I have problems with pseudo questions, where a skeptic person pretends to ask a question, which isn't meant honestly, but as a straw man, to have it easily disproven.

Is there some kind of agreement going on in the background? I ask a question and vote your answer up, and then you ask a question and vote my answer up?

People pretending to have a question maneuver, if you try to diprove them, just to keep the thread cooking.

But of course this might be an effect of the beta status, where only critical subscribers - or mostly such - are allowed to participate. How shall that work?

Or shall I participate and ask silly questions as 'why not to walk under a ladder', 'from which side are crossing cats harmful and why not' and so on?

  • 1
    Can you give examples of the behavior? I understand what you mean, but I would like to judge myself the behavior.
    – Borror0
    Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 20:09
  • I don't like to, because a major concern is, whether other people share the impression and feel uncomfortable on their own. And in the last case I engaged in the debate without success, but maybe I find some of the older examples, where I had a similar impression. Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 21:14
  • Ok, here is an obvious 'I answer my own question' case, answered one minute after the question, but more words than you can write in a minute. Just enough time to paste it in. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/96/what-is-a-nosode/97#97 I would like to inform rjstelling that we're talking about his post, so he can defend himself - I don't like to talk about absent people. Is there a way to get into contact via se.com? Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 0:32
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    I don't know if there's a way to directly contact a user, but he'll know if you post a comment on his question with a link pointing here. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 8:38
  • Good idea, I did so. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 13:13
  • 2
    I'm moving answers I previously wrote (or have permission to move) in v1.0. That's all. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 13:40
  • May I ask 'What is v1.0'? Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 13:55
  • The early beta. I figured that is exactly what was going on. Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 1:43

3 Answers 3


I tend to answer a lot of questions here, and I have at least not been informed of this supposed conspiracy.

Stack Overflow is pretty much the only other site in the network I've been active with, and they receive a huge amount of questions. I use the same approach here, that I have found working for me there: if I ever need to ask something, I do, but it's usually a rather last effort, long after google and wikipedia has failed me; as for answering, I try to contribute whenever I can. If I don't know the answer to a question, but I find it intriguing, I might go ahead and do a bit of research myself - that's great, I'm learning something. I find that I'm learning most, however, by answering people, because it puts my own thoughts to the test, and I'll see when other people come up with better ideas, or correct me in comments. That's really all that's in it for me.

I can't know, of course, if the people aksing the questions really didn't know the answers themselves. Sometimes the questions seem to imply that the guy writing them has a pretty good idea. When the question is pretty much just saying "Hey, you guys, I think it's like this amirite?" That's completely fine by me! So perhaps they do have an idea, but want to get it confirmed? Perhaps more likely, they might be pretty sure they're on the right track, but want to see what kind of arguments other people use to back that up.

In Stack Overflow, which is a programming site, it's really easier to just accept an answer and move on. Oh, so I had missed a semi-colon? Ok, thanks you guys, that solves it. Here, we're all skeptics, and for the most of us, it isn't enough to simply know something for ourselves, we actually want to be able to test these theories in debate, and as such, we enjoy gathering as many different arguments as possible. Something that doesn't often have a counterpart in programming questions, but that I still think fits this forum very well.

So I really don't mind those questions at all. What I have seen, though, is a few questions that are pulled verbatim from Skeptics Exchange, or questions where the original poster publishes the answer himself, pretty much immediately. As if to contribute to some kind of knowledge base, perchance. I don't quite know what the deal is with that. To me, the only incitement to post a question should be an actual interest in input from others. That doesn't always have to entail having no clue what so ever what the potential answer might be, though.

  • The idea of a conspiracy is just a minor sideline aspect. Maybe it is more the motive to get reputation for the question itself. And yes, from StackOverflow I'm used to think that the questioner is really searching for an answer, or different opinion. Even on SO you may search for alternative ways to solve a problem - more elegant, more performant, different dependencies. Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 23:46
  • Well, on SO we can also be quite demanding with regards to the question being asked. If the question is of too poor quality, we press for 'what have you tried so far, why isn't that working'. Would something similar be of use to us? I don't know exactly what the questions should be, but perhaps if we want it to be an expert site, we might try and see to it that this is never the first resort? Perhap, for simple questions, we should insist on 'how is it that you think the wikipedia page for X doesn't explain your question about it?' Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 6:59

I am one of the users asking questions I know already the answer to. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in the answers, I usually know the basic answer but I am interested in some details and different perspectives. For some of the questions I had heard the skeptic side, but never verified the details. Those are questions where I think I know the answer, but I'd like to see some more, direct references and evidence for it. I am always waiting to be suprised by some aspect I hadn't considered before.

The reason I'm doing that is because we need to seed the site with questions during the private beta. We need some good content so that people visiting the site see a reason to come back. Our question volume is anyway not that high. And the questions provide the much needed opportunity for people to answer and earn reputation. We need to build up an active group of users to help moderate the site.

The most important thing about asking questions here is to ask good and interesting questions. They shouldn't be just one-liners, one should put some effort into each question. As long as the questions are of good quality I personally think it is perfectly fine to ask questions you know the answer to.

And I don't think there is a conspiracy, as far as I can see most of the active users had not much direct contact on SE sites before.


I think we have to be careful before concluding someone is pretending. Some people simply aren't aware of the reasons why their question looks like a strawman; they might just have been listening to too many quacks without realising they were quacks. They might just need their preconceived notions shaken up a little.

The good thing about that is that they're asking their question here. This is why I really hate it when someone immediately starts accusing a poster of being a troll. If they're not, they'll probably decide we have preconceived notions of our own which prevent us from seeing their side. And they'd be right. But if we hold off judgement for a moment we can clear up their misunderstanding, or pretty quickly establish that they are in fact a troll.

(I don't see any conspiracy, but, at least on Atheism.SE, I've seen a couple of accounts which I'm fairly certain both belong to one person).

  • Maybe I wasn't that clear, but I guess you got me wrong. I didn't accuse somebody for trolling, which would be to provoke, due to my usage of that term. I was confused by mentioning something which I would call the opposite behavior: Ask questions to do us a favor in giving us (but maybe a friend) the opportunity for a correct answer. I didn't see more indications for conspiracy other than questions, as if they were made up for to be answered by a sceptic, like a perfect assist. Take "Is it possible to overdose on Homeopathic medicines?" as an example. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 6:10
  • @user unknown: Ok, I think I understand you (though your comment is very confusing). I thought you were talking about trolling because you said that people were "pretending" to ask questions but were really setting up "strawmen". That is trolling. But even if that's not how you meant it, my answer still applies. Even if someone isn't doing it to be a troll, they might be asking simple questions that are easy to answer because they don't know any better. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 6:32
  • Yes, but as you can see in my comment at the top, rjstelling posted another question, and 1 minute later a previous written answer to his own question, so it wasn't that he found the solution after some time and posted it here, to complete an open question - which wouldn't be too strange on StackOverflow, but he seems to ask only to give the answer himself. I thought you could call this 'strawman' too, but maybe not. However - to build a wiki-like encyclopedia this isn't a harmful approach; therefore I'm asking for opinions. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 6:43
  • Yeah I wouldn't call that a strawman. He could just be helping to seed the site, but I think you're right to be suspicious about him answering his own question within a minute. Seeding is fine, but I think other people should be given a chance if you're going to answer a question. Otherwise it looks like you're just trying to boost your score. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 8:35

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