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I've used SE and SO, only to ask questions to which I didn't know the answer.

But there may be another way to ask questions:

  • From a text book or other canonical reference (History, C++, etc., depending on the site)
  • Find (a large number of) facts/statements which are not already topics on the SE site
  • Rephrase them in the form of questions, post the questions on the site, and answer them yourself if nobody else does

May I ask:

  • Does this ever happen, do people sometimes try to do this, on SE sites?
  • If doing so allowed (welcomed), or forbidden (discouraged), on sites that you know?
  • If it's forbidden then on what grounds, what's the close reason?
  • Or do you allow the questions because they're on-topic, but suspend the user for "consistently low quality questions over time"?

On the one hand you could maybe argue it's on-topic -- that part of the purpose of SE is to become a Wiki in Q&A format -- and that these topics help users study the subject.

On the other hand these topics may be kind of tedious or mechanical, and miss the point of a Q&A site where you can hope that genuine human experts will address "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face".


Edit to add -- I don't think this is a duplicate of this meta-topic:

That's primarily about whether you're allowed to answer your own, on-topic questions.

This is primarily about whether you may generate an unlimited number of "on-topic" questions, by rephrasing (or referencing in the form of a question) the many statements in text-books.

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  • @toolic I think that presumes it's somehow an interesting question and worth answering. And doesn't address the scenario where a user might try to transcribe some whole text-book into thousands of Q&A topics.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 10:19
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    That sounds like plagiarism. Jun 18, 2023 at 10:24
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    Our site has since its beginning refused this type of question -- buddhism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/171/254 -- I was wondering whether and how other sites handle them. If you welcome them are you occasionally deluged by some enthusiastic user posting dozens or hundreds of questions like this (perhaps to gain reputation)?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 10:25
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    @RobertLongson I don't think it's "plagiarism", is it, if the answer properly cites and block-quotes from its reference.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 10:30
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    If that's all you're doing and you end up copying a book one page/question at a time, that's no longer fair use even if you cite the book. Jun 18, 2023 at 10:36
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    I wonder how long one could maintain interest in such a task (unless you're flooding a site, it'd take years to get through a textbook, and turn everything into questions/answers). Why not just ask questions about the bits in the textbook you don't fully understand? Jun 18, 2023 at 12:09
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones I don't know their motive. Yesterday I suspended a user for posting 10 questions like this in less than a day -- they told me they were thinking of "doing" the entire canon; and they argued that "SE allows me to post questions to self-answer". So I thought I'd ask here -- how users feel about this on other sites, and what do they do about it.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 12:14
  • Does this answer your question? - There seems to be a split on this: Posting and answering questions you have already found the answer to and meta.stackexchange.com/q/213950/282094 - I personally don't think it's helpful or wanted, but the argument favoring it is that the OP writes in such a manner as to provide value over quantity.
    – Rob
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:44
  • @Rob That one begins, "Sometimes you spend a day or more solving a technical problem..." -- whereas this one is about posting a flood of questions (especially ones with easy answers).
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:50
  • Chris, there's more than one bite in that answer; in any event the outcome of the review will be decided by more than one person, and the suggestions will be linked together. Not everyone checks if the self-answerer is a parrot or if they are disseminating generally useful advice. That's especially the case on SO where any post slides down the front page at rocket speed, needing to be fantastic or horrible to catch any attention.
    – Rob
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:56

3 Answers 3

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I'd guess it depends on the question - but it really feels like you're trying to play the system by farming content.

There's two ways to look at it -

As per the help pages

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

And we already clearly can see, as per the letter of the rules that if you're farming Q&A pairs from other places, they are not actual problems.

In addition, it misses a lot of 'details' an organic question would have.

In other, if its obvious you're trying to exploit the system, folks are going to get annoyed. Suspensions might not be the worst thing - post bans could occur with enough downvotes. People are very good at spotting patterns of abuse and tend to vote accordingly.

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  • Your last sentence implies (or confirms) that users may tend to see this behaviour as "abuse".
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 10:27
  • And thanks for using the word "farming" if that's the SE jargon. Just now I searched for "farming" but I don't see an existing topic which covers this exact scenario, i.e. posting an unlimited number of 'seeded' questions.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 10:39
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    I think farming and grinding is more gamer jargon really Jun 18, 2023 at 10:54
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Does this ever happen, do anyone ever try to do this, on SE sites?

