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High rep users (users with more than 10K) seem to answer 25 questions for every question they ask.

Many high rep users never even asked a non-community wiki question on SO.

The global average is 3.7 questions answered for every questions asked.

What is the reason high rep users are so worried about asking questions on SO?

Do they really already know everything?

Wouldn't asking more high quality questions improve the quality on SO?

For those interested here is spShog9 of the list:

User                      Reputation Questions Answers Ratio               

Simucal                   15927      77        138     1.79     
Thomas Owens              15797      208       387     1.86     
Jason Baker               20342      161       453     2.81     
Robert Gould              14269      159       457     2.87     
Brian R. Bondy            30582      160       522     3.26     
Mark Harrison             13629      88        289     3.28     
nickf                     23651      189       626     3.31     
Michael Stum              22045      125       427     3.42     
Eli Courtwright           10250      40        176     4.40     
dbr                       13564      87        387     4.45     
Justin Standard           10674      15        68      4.53     
Sam Saffron               10404      97        444     4.58     
Daok                      15922      95        455     4.79     
Yuval A                   12943      59        298     5.05     
FlySwat                   20604      130       699     5.38     
Jim McKeeth               11074      37        200     5.41     
Mark Biek                 10368      47        273     5.81     
Gishu                     13188      79        464     5.87     
unknown                   14142      80        501     6.26     
splattne                  16932      61        394     6.46     
shoosh                    12040      63        416     6.60     
Adam Davis                24948      88        623     7.08     
Andy White                10228      53        380     7.17     
Uri                       20276      100       734     7.34     
Jon Galloway              10646      28        211     7.54     
jjnguy                    12148      37        285     7.70     
edg                       10883      26        208     8.00     
Gortok                    11278      32        273     8.53     
Kyle Cronin               16487      31        285     9.19     
Will                      17333      71        662     9.32     
Lasse V. Karlsen          24296      72        716     9.94     
Michael Haren             10395      34        353     10.38    
John Topley               10268      30        317     10.57    
Ferruccio                 13293      32        341     10.66    
Jonathan Sampson          10199      39        417     10.69    
Orion Edwards             16881      46        492     10.70    
Oli                       11564      39        429     11.00    
Greg Beech                13222      25        275     11.00    
krosenvold                15161      46        511     11.11    
Kev                       13807      48        540     11.25    
Keith                     12867      38        431     11.34    
Nils Pipenbrinck          12203      24        274     11.42    
Jeremy Ruten              13849      26        298     11.46    
Oscar Reyes               11396      36        417     11.58    
matt b                    11722      41        476     11.61    
dF                        11443      17        199     11.71    
Jeff Atwood               14331      12        142     11.83    
David Schmitt             10837      30        371     12.37    
Jeff Yates                11084      27        335     12.41    
Chas. Owens               12511      26        338     13.00    
Evan Teran                11052      18        237     13.17    
MusiGenesis               11510      37        488     13.19    
Adam Bellaire             12505      20        268     13.40    
JesperE                   10174      22        352     16.00    
Kibbee                    15843      34        560     16.47    
Tom Ritter                14234      22        374     17.00    
Ólafur Waage              17196      39        677     17.36    
Chris Lively              11318      30        522     17.40    
Aaron Digulla             12964      41        716     17.46    
ceejayoz                  10952      23        419     18.22    
toolkit                   10279      17        315     18.53    
aku                       15467      28        544     19.43    
eed3si9n                  11623      27        525     19.44    
Mark Cidade               14585      26        512     19.69    
Cade Roux                 12002      35        703     20.09    
1800 INFORMATION          20822      39        790     20.26    
Andrew Grant              12814      19        388     20.42    
cletus                    44614      58        1211    20.88    
DrJokepu                  12427      18        377     20.94    
Robert Harvey             11427      34        713     20.97    
Rob Walker                13438      19        407     21.42    
Paul Tomblin              26710      33        709     21.48    
Bill the Lizard           39899      55        1182    21.49    
Jason Cohen               11306      13        284     21.85    
Gulzar                    19920      21        459     21.86    
Eran Galperin             11747      12        273     22.75    
BFree                     11275      20        462     23.10    
divo                      10012      18        420     23.33    
dfa                       11595      21        490     23.33    
Nick Berardi              10839      20        472     23.60    
Johannes Rössel           10567      14        339     24.21    
Mitchel Sellers           13935      34        827     24.32    
Eclipse                   13143      14        352     25.14    
le dorfier                16733      37        954     25.78    
Joel Coehoorn             45739      85        2227    26.20    
J.F. Sebastian            11666      14        371     26.50    
TheTXI                    12900      20        541     27.05    
Barry Kelly               10267      7         192     27.43    
Noldorin                  16432      20        555     27.75    
Kevin                     14259      17        473     27.82    
Eddie                     10697      14        406     29.00    
John Sheehan              15165      16        465     29.06    
darin                     11775      17        499     29.35    
Josh                      14947      22        666     30.27    
Matt Hamilton             20950      17        520     30.59    
Dave Webb                 12110      10        306     30.60    
Brian Rasmussen           12659      14        441     31.50    
Rex M                     16404      14        446     31.86    
ocdecio                   17414      19        614     32.32    
marc_s                    13670      25        815     32.60    
leppie                    12394      21        697     33.19    
skaffman                  10285      16        532     33.25    
