Whether or Not You Should Self Propose an Answer in an MSDN or TechNet Forum

Whether or Not You Should Self Propose an Answer in an MSDN or TechNet Forum

This article is part of the Wiki series: MSDN/TechNet Forums.

Reasons to self propose

1 - You want the asker to know that you're trying to answer the question. So you want your suggestion to be seriously considered and tried ASAP (versus having the asker not try it and keep getting frustrated).

2 - Nobody else is proposing your answer. You replied to try to answer it. Time has gone by, nobody proposed your answer, nobody replied to it and commented on it, and nobody marked it as an answer. Rather than feel like you wasted your time (and possibly give up on the forums), you propose it as an answer to try to get a moderator or the asker to notice it and thus mark it as the answer.

3 - You don't want to leave it unanswered. Similar to #2, you tried answering the question and nobody is proposing your answer, marking it as an answer, offering an additional answer, or offering more details about why your answer doesn't apply. The Asker has obviously moved on, and you don't want it in the list of unanswered questions when you obviously tried to answer it. So you mark it as a proposed answer so that you can focus on the questions that are still unanswered.

4 - Your post got moved (especially into the "Off Topic" forum). If you tried to answer a question, and your post got moved (such as into the Off Topic forum), then you might want to propose it as an answer just because that makes those posts (that actually have an answer in that forum) easier to find... and thus are more likely candidates to ever be moved into the correct forum.


Reasons to not self propose

1- You don't want others to not look at the question. As Adavesh mentioned here, people who are trying to answer questions might skip it because they think it might have already been answered. However, as a counter step, the Asker, Moderator, or Proposer, can unpropose a proposed answer. So if the Asker really cares, they can clear the status so that this isn't an issue.

2 - You don't get Achievement credit and medals for it. I wouldn't make it a habit of self proposing. As in Naomi's example, these two people who self proposed (http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/transactsql/thread/e454b2c4-04c6-4d5a-8c5b-8920866ee7c4) have made it so that they don't get credit toward a "Proposed Answerer" achievement. For example, for the Proposed Answerer 1 Bronze Achievement medal, they need to be proposed by another community member 1 time. They'll never get it if they propose their own answers. (Granted that this might not be a big deal to many people.)

3 - The community doesn't really like it. It's obvious from conversations like this forum post (http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/Profile/thread/01fe255a-c18c-489d-86e8-7fbe88630c3e/) that you shouldn't constantly self propose simply because lots of people dislike the behavior. Generally you want the community to favor your behavior. Because of this and the above reasons, I would limit self-proposing to the conditions set above in the "Reasons to self propose" section.

4 - You are the least objective person to judge whether your post is the answer.  Yes (unless you are asking for clarification of the question) you believe your post answers the question, if you didn't think so, you wouldn't have posted it.  But consider that you might have misinterpreted the question (or the questioner may not have stated it clearly enough).  

5 - You don't want too many proposed answers. Imagine if everyone who thought they were answering the question proposed their post as the answer, most of the posts in every thread would be proposed as the answer, so the "proposed as the answer" flag would be worthless.

(Tip: Un-Proposing an Answer is available after editing your post)
 


Alternatives to Self Proposing

A better solution is to build relationships with other Moderators on the Forum in order to propose and mark each others' answers, when appropriate. If you're the only Moderator who is active on the forum, you should see if there's an MCC, MVP, Microsoft employee, or other active forum participant who can and should be granted the Moderator status. See this Wiki article about how they can become a Moderator.
 


Other Community Thoughts

Naomi N: My thoughts: Even though the reasons for self-proposing look solid, it still doesn't feel OK to self-propose. In other words, you have to be bold enough for self-proposing answers (even then you're absolutely certain it was an answer). An interesting and heated discussion on this topic can be also found here.

XAML Guy: 'Self proposing immediately on answering' is I think almost always viewed as arrogant. I have just started "proposing" my old unanswered threads, from almost a year ago, in small batches. Many OPs are still actively posting, so may respond well to a nudge. If no one has proposed an answer or closed the thread, I think that it is acceptable to give the OP a nudge (as they will get an email notification of the proposal). I believe Etiquette should be to leave at least 3-4 days minimum, before proposing yours as the answer. Maybe a "self proposing delay block" could be built into the forum mechanics?

Noah Buscher:
In many cases, I think self-proposing can not only benefit you to possibly get more points and recognition, but it can also be useful for the asker if you truly think that your question answers the asker the best. I do not agree with people self-proposing just to earn recognition, as in many cases the exact opposite occurs.

Ed Price: The reality is that self proposing greatly increases proposing in general (people don't propose each others' answers enough). And this results in more answers being marked and more Askers/OPs returning to read and respond.
 


See Also

Other Languages

 

 

This article is part of the Wiki series: MSDN/TechNet Forums.
 

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Comments
  • I think it's always better not to self propose an answer.

  • Ed, very good description.

    Me too, Luigi.

  • personally not a big fan of self proposing an answer. even if one knows its the right answer, its up to the community to accept it. propably special case for moderators, where it conflicts with closing a threat eventually

  • Hi Ed

    Excellent article, covers all of the possible scenarios.

    Regards

  • Thanks Ronnie! Today I added the "Alternatives" and "See Also" sections.

  • The problem with the thread quoted in "The community doesn't like it" is that he clearest post there is the one From your colleague Brent Serbus who first talks about proposing *other people's* posts (which is never a problem unless proposing all the posts of a friend - don't laugh, it has been done) and then says that he proposes his own posts. Well he's MS and presumably can get away with it, but there have been many other threads with no one in favour of self-proposing.

  • I'd also like to see Reasons to not self-propose *first* !

  • Ed, Nice wiki , very useful to understand the process. However I have one query. - Is there any time limit, to wait before proposing your own answer as "proposed answer" ?

    I am very sure Microsoft will be monitoring the forums very closely to make sure they are moderated properly.

    I would suggest if we publish these kinds of "Tip of the Day or Week" kind of things in forums regularly, so that new community members will be aware with the helpful information.

  • Naushad, Currently no. The reasons to not self propose and the better solution are listed above. However, if you're going to self propose, there are no rules for waiting.

    We are starting to evangelize the "rule" that we want moderators to wait a week before they mark an answer. They should propose an answer first, wait a week, and then mark it. That gives the OP/Asker plenty of time to return. However, that's off topic from self-proposing.

  • Adding on to my last comment... The self proposal feature exists for a reason. Although you should consider the reasons to not self propose and you should consider the alternative/better solution, the feature exists for you to use. It is by design.

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