What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 131 Stack Exchange communities.

Possible Duplicate:
Is it considered rude if you only ask Questions but almost never answer one yourself

I've been using Stack Overflow for maybe a year to get answers to questions I couldn't find on my own. I always make an attempt first to find the answer on my own. As of this posting, I've asked 14 questions.

I only once gave an answer, and it was to a non-technical question, and only because I was really bored and had too much coffee to drink. I wasn't intending to answer any other questions in the future, because on on my best days I'm only a mediocre programmer, and there are some real geniuses here on StackOverflow who can answer other peoples' questions faster and more accurately than I can.

It actually is my nature. I am an Aquarian. We are asker-listeners.

Today I discovered Meta Stack Overflow and started browsing around. I became familiar with the concept of the "Help Vampire". I seem to qualify. I continued reading more posts on the topic and got the distinct impression that people who only ask, and never answer, are less than welcome here, rather despised.

So, should I just go away? Or should I start contributing answers just to have a answer-to-question ratio of 3-to-1 (I read somewhere that's the average) even though I am less than one eighth as knowledgeable as the 10K+ guys and gals?

Or should I continue as I have begun? I mean, doesn't a 0-questions-asked user like Jon Skeet need a Blankman? Yin and yang, you know?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Tim Post Oct 1 '11 at 16:42

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
@Arjan, no I was mistaken. I wrote the number 20 without checking my profile. I will update my post. Thanks. –  John Fitzpatrick Oct 1 '11 at 10:36
    
Mr. Skeet asked more questions than you did ;-) –  Arjan Oct 1 '11 at 12:23
    
@Arjan, oh yes you're right. 23 questions and 16615 answers. I really meant no disrespect. –  John Fitzpatrick Oct 1 '11 at 17:14
    
@Anyone who cares: I feel compelled to add I did not put the link to my SO profile in my post. That was added by someone else. I wouldn't want to come across as a shameless look-at-me-and-what-i've done type self-promoter. –  John Fitzpatrick Oct 1 '11 at 17:29
    
@JohnFitzpatrick, don't feel that way cause I am worst than you .. probably I should leave stack overflow. (I notice that as long as you don't mention down-vote in your question, you will be safe) –  Larry Morries Oct 4 '11 at 8:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I'm not an expert in most of the tags you're asking your questions in but by and large, they look fairly intelligent. The definition of the "Help vampire" is not that he asks only questions, but that he asks bad questions and doesn't improve over time. You don't seem to fit that description; in fact, your worrying that you could be a help vampire is probably already proof that you aren't!

I continued reading more posts on the topic and got the distinct impression that people who only ask, and never answer, are less than welcome here, rather despised.

What people here hate is consistent askers of bad questions. That aspect may not always be explicitly mentioned in the heat of the battle.

So I'd say - don't worry; make sure you do your research before asking (To me, Googling the intended question title is mandatory - you so often end up with a perfect answer), and put effort into writing a clear, concise question. As long as you do that, you're fine.

If you see a question by somebody else that you think you can contribute something to, consider writing an answer - but there is no obligation to.

share|improve this answer
    
Wow, did we just have an edit clash for which I was not warned? I only added links, nothing more! I thought Notifications for concurrent changes when editing posts fixed that long ago? Is that a result of the inline editing? (Then I'd rather not have that inline editing!) –  Arjan Oct 1 '11 at 10:59
    
Oh, this might explain it; will investigate later, as I really like a warning. (Even a minor edit should not go unnoticed, I'd say...) –  Arjan Oct 1 '11 at 11:02
    
@Arjan Strange! Your edit was saved while I was editing (I got the warning), so I abandoned mine (intending to leave your edits in place), reloaded and edited again... Not sure what happened here. –  Pëkka Oct 1 '11 at 11:02
    
Did you get the heartbeat warning (every 45 seconds while you're editing, with a topbar notification), or a warning upon trying to save things? –  Arjan Oct 1 '11 at 11:08
    
@Arjan a warning when trying to save IIRC. "Your edit must be more substantive...." –  Pëkka Oct 1 '11 at 11:09
    
Very well, I guess we cannot investigate any better then... –  Arjan Oct 1 '11 at 11:11
    
(Some details about overriding earlier edits here. Will clean up the above comments in a few days, to give waffles some time to read, if needed.) –  Arjan Oct 2 '11 at 10:33
    
@Pekka, should I be "awarded" the "Help Vampire" award? –  Larry Morries Oct 4 '11 at 9:02

So, should I just go away?

