On every question page, including this one I'm writing on now, there is a relatively conspicuous link underneath the Post Your Question button, and it says

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

The link goes to a chirpy blog post that very much encourages people to ask and answer their own questions if they think it would help others:

To be crystal clear, it is not merely OK to ask and answer your own question, it is explicitly encouraged.

I recently took on a very well priced VPS package that came with Plesk preinstalled. I had no idea of the nightmare to ensue. For those not in the know, Plesk often behaves in unexpected and undocumented ways, and gets into places in your server you wouldn't expect it to be. Figuring out simple things, like how to access the MySQL CLI as root, can become an almost insurmountable task and certainly hampers productivity. The answer to the aforementioned problem can be found through significant forum trawling (made more difficult by very different behaviour depending on the Plesk version used) and is documented here: Access MySQL as root - a question I asked and answered.

The question was promptly (much more promptly than most of my questions are answered) closed by 6 users, one of whom left the following comment:

Thanks for telling us that. If you have an actual question feel free to post it.

A comment which I just as promptly marked as rude/offensive - it is certainly rude and runs contrary to the blog post I linked to above.

It is my understanding that this site exists, fundamentally, to increase the productivity of those who use the site. We come here for answers to our questions, and a lot of us give back by answering questions we know the answer to. There are fewer things on this green earth I give less of a toss about than my reputation - I use this site and have great respect for it and its users solely because my productivity as a home-schooled developer/admin producing valuable proprietary solutions for my clients would be significantly hampered if we all weren't here, doing what we do. It is the single best resource I know of to aid my productivity. End of story.

As I explained, finding the answer to this particular question was not easy, and certainly the solution was not in any way expected. It also has not been documented on this site. So I decided, and I didn't have to, to post this question and answer it to save future Plesk-ers the hassle of trawling Parallel's forums. I wanted to give back to the community. I had a small hope that perhaps one day a simple Google search for plesk access mysql as root would throw up this question first, and many minutes would be saved by many.

And yet I was immediately derided and the question was closed as 'not a real question' - a description which simply did not apply.

I have marked this as discussion because surely user behaviour going completely against the grain of site policy is an issue that we should clarify. I have also marked it as feature-request because currently the Answer your own question functionality is obviously not working as expected.

I would be grateful for some clarification from the wider community on these issues.

  • 5
    Nobody cares how you became an admin. Using Plesk/CPanel et al isn't really admining a server though it's using a web application. As you have discovered they do strange things to systems that makes it much harder to fix and somewhat alien to those of us that don't use them. – Iain Jan 28 '13 at 16:56
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    I apologise for adding context, @Iain. Feel free to edit out the words you find offensive. I would argue that it is not using a web application however - most of my time is spend trying to counteract the webapp's weirdness in the terminal as was made clear in my original question. If there was a more appropriate exchange for this question I would have used it. – SLD Jan 28 '13 at 18:11
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    Don't do that - either use the web app or ditch it and use a terminal. – Iain Jan 30 '13 at 16:45
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    In honest I haven't read the linked question/answer; but self-answer is almost universally good and accepted here. One caveat to that, I've seen plenty of self-answers where the OP didn't include critical details in the Question, people tried to help, and the Self-Answer relies on those details that still haven't been divulged... – Chris S Jan 31 '13 at 3:03
  • @Iain As I have said before I don't have a choice in the matter, and now I'm too far gone to even think about rebuilding the VPS sans Plesk. – SLD Feb 4 '13 at 17:44

Your question was asked indirectly, but it was there. An indirect question looks like this:

My thingy is broke. I tried a few things. Have some logs.

Where the "and how do I fix it" part is implicit. Which as you found out, certain of our users don't see as a question and instead see as a statement of experience. Adding an explicit question to the end:

My thingy is broke. I tried a few things. Have some logs. How can I fix this?

Makes a world of difference to these users. I've edited questions to add this seemingly obvious line (apparently it isn't) which has stopped downvote cascades.

By my read, this is how your question managed to get closed. This is easily fixed, and I will do so shortly.

As for our support of answer-your-own-question, we actually do support it here. Admittedly, not as resoundingly as the text suggests, but we do support it. You got spat on not because it was a self-answer, but because our close-voters couldn't see a question in there.

  • 4
    Thank you for your input and your edit! I am now starting to understand the exacting requirements of the community here. I still think that all the effort these users put into commenting and closing a useful question could have been better spent editing my question, but I'm splitting hairs now. Thanks again for your answer. – SLD Jan 28 '13 at 16:49
  • Check out one of my questions for a prime example of this on SuperUser (read the edits). – HaydnWVN Jan 28 '13 at 17:12
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    I don't know about the others who voted to close, but I don't consider it obvious that "How do I fix this?" is implied by this type of question. Sometimes the person wants a workaround, sometimes they want pointers on how to diagnose the problem... – Ward Jan 30 '13 at 7:47

The question that you link to, fundamentally isn't a question, it lacks a question mark. Nowhere does it ask a question - it's a statement of (an apparently incorrect) fact, which you go on to correct in an answer.

