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This has come up in the past, but then the answer was that the website was in beta and needed to be "seeded" with good questions, so it didn't matter. Now that the site is well out of beta, what do people think of questions like this?

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  • $\begingroup$ To be clear, I don't think the linked question is worthwhile and have voted to close as not a real question (in a technical sense, there is no question contained in that post). $\endgroup$ – Isaac Mar 23 '11 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/1190/… $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Mar 23 '11 at 7:12
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I am not in favor of questions to which the OP knows (or thinks s/he knows!) the "entire" answer. There is a fine -- but not invisible -- line between a site where people ask questions and a site where people pose problems and puzzles. Especially, in the former instance I would like to think that by answering I am helping some particular person out, but I cannot see how to feel that way in the latter instance.

It is of course perfectly good to know one answer to a question and ask for other answers (ideally satisfying requirements to be enumerated by the OP) and so forth.

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    $\begingroup$ If people posing problems and puzzles is the problem, then we should talk about prohibiting people from posing problems and puzzles (alliteration aside). $\endgroup$ – Isaac Mar 23 '11 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I've closed the question (which already had three votes to close). $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Mar 23 '11 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see what you mean. What is wrong with having a separate tag, say "Puzzle," that is used solely for questions that the OP has enjoyed, or made up, and wants to share? I understand the issue if a problem where the OP knows the solution is masquerading as a question needing help, that would be really annoying. But if they mark it clearly, and say they know the solution, how can that possibly be bad? $\endgroup$ – Eric Naslund Mar 23 '11 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric: there is nothing wrong with those things; I just think that posing puzzles is different from asking questions and, in my opinion, is something best reserved for a different site. But sure, if people want to clearly label their puzzles as "puzzles", I will for the most part be happy to ignore them until/unless they threaten to overwhelm the site. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 24 '11 at 1:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric: let me also say that posing puzzles really does cut against the grain of SE site mechanics, at least a bit. For instance, why do you need to accept an answer to a puzzle? When do you accept an answer, and how do you choose which answer to accept? Do you leave your own answer, and possibly accept that one? It's all slightly fishy.... $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 24 '11 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ Finally, wouldn't it be better to pose a puzzle on a site where the mechanics were such that all the answers and comments were not instantly visible? Doesn't that kind of spoil the puzzle a bit? $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 24 '11 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Pete: You make some good points. Still, I would rather have such questions allowed, and ignored by many people, then disallowed and closed. $\endgroup$ – Eric Naslund Mar 24 '11 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Eric: okay by me... $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 25 '11 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ I posed a question for which I knew the answer because I saw the "puzzle" tag and inferred from it that puzzles were acceptable. (I was then admonished by Pete L. Clark for not using further indicators, but I'm a relative newbie so I didn't know.) I think I'll refrain from posting puzzles here any longer, but personally I find the non-stop stream of undergraduate homework problems far more annoying. $\endgroup$ – Fixee Mar 29 '11 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ MSE is split between SE policy (see Carl's answer, which aligns with Jeff Atwood's intent: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/… ) and Pete's opinion, it seems. $\endgroup$ – Mark S. Feb 7 '13 at 22:40
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Official SE policy is that it is okay to ask questions to which one knows the answer. For example:

Should I ask a question I know the answer to? enter image description here

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Intent is not an element of the validity of a question. It's perfectly valid to ask and answer one's own question, so there is no inherent prohibition on asking a question to which one already knows the answer.

The critical points are the same as for any question on any SE site: Is the question on-topic and worthwhile? If so, keep it. If not, can it be revised into one that is? If so, do it. If not, close the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the first sentence. In practice, I and many other users (moderators especially) read questions with an eye to what the OP intended. Perceived good intentions are rewarded; perceived bad intentions are denigrated, complained about, and eventually punished. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 23 '11 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Pete: I don't disagree with the idea behind doing that, but you're stuck with perceptions of intent. While this particular example at hand may be one that does not deserve to stay on-site, categorically prohibiting any question for which the poster knows the answer is a bad idea and runs counter to existing practice here and SE-wide. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Mar 23 '11 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ okay. I didn't say that such questions should be "categorically prohibited", only that I wasn't in favor of them. (There are plenty of things that I am not in favor of but would never dream of categorically prohibiting!) Regarding the distinction between intent and perception of intent: yup, we certainly are dealing with the latter. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 24 '11 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Pete: Fair enough. I didn't mean to imply that you were in favor of categorically prohibiting such questions, either—I was turning back to how I was looking at the question posed here on meta. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Mar 24 '11 at 4:29
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It could even be that there is a new way shown how to arrive at the solution - or even a generalisation and/or new connection. So if the question is valid and interesting everybody will learn.

So I think it is ok - in any case you won't be able to tell if somebody did not say (s)he knew already, so the discussion is also a little bit academic.

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Just a curiosity, guys. How does your policy about questions whose answer is known to the OP work?

Until now, I wasn't able to figure it out: in fact, while a post of mine was closed in a flash (and used by Isaac here, to give an example of what should not be allowed on this forum), none of you opened a poll to close this one; on the contrary, that post got even two full answers... So, how comes?

I don't think it is a matter of using/not using the tag puzzle (for I didn't use it), isn't it?

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  • $\begingroup$ it is possible that for the recent question you linked to, it was less clear that it was a "posed problem" rather than a question, so it got answers for that reason. If this is true (I don't know that it is; I'm just throwing out a possibility), it is indeed rather unfortunate. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 28 '11 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ I do really thank you for answering (here and on Math.SE), Pete. It seems the Latin motto audaces fortuna iuvat doesn't apply in my case. XD $\endgroup$ – Pacciu Mar 28 '11 at 10:40

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