We have a lot of very intelligent users and they like to ask questions. Sometimes they ask questions they already know the answers to. This behavior is not only welcome, but it is mechanically encouraged thanks to a relatively recent feature that allows a user with sufficient reputation to immediately answer their own question.

What criteria should a user use to determine of a question is worthy of asking, just to post their own answer? And when should they just hold out and post the answer if the question comes up naturally in the course of things.


1 Answer 1


Because I like irony, I'm gonna self answer this. Feel free to chime in with alternate answers, my word isn't cannon here.

Jeff(one of our founders) on Meta Stackoverflow gives us the following:

...if you care enough about figuring something out, it is in fact a problem to you. You just can't stop wondering why X happens, it nags at you, it keeps you up at night, you're fascinated with learning more about it, you constantly talk to others about it. It's a problem.

Or are you just bored and want to be entertained with some blue sky daydreaming and idle curiosity? If you can walk away from your question and not care too much about the answer, that's no problem at all, is it?

Make us believe your question is important to you, and to anyone else who will ever read it. Because by God, this is a bona fide problem we're all facing here!

Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.

In my mind, there is very little difference between that phrase and asking someone if they have researched their question before asking -- what did you learn? And can you share that with us?

If you can't explain why you are curious about this, why it's interesting, and define what exactly it is you're even asking by framing it in what you already know.. well, the hallmark of idle curiosity is that no effort is expended.

This is a fantastic quotation on how to judge whether or not to ask a question in the first place. "How much do you care about finding out the answer?", "Does the answer nag at you silently as you go about your day?"

When you're faced with a situation like this with respect to a question about Christianity. You have two options, the first is simple, just come here and ask. The second requires more effort, you do the research yourself and come to an answer, you can then post the question and answer together.

What I'm getting at here is that Ask and Self Answer is for hard questions if it's an easy question then chances are someone else is going to answer it. If you just know the answer without doing any research then it's probably something someone will just ask.

Use the self ask and answer to tell us what you've learned and how you learned it.

Hand in hand with making sure the question is not two easy are two more things.

  • Make sure the question hasn't already been asked. Self asking and answering a question that's already asked here is a sure sign of lack of research effort. If you're aware of similar questions, make sure you recognize those questions and tell us why yours is different.

  • Make sure you spend almost as much effort on the question as you did on the answer. Much like on Stackoverflow we want people who ask questions to tell us what they've tried attempting to work out their problem. Tell us what you thought about, where you looked before you found the answer etc. If you can't write more than a sentence or two about the problem, seriously consider whether you're the right person to be asking this question.

The general FAQ advice of only asking "practical answerable questions to problems you actually face" might not be the best guideline for a site like ours, but do use it as encouragement to think hard about asking a question, especially when you already know the answer. Why are you asking, did you struggle to find the answer? Is the Internet a better place because the answer is now easily findable here when you had trouble finding it?

Because ultimately, that's our site's goal. We want to make the Internet a better place. And if we can do that by making information easier to find then asking and self answering is an excellent way to do it, but if the information you'd like to convey is already easily accessed how is the internet any better?

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