Sometimes in answering a question I need to derive an intermediate result that might be of interest in its own right. It seems to me that in such a case it's best to post a separate question asking for the intermediate result and immediately answer it, and then link to that result in the original answer. This both reduces the length and complexity of the original answer and makes it easier to search for the two results separately. Of course this should only be done for sufficiently non-trivial results.

I'm posting this question to hear what others think about this approach, and to encourage adopting it in case others agree.

  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Hadn't thought of it. Sounds like it could be a useful technique. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2013 at 11:57
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ This can be easily misunderstood by some users as a license to post a convoluted net of self-questions and answers which are already quite long for themselves. I don't like when that happens. On the other hand, if it is not overdone it could be a useful tool. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Feb 28, 2013 at 14:46
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Users do have a license (or freedom) to post a convoluted net of self-questions and answers. (Needless to say, other users have freedom to vote down/close/delete.) $\endgroup$
    – user53153
    Feb 28, 2013 at 15:59
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @5pm: Use your powers of observations to observe last July's drama over a user disregarding anyone else and doing something like that. We all know how that ended. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Feb 28, 2013 at 16:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: We all know how that ended. We do? It ended?! How? $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Mar 1, 2013 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal: With infinite drama, which deepened the inevitable rip in the moderator team introducing the site one of its worse period of moderators fighting each other, and endless meta threads revolving a particular user. I feel we can say it ended because we stopped discussing it (directly anyway), and the user stopped doing that (for one reason or another). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Mar 1, 2013 at 2:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Yes, it was hard to miss the uncountably infinite drama. I had not realized the underlying activities had ceased. Thanks. :-) $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Mar 1, 2013 at 2:32
  • $\begingroup$ Can we add a 'lemma' tag for posts like this? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Mar 4, 2013 at 6:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Re: "lemma" tag, once time has passed, will the tag make sense? By that I mean, a lemma is only a lemma if it is closely followed by a theorem that relies on the lemma's result. Take that same lemma and write it down off on its own and it becomes another theorem. Unless people are quite good about linking their "lemmae" to their main theorems, the tag could cause a lot of confusion. On the other hand, it could be very cool if it could be made to work right. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2013 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexanderGruber I think lemma would be a meta-tag and therefore undesired - you couldn't post a question tagged only lemma and expect anyone to benefit from this $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2013 at 10:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox Assuming the original answer includes a link to that post (and that's the intention), the latter will automatically contain a reverse link to the original question, though not directly to said answer. Concerning "lemma", I think history has shown that some of them actually turned into theorems and are called lemma only for historical reasons, so I agree with you that it may not make sense after a while - plus, it sounds like a meta-tag $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2013 at 11:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I guess you are right. Can we at least agree, however, that in such "lemma posts" the answer from which it spawned from should be linked? (A "two-way" link between it and the answer.) If I just found this question by itself, asked and quickly answered by the same person, absent of context, I might find this frustrating. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Mar 8, 2013 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexanderGruber (don't forget to @-reply if you want someone notified of your comment) Yes, I perfectly agree with that - maybe we should feature-request at meta.stackoverflow.com that the "Linked" list next to a question links directly to the post containing the link and not just the question. The arrow indicating whether a question is linked-to or -from would probably be helpful as well. But concerning your potentail frustration, self-answers are actually encouraged $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2013 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila I do not know the drama that you speak of, but is it possible that this was just the last battle in a long war. I ask not because I want to dredge up any ugliness. Rather I am wondering if some other action could have led to the same splits and therefore to worry about this policy creating more trouble might be a mistake. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2013 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ @BabyDragon: That was more of a second battle in a very long war. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Mar 10, 2013 at 18:02


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .