A recurring question on physics.stackexchange is "how do I understand gyroscopic precession?" The actual question may take many different forms, but the underlying problem is always that gyroscopic precession seems very counter-intuitive, and what the people are looking for is an explanation that removes the counter-intuitive appearance.

Back in 2012 I posted a discussion of gyroscopic precesssion

Here is what I would like to do:
Keep an eye on new questions, and when a question is posted that is once again effectively asking "how do I understand gyroscopic precession?" I'd like to add a link to my 2012 answer.

My question is:
Would that be considered to be a form of vanity linking? I'm eager to help people understand gyroscopic precession, but I don't want end up in a position where I'm suspected of vanity linking.

Would it be considered bad form if I look up existing questions to add a link to my 2012 discussion?

Maybe I should have mentioned: over the years my answer (out of seven answers) on that page has accumulated 11 upvotes, the second most upvoted has 3 upvotes. (Yeah, tiny numbers, but still.) I'm convinced my discussion is helpful; the upvotes do seem to corroborate that.


1 Answer 1


I think linking to a question you have answered yourself is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I regularly do this myself and have written several self answered questions specifically to provide a canonical question and answer that can be used as a standard reference.

I understand your squeamishness - I feel much the same and sometimes (not always!) make my self answered questions community wiki just for my own peace of mind (whether anyone else cares or even notices is debatable).

The point of this site is to make the world of physics a better place by providing clear and complete answers to the questions that puzzle physicists. This is a noble aim and everyone who provides answers here is doing their bit towards this end, and for free! If you get a few extra totally valueless Internet points as a result then that's fine by me.

Re your last question, if you can make your answer better by linking to or using material from other answers then you should do this. It's nice to reference the people who wrote the other answers, but at the end of the day your aim is to make your answer as helpful as possible to puzzled physicists. If it makes you look super-intelligent as well that's an extra benefit, which provides some small reward for the time and effort you put in :-)

  • $\begingroup$ About other answers: no, that's not what I meant. I meant: to look up all existing questions that are effectively a form of "how do I understand gyroscopic precession", and to add to each of them (in a comment) a link to my 2012 discussion. Never a link to any other answer. The thing is: such behavior is appropriate if and only if my discussion is the canonical answer. (I think it should be, but that's for the community to decide) $\endgroup$
    – Cleonis
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Cleonis I don't think it does any harm to do that, though you should also consider voting to close the other question as a duplicate if appropriate. Whether it's really worth going back to old questions is debatable. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 10:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would also suggest to only link to the question not your specific answer. That way you're not necessarily promoting your answer; just pointing to a duplicate that you know you've already provided a good answer to. This also aligns with regular flagging/closing practice; so it's a win-win for site cleanup. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Cleonis Just seeing this now, but I would definitely emphasize some things John and JMac said: you should definitely vote to mark as a duplicate when appropriate (which will probably be most of these cases), and you should probably link to the question instead of the answer. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 0:12

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