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I have noticed that when people are asking a question just to self answer it right away, they - for very obvious reasons - does not put to much effort into the actual question. Why would they? They have a problem that they have solved and now want to share their knowledge. So the question usually ends up with just a simple "How do I do X provided Y" and nothing more.

But it's pretty common (granted, speculation from my side) that these questions gets downvoted for lack of research, which is a bit unfair. All the research exists in the answer. But if you don't know that the question is self answered, then it's quite natural to downvote it.

I have found two ways of guarding yourself against these misinterpreted downvotes.

  • Add something like "(This is a self answered question)" to the actual question.

  • Add unnecessary research to the question just to make it look "well researched".

Both are suboptimal. Meta commentary is frowned upon, so there goes the first option. And just fictionally copying stuff from the answer just to show that you have made your research is not good either. One way of doing it is basically taking 90% of the answer and put it in the question, and then let the answer take care of the remaining 10% of the problem. But I cannot really see how that would make anything better. It would just make it look better.

I don't know exactly what would be the best solution. I'm thinking of something like a banner clearly indicating that it is self answered or something. What do you think?

I'm open to the thought that there may be good reasons to expand the question even if you have solved the problem, but I cannot see any.

EDIT:

If we should have that banner, it should be autogenerated from the site. I did not think about something that you put in the body of the question.

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  • 14
    " does not put to much effort into the actual question. Why would they?" because this is a Question and Answer site? A well asked question is just as important as a good answer, perhaps more so because good questions beget good answers. I don't see why a bad question should be forgiven just because it has a self answer. People come via searching for questions, if a question is not well formed, no one will find it.
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:04
  • @MarkKirby Because it's very unnecessary to post "I have tried this, this and this" when you have a solution.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:07
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    You don't need to post that, many good questions don't contain a list of research like that. What makes you think that is why they get downvotes? It seems to me that a low effort question would have more glaring issues than a lack of research. Do you have an example of a good self answered question, that is downvoted only due to not listing research? It might help to clarify the issue here.
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:11
  • @MarkKirby I clarified with an example
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:11
  • @MarkKirby No, I don't have a good example to link. Mainly because I cannot know for sure why they are getting downvoted. It's just speculation from my part that it is because of lack of effort, because that's what the questions really look like.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:12
  • 2
    I think due to the format here a question needs to be self contained. It may be intended for a self answer but it should be worded in a way that others can answer it too. Self answer are allowed or even encouraged but they still need to be on quality questions.
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:15
  • 1
    If you can't be bothered with the Q/A format, post on Medium. That is free-style / format-less.
    – rene
    May 28, 2020 at 14:15
  • @rene It's not that I "cannot be bothered". It's more that I cannot really see the value.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:21
  • Just to clarify a definition here. To me a question that lacks research effort is not one that does not list every thing the OP has tried but one where an answer can be found easily on the site already, by a quick search or is a do my homework style question. Perhaps others disagree but that is how I take it. Note: I am not from SO, perhaps they have a stricter definition because of the volume of traffic?
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:21
  • @MarkKirby One example I have is this stackoverflow.com/q/48055431/6699433 When I posted it, the question got instantly downvoted and my answer upvoted. When I added some "pseudo research" to the question, the downvoting stopped.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:27
  • I think your second revision to that question is just miles better. The first version just asks why but the second gives your reasoning for asking and asks the specific question of "can this cause harm?", something people can answer. I don't think that is pseudo research but just a good clarification of what you are asking. It added a lot of understanding to the question in my opinion. I can't speak for the down voter though, just give an opinion.
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:39
  • @MarkKirby TBH, I don't think it's that much better. But I agree that it LOOKS way better. But it does not really add something that would affect the way you can answer it. And what I did was basically just picking a few lines from my answer and rephrased them to a question.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 14:49
  • As stupid as this sounds to say out loud, you are only seeing this from your own point of view :/ You have all the context of the question because of course you do. it is your question but not to a reader, who has nothing to go on but the question content. If I say to you "Bob told me sausages cause cancer, why?" you would tell me that is a bad question but if I asked "Bob told me sausages cause cancer, I don't believe that because people eat sausages all the time, is there any truth to this" you can answer the second one because I clarified the point. If that makes sense?
    – Mark Kirby
    May 28, 2020 at 14:56
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    @MarkKirby - Bob is mistaken, sausages can cause ingestion, not cancer :-)
    – Ramhound
    May 28, 2020 at 14:58
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    @MarkKirby No offense taken. I'm fully aware that this is from my point of view, and I wanted your point of view on the matter.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 15:02

4 Answers 4

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I find the whole premise:

I have noticed that when people are asking a question just to self answer it right away, they - for very obvious reasons - does not put to much effort into the actual question. Why would they?

to be subjective and questionable.

I occasionally do write questions knowing that I will add an answer myself. I do spent the exact some amount of time and energy into writing that question, as I would for questions that I hope others will answer.

Because, when writing a self-answered question, I do the whole thing to help other people. And guess what: well written questions attract views, and a well written question also makes is much easier for future readers to understand whether that question applies to their problem! So when I am lazy when writing my question, that will negatively impact my main goal: creating content others will find helpful.

And far too often, I write my question, maybe get some comments, and just keep working on the problem myself. So I end up having an answer a few hours or days later. So I often didn't know upfront about a later self answer.

Meaning: I have noticed that people are either willing to come up with quality content, or they do not care. That is completely independent from the asking a question with the intent of answering it yourself, too.

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  • I can only tell from my own experience and it happened to me that I downvoted a self-answered question (before reading the answers) because it looked like no research was done and upvoted the answer later because the research was done there. It's always a bit tricky to decide how much of the effort should go into a question and how much into the answer. In principle one has to judge a Q&A pair always together. Abstract example: all effort in the answer: Q: What is the solution to problem X? A: Y is the solution to problem X, all effort in the question: Q: Is the solution to problem X Y? A: Yes
    – Trilarion
    Sep 4, 2020 at 10:52
  • ... after reading the answer I reverted my downvote on the question, so it was not a big thing, but in the end I only upvoted the answer, not the question.
    – Trilarion
    Sep 4, 2020 at 10:53
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I agree that it could be helpful to mark self-answered questions more prominently. However, such questions still need to conform to the network & site standards for good questions. Being a self-answered question is not an excuse to skimp on question quality.

As Mark Kirby mentioned in the comments, "if a question is not well formed, no one will find it", and "it should be worded in a way that others can answer it too". Mark's first point is very important, especially for people using external search engines like Google, since those engines give such high priority to the question, and even higher priority to the question title. This is very apparent if you've ever tried to search for duplicate targets using keywords that are in the answer you're looking for but not in the question.

Note that some people will downvote self-answered questions purely because they don't think that self-answered questions are appropriate, despite the various help & meta posts that explicitly encourage self-answered questions. So it's not easy to avoid some downvotes on such questions.

To be fair, some self-answered questions aren't appropriate. These are basically blog-post style articles that have been squeezed into a Q&A format. Stack Exchange isn't a free blog hosting site.


FWIW, here's an example of a self-answered question that was created to serve as a dupe target for a common beginners' Python problem.

Importing installed package from script raises "AttributeError: module has no attribute" or "ImportError: cannot import name"

The problem can be hard for newbies to solve because the error messages don't make it very clear what the source of the problem is, although admittedly Googling the exact error messages will lead you to posts by people with the same or similar problem.

Although there were many existing questions on SO from people with this problem, none of those questions which we looked at made great duplicate targets because it's hard to describe the problem correctly until you understand the true cause. So the OP's description of the problem tends to be confused and misleading. And like typo questions, it's unlikely for someone with the same problem to find such questions via a Google search, partly because they simply don't recognise that it's the same problem.

Several people in the SO Python chat room actually helped the OP to workshop that Q&A before it was posted. The question now has a healthy score, but in the few minutes between the posting of the question and the answer it was hit by several downvotes, and a dupe close vote. Another Python chat regular posted a comment explaining the situation, but I think some kind of official marker that it was a self-answered canonical question may have been helpful.

