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I recently posted and self-answered the question How do I unlock all the characters/stages in Super Smash Bros. 64?. After the question was received negatively, I received a comment which touched on a question I'd had lingering in the back of my head for a while.

Self answering questions has a bit of a contentious following here. Sometimes, they'll be upvoted, sometimes down. I think game age has a lot to do with it; games that have been out for years has a lot of reference material already out there, while new ones need all the reference you can get. - Frank

I think this idea is worth discussing further. Is there a bias towards self-answering questions? If there is, why might that be?

  • Related. – Vemonus May 30 '17 at 1:58
  • @Vemonus Might want to mention the name of the linked question in the comment – Stevoisiak May 30 '17 at 2:49
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    I think the negative reaction to your question is less about its self-answering nature and much more about the fact that you're trying to consolidate old posts into a new one that you can mark the old ones as dupes of. As others have pointed out, that isn't how this site works. – Vemonus May 30 '17 at 12:03
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    Another reason the question might have been downvoted is because it's something that is extremely simple to look up online. Even if you hadn't self-answered, you probably would have gotten a few negative votes. – Mage Xy May 30 '17 at 14:25
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I agree with @Ash and the sentiment echoed by a lot of people both here and on the questions/answers themselves. However I feel I should give my understanding of the topic as it runs slightly tangential than this single self-answered question:

1. Self-answering is scrutinised closely

Self answers can attract a bit more attention than normal, because they are a bit of a showcase of you, the problem you faced and the solution you took to overcome it.

Being able to share something profound so that it might help others is one of the great things about this site (in my opinion). And when done right it doesn't go unrewarded, you can effectively earn ~1.5x the rep of a regular answer if people vote on both the question (+5) and the answer (+10).

Having said that, there has to be a real need for your self-answered question. Does it:

  • Provide expertise or insight to solve a problem (that might not be found elsewhere)? (E.g. 1, 2, 3) and/or,
  • Consolidate multiple sources of information that would otherwise take a lot of sleuthing through? (E.g. 1, 2)

If a self-answer is simply listing information easily found in a wiki, it's likely people will think that is less useful, and vote accordingly.

2. 'Seeded' questions work great, when we have a problem to solve

I'd like to direct you to Minecraft crash question duplicates and SEO. In this case, we were getting a lot of Minecraft questions that gave little more than the not-very descriptive error message.

As it turns out there was a valid, easily identifiable cause of this error, but we were not able to share it easily with the masses as the error message could vary slightly from person to person. Thus, MrLemon created: Minecraft crashes on launch with EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION, Problematic frame: ig4dev32.dll or ig4dev64.dll or ig4icd32.dll or ig4icd64.dll

This question gives readers a clear and concise description of the issue along with a path towards fixing it, as well as giving us a valid duplication target should we recognise this issue being posted again. I'd like to stress, we're not talking 2 or 3 questions here, but 23/26 linked questions, and probably a bunch more that were closed for other reasons and/or since deleted.

In other words, seeding questions can be beneficial, but there needs to be a reason, a gap in knowledge that our expertise* and knowledge can fill.

* Including the ability to sleuth - don't undervalue skill with a search bar!


The current situation

Now this is why I'm a little confused as to why some users are creating a bunch of seed questions of late as a means to consolidate questions. Ok, maybe from a purely content perspective this may seem like a good idea, but the thing is, Arqade is built on the premise of providing answers to questions, and solving problems as they arise, not creating wiki-style, exhaustive documentation of a topic. From the Tour:

Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.

Using today's example, if someone asks how to unlock Captain Falcon, let's provide an answer which covers that. We don't broaden the scope of a question to encompass all relevant information on a topic, why would we create a broad "duplicate" just to dupe the earlier question to it?

I certainly don't think this is what LessPop_MoreFizz was talking about when he wrote On ending Chronological Oppression with respect to the matter of Question Duplication. That was about 'accidentally better duplicates' not 'creation of Umbrella-topics to force duplicates to'.

For me personally, I also think we can do better than to simply parrot a game wiki. In fact, if I may call upon LessPop one more time:

Stack Exchange isn't GameFAQs.

