past, but my searches on the topic have come up empty. Therefore, my question is: are such questions considered to be on topic on Stack Exchange?

  • Why is this here and not on Science Fiction & Fantasy Meta? – Joe Oct 10 at 14:57
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    @Joe Because all policies involved are the same among different SE sites (note: this is not the SO meta, this is the SE meta). A possible answer would definitely be: that's up to the site to define their own policy on (in which case a SFF Meta question could be in order). – Jasper Oct 10 at 15:03
  • @Joe This happens on other sites too not just on Science Fiction & Fantasy. – Rubén Oct 10 at 15:27
  • It seems to me though, that the question at hand here is whether the original question was a valid question for the site. As such, it's a question for the site itself, not for SE generally? – Joe Oct 10 at 16:03
  • @Joe No it's not. This one question initiated the situation, but I was hoping to find an existing answer on meta before I asked this. I want to know whether this type of Q/A pair is considered on topic or not and that can then indeed be applied to this question. (I'll admit that that one comment isn't entirely the same story, it is more about the very question.) – Jasper Oct 10 at 16:26
  • Weirdly, I had a similar question today at MSO. Basically, a user had posted a question with a self-answer, but I didn't think the question taken by itself was answerable. I wanted to double check and, indeed, the question still has to be on topic for the site. Disregard the answer and evaluate the question. If a question states "What is the value of x?" is bad even if the self-answer is "It's 4, since x = 2 + 2", then the question was bad. – VLAZ Oct 10 at 19:54
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Ignore the self-answer when evaluating the question. Is the question valid?

A person may face an actual problem and find an answer to that. All outside Stack Exchange. Then that person might wish to document that for future reference and to help others. Self-answered questions help do that in an atomic operation while saving others the effort to write an answer after reading the question.

If it really is not a question. If it would not be a real problem for anybody. Then vote to close. Self-answered or not.

  • I do think this is a very good answer. I'm still having some trouble applying it to the current situation, because it is hard for me to detach the two. The question is one I don't really think anyone would have (unless they already had the answer), but I would normally have taken the question as proof that they did. It's the self-answer with a link to a factoid-slideshow that undermines that truth. The question is in the form of "what was the inspiration for this pretty normal name in fiction", which I suppose someone could have. So, I guess that's the answer, they could, so it's on topic. – Jasper Oct 10 at 15:42
  • Perhaps your objection is to the factoid slideshow as a source? If so, then perhaps that deserves more of the attention here? – Joe Oct 10 at 16:04
  • @Joe Yes and no. I don't oppose to the sideshow as a source (even though finding a corroborating source definitely would improve it), which makes the answer fine. I do think that its use as a source reveals the flaw inherent in the question. Perhaps this isn't the right place to discuss the specifics of this one situation, though. – Jasper Oct 10 at 16:31

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