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I can think of quite a few questions which, if we had them on the site, would bring in new users from Google searches. I'm thinking of typical questions an undergrad or beginning PhD student might ask in molecular biology, like "how does salt stabilise DNA?" or even the simpler "why do we add salt when precipitating DNA?".

There are already answers to those questions on the net. Is it acceptable to ask them again here? I think it is for two reasons:

  1. It will help promote the site if we have a good base of those fundamental questions which are most searched.
  2. We might well end up with better answers than other sites give, and out Q&A format makes it easier to sift the answers to get the best information. Therefore we have a duty to add questions even if they are answered elsewhere.

What do you all think? I wanted to check with the community before I go on a question publicity spree.

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    $\begingroup$ I wish there was a place where hot new directions in biology could be answered. somehow physics.se does this without closing all such questions. I find it sad that this site can't seem to take on a role like this considering the amount of traffic we have and the quality of the topic. Seems worthwhile trying to become a real force for discussion of biology. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Feb 6 '13 at 6:08
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I personally would only welcome this approach. The whole point with the SO projects running in beta is to collect the critical mass of interesting questions which would attract more people from search engines and let them know about this project.

It is also perfectly fine to answer your own question -- just give some time to community to come up with answers and if you are not satisfied you can always write your own version.

Consider also these etiquette rules for answering your own questions.

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I'd generally be cautious with "seeding" the site with such questions. It's not wrong per se, and if done well it can certainly help our traffic. But we should be careful with questions that are too easy, we don't want to just duplicate content that is already present in large numbers and easily found via search engines.

If a very good answer can be already easily found with a quick Google search in a few seconds, we shouldn't try to duplicate that content. We're not making the internet a better place by that. But if the top-ranking results are crap, and it is not that easy to find accurate information, if we can do better than the existing top results, we should certainly do that.

I would try to rate-limit any effort like this as to not flood the site with one type of question. That also leaves more time for the community to give some feedback.

Another imporant point is that we need to refrain from lazy two-sentence answers just from memory to such questions. To actually provide some value for such easy questions we need to put effort into the answers. I could for example answer your DNA/salt question with one sentence just from memory, but that would be a very lazy answer that doesn't really provide any great value. We should instead strive to provide great answers to simple questions, those are far harder to find.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that answers should be precise and less verbose. Reading through some answers is quite painful. I feel that we are not here to write a book or a blog. (I always wish to give a perfect one word answer some day). The OP should pick up the hints from the answer and look up the actual references for details. Of course references are to be provided. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jul 30 '14 at 6:10
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I think this is fine. We are at a stage where we want to generate interest and produce a good set of base questions. As long as you don't ask a question and answer it in what appears to be a gratuitous rep-harvesting way, the site can only benefit.

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  • $\begingroup$ Or post as community wiki $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jul 30 '14 at 6:14
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The idea of answering one's own questions seems fraught. Is such a transaction really anything more than a blog? Some questions might resonate with readers but to accumulate reputation based on this...? Well, what is the point of the site? I guess this simply amplifies Poshpaws' point about rep-harvesting or, as one MathSE user put it, "point harlotry."

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