...what we do well isn't Big Lists of Stuff. ...

I'm a busy person. I'd like to imagine that most other users here are busy people. If somebody else has already created a [searchable database], by god, I'm going to use that to answer questions, and point out to people when their answers come from there. If someone has already made a list of [every weapon], we shouldn't be trying to make our own list - but if someone asks where to find all of the unique shotguns, that's something we can answer.

Wikis are great for general reference, and sure, there will always be questions that can be answered with a quote and a link, but we should be primarily focusing on building the answers for questions that wikis do not or cannot handle.


Conclusions

Self-answering is great when it addresses an actual problem you've faced with a substantial answer that makes the the site (and the internet) that much better for having it. Self-answered 'List' questions that simply transcribe/quote the wiki aren't helpful and isn't something we as a site should focus on, especially not if the primary reason is to duplicate other specific questions to it.

'Seeding' questions is OK, if there is a problem/gap in knowledge to address, but if you're substantially quoting, transposing or collating other people's answers, consider marking the combined answer 'Community Wiki' so that you aren't earning reputation points for other's work.

But to directly answer your question:

Is there a bias against self-answered questions?

No. The bias 'against' the current self-answered question comes from the points above and the points covered by Ash, Frank and other commenters that have been involved, but not against 'self answered questions' as a whole.

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This isn't really all that answerable, because it's a matter of personal opinion. In some cases, people might not realize how welcomed and encouraged you are to actually ask and self answer, so they might down vote because they don't think you are "allowed" to do it.

Or maybe they know, but they don't think that the question is really warranted, or it's too easy, or too broad, or what have you.

In the case where you are consolidating many already asked questions into one, they might think you are going to profit from the work others did, or take rep from the other questions or answers.

Because this isn't intended to be a wiki site, creating piles of encyclopedia like consolidation questions to create dupe targets isn't always greeted with enthusiasm, because there is this attitude that questions should come up organically, and you're duplicating efforts.

Some might also see it as you trying to farm rep, or the like.

These are just a few reasons why you might get pushback. I'm not saying any of it is the right way or the best way to go about it, because, well, at the end of the day, we're all here to give people the best answers to gaming questions.

People tend to get touchy when they think anyone is gaming the system, and because the self-answer thing isn't done with any regularity, people can be a little unnecessarily reactive to it. They do get judged a little harder, because we do want to make sure they're up to our standards and people aren't just asking softball stuff to watch their rep go up.

In this case as well, when you do a self answer for a game that's relatively old, and thus has a lot of other questions asked or other easily findable resources, you are also going to see pushback because people don't want to have questions asked just for the sake of it - if I can find the info in a quick Google search, there isn't really any need to duplicate it here necessarily. But sometimes you can improve on it or bring it all together under one roof.

Basically, all of this stuff is crazy subjective. People vote for all sorts of reasons, and self answered stuff has always been a little contentious. People tend to prefer stuff that comes up organically and such, and while SE as a whole has worked to make self answers accepted and valued by communities, you are always going to have issues if people are concerned your heart isn't in the best place, because rep unlocks privileges and is a measure of community trust.

So basically, you can do it, we like when people come in here with good stuff to share, but just realize there is always going to be that concern in people's minds. It's not always right, it's not always fair and we do our best to educate and explain and grow and learn together, but there are always cracks.

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    I wasn't concerned about the reputation so much as I was concerned whether I should continue posting these types of self-answers. This has reassured me that my contributions have a welcome home here. :D – Stevoisiak May 30 '17 at 2:46
  • I'm glad to hear that. I know I got kinda long, but I figured you might appreciate knowing all the different facets of what people might be thinking. – Ash May 30 '17 at 2:47
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    "Or maybe they know, but they don't think that the question is really warranted, or it's too easy, or too broad, or what have you." & "Because this isn't intended to be a wiki site, creating piles of encyclopedia like consolidation questions to create dupe targets" -- These were my two biggest concerns. It felt like none of these wiki-esque questions were organic and felt unwarranted. – n_plum May 30 '17 at 12:03

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