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This help center states that answering your own questions is encouraged, and, if there's no other good answers, one can accept his/her own answer.

This answer to a similar question suggests some community members would judge it seriously negatively.

How is accepting your own answer viewed/judged by the space exploration community?

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    $\begingroup$ The answer that has you worried is from 2009. Just saying, times change. Its perfectly fine to accept your own answer. $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Dec 28 '19 at 0:37
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I've never seen anything like the wanton retribution described in that ten year old answer happen here in Space SE or anywhere else for that matter.

The accepted ten year old answer that begins with

Yes. It's encouraged (answering your own question). Accept it if it's the best answer.

and has ten times the votes, so there's that...

Here's an example of an answer written and accepted by the question's author, it didn't flush their reputation down the toilet, despite the topic.

Here's another example of an excellent, thorough, and very well-sourced answer written by a question's author; I'd say it's ripe for acceptance as well.

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I've done it a few times 1, with no backlash, for things that I already knew the answer to. When I run across / think of something that might be interesting / amusing / little-known.

If it's something I don't know the answer to, but later figure it out, I'll answer if no one else does. Then sometimes someone else posts a far superior answer and I delete mine.

I've never received massive downvoting for either case.

Update: I was curious about how prevalent this practice is on SSE. Using this query you can get that data.

The total number of self answered questions was 238 (out of 13K).

Using an arbitrary laziness cutoff of >5 self answered questions here is the leaderboard. The winna and champeen by a large margin is uhoh.

uhoh            60
geoffc          15
PearsonArtPhoto 13
OrganicMarble   10
TildalWave       8
DrSheldon        7

There may be limitations on the query that I haven't bothered to examine.

1 10, to be exact, as of this writing

Update: according to called2voyage this query actually counts self answered, self accepted answers, a subset of self answered questions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow! I was surprised at the number until I realized that for many if not most of those I added either a supplementary answer and accepted someone else's, or wrote a temporary or challenge answer in hopes it would get the ball rolling and stimulate further answers. I have a hunch that I haven't accepted more than perhaps 15 of my own answers, but that's just a guess. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 11 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh the query maybe could be tweaked for that (to show accepts). I just borrowed someone else's query. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 11 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Actually that query is only looking at checkmarked answers, so if it says 60 that's the actual number of cases you have checkmarked your own answer. I adjusted the query to count all cases where you added an answer to your own question, not just those where you checkmarked and that number is 190. You've asked nearly 1900 questions though, so it's not a large proportion of your questions. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Apr 12 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage wow, thank you for the analysis, I really appreciate it. I've managed to learn some Python over the last few years but whenever I look at a new scripting language I break out in a cold sweat :-) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 12 at 6:06
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I think that as long as the answer has a positive contribution, this positive contribution as voted on as per the SE standards is still a contribution.

A self answered question with a good amount of votes for this self answer in itself has a reason to exist, simply because multiple people took the time to read and upvote the self answer.

Even if a self answer is marked accepted the votes accompanying this answer should not be ignored.

After all, the accepted answer to a question is ultimately the decision of the OP.

Self answers should be treated as any other answer, upvote it, downvote, comment or flag it.

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This is 100% fine as long as it's a good answer. Even if the user only posted the question as a place to put the answer they want to share with everyone else. e.g. as a good canonical duplicate for a frequently-asked question, or just something interesting they wondered and researched themselves.

I've done this a few times myself, on Stack Overflow, to share original research / thoughts / something I figured out (e.g. this, this, or this), or as an FAQ (this) which has proved very useful as a link to leave in a comment, or as a duplicate for closing questions with that bug. All of these have gotten plenty of upvotes and negligible downvotes. A couple times I posted a question and then ended up answering it after a bit more digging, but some of those weren't definite enough to be worth accepting.

