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I have a few questions that I could ask to which I already know an answer but which (I think) may be "good" seed questions -- as long as somebody else answers them! Is this appropriate?

The questions include:

Genealogy education available in the UK? [There appear to be a lot of genealogy training resources available in the USA, specifically focussed on Genealogy methodology. Are any of these available at-a-distance in the UK, or are there local alternatives?] (There's a supplementary question I could ask about methodology reference books, but I think that', but would that be too '101'?).

Strategy for locating an elusive English birth. [I have marriage and death certificates for an individual, plus census entries between those dates, so have an approximate birth year and place plus a putative father's name. I have not been able to find the England and Wales birth certificate, looking 5 years either side of the target date. What strategies can I employ to progress?]

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It's allowed technically, it may even be helpful later (see below), but I wouldn't recommend it for an early site.

"Seed questions" become harmful when folks come to believe that the author doesn't really care about the answer; or worse, the author doesn't even need any help at all! I wrote a blog post about this cited below, but worth a full read:

From Your New Site: Asking the First Questions …

Seeding the Site

I was a bit put off by the context implied by “seeding the site.” The word seeding suggests to me that we’re coming up with questions just for the sake of asking questions. My concern is, if people feel that the author doesn’t really care about the answer, the whole exercise would likely be perceived as a waste of time. …

The downside is that those hypothetical questions tend to be somewhat pedestrian for an expert Q&A site. When put on the spot to post content, we’re likely come up with uninspired questions that anyone would ask. And they’ve all been asked 100 times before on every other site on that subject.

One of the motivations driving this site the belief that you are helping others. Folks love to help others… but folks do not want to be given homework assignments or busy work.

If you have particularly interesting information to share, it's okay to share your knowledge, Q&A-style. If you have a particularly intriguing question asked out of genuine curiosity; that's okay, too. But I would stop short of flipping open that book of oft-asked questions to start seeding the site here.

So ask about problems you actually face. Encourage others to do the same. When you encounter obviously "seeded" questions, always moderate for quality. Questions with little effort or research should be closed with helpful guidance. But try not to let it devolve into endless interrogations of the author. They're likely just trying to help the site in good faith. But we have to continue to attract the experts we need… and the best way to do that is to keep the quality on that front page high.

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    OK. I'll ask about the elusive birth because I'm really stuck on that. – user104 Oct 10 '12 at 14:43
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    Note that this post doesn't include a category of "canonical posts" where often-asked questions are finally asked and answered comprehensively with everything you can do to overkill it. These are often detailed, step-by-step, ultra-clear guides for questions which get asked too often. That's a great way to have the best possible answer to the common problems and questions people have on this site, but those typically come later in a site's life cycle. – Robert Cartaino Oct 10 '12 at 15:41
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As with other members of the SE family, I think providing and answer for a question you already "know" is great - but personally, I try to wait for some period of time after asking to add my answer to the question if I asked.

For example, "Where are birth records stored from the 1830s in Columbus OH?". Perhaps you know the answer is, "The State Archives; 727 Autumn Ave; Akron OH 45367".

However, just tossing that out within seconds/minutes of asking can preclude the community from being interested in answering, or discourage them fro upvoting your correct answer. Perhaps someone else would have the same nugget, but add operating hours, references to the Archives website, etc.

tl;dr
Answer your own questions, but let others answer "first".


Also see this old meta.SO post

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    Absolutely. I don't want to ask any question to which mine is the only answer. – user104 Oct 10 '12 at 15:46
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    That's a great idea to wait a bit. I've tried answering several questions and they've been answered by a different person with the exact answer I had researched and didn't write answer fast enough. I was OK with that as I know others are excited too by this site and want it to be successful. But if the questioner also answered without some pause it could get discouraging. – Jeni Oct 10 '12 at 21:59
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No. I completely disagree.

I don't think anyone should ask a question to which you think you already know and have the best answer.

If you are trying to get new ideas and think one particular way of thinking is the best, then you should include it in your question and ask whether that is best. That is okay.

The one place I think it is okay to answer your own question is when you really don't know the best answer, and the answers given are not quite it either, but they lead you to thinking or further web research and then you discover the best answer. Then you can include it and state so.

But preferable to that, you should make sure you wait long enough, say a few weeks or even a month, for someone else to come up with the same answer you discovered. Then you can and should give them credit for the answer. And you can document any subtleties in comments to that answer or by editing your question with a followup.

And waiting the few weeks or month without accepting an answer will result in more answers, giving you more ideas, and maybe a better solution.


Followup: I see that Stack Exchange is not only allowing answering your own question. They're actually promoting it!

Click "Ask Question" and on the page just below the "Post Your Question" button, you'll see a line that says:

Answer your own question – share your knowledge, Q&A-style

At the beginning of the line is a checkmark. If you select it, up pops a text box allowing you to immediately supply your answer.

The link on that line takes you to a blog post by our supreme leader Jeff Atwood that says It’s OK to Ask and Answer Your Own Questions.

Well, rather than the one exception I stated above, I still very much disagree with doing this and think that promoting this when we ask the question is doubly bad. I still think one should only answer their own question after others have had a chance to do so - and especially should not do it immediately when they ask it.

p.s. I've added most of this answer as a comment on that blog post.

I've also added this to: "Can I answer my own questions, even those where I knew the answer before asking?" on Meta Stack Overflow.

  • should you edit your answer to no longer start with 'I completely disagree'? The 'Followup' appears to say you have changed your mind and support answering your own question – Duncan Oct 30 '12 at 11:21
  • @Duncan - No, my followup says: "Well, rather than the one exception I stated above, I still very much disagree with doing this and think that promoting this when we ask the question is doubly bad." – lkessler Oct 30 '12 at 21:02

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