8

This is the second time I've submitted a self-answered question and found that it had been closed and marked as a duplicate of two questions that didn't actually apply. As one would imagine, this is somewhat frustrating.

The first question, Ubuntu, Ubuntu Flavors, Ubuntu Remixes, Ubuntu Derivatives - what's the difference?, was closed as a duplicate of two questions. The first one, What is the difference between Ubuntu and its derivatives?, covered the differences between the various Ubuntu flavors (not the question, just looked similar at first glance). The other one, What does "official Ubuntu flavour" mean?, covered only the definition of an official Ubuntu flavor.

The second question, which was asked today, What are phased updates, and why does Ubuntu use them?, was closed as a duplicate of another two questions. The first one, How to disable/skip phased updates on 22.04?, covers the process of disabling phased updates for a machine, but otherwise it misses most of the question. The second one, Update/Upgrade not working (because of phased updates), has an answer that briefly covers the first four points of the my question (what phased updates are, why Ubuntu uses them, how they help the user, and if they should be disabled or not), but misses the fifth point entirely (why apt's messages regarding phased updates are so unclear), and doesn't go into much detail for the first four points. My question was intended to have a detailed answer, not a brief overview.

It seems like self-answered questions are in somewhat of a different category from usual questions. Where as a usual support question may be sufficiently answered by a quick overview of a topic followed by practical steps, a self-answered question is typically designed to receive a highly detailed, comprehensive answer, as it is more of a documentation page than an actual question. As a result, questions that appear to be duplicates of a self-answered question are very likely to not be, as they may not meet all of the criteria that the original asker intended to be met by the answer. They may have little to nothing to do with the question, especially if the question is self-answered and the presumed duplicate was a support request.

Flagging a self-answered question as a duplicate when it isn't gives the question an aura of unreliability, as it appears to break the site's rules at first glance, when, in fact, it doesn't. To have this flag removed, the asker ends up having to edit the question to clarify why it's not a duplicate, request reviews, and possibly ask for help getting the question reopened over here. It frustrates the efforts of a person attempting to document info, requiring them to go through a somewhat difficult process to get their question out of the pit of duplicate-ville and back into the realm of normal questions. Overall, it's a bad experience. And given the fact that this is the second time (in a row) that I've gone through this, I get the feeling that it's not going to stop.

My request is that the moderators and trusted members of Ask Ubuntu study self-answered questions more closely than normal when considering marking them as duplicates of other questions. I realize I'm asking a volunteer force to do more work than normal, but in my opinion, being a volunteer worker is a reason for not doing as much work as one might expect at first glance. It's not a reason to do a job incorrectly and create more work for other volunteers.

Does this sound like a good idea to the rest of the community? Anything in particular that self-answerers should do to reduce the likelihood of their question being marked as a duplicate in the mean time?

(For those who are reading this who do the job of flagging questions as duplicates, please don't take this as a personal attack. I also do a lot of volunteer work for the Ubuntu project, and fully understand the difficulties of it. I don't imagine anyone means one ounce of ill will in what they've done and are doing, nor do I think people are being sloppy. I think it's just that there's a part of the site (the category of self-answered questions) that could use different treatment than the current way things are going, and I'd like to bring this to the attention of the community. You guys are doing great, keep up the good work!)

P.S.: Wow, my spellchecker does not like the words "asker" and "self-answerer". What words should I be using here, or is Chrome just being silly?

Edit: The second question mentioned in this question has been reopened, thank you guys!

3

2 Answers 2

9

You did the right thing in both situations and also by posting here. Neither of these questions are duplicates.

We do need to do better at making sure that questions are not prematurely closed as duplicates, but I don't agree that it matters whether or not the question is self-answered. Self-answering does not make a question any more or less a duplicate.

As far as the question that was asked today, it was closed by a user that has privileges to close questions related to the apt tag. I think the closure was a mistake, but playing devil's advocate, I can see why...

The idea is that, in general, we would prefer to have one question with many answers vs. many similar questions with answers spread around. There's an answer on the supposed duplicate that briefly answered the question that you asked, but not as completely as you have. Question titles in particular are not always ideal, and the community can associate your question with an answer that already exists on an existing question, even though the question itself is slightly different. I don't always agree with this, and I don't in this case, and it seems neither did the community, because we voted to reopen it.

As far as editing questions after a closure: Yes, please edit questions the best you can to address the closure reason, but I don't think you should make your case for reopening in that edit. Instead, if you want to discuss why a question was closed or want to have a discussion about reopening, post here on meta.

1
  • Good points (especially about making the case for reopening somewhere else than in an edit). I wasn't saying that self-answered questions weren't duplicates, but more that they may have a higher-than-normal false positive rate. Admittedly, this is only my second legitimate self-answered question (the first one was a boffo thanks to a misunderstanding), so maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there. Sep 25 at 2:59
3

Based on your question title here, I was thinking this was going to be a very different type of question.

In my experience, many self-answered questions are duplicates. The OP has run across an issue and found the answer to it -- Perhaps they found the solution through their own efforts, perhaps through another site, etc.

In their haste to post the solution for others, they often don't search quite hard enough for a possible duplicate. And sometimes it's just a matter of not searching for the right terms. The SE search engine isn't that great compared to the Google (etc.) indices, and many attempts to find duplicates don't go further than the search box on the site.

So if I see a quick "problem/solution" self-answer Q&A, I often do go looking for a duplicate (or I'm often already aware of one.

So yes, self-answered questions do get a different view than regular answers when it comes to duplicates, but probably not in the way that you meant/hoped ;-).

But regarding yours specifically, they don't fall into that category. They are clearly well-intentioned, well-researched. While I might look for a possible duplicate if I saw your self-answer, there are two reasons I probably wouldn't:

  • You have a reasonable amount of reputation to "know better" (which isn't always a great indicator), but ...

  • More importantly, there is a lot of good information in those two posts. Even if they consolidated information that's present in other Q's & A's, they are still valuable consolidations (and additions).

1
  • That's an interesting take on it. I didn't realize that self-answered questions weren't usually questions like the ones I've been posting. That makes good sense to me. Sep 28 at 23:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .