I posted a question and answered it myself. I then self-closed this question as a dupe. Is this an accepted practice?

I wanted the next person who steps on this rake to be able to quickly find the answer. But without duplicating this solution - it's been duplicated enough.

The question in question:

qrsh fails with error message: "error: getcwd() failed"


How do I close my own question?
How should duplicate questions be handled?
Etiquette for voting to close your own questions

  • Note that I am posting this question on meta SE, not on meta SO, because it is broadly useful. Jan 6 at 16:03
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    Different sites may have different policies/cultures regarding this, and the issue of duplicates in general. I would still suggest posting this on MSO to get more specific responses.
    – cigien
    Jan 6 at 16:04
  • 3
    This type of behavior is very much a reaction to how SO questions often have 10+ answers and that some answers are potentially obscure and would only help in very specific circumstances. That's not the case for all sites.
    – Laurel
    Jan 6 at 17:27
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    @Laurel It is the case for SO and Parenting SE in my experience. So the current Q has broad implications. Jan 6 at 17:31
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    The related situation of somebody answering a regular question and the answerer voting to close as a duplicate directly afterwards comes up occasionally on TeX.SE (incidentally I did this myself this week). Usually this is done to help the OP to apply the duplicate in their specific situation, in cases where the question is clearly a duplicate but applying it to the new question is not immediately trivial for inexperienced users.
    – Marijn
    Jan 6 at 17:52
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    if your question will serve as a great sign-post (search- and findable via its title, mainly), I see no problem using this technique, unless there are already thousand of similar sign-post around!
    – Vickel
    Jan 6 at 19:07
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    @Vickel I could not easily find any posts with SGE or qrsh and this error. So I posted my Q as a signpost. :) Jan 6 at 19:19
  • But I can't see any answer in the question in question?
    – wimi
    Jan 6 at 20:08
  • @wimi Ouch! Sorry, a moderator deleted the A recently... Thus, they sort of inadvertently destroyed my whole - deliberate! - construction. Will ping them ASAP. But this proves just how much potential confusion there exists now on this type of Qs, at least in my head. My point precisely! Jan 6 at 20:12
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    In case you are curious, "the system let me do it". Meaning that I could do The Wrong Thing that I had done. For the devs, here is how to reproduce what I did. At above a certain rep level, I could post Q&A, self-answered. Then I closed the Q as a dupe, with a target. Tada! Bad. So pls don't do it, as Makyen clearly explains below in great detail in an amazing answer, for which I am very grateful! Jan 6 at 22:15
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    step on a rake Jan 7 at 3:01

Posting a self-answer and closing the question is not OK

Posting a self-answer to your question and then closing it as a duplicate is inappropriate, because

  1. Closing after answering, particularly with your answer as the only answer, is an inherent conflict of interest, which may result in you gaining reputation because nobody else is able to post an answer.
  2. If you felt your answer was providing additional insight and that the question was a duplicate, then your answer belonged on the duplicate-target, not your question.
  3. The SE system has duplicates and duplicate-targets so that we collect all of the valuable answer information on a single question. Not collecting such answers on a single question leaves the good answers spread over many questions and result in a lot of duplication of effort. From the point of view of someone looking for a solution, not having the answers under a single question results in needing to track down multiple questions and their answers in order to get good information. Posting an answer and then closing your question as a duplicate is directly contrary to the system's goals/intent.
  4. Having an answer on a question closed as a duplicate results in non-logged-in users not being automatically forwarded to the duplicate-target when they navigate to the duplicate question. This is substantially less desirable than showing them the duplicate-target with, presumably, all the answers to the issue collected in one place.

Posting a question as a signpost and closing it as a duplicate is OK/good under many circumstances.

Under many conditions, posting the question as a signpost and closing it as a duplicate would be OK. It could even be quite beneficial, given that you weren't able to easily find the duplicate-target question using the search terms you initially tried. However, if it's just an issue of the duplicate-target question not including some keywords, then you should consider editing the duplicate-target question to include those keywords instead of posting a new question. What the best course of action is is situation dependent.

This situation is an exception where we don't want individual signpost questions due to the huge number of possible variations

However, for the current question it's not appropriate to post individual questions as signposts or even edit the duplicate-target to include the command which resulted in the error (unless that's a really popular command). For the specific error which is involved in the questions you're asking about, the error is one which could occur for a very large number of different possible commands. We don't need, or want, separate questions asking about the same error for each of literally thousands of commands. Even listing them individually in the duplicate-target isn't really feasible. In such cases, it's better to just have the generic question which should be/can be found by searching for the error text. Unfortunately, this does mean that the user looking for a solution needs to know to look for the general error, not the full text reported by the system, which includes the command they executed.

For situations where there are a limited number of possible commands/methods/etc.

