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How to Ask a Good Question on Stack Overflow!?!

mccurcio profile image Matt Curcio ・2 min read

I had been on S.O. for over a year (maybe longer) before I gained any substantial privileges. At 500 points, I got to Access Review Queues.

When I found out about Review Queues, I became almost patriotic, lol. I wanted to give back to my new programmer country-men and women. So I dove in.

[Review queues help those] "who may not fully understand the best way to ask and answer questions" - Stackoverflow

When you join Stack Overflow, you get 1 point (woo-who), and your questions are diverted for review. It turns out all newbie questions and answers are vetted before being posted. I bet most of you didn't know that.

What did I learn?

  • There really is a right and wrong way to ask questions.
  • Very few people know how to ask a good question right away.
  • Many tongue-tied programmer Reviewers referred newbies to a pat-posted-answer that absolved them from explaining anything AND (for the most past) being decent to people.

Asking good questions and Googling things is a BIG part of programming and it doesn't need to be difficult.

Remember a few things.

  • KISS, keep it simple. Ask ONE thing at a time.

BAD:

  • "I have this problem X... If the problem is not X, Could it be a..., b..., c..., d..., e..?"
    • NOTE: Each letter is followed by a VERY long explanation.
  • "I have this problem. And by the way, I have seven more unrelated ones, while I am here."

GOOD:

"When I read in X.csv file, I am not getting Y, but instead I find Z.
Here is my input, output and a small segment of code.
What could I change?"

What have you experienced on Stack Overflow?

Next time! What is a minimal reproducible example?

Discussion (1)

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Alex Verein

Yeah, sometimes it is hard to create a reproducible example small enough, but it is definitely worth the effort.