Norman Ramsey             20125      20        679     33.95    
ChrisW                    12406      18        614     34.11    
Michael Borgwardt         18219      19        653     34.37    
Martin                    10457      10        364     36.40    
Vinko Vrsalovic           27250      23        846     36.78    
David                     12535      13        481     37.00    
Mark Ransom               12076      13        510     39.23    
Mendelt                   10810      7         288     41.14    
Alnitak                   16140      13        556     42.77    
nosklo                    12002      6         281     46.83    
Martin York               17833      11        521     47.36    
Paul Dixon                23148      12        593     49.42    
mghie                     10478      5         252     50.40    
Adam Rosenfield           33030      16        826     51.63    
Tomalak                   29190      20        1033    51.65    
Chad Birch                12527      8         414     51.75    
Jonathan Leffler          25143      21        1100    52.38    
Earwicker                 17046      12        656     54.67    
Jon Limjap                15310      9         493     54.78    
ctacke                    11526      8         451     56.38    
annakata                  18214      13        734     56.46    
Steven A. Lowe            23683      15        873     58.20    
erickson                  20620      10        588     58.80    
Konrad Rudolph            39396      16        981     61.31    
Aaron Maenpaa             10077      4         252     63.00    
ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells 16506      9         600     66.67    
Pax                       42988      21        1421    67.67    
karim79                   10097      8         543     67.88    
womp                      10129      5         341     68.20    
Kent Boogaart             15260      8         548     68.50    
Paolo Bergantino          33898      13        898     69.08    
Randolpho                 10359      5         349     69.80    
AnthonyWJones             18255      12        842     70.17    
John Millikin             14886      5         377     75.40    
McWafflestix              10701      7         529     75.57    
RichieHindle              16226      7         536     76.57    
David Thornley            11171      6         468     78.00    
tvanfosson                56634      32        2621    81.91    
Charlie Martin            24674      13        1067    82.08    
kgiannakakis              15214      9         746     82.89    
David B                   11576      7         587     83.86    
dmckee                    11403      5         426     85.20    
Greg                      27205      10        875     87.50    
Mark Brackett             12580      6         541     90.17    
Gamecat                   19210      7         634     90.57    
Greg Hewgill              47385      14        1320    94.29    
James Curran              17920      7         665     95.00    
Bill Karwin               26836      8         822     102.75   
sth                       10580      3         317     105.67   
ephemient                 13557      4         439     109.75   
chaos                     23275      8         880     110.00   
Galwegian                 17914      5         558     111.60   
mmyers                    18550      4         448     112.00   
coobird                   15814      3         343     114.33   
José Basilio              13086      3         355     118.33   
Anton Gogolev             12025      5         595     119.00   
Robert Gamble             12518      2         248     124.00   
Craig Stuntz              13253      4         513     128.25   
Andrew Hare               30147      10        1317    131.70   
VonC                      36779      10        1333    133.30   
S.Lott                    48660      12        1795    149.58   
Kent Fredric              13061      3         450     150.00   
Tom Hawtin - tackline     15292      5         821     164.20   
brian d foy               15546      2         332     166.00   
Henk Holterman            10205      4         707     176.75   
Rob Kennedy               15474      2         385     192.50   
Quassnoi                  23968      5         1045    209.00   
Gumbo                     24819      5         1048    209.60   
onebyone                  16307      2         432     216.00   
jalf                      28616      3         653     217.67   
gbn                       10943      3         662     220.67   
Reed Copsey               22145      4         887     221.75   
Chris Jester-Young        18593      2         457     228.50   
Neil Butterworth          29366      6         1399    233.17   
duffymo                   19204      4         1073    268.25   
Marc Gravell              69825      13        3602    277.08   
casperOne                 11607      2         588     294.00   
Welbog                    11546      1         295     295.00   
dirkgently                16986      3         964     321.33   
vartec                    11908      2         673     336.50   
unwind                    17836      2         713     356.50   
litb                      42087      3         1070    356.67   
Shog9                     20086      1         369     369.00   
John Feminella            12766      1         380     380.00   
Jon Skeet                 83824      11        4657    423.36   
Alex Martelli             21909      3         1308    436.00   
Lou Franco                10797      1         448     448.00   
Mehrdad                   40123      3         1403    467.67   
SQLMenace                 11245      1         528     528.00   
Fredrik Mörk              11606      1         589     589.00   
Matthew Flaschen          10008      1         592     592.00   
John Saunders             21627      3         1941    647.00   
Mitch Wheat               31407      2         1306    653.00   
JaredPar                  48047      3         1979    659.67   
Michael Burr              25687      1         766     766.00   
Guffa                     16651      0         724     99999.00 
Chuck                     11722      0         366     99999.00 
bobince                   17794      0         792     99999.00 
Brian Agnew               15224      0         721     99999.00 
gimel                     10092      0         451     99999.00 
mquander                  10526      0         290     99999.00 
JP                        13982      0         847     99999.00 
Brian                     14408      0         450     99999.00 
CMS                       31308      0         993     99999.00 
Leon Timmermans           11732      0         231     99999.00 
Joachim Sauer             10318      0         317     99999.00 
Michael                   11213      0         291     99999.00 
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4  
We sort of had this discussion: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/13530 Granted, this question is worded a lot better than that one, eh? –  Eric Aug 11 '09 at 2:14
    
Well im not accusing anyone of having secret accounts at least :p also there are 2 sub questions that are really important, (if high rep users ask more questions will the quality go up on so and why is this) –  waffles Aug 11 '09 at 2:22
    
I'm on page two and I've asked a crapton of questions. Of course, I've answered about 25x more... –  Won't Aug 11 '09 at 11:39
    
Yay, I'm near the top of the list. I suppose that means that this question doesn't apply to me. –  jjnguy Aug 11 '09 at 17:40
3  
woot! fame at last! –  bananakata Aug 11 '09 at 18:44
    
answers give more rep than questions... –  JoeHobbit Jul 16 '13 at 3:44
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19 Answers 19

May I suggest that the ability to answer a lot of questions fast and well is correlated with having:

  • a large number of relevant facts on tap
  • good problem solving skills

which adds up having relatively few questions and often being able to deduce or find the answer to their own questions faster than they could get it by asking on StackOverflow.

So it's not that high rep users don't ask questions, it's that people who don't feel the need to ask many questions can accumulate a lot of rep if they participate.


BTW: at not much more than a deciskeet, I am not at all sure that I should be characterized as "high rep".

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4  
@dmckee: 5 (count 'em) users are greater than a semiSkeet. A Skeet is not a viable measurement. It's an anomaly. 10k is a good threshold: You clear it :) –  Eric Aug 11 '09 at 2:45
2  
@dmckee: This is the primary reason I don't ask many question as well; when I do, it's usually to get information that I can't possibly get through investigation on my own, or, they are very, very niche (which means they are very long, detailed, and have very low answer rates). But I think you hit the nail on the head in that most people who have high rep generally correlate with the skill set you describe which allows them to solve their own problems quicker than the community at SO would. –  casperOne Nov 15 '11 at 16:13
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While I've yet to crack the 10k threshold of rep, I still have a reasonable amount. And, I've never asked a question on SO. So those are my qualifications. Yay me.

Anyway, I just don't think about asking questions. I'm used to finding an answer to a problem quickly (be it on SO or some other place), and I just don't think about doing the old ask-myself-a-question deal. I answer questions while I'm processing a cube or waiting for a query to run, so by and large, I'm not really in a question-askin' mood when browsing SO.

Moreover, I work with really, really bright people. They tend to point me in the right direction on difficult problems more than not. So, that conversation happens offline, completely away from the realm of SO. Therefore, I'm not thinking about it when I'm on SO, and so I don't post it.

I highly suspect that one of these days I'll come across a problem that I can't get answered with my usual begging, pleading, and Googling. On that day, I'll ask a question. Until then, I'll keep answering when I can.

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5  
I actually like to occasionally ask a question I know I'm probably going to solve on my own anyway, and then share the answer. Granted I've asked plenty of questions that didn't happen that way. –  dlamblin Aug 11 '09 at 4:43
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In addition to falling in with a couple of the answers above, I delete about 90% of my questions before actually submitting them.

  • Working on a tough problem
  • Reach the "someone on SFwill have a quick answer to this" point
  • Start tapping in a question
  • Revise and fill out question with links and background information
  • Have an "Aha!" moment, and figure out the answer before posting

OR

  • Realize I don't have enough information to ask a well-researched question, and find the solution in the process of getting that information
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2  
yep, pretty much what I do too. The discipline of writing the question for public consumption means I work out the answer anyway... –  gbn Nov 23 '09 at 5:49
1  
The blessing/curse of perfectionist editing tendencies? ;) –  Kara Marfia Dec 8 '09 at 18:28
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Having >8000 rep on SO and yet to ask a question. I find that in forming the question in my mind (not even getting as far as typing it) I often find I know the answer, or at least see the next thing to try.

On the two occasions when that hasn't been enough, the title search on starting to enter a question has been enough to find the information I need.

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2  
That happens with me too. The process of formulating a decent question is enough to answer it (or realise that it's stupid!). –  Stephen Darlington Aug 11 '09 at 10:15
1  
I usually have to post it and then think about why nobody's responding ... But we all got our own methods, yeah? –  jcolebrand Jun 2 '10 at 15:01
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I ask questions along the following lines:

  • Questions which are pretty deep within topics I'm reasonably expert in. Without trying to be too arrogant, there probably aren't that many users who are likely to be able to answer C# language questions - although Eric Lippert is the prime candidate.

  • Questions which are in topics I'm researching for the purpose of writing. These may not be particularly deep ones (see my recent Code Contracts questions, for example) but there aren't likely to be many other users who are very knowledgeable yet either.

  • Questions in topics where I don't have much knowledge - my ASP.NET and SQL Server user instance questions are examples of this.

  • Opinion/discussion questions (generally discouraged, I know, but I'd like to think I ask useful ones) such as this one.

  • Questions where I know the answer but want it to be present on the site, like the C# versions question.

None of these situations comes up very often, to be honest - hence the general lack of questions from me.

share|improve this answer
    
Jon, you asked 20 questions and answered close to 5000, which makes you one of the top 10 sparse question asker users on the site with more than 10k (if that even makes sense). Don't worry CMS and JaredPar are still way in front. Personally, I wish you asked more questions, I find it a little boring on the front page of SO these days and all your questions are quality ones. –  waffles Aug 11 '09 at 12:00
    
correction, top 20 ... –  waffles Aug 11 '09 at 12:20
1  
But without users like you, users like me would have no one to fawn over and idolize! Seriously, though, I think it's a testament to StackOverflow that it can bring users like you and I together to help me with a basic C# question. Thanks for your help! –  Jared Harley Aug 11 '09 at 20:29
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My response is somewhat similar to Jon's but not entirely.

I think that most high rep users are probably reasonably experienced. If not experienced then enthusiastic about their selected area(s). Answering questions is I think a means of "giving back". Some people contribute open source. Others help people out, Others do both. Yet others do something else.

Also, answering questions in the end becomes a good way of improving communication skills (answering questions well and quickly is a skill), helps clarify one's own view and helps one learn (by making you look something up). All of these are good.

