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I've noticed a couple cases recently where a question was asked and it seems very clear that the person asking knows the answer or has a certain answer in mind but they don't explain why they're asking.

In one case, the person asking has as their top tag, but was asking about something that seemed very obvious to a Catholic or someone who attends Mass, in another case (actually, it was the same person) they seemed to be trying to establish a connection the existence of which seems doubtful and they left a comment along the lines of "if you could fill out more details of the connection, this would be the accepted answer."

In both cases, it seemed to me that a more straightforward question would be desirable, so I'm wondering if there's any general SE guideline about leading questions.

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    Personally, this annoys me a good deal. You spend time answering what you think is a genuine question then you find there's a lot of fine print that the OP didn't include. I usually reply along the lines "It sounds like you already know the answer. You should just post that answer yourself instead of wasting my time." – 3961 Oct 2 '14 at 4:37
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    For reference, see a discussion of similar issue on Biblical Hermeneutics: Should we avoid stump-the-chumps questions? – Caleb Oct 2 '14 at 5:19
  • @Caleb Fascinating, I didn't realize it was a pattern seen before, here and on other SE sites. I can't qutie figure out why you think Jon Erikson's suggestion would be a disaster, although in the one case that particularly bugged me, I considered and rejected doing that. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 2 '14 at 6:21
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    Also related (but not identical) from this site's history: Should we avoid "refute this"-type questions? – Caleb Oct 2 '14 at 7:16
  • I experienced this recently, without really realising it at the time. Not much fun. I spent a lot of time chasing down references in an area I'm not familiar with, only to be told that it effectively didn't count. – curiousdannii Oct 2 '14 at 7:33
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    @fredsbend - I get the feeling you're seeing this as "Convince-me questions" rather than good-faith asking and not knowing they can self-answer.. I edited my answer - added a sentence to address this because if that's the case, I agree it's bad form. – David Stratton Oct 3 '14 at 2:19
  • @DavidStratton Sort of, but in reverse. It's more like "prove what I already believe." I think the telltale sign is that the question says the answer must address specific xyz things. It starts to feel like an essay question on a test and a very specific answer is not only expected but already known, so if you don't get it exactly right, you are marked down. I figure these people don't self answer because they think it's weird or something. – 3961 Oct 3 '14 at 21:27
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    @DavidStratton This question is a good example. I think the user is usually quite productive, but you see how the list of questions under the picture is more like a test in the form "discuss this and that." It just feels weird and out of place. It doesn't feel like a real question. – 3961 Oct 3 '14 at 21:38
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There's no policy against doing so, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. However, if they're looking for a specific answer, and they know the answer, then they can just answer it.

If you really think this is the case, you might want to leave a friendly comment and a link back to this post so that they know that rather than posting leading questions and hoping someone else will give them the answer they want to see there, they can just answer their own question.

When posting a new question, right under the "Post Question" button is a check box that, when clicked, displays the "Answer Question" text box as shown below.


enter image description here


So asking questions you know the answer to is encouraged but you're also encouraged to write that answer.

If, however, the person is asking to start a debate, well, that's another story... Just let them know that "we're not here to convince you."

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As David mentions, if one wants to do catechesis or apologetics for a group of doctrines—which is what this is, in my interpretation—that's acceptable to the site as a whole (although I had to think hard about it before I decided that I agreed with it). And it's a form of Socratic teaching, I suppose. But usually the purpose of asking a question is to obtain information one doesn't have. If you ask a question and don't answer it, that (in my mind) implies that you don't know the answer; and it doesn't feel entirely honest to imply this when you do. If you do know the answer, it seems to me that honesty is best served by answering your own question (and checking off the "Community Wiki" box to avoid the questionable appearance of chasing reputation points for something you already know is a good answer).

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    Nothing wrong with getting double rep from answering your own question. If you do a bang up job than you deserve it. – 3961 Oct 2 '14 at 16:56
  • @fredsbend I'm not quite sure I agree with that, but only because it somehow doesn't feel right to me. I'll have to ponder more on that. – Matt Gutting Oct 2 '14 at 17:06
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    Think about it from a personal perspective. You have an interesting question, but before you post on the site, you look into it a bit and get a good answer in your own mind. You now have two options 1) Don't bother asking the question because you already know the answer, or 2) ask the question and put that good answer in your mind into text on the site for the rest of us to see. In option 2 the process is the same as if one person asks then another answers, just less people involved. – 3961 Oct 2 '14 at 17:11
  • What is being rewarded is genuine question asking and answer seeking. Just because you happen to be on both sides of the coin does not mean you are undeserving of the rewards. – 3961 Oct 2 '14 at 17:12
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    This must be coincidence that my attention was just drawn to this, but you should see this very through and wonderfully interesting self-answer: Is there an effective way to design a realistic religion for a world? Such wonderful work deserves the piles of rep he's gotten thus far. – 3961 Oct 2 '14 at 17:16
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    @MattGutting - bear in mind that the stated purpose of the entire StackExchange network is to "make the web a better place". if you have a good question and answer to share, that others would or might benefit from, isn't posting the combo achieving that goal? This site can use all the good questions we can get, and I'd LOVE to see more on-topic questions with good, well-sourced answers. – David Stratton Oct 3 '14 at 2:16
  • @DavidStratton that's the conclusion I've come to; and it's why I feel strongly that if you have a question and answer in mind, but post only the question, you're being dishonest in a sense - holding back some of the knowledge you could have shared. – Matt Gutting Oct 3 '14 at 10:23
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I noticed another example today that illustrates what I think is wrong with this type of question. (I've tried to keep this generic and not mention specific questions or users.)

The question I saw, was actually two distinct questions:

  1. What's the basis for activity A?
  2. What other similar activities are there and how are they different from A?

In this case, the connection between the two questions was fairly clear and you could see that an answer about the one activity could be further explained by referring to other, similar activities.

But I've seen other questions with a similar 2-part structure where the connection between the two parts isn't clear, and where the answer to the second question doesn't really have anything to do with the first.

In that case, though, the OP should just post the question and an answer and includes the related information they think is interesting or relevant in their answer.

If the OP doesn't answer their own question and someone else answers it, then the 2nd part is superfluous and might as well be edited out. (I suggested an edit on the example I noticed today) to remove the 2nd question.

Also - as a comment to the question I noticed today pointed out - if what's interesting to the OP is the connection between the two parts of their question, they should just come out and say so, because otherwise the question on its own might be too simple. In the case of my example question, "What's the basis for activity A?" got (and deserves) some downvotes for no research because the answer pops out from any 30-second search.

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