Beginner’s Guide to StackOverflow

Seriously, I should have researched and read up on this topic before plunging into StackOverflow, which would have saved me a lot of wtf-ness.

Here we go.

First thing to acknowledge, yes, StackOverflow can be pretty harsh on beginners. Heck, the programming community in general is rather judgemental, people here often wearing the defence mechanism of cats, bristling at the slightest threat. But that is a topic for another day. For all the snaps it has kindly presented my way, it did help me a lot. Plus, considering all other sites with similar purposes are indeed flooded with rather un-constructive posts, at least its fascist system proves to be functioning quite well, for what it’s aiming to achieve. So for now, let’s focus our limited time and energy on how to best navigate StackOverflow for generating Maximum Constructiveness and Minimum Negativity.

Three ground rules.


I. No Duplication

StackOverflow hates duplication. Duplicated questions and duplicated answers get flagged, closed and deleted the second they’re spotted. So search the site before posting new questions, and resist the temptation to post the same answer under two similar questions.

II. Show Effort

StackOverflow loves effort. It loves knowing in step-by-step detail how you’ve approached the problem in 9 different ways before finally coming to it for answers. This makes sense. After all there are real people popping out answers behind screens, and they like knowing that their precious time and effort is matched with the same level of seriousness you take with your own question. Showing the key part of your code helps too.

III. Objectiveness

Questions on opinions, pros & cons or prompts for friendly discussions are not for StackOverflow. Leave excessive sentiment out of your questions, answers and comments. Put yourself in the position of a solemn robot who’s trying to describe a malfunction in its kneecap. Be precise. Clear. Keep it clean and short and all about the question. No need to put “Thanks in advance for helping me! smiley face” at the end because no decent robot talks like that and it will get deleted.


Of course, there are many other well-hidden inside rules that would get you sternly scolded if violated, but these three would do for starters. Chances are you will run face-first into walls. Chances also are you will survive and keep walking. So research away! Don’t forget to help people back and generate some positivity when you’re on the other side of the fence. smiley face


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