A few of those "original research" questions got upvoted comments like

I like these kinds of questions. Keep asking them!

and

This is [x86] investigative journalism at its best. Thanks!

which is clear evidence of community support for using a self-answered Q&A as kind of a blog post / article to explain or dig into something. Phrasing the question to work as a real question that sets up your answer can be tricky in some cases. :P

I'd expect the Space.SE community to agree with SO on this.


Where this can go wrong is when someone thinks they know the answer and self-accept an answer with misconceptions or based on wrong facts.

The meta answer you're looking a was written back in 2009, when Stack Exchange revolved more strongly around Stack Overflow, the programming site. Questions there are more often not out of simple curiosity, instead motivated by wanting working code. That can change the dynamic somewhat.

The cases of bad self-answers being accepted on SO are usually like this:

  1. Beginner asks how to do X, including a lot of misconceptions
  2. Someone else posts an answer that explains some concepts and explains how to solve a problem without a concrete example.
  3. The question asker writes their own answer with just working code (especially for a whole program) and no explanation of concepts or what was wrong. Often this is still nasty code that just barely works, or worse only happens to work by accident. They accept this answer because it's what they used.

But fortunately Stack Exchange sites only pin the accepted answer to the top when it's written by someone else. We don't need to downvote poor self-answers into oblivion to get them to not show up on top, so usually they just get ignored if they're not good.

Of course actually bad answers should get downvotes, but no more so than if they weren't accepted. In practice I think this tends to be how people really do vote.

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I ask a lot of questions on Space.SE (second only to uhoh). My personal belief is that I should not answer my own questions, unless necessary.

The arguments against answering your own question include

  1. You have a jump start on others who may want to post an answer. It takes time to formulate an answer, search for sources to back it up, and write the answer. The asker has the opportunity to do one or more of these before others are even aware of the question. This gives the asker a time advantage over others who may want to post an answer.

  2. There is a perception that you have manipulated the question to fit you own answer. Or perhaps you have actually done so.

  3. Your own answer is more likely to earn reputation than others' answers. Let's face it, the earliest answer (point #1) gets a huge advantage, even more when it seems to answer the question (point #2). Later answers have an uphill battle to earn reputation, even if they are better.

  4. It makes it harder for others to post a better answer. Why should others go through the effort to post a better answer, when they won't earn the reputation that they should?

  5. It can be used to game the reputation system. Because of the previous points, it is a way to get more reputation than you normally would earn. Even if this isn't your intention, you leave that perception with many other users.

  6. It sends the message to other users that you care more about yourself than other potential answerers.

Not everyone will agree with the above points. Some may outright disagree with any number of the above points, or feel that they are not a big deal. Many users are perfectly comfortable answering their own questions, or seeing others do so.

The bottom line is that there is a strategy that accommodates all opinions: Don't answer your own questions, unless it is absolutely necessary. Let others have the chance to post their own answers to your questions.


There a few exceptions where it may be necessary to post your own answer:

  • You've given others time to answer, but there are no answers. If you wait 24 hours, that gives everyone a chance to try to post an answer, regardless of their time zone. If there still is no answer after that time, but you can provide one, then posting your own answer is desirable, and it's okay to accept it.

  • You've given others time to answer, but all of the answers are of poor quality. Perhaps the other answers are merely opinions, or do not provide sources. In that case, if you can provide a well-written and well-sourced answer, do that and give voters a chance to decide that it's the best answer. At a later time, you can award yourself the checkmark.

  • Certain questions are "why don't you just write the answer" questions. Sometimes you come across a fascinating but obscure piece of information, and you want to share your knowledge. Often it is difficult to write such a question without making it clear that you already know the answer. You will be told "why don't you just write the answer", and will get downvotes until you write an answer.

    The limitation on this is that you really need to have a good idea what our community considers "fascinating but obscure". You will get a negative response when you write a question that is truly trivial, or alternately is so obvious that someone else should write the answer. It takes considerable experience in the community before you have a sense of what people like, so these types of questions are not for newer users.

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