Surely this sometimes happen.

But this Q&A need to:

  • respect citation policy, otherwise such post are prone to deletion with lost of all reputation and ban of author.
  • keep question on topic and make it with enough quality, otherwise it might be closed, and subsequently deleted. Sites like Stack Overflow have rather strict policy about on-topicness of the questions, and I imagine it's rarity to find information in the book, that is not already discussed on site. But situation on other sites might differ substantially.
  • perceived as useful. For example, rather recently I've seen user on Super User, who posted something like a six or seven self-answered questions. These questions where on-topic, but rather narrow, and most likely would not have much of a use for others. As a result, they where downvoted.

As a result, it is quite hard to have a streak of successful Q&A pair.

If so is allowed (welcomed), or forbidden (discouraged)?

If you can keep adequate quality of produced pairs and respect listed above points - you are more than welcome to post such self-answered questions.

Streaks of low-quality questions (irrespective if they are self-answered or not) are forbidden, with automatic safeguards in place.

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  • Do you know of any meta-topic, here or on your site (e.g. Super User), which discusses or explains what you mean by "narrow" and "not much of a use for others"? And is there a corresponding Close reason, or community-specific close reason, or is down-voting enough?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 11:47
  • @ChrisW, I'm not aware of discussions on that matter on metas. IMO, narrowness is quite subjective, and I doubt you can find something even distantly resembling consensus on this topic. Use your best judgement on what will be useful, after all if you're subject-matter expert (since you are going to submit answers), and you should know problematic places, and possible nuances, that might need explanation.
    – markalex
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:00
  • Ok so: no rules, no discussion on meta, but users will see it if it happens and will downvote, and that's enough.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:07
  • @ChrisW, pretty much, yes. Votes after all are anonymous, and rules on them are very hard to enforce.
    – markalex
    Jun 18, 2023 at 14:12
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As long as the questions are interesting and that the answers are correct, I don't care who is answering them, when they are answered and where the answer came from. Makes no difference with the regular case of the OP having no clue and an "expert" answering it. Therefore, posting question-answering pairs extracted from books or some other resources is fine with me. It's not against any SE rules that I am aware of. Note that it doesn't have to be beginner questions.


Interesting = useful to someone else + not in the top search results if Googling the question.

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  • 2
    Well that's the thing: what makes a question "interesting", and when is it not?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 11:12
  • @ChrisW imho, interesting == can it be useful to someone else? Jun 18, 2023 at 11:13
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    Thing is, you get reputation for something you did not do yourself. You just copy and paste something that others wrote. Useful? Yes. But so is stealing bread from a shop and giving to beggar. Dunno about actual rules, but that's just something I'll never do myself. Jun 18, 2023 at 12:03
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    @ShadowWizardStrikesBack Can post as a wiki. Doesn't have to be a copy-paste. Rep shouldn't prevent people from sharing knowledge Jun 18, 2023 at 12:07
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    My feeling was that the whole canon is already online (on other sites), and that reposting it in Q&A form does little good. Maybe it helps one person to study the canon, because they read what they copy-and-paste or cite ... but it's abusing people's patience, who read the site to help people out with answers to more genuine questions. And it's just "noise", decreases the signal-to-noise ratio of the site (which is meant for Q&A) and of the internet in general (where if you want to read the canon it's better-presented and more complete on other sites).
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 12:20
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    @ChrisW that's mostly true for beginner questions on well-established topics. That's why I added "not in the top search results if Googling the question." Jun 18, 2023 at 12:41
  • Ah right. Our meta-naswer on that topic says, "questions that one can't find by simply googling" -- maybe that's a useful, objective measure (conversely "useful to someone else" seems to me hard to judge).
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2023 at 12:53
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    @ShadowWizardStrikesBack who said anything about pasting? Focusing information to a focused question can take effort. It can in some cases even take a significant about of effort just to make the information available in the form of text (Ex. information from video form). And if that effort results in a useful Q&A pair, I think that's a good thing, and given the effort, the rep is not wholly undeserved.
    – starball
    Jun 18, 2023 at 23:16

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