I'm often faced with architectural questions wherein I have one or two general solutions in mind. Would it be off-topic for P.SE to post something like, What might the ER's for X look like to ensure extensibility [or maintainability, or simplicity, etc.]? along with one or two answers representing the options I've come up with so far?

And is there a better way to phrase that sort of question in a more concretely answerable way?

  • 2
    I sometimes have some luck saying I'm trying to decide between two options, giving some specifications that would affect the decision, and asking which one is better for my specific situation and why. It's usually scoped narrowly enough to avoid being too broad, and detailed enough to get a concrete answer instead of just opinions. Also, if there is a 3rd option that is far better than the two you are considering, it will come out in the answers.
    – Rachel
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


While self-answers are allowed, you should not base your design decisions on the popularity of the options you presented in your self-answers. The voting system is not meant for that and the reasons why people up or down vote are too variable to be an indication of which option is really the best. Perhaps the highest voted answer just used more of the popular buzz-words.

Additionally, as @Rachel noted in her comment, such a question has a very high risk to become too broad or to have insufficient information on what you have considered already.

In general, I would advise to present your options in the question itself and ask for an explanation why option A should be preferred over option B or vice versa. If there is an option C that has clear advantages over your current choices, then it will be presented in the answers, with reasoning why it should be preferred. And you will get presented with arguments why you should choose A or B, which you can weigh yourself. That you can't do just with votes.

  • That's worth thinking about (+1). I wonder, though, what the difference is in judging between one of my own answers and someone else's answer then. I wouldn't intend on providing my own answer without the rationale for the solution. So, while the votes my come into play a little; I'd still be able to weight the reasoning behind each answer objectively. This may be the answer I'm looking for though ... it properly cautions about the dangers of making the popular choice.
    – svidgen
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 14:58
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    @svidgen: If you put your own options in answers, it is harder for people to critique them, because that then has to be done through the comment system, which is not really designed for that. In that way, a self-answered question as you propose does not use the site in the way it was designed to be used. Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 18:14
  • Good point. Thanks.
    – svidgen
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 19:20

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