No. Asking questions is also good. Otherwise people answering would get bored waiting long.

Just don't forget to thank the answerer with upvote for their effort and don't forget to accept answers.

share|improve this answer

You probably haven't found appropriate questions to answer. It's better to have not answered a question than to give incorrect or poor answers to questions.

So I would recommend, once in a while if you have some time, going back and and looking for questions in your areas of expertise (searching by tag is helpful for this). There are lots of nuanced questions that people haven't answered yet because its outside the purview of most people's experiences. It may be within your area of expertise!

share|improve this answer

I'll preface this by saying that if you need a question answered you should ask it, but Stack Overflow gets ~4,000 questions a day. There is no special place for people who only ask questions: in fact, there are provisions in place that prevent people from asking too many questions.

What Stack Overflow and all the Stack Exchange sites need more than questions are answers. Stack Exchange optimizes for this: you get more reputation for good answers than you do for good questions, and there is no limit to the number of questions you can answer.

So pay it forward. People have helped you get answers to your questions: now help other people reap the benefits of the system that you enjoy. Obviously it'd be bad for everyone if you answer questions that you don't know the answer to, but if you see a question you do know the answer to, answer it.

And while you can learn a lot from asking questions, consider answering questions you don't know the answer to right now as a way to learn new things. A lot of people ask questions on Stack Exchange because they can't be bothered to spend a couple of hours looking for an answer, and a lot of people leave one-line answers instead because it's quick to do and an easy way to score reputation points.

This type of behavior gives you a great opportunity to spend a couple of hours learning something you didn't know before, provide a thoughtful and complete answer, and help someone else out.

share|improve this answer
    
Ok. I can try to do that. But is there a way to get alerted when a really easy Java question needs to be answered? When I browse the unanswered questions they are all over my head. –  John Fitzpatrick Oct 1 '11 at 10:19
    
@JohnFitzpatrick Questions aren't categorized by difficulty. Consider looking at other, less frequented tags or even browsing the newest questions to see if you can give a better answer than the people giving incomplete answers just to be the first. A fully-formed correct answer is always better than a half answer that's given quickly. If all the questions on Stack Overflow seem to be unanswerable, consider checking out one of the other Stack Exchange sites—which cover a variety of non-programming interests—and seeing if you can contribute to them. –  user149432 Oct 1 '11 at 10:24
1  
@JohnFitzpatrick Also try considering answering unanswered questions as a learning exercise: you might not know the answer to a question right now, but if you spent a couple hours researching it yourself, you get to learn something new and help someone else out. –  user149432 Oct 1 '11 at 10:26
2  
I know it can be hard to find a question that you can answer which not already has at least three (more or less) helpful ones that get plenty of upvotes in a couple of minutes. Still, if you can maybe elaborate on those instead of just giving a one-liner, you'll surely get some votes. @JohnFitzpatrick –  slhck Oct 1 '11 at 10:27
    
@Mark & slhck - Will give your suggestions a try. I doubt I will ever be a prolific answerer though. Thanks! –  John Fitzpatrick Oct 1 '11 at 10:35
    
@John: You could also try looking through the backlog of old unanswered questions. Some of those are easy; they just get lost occasionally. What's more, you won't have much competition for working on them and there are badges to win for doing this! Really, don't worry about being the first to answer a question on a popular tag; that's hard and not really as valuable as contributing to the Long Tail of Expertise. –  Donal Fellows Oct 1 '11 at 14:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .