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I have been plagued by this strange feeling of abusing SO by asking too many questions and not answering nearly as many. I guess it takes both sorts, people who ask questions, people who answer them and the union of the sets. But I do wonder: is there some sort of etiquette?

Namely, should I stop asking questions until I have a good question/answer ratio?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 30 '09 at 14:18

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7 Answers 7

Don't worry, be happy! Ask, answer, it's ALL community-building.

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I wouldn't sweat it too much. Keep in mind that at its base, SO is a game, and the players are passionate. Folks really want to answer questions here, and no one is judging you for not answering as many as you ask. More opportunities for the rest of us, anyway!

And it's significant that you get points for asking good questions.

It's easy to think in terms of Karma, but "ecosystem" is probably better..

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Ask questions, if you really want to know something.
Don't ask questions for reputation.

I have asked a few questions, which I could have found answer to with looking it up.
Now, I stop myself before asking questions, if the question can be easily looked up.

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+1. Sometimes it's easier to google something. –  Eliseo Ocampos Jul 2 '09 at 2:37
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Sometimes it's easier to Google something if some other person has worded the question the way you are wording it. Joel says specifically (multiple podcasts?) that linking duplicate questions together as long as they are asked differently is useful because it increases the likelihood that Google searches will lead people to the original Q/A. –  Jared Updike Aug 25 '09 at 18:39
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Both types of people are very important. There are plenty of people that only really ask questions that are great contributors to stack overflow. You benefit the community when you ask good questions because people who have the same questions can find answers :-). You also help people give people that only answer questions some food for thought. I find I learn a lot on stack overflow just from reading people's questions and looking at responses. So in short, ask away... use stack overflow however it helps you, and you will be helping others.

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As far as the questions are made correctly, just go ahead! There are a lot of stackers eager to answer them!

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Don't feel so self conscious. While you may feel that you ask more than answer, a lot of people - myself included - probably find your questions, and the answers it generate, to be beneficial and one of those "I always wondered about that" sort of questions. Think of it as being the first one to raise their hand in a classroom and asking that question that no one else wanted to ask but were happy you did.

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I generally don't think of it as a Q:A ratio. In my mind, it's bad if you are noticed in a bad way. There are occaisons when I come on the site and go through the questions and every page there's a question of the type "Do my work for me!" by the same person. When that happens I generally halt my helping of that person.

If you ask well-thought-out questions and it appears that you've put some amount of work into finding the answer yourself, ask away. If your first instinct when you hit a wall is to go leech off of SO then I'd rather you weren't around. That being said, this is a resource for the future so even if you ask a question now for the wrong reasons it may help someone in the future -- so I'll ignore someone's "poor etiquette" if I feel the answer well help others in the future.

Oh, and for crying-out-loud, search. :) Both SO and Bing.

Looking through your questions, I would say that you are a using this service properly.


It may be interesting to know that I, personally, like to get involved with a community and help out before asking of it. I tend to use my Karma as a debit card rather than a credit card. However I in no way hold others to the same standard.

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