Based on that, the comment you dislike doesn't seem quite so bad, it's just stating somewhat plainly (and correctly) that you haven't asked a question.

I don't know how the people that voted on your question saw it but it is likely that they saw it in /review which doesn't show the answers that a question may have gathered so they won't have seen that you answered your own question.

  • 1
    Thank you for your input, I accept the lack of explicit question appears to be the issue here. I suppose I assumed that the usefulness of what was written (and the fact it is implicitly a question by nature) trumps syntax, but of course syntax trumps everything in our game. – SLD Jan 28 '13 at 16:46

In addition to the lack of a question (and it not having what I'd consider to be a professional tone), I'd also suggest that the problem isn't that answering your own question is despised, so much as Plesk is despised in these parts.

I wasn't part of the close-voting, so I can't say for sure, but your question and answer probably got hit by a wave of Plesk-hatred more than anything else... and to be fair to the Plesk haters, it's not exactly a professional-grade tool that a quality SA should be using. It's a crappy GUI that mucks things up, but you hand out to end-users, because it's better than having them try to figure out a command line.

  • 1
    This would be my biggest problem with your question, @SLD , (and I'm the guy who defended plesk/cpanel/etc. questions) -- This is a Plesk question at its core ("How does your product work?"), and the proper venue for it is really Plesk support (It's like asking what the default password for a Cisco router is -- why not ask Cisco?). That said, the information is useful for people who get stuck with a Plesk environment. I certainly felt the answer upvote-worthy even though I'm not a fan of the question :) – voretaq7 Jan 28 '13 at 17:24
  • I'm one of the Plesk haters, and I did not downvote or vote to close this question. – Michael Hampton Jan 28 '13 at 17:25
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    I am a fully fledged Plesk hater, but I'm stuck with it for now. VPS procurement was somewhat out of my hands and subject to a strict budget. Why is a professional tone so important, though? The question was concise and contained the relevant detail, but not flippant or inappropriate. We're not trying to win business from each other here, so I don't see the need for full-on formality. I've read a thousand questions that were amateur, badly written, massively downvoted but were still answered and not closed. – SLD Jan 28 '13 at 18:16
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    @SLD Feel free to vote to close (or edit to fix) questions that are amateurish, badly written, etc. -- The very first line of the Server Fault FAQ is Server Fault is for Information Technology Professionals needing expert answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity. -- A professional tone is an important component of questions (and answers) on the main site (which is why we scrub rants, profanity, etc. when they show up). A good rule of thumb is: Ask questions you would ask a colleague. Answer as if advising a client. – voretaq7 Jan 28 '13 at 18:47
  • @voretaq7 Seems fair. – SLD Jan 28 '13 at 19:06
  • "... it's better than having them try to figure out a command line." So much for RTFM! – Agi Hammerthief Mar 10 '14 at 18:21

You got downvotes from me because:

  1. You didn't ask a question, although sysadmin1138 has edited it to add a question since. I also cast a close vote on it for the same reason.
  2. You gave an answer to a question that hadn't been asked.

All in all your posts, as posted, were nonsense. Pretty simple really.

Had you actually asked a question, preferably one that didn't involve any kind on web app control panel, which are seriously despised by sysamins because they are so highly unprofessional, things might well have been different.

  • 1
    I now understand the extremely particular requirement of this community for an explicit question, however to say the question was nonsense is ridiculous. Every single person who read that post knew exactly what the 'question' meant - pragmatically what I posted was perfectly valid: there was no doubt, ambiguity, or nonsense of any kind. Plesk is the work of the devil - I get that, I know that, but this was still a real problem and as far as I could tell this was still the best exchange for the question. – SLD Feb 4 '13 at 17:42
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    So you've consulted with "every person" who read your post to ensure they understood the "question"? How else could you possibly come to such an absurd conclusion? You failed to consult me for one and I did not find a question in it. You need to learn the difference between questions and statements. – John Gardeniers Feb 4 '13 at 22:41
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    Is it really so hard to conclude that a post regarding an inability to access the mysql CLI is looking for a way to gain access? I get it, you guys demand explicitly phrased narrowly scoped questions but the question here was still clear, if only implicitly. – SLD Feb 4 '13 at 22:55

What about when the user has a problem, asks a good question, but figures out the answer and puts that in the comments before someone else can come up with it.. what happens then? I keep finding questions I can answer with no responses, only to find that they have been answered by the OP.. Do I copy/pasta his answer?

  • This might deserve to be an question on its own, but yes, I've copypasta'd comments into answers before, but with a caveat that this is not my answer, please refer to the comments. With any luck it will get a +1 and get the question off the Unanswered queue forever. Otherwise, if it's a pretty shit question, feel free to flag it explaining that it's been answered by the op and nobody else will ever need the question and we'll just nuke it. – Mark Henderson Feb 26 '13 at 6:59
  • We've already discussed this meta.serverfault.com/a/1931/9517 and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/117251/… and – Iain Feb 28 '13 at 9:03
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    I was getting grief for this, so started using Community Wiki, grief ends. – Grizly Feb 28 '13 at 19:59

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