There are a lot of users that are seemingly trying to get reputation by posting a simple puzzles, like well-known riddles, and posting the answer. I'm fairly sure that these puzzles 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.