If there are a limited number of possible commands/methods/etc. which can generate the error and it's likely that a user will use the command/method/etc., then it is desirable to include that limited set within the questions and/or answers, so search engines will be more likely to include the duplicate-target question in search results for likely searches. You can either modify the question to include a list of those commands/methods/etc., or, alternately, you can include a list of such in an answer. For example, I did that in my answer to: "TypeError: [API] is undefined in content script or Why can't I do this in a content script?" which is about why a particular error will be encountered which has the same cause for a substantial number of different methods.

  • 1
    You state that closing a specific question as a duplicate of a generic question with an answer on the specific question is bad, because "we don't need, or want, separate questions asking about the same error for each of literally thousands of commands" but you don't say why we don't want this. You do acknowledge however that your solution ("don't do it") makes it harder for people to search for their error. Therefore IMO answering and closing is the best of both worlds: there is a signpost, there is no effort duplication or unnecessarily scattered information (because the [...]
    – Marijn
    Jan 7 at 11:58
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    answer to the new question is too specific to be an answer to the duplicate), and it helps the OP and future visitors with the same specific problem (or only the future visitors if it is self-answered).
    – Marijn
    Jan 7 at 11:59
  • And for the conflict of interest argument you could say that getting reputation this way is an implementation of sorts of the very popular and long-standing request to reward finding duplicates.
    – Marijn
    Jan 7 at 12:01
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    @Marijn: If the new question needs its own answer, then surely the purported duplicate isn't in fact a duplicate. There are certainly a class of questions where the explanation of why answers to another question are relevant is sufficiently non-trivial to merit its being an answer itself. Jan 7 at 14:00
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    @Scortchi-ReinstateMonica there is a grey area in which the new question doesn't need a new answer but a new answer makes it easier for the OP and future visitors to apply the answer to the duplicate.
    – Marijn
    Jan 7 at 14:22
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    @Marjin: There is a grey area, to be sure; but what's the thinking behind answering question A and closing it as a duplicate of question B, rather than answering A (while linking to B) or closing A as a duplicate of B? Jan 7 at 15:14
  • @Scortchi-ReinstateMonica answering A and linking to B would also work, but answering A and closing as duplicate of B is better than linking because it prevents needless further answers and scattered knowledge, and it gives the message more clearly that B is actually the same question and reading it is a good idea if you ask/visit A. Answering and closing is also better than just closing because it not only shows that B is a duplicate but also why it is related and how B is an answer to A - only for the grey area, normally just closing without answering is clearly sufficient.
    – Marijn
    Jan 7 at 21:56
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    @Marijn: Even if you close A, anyone who's dead set on posting a redundant answer (they turn up now & again on every site) can do that over at B - while anyone with a better explanation of why answers to B are relevant to A than currently provided has nowhere to post an answer. There does seem to be a principle at stake here: that no-one can call dibs on answering an on-topic question. Another consideration is merely contingent on site design: if people ought to be reading the question & answer at A before those at B, why put the link to B in a banner right at the top of A's page? Jan 8 at 0:38
  • @Scortchi-ReinstateMonica if they are dead set then yes, but they might be pursuaded not to because answering A is impossible due to closure and once they go over to B they see (a variation of) the answer they wanted to post already present. However, the main idea is to keep important information together at B, and provide only a 'translation service' at A (and maybe a different one for C->B etc.). You are right that it goes against the SE model to allow only one person to provide such a translation answer - however in practise most 'translations' are rather mechanical.
    – Marijn
    Jan 8 at 13:02
  • Regarding site design: when I am trying to solve a problem myself, or when I'm interested in a topic on sites like Politics.SE or Academia.SE, then I want to find out as much as I can about the topic so I always read the full Q&A as well as the duplicate, in any order, until I find a solution that fits my needs (or until I lose interest). The exact placement of the duplicate banner doesn't matter so much in this I think.
    – Marijn
    Jan 8 at 13:08
  • Some examples from this site: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/369427/…, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/368894/… (both 'explain the FAQ' answers), meta.stackexchange.com/questions/350614/….
    – Marijn
    Jan 8 at 13:52
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    @Marijn I see your point, and agree with it. However, Makyen's reason #1 is incredibly important: "Closing after answering, particularly with your answer as the only answer, is an inherent conflict of interest, which may result in you gaining reputation because nobody else is *able* to post an answer." Even the appearance of conflict of interest must be avoided. It is one of the most important considerations on SE, and elsewhere. Humans are corruptible, I am corruptible because I am only human. I am grateful for a rule that holds my hand thus. Discipline is often good! Jan 8 at 23:20
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    I have to point out that there is no such thing as the "appearance" of conflict of interest - it is not about whether the person in the position of conflict of interest actually takes advantage of it, it is about the possibility of doing so just as it is IRL. As Timur rightfully mentions above, it is a matter of discipline rather than of punitive action. Jan 8 at 23:26
  • What about answering someone else's question and then closing as a duplicate? The same "conflict of interest" for fake internet points exists, but now it's a different user that may need guidance in interpreting the reason for the duplicate.
    – mbauman
    Jan 10 at 21:45

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