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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.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cf. meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/140 (especially the explanation in the first paragraph). Obviously, puzzling.se is very different in this respect from that site, but the ideas may help inform policy here anyway. $\endgroup$ – msh210 May 19 '14 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.puzzling.stackexchange.com/q/97 $\endgroup$ – msh210 May 19 '14 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ Remember questions are puzzles to solve rather than challenges to answer first. $\endgroup$ – Colonel Panic Feb 20 '15 at 0:04
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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:

answer your own question

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.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the users in question are just exploiting a fact that they can easily post chllenges and answer them to get rep. $\endgroup$ – TheDoctor May 15 '14 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ That may be true, but what do you get reputation for if not sharing information? If you don't like the fact that they self-answered then don't upvote them, but do remember that self-answering is condoned and even encouraged by the network. $\endgroup$ – Kevin May 15 '14 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Kevin I agree that self-answering is usually okay, but what if I flooded SFF.SE with self-answered story-identification questions? $\endgroup$ – SQB May 19 '14 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @Kevin. The idea is to create a good community question and answer bank. Who asked (or answered) the questions should be irrelevant - each question and answer should be judged on its own merits, not on whether they were posted by the same person. $\endgroup$ – Xynariz May 20 '14 at 22:02
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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.

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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.

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    $\begingroup$ It's in fact possible to post a question and its answer at the same time. There's no guideline enforced in the software about that. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 17 '14 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ But my suggestion is that a guideline or rule would be a good idea for this website. It's less fun if people give the solution of a riddle or puzzle right away and not giving the anyone the opportunity to be the first one to solve it and earn reputation for it. $\endgroup$ – martijnn2008 May 17 '14 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ While that is true, the questions I've been prematurely answering are the ones I've been posting mostly for informational purposes - they're not exactly supposed to be challenges for other people. (Can't say anything about other people, but that's what I've been doing.) $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 17 '14 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree — if we come to have a rule against self-answers, then we're doing it wrong. I can't see Stack Exchange working as a platform for challenges — you'd want time limits to answer and so on. It's a questions and answers platform, and an overwhelming majority of readers won't care when the answers were posted. Enforcing a delay before posting answers is an insignificant blip on the lifetime of a question. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 19 '14 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ And don't forget that the site enforces a 48-hour accepting ban - if someone really is reputation-farming, they will want to accept their own answer, so after two days, hopefully they come back to find other answers besides theirs, and they should accept the best one. $\endgroup$ – Xynariz May 23 '14 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Xynariz that work on Q&A topics, not on challenge questions. The poster of the question always can post his answer after some1 else did first. Most of the times the first one get the most upvotes. $\endgroup$ – martijnn2008 May 23 '14 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think self-posting the answer is ok. If you want to consider it as a challenge, then don't read the answer. The most that policy can do is to suggest that people use spoiler tags if they're answering their own question within 24 hours, and then remove it afterwards if they wish to. $\endgroup$ – justhalf Jul 4 '14 at 6:43
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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.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious - you must have had a motivation for creating this, but it isn't immediately clear to me why you believe this helps. Could you help clarify? $\endgroup$ – Aza May 20 '14 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul Sure. We're discussing questions like this, so it seems useful to me to have some examples. Specifically, Gilles asked for examples. I had added some as comments, when it occurred to me it might be better to add an answer containing a list. Note that I used community wiki, to emphasize that anyone can add examples. $\endgroup$ – SQB May 20 '14 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, thanks, that makes more sense now! Alright! I have a couple in mind to add once I get back to a desktop computer. $\endgroup$ – Aza May 20 '14 at 8:12
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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.

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    $\begingroup$ The conclusion of your analysis is that the question is bad. Not that it's bad for the same person to post the question and an answer. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 20 '14 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Gilles Thinking some more about it, the question is not necessarily bad. We probably need the canonical answers to classic puzzles. But because of the 'fastest gun'-problem, the self-answer will likely get the most votes, which can come across as unfair rep farming. $\endgroup$ – SQB May 20 '14 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ The thing is, on most other stacks, people are seeking an answer, as fast and as good as possible. But puzzling is recreation. People are not necessarily looking for a quick answer. $\endgroup$ – SQB May 20 '14 at 20:24
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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.
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    $\begingroup$ What is troubling to me is Here is a puzzle, here's the solution. $\endgroup$ – TheDoctor May 19 '14 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDoctor If the fact that there's a self-answer is a problem, then this shows that you're trying to use SE in a way that it isn't designed for. SE is all about providing answers; if the asker can answer, that's ideal! $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 20 '14 at 19:56

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