I recently did the following:

latex test.tex
$ bibtex test.tex
I couldn't open file name `test.tex.aux'

Once I had tracked down the cause of the problem, I felt stupid for not having noticed it earlier -- but at the same time, I wasted five minutes on it. I then posted a Q+A; my reasoning was that I wanted to save time for anyone else who hits the same problem.

(Also, even if it's only in a small way, I want to give something back to the site. I ask a lot more questions than I answer. That's usually because all the easy questions are snapped up before I reach them, so recording simple things like this is one of the few ways I can provide answers.)

In any case, after I had posted this, an experienced user noted that this common problem was warned against in every LaTeX manual. After a short discussion, I wrote:

if it is the case that some questions should not be asked because everyone should know better/it's in every guide, it would be great to have that policy documented somewhere

I'm following that user's suggestion and opening up the question here: is it alright to ask and answer questions about issues discussed in every LaTeX guide? I might add that one reason I'm inclined to do so is that the last time I had time to read a LaTeX guide cover to cover was about 10 years ago; now I try and pick things up as I need them, and when I hit errors Google and this site are my first two ports of call.

Edit: also, my reasoning was that this kind of sentiment applied: because this is a website rather than a paper manual, and it has a search function, adding extra material doesn't impose very high costs on anyone. But perhaps you will disagree with me about that...

This may also be relevant: How "elitist" should the site be?

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While I agree that shortcuts/tricks of every level should be eligible to be asked/answered, I don't think it's beneficial to have everything. Otherwise, one can put questions in front of every bit in the TeX book and post it here but I don't see the purpose of doing it. Also keep in mind that by asking questions, you ARE giving something (which is also very valuable) to the site. Lastly, even if it wasn't so, you don't need to give anything else than a pat on shoulder for the people who help you. Uplifting attitude is the currency here. –  percusse Dec 17 '12 at 0:07
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AFAIK before posting a self-answer you are supposed to wait a bit for others to answer. –  Stephan Lehmke Dec 21 '12 at 10:09
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I agree with @percusse that not everything needs to be posed as a question here. But if you encountered a problem that took some time to figure out, then chances are that others will probably come across a similar issue, so don't see the harm in posting the question here, even if the answer is available in other guides. I tend to first search this site for solutions and if I can't find the answer, only then have a brief look at the documentation (assuming I know where to look).... continued below... –  Peter Grill Dec 21 '12 at 19:36
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I have seen several questions deleted by new users as they felt stupid for asking a basic question, and feel that those questions should not have been deleted. New users should really be not allowed to delete their own questions unless some time has passed, or even better require another vote to delete by someone with larger rep. –  Peter Grill Dec 21 '12 at 19:37

2 Answers 2

I would like to add couple points, the second part of my post is probably more important.

Many people think: "Oh this can happen someone else as well, let's make it a self-answered question." The problem is that somehow such posts often miss the basic good qualities of a post. (I do not say these apply to your case.) The most common ones are the following:

  • Question not being properly stated (MWEs missing, question to vague, generally in for that obviously nobody else is able to answer it because they don't know what's it about).

  • Mixing questions and answers (parts of the answer is posted in the question etc.).

  • Answer not being of much help anyways.

It seems that none of these "objtective" points apply to your case, which means that somehow the Q&A are not bad.


On the other hand, I believe that people searching for solutions of really "simple" problems usually cannot find it anyways, no matter how well you try with your question. In my opinion, the "answer your own question" idea is more suited for tough problems where many other people can benefit from reading it.

And in my opinion this has nothing to do with the site being elitist. Your question is completely answerable so if you asked it not knowing the solution, in 2 minutes you would get an answer: "Remove .tex from the command."

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I think both parts of your question point to something important: such questions should be written so as to be easy to search for. –  Seamus Dec 22 '12 at 12:23

I fully agree with @Mohan's post. I recognize the sentiment brought forward. I would like to add the following thoughts.

First, I think questions should be asked no matter how "simple" they are since users have very varied backgrounds. As I stated in a different discussion I also think that the site can be a very valuable platform for incresing knowledge and also attract new users to LaTeX.

The problem with some questions is that they can be solved by a simple search. I therefore think that any person posting a question should have given it some effort and perhaps there should be an addition to the FAQ indicating a few good web sources for basic information (such as for example lshort and the LaTeX Wikibook). I know this is stated but perhaps not as clearly as needed in the system. There is of course not possible to still weed out those who have no intention to search for an answer but just want the answer served. I think that is something one has to accept.

Another aspect is that what is difficult for one may be simple for someone else, particularly for beginners.

I think one problem for a site such as this, where we all get educated by the excellent answers provided by the peers, is that as we all get more and more educated it becomes easier to discard more and more questions as too simple. Add to that the problem that they are likely may have been asked already. So they key question is then how to best manage the "simpler" questions from the perspective of the person asking.

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Notice that the discussion is about "answering your own question", not about "asking simpler questions". Asking simple questions is completely ok, and very rarely someone is downvoting such a question, even if it is a repetitive one like "how do I typeset = with a triangle on top". –  tohecz Dec 17 '12 at 13:02

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