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I had a simple question about something related to Windows Phone, and found the answer online pretty quickly (e.g. by googling it, or searching WindowsPhone.com). Is it OK to post (and self-answer) the question here?

What about taking bits of existing knowledge from elsewhere and reposting them here, Q&A-style?


This post was prompted by a number of recent self-answered questions. I posted my opinion in the comments of one such question, but per advice from Rowland Shaw decided to bring this up here on meta. As usual, vote on answers if you agree or disagree with them, or post your own if you have a different take on the matter.

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The help center offers several pieces of relevant advice.

From How do I ask a good question?

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Lack of research is a fairly common problem. Common enough, in fact, that the tooltip for the downvote button explicitly mentions "does not show any research effort" as one of the reasons for using it. Questions for which the answer can easily be found by searching on Bing/Google, or in official documentation, add little if any value to the site.

From What types of questions should I avoid asking?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Stack Exchange is not meant to fully document all the trivial and mundane aspects of something. Simply posting a question for the sake of having the information on this site is not necessarily constructive, especially if there's no reason to believe that the average person would have any trouble finding the solution. Instead, we should focus on providing answers not easily found elsewhere.

Now, one might argue that "seeding" the site with questions, no matter how trivial, is useful in the beta stage as it can help get closer to that magical 15 questions per day that would designate us as a healthy beta. That's certainly an admirable goal, but somewhat misguided. Getting an "okay" or better on Area51 isn't a guarantee that the site will graduate from beta. What matters most is that the site becomes self-sustaining, by building up a healthy community of people capable of providing high-quality answers and moderating the site.

From When Will My Site Graduate?

[The] graduation date of a site will depend heavily on having enough users with sufficient reputation to properly lead and govern the site.

The way this happens is when people vote, and vote often. While each Stack Exchange community has elected moderators, the bulk of the work of maintaining the site is handled by the users themselves. But in order for the users to be able to do anything, they need reputation. Hence the importance of spreading reputation by voting, and by extension, of having quality content to upvote.

Another important metric for determining the viability of beta sites is the amount of incoming traffic. Specifically, incoming traffic from search engines, which in the long term should form the majority of a site's traffic. "Seeding" the site with trivial questions to artificially push the numbers on Area51 higher does nothing to help move in that direction as such questions will most likely get dozens of hits in search engines and there's nothing to set us apart from the other results. Even worse, this can drown out the actual good content on the site, causing existing users to lose interest and stop contributing, and potential new users to not even bother joining.

So please keep this in mind when asking a question - will this actually add value to the site, or am I simply raising the noise floor? After all, every question you post ends up on the front page (no matter how briefly), and as such is part of the single most important design element of a new Q&A site. So make it a good one!

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  • I like to create questions I know the answer and think it is interesting. But I usually wait for a change to the community answer by themselves. Jun 7 '14 at 1:43
  • That's one long answer, @Indrek. Maybe a highlighted No would be good? Jun 17 '14 at 22:31

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