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  • Any indication that that question was self-answered should be generate by website itself. Just because an answer is submitted, does not mean, that answer not be deleted if it's below our expectations for quality. Which is the reason the notification, within the body of the question, is inappropriate we already have the next best thing the ability to accept answers..
    – Ramhound
    May 28, 2020 at 15:23
  • @Ramhound Actually, that banner I was talking about, I did intend to have it autogenerated by the site, but I agree that it was not clear. I'll edit my question.
    – klutt
    May 28, 2020 at 15:25
  • @Ramhound "Any indication that that question was self-answered should be generate by website itself." Agreed. And of course, just because a question is self-answered is no guarantee that the quality of the answer is good, I've seen some terrible self-answered questions. OTOH, a self-answered Q&A by a high-rep member with a gold tag badge in the topic is very likely to be high quality.
    – PM 2Ring
    May 28, 2020 at 15:28
6

I have noticed that when people are asking a question just to self answer it right away, they - for very obvious reasons - does not put to much effort into the actual question. Why would they?

You actual should put effort into the actual question. The quality expectations of a question are not lowered just because the author of the question eventually submits an answer to their question.

They have a problem that they have solved and now want to share their knowledge. So the question usually ends up with just a simple "How do I do X provided Y" and nothing more.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with simply asking "How do I do X provided Y", but the requirement for the question to contain enough information, to be answered still exists.

But it's pretty common (granted, speculation from my side) that these questions gets downvoted for lack of research, which is a bit unfair. All the research exists in the answer. But if you don't know that the question is self answered, then it's quite natural to downvote it.

I suspect those questions are being downvoted due to their low quality instead of the fact the questions are being answered by the author.

I don't know exactly what would be the best solution. I'm thinking of something like a banner clearly indicating that it is self answered or something. What do you think?

As an editor who spends multiple hours a day in the review queue, it isn't necessary, to inform me that the question was answered by the author. The fact the question was self-answered does not actually change the quality expectations of the question or the answer.

There is already a mechanic to indicate the question has been resolved, or at least the closest thing that fits a Q&A website, the acceptance of a singular answer.

I also personally feel, there are already to many notification banners, which seem to be targeted towards users who never actually read them.

I'm open to the thought that there may be good reasons to expand the question even if you have solved the problem, but I cannot see any.

I would suggest you ask a well researched question. If you are able to answer your own question, then you have researched the topic you are asking about, so it shouldn't be that difficult to write a high quality answer.

@MarkKirby One example I have is this Can it cause harm to validate email addresses with a regex? When I posted it, the question got instantly downvoted and my answer upvoted. When I added some "pseudo research" to the question, the downvoting stopped.

The original revision of that question, asked the reason, a specific action was a "bad idea". I suspect the downvotes were due to the question seeking an opinion. The downvotes likely stopped after the clarification of your question, or what is more likely, it no longer was on the front page.

For those wondering here

I've heard that it is a bad thing to validate email addresses with a regex. Why?

I suspect this question, might be due to the author's most recent question, that upon reviewing immediately identified issues with. Those issues had nothing to do with the fact the question had already been answered by the author. In an effort to prevent that question from receiving downvotes, I removed the following statements from that question.

  • (I have solved it. This is a self answered question.)
  • Also, I don't have enough rep to create tags. Maybe someone could create a signal-messenger tag?

The fact the user was unable to create a tag for a topic is best handled by creating a topic on meta.superuser.com which I indicated in my edit summary. I also instructed the user to accept their answer, once that became a possibility, in order to signal to the community they had solved their problem.

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One way of doing it is basically taking 90% of the answer and put it in the question, and then let the answer take care of the remaining 10% of the problem. But I cannot really see how that would make anything better. It would just make it look better.

It doesn't have to be 90%. Make the question clear and answerable, and possibly answerable in a way that fits your use case. In "How do I do X, provided Y", explain why you have Y. If A, B, and C are possible answers, in the general X, but only C fits due to Y, then include in the question the reasons why A and B were eliminated. After all, something in you answer must have lead you down the garden path. Put those parts in the question that eliminated forks in the garden path.

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