There have been a number of instances when someone posted a question which was "inspired" by another question, especially questions thrown into the Sidebar Garbage Dump Hot Network Questions. The community's response to such spinoffs has been somewhat inconsistent. Some such spinoffs were found acceptable, others were taken as trolling and deleted.

Note that this is different from "hypothetical" questions, although there could be some overlap. The difference being that the spinoff questions are also based on the same real incident, albeit presented from a different perspective. (See hypothetical example of spinoff questions below.)

Do we go by our usual rule of "assume good intentions", and answer those questions anyway?

If the same question were to be asked several months later, and nobody remembers the "inspiring" question, then that question becomes acceptable, which looks like an inconsistent application of the rule. What is the "cool off" period beyond which getting inspired by a question is not considered trolling?


A sample "inspiring" question could be:

I had a meeting with my manager to request for X. He refused and instead asked me to opt for either Y or Z. Now I have changed my mind and want to go with W instead. How do I convince my manager to do W instead?

This can inspire "spinoffs" like the following:

  1. I am managing an employee, who requested me for X. I found that unreasonable, and asked him to consider Y or Z instead. Now, after discussing this with my manager, I think he should do U or V instead. How should I communicate this to him?

  2. I am a waiter at a coffee shop. This morning I had two customers who seemed to be having a business meeting. I overheard some of their conversation, and found out that one person was convincing his manager to do X, which he refused. I know a better approach to convince the boss. Would it be professional to offer him (unsolicited) advice?

  3. I am a lawyer. I was at a coffee shop this morning. I overheard from the next table, a manager suggesting his employee to consider Y or Z. Y is ok, but Z could cause legal issues for the company, which the manager is presumably unaware of. Is it appropriate for me to ignore the conversation and hope that the employee chooses Y?

  4. I am a struggling story writer. I was at a coffee shop this morning looking for inspiration. I overheard an interesting conversation between an employee and a manager at the next table, which inspired me to write a great story. They are complete strangers and I didn't even see their faces clearly. Am I ethically obliged to credit them if my story is made into a movie?

and so on ...

  • 6
    Do you perhaps have examples of questions that got lambasted just for being spinoffs? In general I would say that there's nothing wrong with a question being inspired by another provided the question can stand on its own merits.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:31
  • 3
    @Lilienthal There was one question which triggered two spinoffs yesterday, one of which got a few upvotes and answers, the other got deleted. This was the "inspiring" question: Dealing with an employee that went over my head. This was the 1st "spinoff" question: How should I go over my supervisor's head (before I've even started) without creating a bad impression?. The deleted question was asked from the "manager's manager's" perspective, but I didn't save a link to that.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:35
  • 3
    Update: Found the deleted question (visible to 10K+ users only): I approved a new hire's working hours change request without checking with his supervisor. How should I fix this?
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:39
  • 5
    I'm waiting for the inevitable "How do I deal with a new colleague who went over the supervisor's head?" question. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 19:10
  • 1
    related : see Shog's answer workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4414/…
    – Walfrat
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 7:30
  • @Walfrat Nothing to see there. It has to do with sockpuppets who post fake questions for rep-whoring. A spinoff question is still based on a real scenario.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 8:13
  • 4
    I think that all the points still apply : You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. (OK) ...this doesn't necessarily mean the question has to be your problem, it should just be a real problem. (OK) Above all, be honest. (NOK) If a question is really make you wonder how it should have been handled from another point of view, the minimum of honesty is to link it. And it has to stand on its own however a question which was inspired from another may become unclear because the first gave only the proper context from his point of view.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 8:46
  • 1
    If you go through the hypothetical example as well the real example (which is currently in comments, but I will edit it into the question later), those questions are good enough to stand on their own. They were only deleted because some people did not "like" them due to remembering another similar question. If you look at those two (now deleted) questions without remembering the "inspiring" question, you would have to find an (unsatisfactory) excuse to delete them.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 10:37
  • ...Why the gratuitous hatred towards the HNQ? It's so full of fun and unexpected adventures and... wait, are you my employer?
    – xDaizu
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 15:51
  • 1
    @xDaizu This answer covers some of my concerns. Garbage attracts more garbage, as we have seen over and over and over again. 4 out of 10 "questions" in the sidebar garbage are "guess this sh**" or "Did Donald Trump say this sh**?", with no filtering options. So-called community managers calling it "entertainment" doesn't help either. Also, contact gnat for more details.:P
    – Masked Man
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


Spin off questions that are "Real" are great. If you have a question it gets answered, but in the process other questions are generated, that is a good thing. Those questions should be asked and posed as stand alone questions, though it is OK and probably advisable to link the original question, all details needed for the new question should be explained in the new question.

How should we define identify "Real" question.

  • The question is asked from the OP's stand point not "for a friend." The OP should pursue answers for their own advice. When I see this in a question that is otherwise reasonable, I edit the question to put it into the first person with a note of why i did it.
  • The situation is reasonable, even if the people involved are not. Extreme edge case situations could be actual problems, but the situation is just to "dramatic" to be feasible for the site. Most of these questions fall into the specific company policy off topic bucket anyway.
  • Limit the drama involved in the question to the minimum to describe the problem. Describing all of the bad past interactions just makes the question sound like a rant anyway.
  • The question is not virtually a flip side of popular site question. This is insulting to the people who take time to answer questions when we click on a question and it is something like this. If you are going to do this, be up front about it, and explain why you are interested in the answer from that side.

The recent controversial question would have been just fine had it not incorporated the details of the original HNQ and just asked how to address the issue from the applicant side.

  • 1
    +1 for "If you are going to do this, be up front about it, and explain why you are interested in the answer from that side." If a question admits up front that it is inspired from another post, I am much more likely to try and help the question rather than close it.
    – David K
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 12:24

I think we should treat the spin-off as any other question.

I posted a spin-off question from the HNQ and I made it clear it was a spin-off:

This has been inspired by the question Can staying late look like something bad?

From Is the perception of working late different to that of coming in early?

I received up-votes, answers, and VTC's as a dupe. All of these I was absolutely fine with.

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