I posted this question without trying to solve it first because I wanted to keep the site active, not expecting that the answer would be quite so embarrassing (I still blame Szabolcs ;-p).

Is it a reasonable practice at this stage of site development to post questions simply to create traffic, or should I have kept this question to myself?

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    possible duplicate of Posting a question you already know the answer for – David Feb 1 '12 at 21:47
  • @David I'd say this is not a duplicate; I believe your question is about ones like this, whereas I was asking here about questions which one does not already know the answer to, but would probably be routine to solve. The idea being, unlike the first kind which would be posted expressly for the purpose of getting good information on the site, to simply increase the volume of (hopefully at least adequate) questions posted. – Mr.Wizard Feb 1 '12 at 23:02
  • In retrospect I wanted to ask precisely what you did here, but the wording in my post is kind of poor. Let's say it's not a duplicate. ;-) – David Feb 1 '12 at 23:06
  • Here's an experiment: mathematica.stackexchange.com/q/1245/12 – Szabolcs Feb 3 '12 at 13:43

Update Let me rephrase this a bit to address the comment below about "significant value" being subjective. The motivation to add extra questions should come from wanting to add more value and not from wanting to improve statistics. I did not mean to say that such posts should be judged based on some perceived value (votes do that anyway, to some extent). The site is already more active than typical.

When sites can graduate doesn't depend on any current statistic but growth. See this very informative answer:

I'd say, only ask a question that you can solve if it adds significant value to the site. Please don't add questions for questions' sake, but adding really good questions that are likely to be useful for many people can be nice. Let's keep the quality high.


We talked about perhaps asking nicely formulated questions to which some of the valuable tool-bag posts could be answers (because the tool bag post is not really something that should be moved over here as is, but some of the better tips there deserve their own post).

And don't forget: this site is already doing pretty well in question numbers compared to other betas. Several of the graduated sites don't have 15 questions per day either.

Finally, another question: Is it okay to ask a question which I think I could solve, but it'd take me a lot of time, I need the solution for my work, and I expect that someone here might already have experience with it?

  • If the answer to my question hadn't be so simple would it have had significant value? This is quite subjective. Re: your question: yes. Of course it shouldn't become a running habit of asking others to do your work for you. – Mr.Wizard Feb 1 '12 at 19:14
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    @Spartacus Let me put it another way: the motivation to add extra questions should come from wanting to add more value, and not from wanting to improve statistics. Then everything will be fine. – Szabolcs Feb 1 '12 at 19:16
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    "The motivation to add extra questions should come from wanting to add more value and not from wanting to improve statistics." - bang on the nose (and thus +1); the short version being, it's fine to answer your own questions, but please do it for the sake of site improvement and not for rep... – J. M.'s ennui Feb 1 '12 at 21:40
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    @Spartacus I'd add that if it took you some time to figure out, then it probably adds value, especially at your level. Occasionally, you'll put up a dud, but if it took serious research time, then it isn't likely to be a dud, and hence is valuable. – rcollyer Feb 3 '12 at 2:07

My opinion is somewhere in between those of @Szabolcs and @Oliver. I think that the main criteria to answer this is: have you put in a lot of thought, before asking, and then still think it is worth asking. If yes, go ahead and ask. If no, don't ask.

This suggests that there are two cases where it is appropriate to ask:

  • This is a real problem for you, which you find hard time solving yourself
  • You know the answer for this question quite well, thought about it many times from different angles, perhaps answered already when asked by people on several occasions, etc.

In both cases, you did put a lot of thought into it before asking, so if after all that you still think it is worth asking (perhaps intending to answer yourself, in the second case), it probably is.

Don't ask questions which you both don't know the answer to well, and which you will rather easily be able to answer yourself - they represent neither your personal problem nor things you know really well, so such questions are likely to have a low signal/noise ratio.

  • What is your opinion on the second case: should the answer be posted immediately (perhaps as community wiki), or one give time for others to answer? – Szabolcs Feb 3 '12 at 15:16
  • @Szabolcs I think it is better to not post the solution right away, but to develop a specific formulation for this kind of questions, making the purpose of the question explicit, as well as the community wiki nature of all teh answers. Then, let the others answer (but again, they will know the purpose of the question). Then, either pick one of the answers as accepted, if that one answer fully satisfies you, or compile points you feel important, from all other answers, with proper attributions, together with your own thoughts on the matter, into a single comprehensive answer, ... – Leonid Shifrin Feb 3 '12 at 15:26
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    @Szabolcs... post that one and mark it accepted. The reason that I think answering immediately is not the best way is that the nature of SE model (and habits people develop here on SE) is such that many people will be more motivated when not seeing the asker having provided an answer. This makes sense, because providing an immediate answer to your own question may look like you are not interested in other opinions, and this does not motivate others to provide answers.I'd even think that a (small) bounty from an asker of such question may be appropriate, to "compensate" for the cw nature of it. – Leonid Shifrin Feb 3 '12 at 15:31

Here is my opinion. NO this is not OK, why: Because you distract others from real work, or from helping others that actually need the help.

  • This was my original position; in fact I found it hard to be motivated to answer question on the new site in the first few days because I believed that a lot of the questions were of this type. However, I also want this site to survive, and I think one of the requirements is a good volume of questions, which lead to this one. – Mr.Wizard Feb 3 '12 at 17:43
  • @Spartacus, if is artificial to create traffic for a site to survive. If the site is does not survive, we should think about why and fix that. But artificially creating traffic and taking my time (where I got a lot of other things to do) to fix that is just non-sens. If fact, should I find people that do this kind of exploitation, I'll quit my account here. – user21 Feb 4 '12 at 0:20
  • You have convinced me. – Mr.Wizard Feb 4 '12 at 0:22

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