There are a lot of users that are seemingly trying to get reputation by posting a simple challenges, like well-known riddles, and posting the answer. I'm fairly sure that these challenges are off-topic in many ways, and usually get downvoted. Is there any way we can discourage this behavior? I don't mind the questions it's just the self-answering that is a problem.
I don't mind the questions it's just the self-answering that is a problem
Self-answers are a good thing, as long as the question and answer are both well-written and on-topic. Stack Exchange is a place for sharing information, and self-answers are a great way to do so.
As you've been asking a lot of questions, I'm sure you've seen this checkbox:
That hasn't always been there, and there's a reason it was put in. I suggest you also read the SE blog entry it links to.
To me the satisfaction of puzzling is personal—in the solving—but I understand there's a thrill to being first to answer. Some people see the website as a competition (that's okay) and consider answering your own puzzle 'spoiling the fun'.
Of course it's okay to post a solution—if you have one—but it's probably courteous to wait at least a day. (You'll avoid the downvotes.)
And be prepared for someone to share a better solution that's neater faster and wittier.
I think most people who post good puzzles know the answer, as this is a website for challenging others and giving them good riddles and puzzles. People are self-answering the question within an hour. Maybe we should set this to a minimum of 24 hours, so we give everyone the chance to answer a riddle and earn the reputation they earn. Now a lot of people are just answering their own questions. I know that for instance on StackOverflow people are answering their own questions sometimes, but in my opinion that is another situation.
Let's have a list of examples of self-answered questions, so that we know what we're discussing here.
To be clear, we're talking about self-answered, specific puzzles.
As this is a community wiki post, feel free to add your examples to the list.
- How do I tell the children's ages?
- How long does it take for the snail to get out of the well?
- Placing 2x1 dominoes on a chessboard
- What's the fewest weights you need to balance any weight from 1 to 40 pounds?
- The problem of the hired hands' work rates
- End of the world - on a Sunday? - Although this question has an answer by another user as the accepted and highest scoring answer, which makes this question an interesting example.
In general, self-answering a question is a good idea on any Stack. However, there is a difference between 'sharing your knowledge, Q&A-style', and posting questions you already trivially know the answer to.
Over on the Science Fiction & Fantasy stack, we have a tag and category "story-identification", for when a user remembers some details about a story, but can't find it and would like to read/watch/experience it again. Now it's one thing to take one final shot at finding it before asking about it, finding it, and posting a self-answered question detailing your quest to find it and your answer. But there's nothing to stop someone from going through their bookcase, asking and self-answering questions about each book and each story they find.
I'm sure it wouldn't be appreciated.
Imagine asking and self-answering questions like "How do I assign a value to a variable in Java?" over on StackOverflow. Or imagine someone on the Aviation stack going through the manuals and posting and self-answering questions about the contents.
Questions need to have value for the stack they're asked on. Asking and self-answering well known puzzles adds very little value, unless a general answer is given that solves more puzzles of the same type, or at the very least, the same puzzle with different parameters.
There is no need to seek a technical solution, but I think when asking such a question, the poster should refrain from answering for at least a couple of days, or face justified downvoting.‡
‡: Like I received for my question.
I need to see more examples before I make up my mind, but it seems to me that “Here's a puzzle, what is its solution?” is usually not a good question for this site.
Such questions can be sometimes be ok, but I'd expect most questions to:
- focus on a particular aspect of a puzzle — not “solve this”, but “I don't understand this part of the solution”;
- use the specific puzzle as an example that illustrates some more general principles (which the asker may not be aware of).
If you consider a self-answer problematic, then I can see two explanations.
- Maybe it's because you expect this site to be a site for challenging people, rather than a site for questions and answers. Stack Exchange would make a terrible challenge site. A challenge site would be best served with time limits, and not showing people existing answers but instead having everyone attempt their own answer. A Q&A site is really the wrong format for that, even a threaded or linear forum would do better.
- Or maybe the problem is not with the answer, but with the question. If the problem with the self-answer is that the answer is well-known, then it shows that the question is not very good to begin with. If someone posts a well-known riddle as a question, the least you should do is downvote it for lack of research. And as I wrote above, maybe we need to establish that such questions very quickly run into too broad or unclear for lack of focus.