I’ve noticed recently that numerous users (including high-rep users and even moderators) have been posting generic, hypothetical questions, followed immediately by an answer and accepting it.

I don’t have a problem with posting articles about solving problems (I do it myself on my blog, as do others like Russinovich), but I don’t think that this is the correct forum for this for several reasons:

  • Some of the questions are not ones they actually faced but very generic questions
  • If there is already such a question, then the answer should be posted there instead of making up a contrived question just for the sake of posting the answer
  • There is already a Super User blog that can be used for posting truly noteworthy help/troubleshooting article, not to mention numerous other places like your own blogs
  • The contrived questions are often too generic and not very useful in and of themselves
  • It smacks of rep-mining, especially since even if it is a question that they actually had, they obviously already solved it, so asking the question is questionable whether it’s a generic hypothetical or very specific (too localized?)
  • It opens the door to allow everybody to post question-answer pairs to any every problem they can conceive of. This means that the site could be flooded with simple, pointless questions
  • One of the tenets of the site is that users are expected to have put in some effort in solving the problem they have before asking, and there reason that there exists a delay before you can accept your own answer: it is assumed that you do not know the solution and must continue trying as well as to give other users a chance to answer it, but these questions don’t conform to that expectation at all

(I’ll admit that there are times when simply typing up the question causes something to click, allowing for the solution to be found, but when that happens, why post the question at all if you no longer have the problem? Just cancel the post and if you really, really feel that the problem is common or at least noteworthy, then post it on a/the blog.)

Is this to be allowed? I think that posting questions simply for the sake of answering it does not belong here (that’s what blogs are for), and users should be required to wait some time before even answering their own question just like they do to accept it.

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Do you have specific question/answer pairs that you can reference? –  KronoS Sep 4 '12 at 18:21
    
Yes, about a dozen of them across about four users (that I have noticed). –  Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 18:26
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That post is from several months ago, but there seems to be a sudden upsurge in the past month. I see from the comments there that feelings are mixed about whether it is good. Well, my stance is clear and there are some who raised some of the same points. –  Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 18:28
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Could you provide actual examples of questions you think are not good enough? The linked post simply isn't such a question. Given the "Answer your own question – share your knowledge, Q&A-style" feature, and the linked blog post, we can assume it's desired behavior, if the questions are good enough for the site. Could you show us some that aren't? Feel free to start in my user profile, most of my questions are self answered. –  Daniel Beck Sep 4 '12 at 18:38
    
I also have a few self answered ones as well feel free to look at them as well. It would be nice to see examples of what it is that you're talking about. –  KronoS Sep 4 '12 at 18:45
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I would also point out that while these questions can generate a lot of rep, that's rarely the point, and I would not call it rep farming. It's fair for a user to gain rep for a post they've put a lot of effort into. That being said, often when I write these types of canonical posts, I make it community wiki, and specifically encourage users to add more information to the answer if they want to contribute. –  nhinkle Sep 4 '12 at 19:19
    
@Synetech, I can guess who the down-votes are from… –  Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 19:20
    
> I make it community wiki, and specifically encourage users to add more information to the answer if they want to contribute. @nhinkle, that makes sense. –  Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 19:21
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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

This is 100% . In fact, it's a core part of how Stack Exchange works.

The sort of questions you're seeing are what we call "canonical answers." It's an effort to build a knowledge base of information that's likely to be useful for many different people.

Self-answering is encouraged. If you figure out something cool that other people might benefit from, you should write up a self-answer blog-type post.

If you take a look at the FAQ and About pages, you'll see this highlighted there, too.

This part's the blog part

On Super User, we've taken this to the next level with questions. We specifically encourage users to write questions and answers to address common problems. We don't want 15 different "halp i got a virus what i do?" questions. We want a single starting point that's a good reference for what to do if you get a virus. We don't need 20 "can i do this with my win7 license?" questions. We want a single good overview of all the licensing options.

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So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise if people start posting “questions” and answers like how do I open .____ files, what does the ___ button do?, and such. What about if there already exists a question where the answer would fit? Is it still appropriate to contrive a question specifically for the purpose of posting the answer? –  Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 19:20
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@Synetech If the question is a bad question, you can still flag them or vote to close. –  Ben Richards Sep 4 '12 at 19:26
    
