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I'm sorry, the title may not be clear enough (and don't hesitate to edit my post to change it), but let me explain the situation I'm pretty sure a lot of people have already faced.

Here, I've tried to help this man. I've spent two hours, chatting, exchanging mails, and... all in all it happened that I've just done the job for him:

  • without any thanks
  • without any responses from mail or on stack

So I've decided to help people who show they've either:

  • tried to do a lot by themselves and didn't manage to do what they want;
  • asked a simple question (= sounds like "do that job for me") but have a good reputation on stackoverflow.

Take a look at the recent questions: there are more and more beginner's questions of people who do not seem to want to help other ones, but only want the other to do their job.

This leads to my question: how about an idea of showing (somewhere, anyhow) that you are willing to help other ones, and not trying to ask something like "hey I'm busy right now, I know a lot of people who could do that job for me, I'll just ask on stackoverflow". Not a badge, but really, a mark, a small exclamation mark close to their icon, I don't, know, but something that says "(s)he helps other ones, you can help h(im|er) safely".

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15  
ah the famous help vampires –  örs Mar 23 '12 at 10:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I've spent two hours, chatting, exchanging mails, and...

Why did you do that? Why did you take communication with that user away from this site? Nothing is more frustrating but searching the internet for hours just to find a conversation between two people with the same problem which has been moved to private conversion and was solved there.

Never go outside of this site for communication about questions/answers, please. For your own sake, too.

without any thanks, without any responses from mail or on stack...

That's sad, but happens.

Take a look at the recent questions: there are more and more beginner's questions of people who do not seem to want to help other ones, but only want the other to do their job.

Yes, that's true. Downvote, vote-to-close were appropriate, comment, ignore whatever you want to ignore.

This leads to my question: how about an idea of showing (somewhere, anyhow) that you are willing to help other ones, and not trying to ask something like "hey I'm busy right now, I know a lot of people who could do that job for me, I'll just ask on stackoverflow".

We already have that: Reputation. Also a quick look into a profile reveals their question/answer ratio in combination with how good previous answers/questions are.

Let's map this at the user you've responded to, the first look at the question/profile reveals:

  • Reputation: 66
  • Accept-Rate: 25%
  • Member for over 1.5 years
  • Questions: 23 (with votes)
  • Answers: 1 (without votes)
  • That's not even 1 vote per question...

That took us roughly 3 seconds and we know who we're dealing with.

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Like I said to @Pekka: if you do "20 quick looks" a day, at the end of the week, you may have gain hours if there was something close to the asker saying "hey I'm not here like a leech, I'm here to help, too, so could you help me please". –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 10:01
    
@OlivierPons: Hours? It takes me roughly 3 seconds to scan someones profile to see if the user is primarily seeking help, helping or a healthy mix. –  Time Traveling Bobby Mar 23 '12 at 10:04
    
Yes, me too. Say 5s. 5s x 30 = 150 s each day. At the end of the week you've lost to the least 10 minutes for nothing but checking that you can answer "safely". –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 10:07
2  
@OlivierPons: Don't get me wrong, but...I think losing 10 minutes on SE is a very small amount of time, seeing the SE can be a time sink of hours every day. And as you have just experienced, those 10 minutes might save you 2 hours. –  Time Traveling Bobby Mar 23 '12 at 10:23
    
Olivier Pons: member for 2 years, 10 months. So I may have lost 3 full working days (10 mn/week x 148 weeks = 1480 mn. 1480 / 60 = 24 hours. => 24 hours in a row = 3 opening days). Negligible? Yes, maybe. –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 10:37
    
You should check his "answer" –  The_Fox Mar 23 '12 at 11:05
    
that answer isn't even an answer, it is additional information thats meant to be in the question –  örs Mar 23 '12 at 11:31
    
<Never go outside of this site for communication about questions/answers, please. For your own sake, too.> The poster has in fact set up an elaborate answer after communicating with the user. Another problem is that there are answers which are not clear cut, but need longer communication. They are very likely called "discussions" and have often opinions and judgements, which are called "subjective". By closing and deleting such messages in favor to clear-cut questions and answers SO sends a strong message. This is not itself bad, but you cannot have it both ways. –  Thorsten S. Mar 23 '12 at 19:17

Not a badge, but really, a mark, a small exclamation mark close to their icon, I don't, know, but something that says "(s)he helps other ones, you can help h(im|er) safely".

This would be nice, but based on what metric would you give people that badge?

Reputation can be a rough approximation of somebody giving back and asking intelligent questions, although there are exceptions.

What I usually do is look at the asker's question history. If they are using SO as a kind of mechanical turk to do their work for them, my motivation to help them becomes severely limited.

Also, on the principle of teaching a man to fish, I think one shouldn't give too much one-on-one-support anyway. I know it happens, but what people should learn is how to debug and research things themselves. If you give extended one-on-one support, the risk of being disappointed because the user wasn't really worth your time is entirely yours.

Remember one of SO's basic rules: it's not as much about the asker as it is about the question. If the question is worth answering, answer it. If it's more about helping the user, the question is probably too localized anyway.

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Simple metrics: how many comments, how many upvotes, how many questions with "upvotes > 5", how many answers (upvotes count too), ... it's up to SO's developpers to choose the metrics (they're better than me for this), but I feel like I've been taken for a ride for the third time, and I don't like that, and I guess I'm not the only one around here. –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 9:54
    
What I usually do is look at the asker's question history. => Maybe you'll gain a lot of time if there was something close to the asker saying "hey I'm not here like a leech, I'm here to help, too, so could you help me please". –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 9:56
2  
@Olivier then maybe the lesson here is that one-on-one support should be the very exception, after looking carefully at a user's profile, if at all. SO is not meant to be a help forum primarily –  Pëkka Mar 23 '12 at 9:56
    
Stack Overflow. About link. "Stack Overflow is a programming Q & A site that’s free..." So it's not a help forum, but it's a Q&A site. The difference is so thin that I don't see it... –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 9:59
2  
@Olivier I agree it's fuzzy, but don't think it's that thin. Q&A => I have a clear, technical question, a question which can apply to others after me as well, and I get a clear, technical answer. Help forum => I have a problem getting something to work; please give step-by-step help that usually, is useful only to me. Of course there is a lot of overlap - heck, I've given support here more often than I can count. But the basic aim, as I understand it, is to build an archive of questions and answers that is useful to others. Most support requests are too localized for that. –  Pëkka Mar 23 '12 at 10:03
    
Ok I see what you mean. So I'll definitely follow my own "guidelines" for answering, and I'll loose some time each day for checking that I'll answer to someone "respectful". –  Olivier Pons Mar 23 '12 at 10:05
    
@OlivierPons It's a Q&A forum where people seek help as they cannot figure out some problem by themselves. People come here to seek help and unfortunately some come here to demand full answers. Just don't help those who demand a spoon feed. –  Aleks Mar 23 '12 at 10:06
2  
@Aleks: SE is not a forum...it's Q&A. That's mutual exclusive for me. A Forum is a Forum with the primary focus on discussion and extended back-and-forth communication. Q&A is a question and an answer, that's it. –  Time Traveling Bobby Mar 23 '12 at 10:09
1  
@Bobby You have a point. poor choice of wording on my part. But I still stand for the rest of my comment. –  Aleks Mar 23 '12 at 10:12
    
@Aleks: I also agree on that rest of your comment, especially the last sentence. –  Time Traveling Bobby Mar 23 '12 at 10:13

It's a sad but true fact that there are people on these sites who don't quite get how they work.

You can usually tell who they are by looking at their user badge under the question:

Low accept rate

Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule - there are (some) ok reasons for having a low accept rate, but when you hover over the rate, you can also see "this user has accepted an answer for 5 of 20 eligible questions" - all of which tells you it's probably not going to end well...

Especially when you think: 20 questions and they've only got 66 reputation? Those other questions clearly aren't all that great.

Now, this doesn't mean that shouldn't help this person (in fact we do have a badge for this Unsung Hero, but the users do have to be accepting your answers at the very least, and they are the only ones who can do that) however, you need to realise that it's unlikely that you will get much thanks from the asker for any work you put in.

Looking at the users profile, I can also see that of the 23 questions he's asked, 21 have answers, and he's only ever cast 4 votes.

Also, if the question's not great (not well worded, not obvious what's being asked, etc.) people aren't likely to stick around and vote up answers while they're being edited...

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