I would also note that, in my experience, while you can self-answer a question when you post the question itself, the site enforces a waiting period of a few days before you can accept the answer, thereby giving the community opportunity to edit, comment, or provide their own answers. –  Ben Richards Sep 4 '12 at 19:28
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@Synetech there's a difference between posting an FAQ on a common topic that isn't necessarily common knowledge, and asking a question that's ridiculously basic. I have yet to see any questions along the lines of "what does the x button do," and if they did show up, they'd likely be closed as NARQ and downvoted to death. –  nhinkle Sep 4 '12 at 19:36
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It's appropriate to "contrive" a question for the purpose of posting the answer if you feel that there's a need for that information. Community FAQs are typically written when it becomes obvious that there's a need for a detailed topic on a subject. If you can show me an example of a contrived self-answered question with no upvotes that seems useless, I'd be interested to see it. –  nhinkle Sep 4 '12 at 19:38
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if they did show up, they'd likely be closed as NARQ and downvoted to death Doubtful. I have seen countless posts that get very few votes in general. Not all bad questions get down-voted much if at all, especially if the question is effectively pointless and draws no attention. It’s similar to why reviews by non-professionals tend to be positive-skewed: people who like it want to tell others about how good they thought it is and how much they liked it, but those who didn’t rarely bother writing a negative (unless they hate it) review because they don’t want to waste even more time on it. –  Synetech Sep 5 '12 at 17:04
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I’ve noticed recently that numerous users (including high-rep users and even moderators) have been posting generic, hypothetical questions, followed immediately by an answer and accepting it.

Any examples, you're leaving us guessing to which type of those questions you're actually referring. Like nhinkle outlines; we've had questions, an introduced feature which allows immediate self-answers, we try to make some community wiki as well and there's probably some other approaches to it. And then there's still the difference between those high-rep users and mods, they don't all post the same content.

So, I would love to see which content you specifically refer to, so that if we agree upon it then we can relocate and/or improve that content to benefit our community.

I don’t have a problem with posting articles about solving problems (I do it myself on my blog, as do others like Russinovich), but I don’t think that this is the correct forum for this for several reasons.

Super User is not a forum, it's a Q&A site; any such content that falls under the FAQ restrictions is welcome. I'm missing a core reason in your paragraph, can you summarize why you think so without listing an entire section of reasons? I'll do the opposite, and use usability to test your reasoning.

  • Some of the questions are not ones they actually faced but very generic questions

That's not a reason, but solely an observation, it doesn't tell us what's good or bad about it. In the context of usability, it's quite handy for helping people to refer to such generic questions as to not time the same amount of text again.

Cleaning your computer of viruses is at its core a procedure that goes through the same amount of steps, most of the time; yet, people will continue to ask "I'm noticing some odd behaviour, what do?" without having actually gone through these steps.

If they go through these steps instead and still experiencie a virus problem, then we can go into a much more detailed question. We don't want over 9000 questions that all ask and answer the same thing, do we? We want questions about more detailed problems instead, to learn more people more.

  • If there is already such a question, then the answer should be posted there instead of making up a contrived question just for the sake of posting the answer

Example? We have actually improved questions to be more generic. Same reasoning as above...

  • There is already a Super User blog that can be used for posting truly noteworthy help/troubleshooting article, not to mention numerous other places like your own blogs.

Example? and self-answers are somewhat different from the blog, we shouldn't aim to turn the blog into a generic Q&A place. The blog is made for opinion, the Q&A site is made for facts and references...

  • It smacks of rep-mining, especially since even if it is a question that they actually had, they obviously already solved it, so asking the question is questionable whether it’s a generic hypothetical or very specific (too localized?)

If we ask a question that ought to help a ton of people, then we sure deserve to gain some reputation from that; however, there's actually the community wiki option to protect us from gaining too much reputation, so if you believe an user to be rep-mining this way you can always flag the question and state that its "cheese" made to be cut by our "community wiki knife".

  • It opens the door to allow everybody to post question-answer pairs to any every problem they can conceive of. This means that the site could be flooded with simple, pointless questions

And is this actually happening? Can you show us such flood that doesn't prove to be usable?

  • One of the tenets of the site is that users are expected to have put in some effort in solving the problem they have before asking, and there reason that there exists a delay before you can accept your own answer: it is assumed that you do not know the solution and must continue trying as well as to give other users a chance to answer it, but these questions don’t conform to that expectation at all

Consider that we actually spent answer to make it generic, that's a progress that isn't simple as you have a lot of cases to deal with. For instance, when talking about cooling you have to deal with both fans and water cooling, when talking about the booting process you have to deal with Windows, Linux and more, and so on. It isn't as simple as merely writing a one-liner or one paragraph to Q&A something generic, but then again, you're free to proof me wrong with an example.

One of our tenets is also "Sharing your experience so others can learn.", sometimes that takes more than an answer alone. And that's where we come in to improving the wiki aspect of the site...

Is this to be allowed? I think that posting questions simply for the sake of answering it does not belong here (that’s what blogs are for), and users should be required to wait some time before even answering their own question just like they do to accept it.

You think so, but can you prove? Unless someone proves us wrong, why should we disallow this?

If we were to act upon our thoughts, without reasons backed up by statistics / facts, this would surely be a weird place!

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