Lastly I think you reach a point where Q&A sites (or forums) aren't necessarily the best way of finding something out. Q&A sites probably do best when the audience is the widest (of those interested in the question and those able to understand it). The more experienced you are, the smaller that audience is. Jon alludes to this point.

Lastly, another function of experience I think is the ability to go find something out on your own. There have been a number of questions on SO I've answered not because I'm particularly expert but because I was interested in the answer, knew how to find the answer (or at least had some ideas) and knew enough (one hopes) to know if my researched answer was right or not.

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Those that excel at StackOverflow The Game (TM) are natural problem solvers. The system self-selects for those that are great at understanding a question, analyzing the issue, and synthesizing a reasonable answer in seconds.

Finding answers to questions is easy.

So if I have a question, I'm likely able to resolve it without asking anyone else.

I could turn it into an SO question, but that would take a good bit of work - I loathe writing poorly worded questions, and will spend some time 'crafting' a question with relevant information while trying to cut out anything that clutters it. It's really too much like work.

Further, a lot of my questions aren't for me - I posted many questions to either fill gaps in SO knowledge, to satisfy my own sense of humor*, or to grind reputation. Very few of them are actually questions I needed answers to, and fewer still were questions that I couldn't easily find answers to via my usual means.

It turns out that those questions where my normal methods fail, and where I actually need an answer aren't easily answered by other SO'ers either.

For example: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1323693/why-do-i-get-service-unavailable-with-multiple-chat-sends-when-using-xmpp

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1  
* - Take a non programming subject and turn it into a programming question is one game I like to play. Hamburgers (for programmers): stackoverflow.com/questions/1644389/… or Halloween (for programmers): stackoverflow.com/questions/546505/… are two examples of this. –  Adam Davis Feb 9 '10 at 20:31
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I'm not a "high-rep user" by any definition, but in the case of SuperUser, I've answered 24 questions and asked 0 - because I haven't had any questions to ask!

As far as StackOverflow... I can't imagine a question Jon Skeet would have that I, as a junior programmer, could answer. In his case, he's literally written the book on the subject. I think his questions are probably left to the designers of C# 4.0...

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he could ask lisp or erlang questions, or he could ask some of the really complex one as well, after all eric lippert is on SO –  waffles Aug 11 '09 at 2:24
    
Skeet has stated in the past that some of the internal discussions on Java at Google are above his knowledge-level. In theory, he may still ask a few questions in the future - but they likely won't be C# :) –  Jonathan Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 18:08
    
@Jonathan Sampson, that statement terrifies me. That and Eric Lippert's blog, I need to read each post three or four times. (props to Eric) –  Nathan Koop Aug 11 '09 at 18:55
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I loosely stay in touch with SO (although I'd like to be much more active there... sigh... one day) and SU, but am currently high on the SF list with about a 11:1 answer:question ratio (not claiming high-rep yet). I personally don't have many questions to ask about the sysadmin topics I work with that I can't find answers to quickly by Googling, and many of the questions I've asked were done to build up the SF repo during beta (which I still consider a noble cause and maybe something that high rep users should still do).

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Maybe they are smart enough to use the search feature and search for the answer they are looking for. :)

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There is an asymmetry between reputation gained from questions and reputation from answers, regardless of quality. Search for "Why don't people upvote questions" for about a dozen or so discussions about that topic.

So as answers are the prime way of getting reputation, the key to get a lot of reputation is to make a lot of answers, so if you look at the top <1% of users (There are currently 47608 users with >1 Rep) you naturally find the people who got most reputation through answers.

So for me, questions are mostly about stuff that a) I cannot google myself, b) I cannot answer with the knowledge I already possess (and that allows me to answer many questions in the first place) c) that are of an unknown topic and complicated or d) that are clearly open-ended but narrow enough to get valuable answers from SO (i.e. Help File Systems under Windows)

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I ask many, many questions... but use secret sockpuppet accounts when doing so.

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1  
I KNEW IT, MASI! –  Eric Aug 11 '09 at 17:27
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How many accounts consist of one question asked... zero votes and zero answers?

You could probably chop off the bottom 40% of all accounts. A lot of them signed up, asked a question, and never came back.

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I'll bite. My account appears on your list. I don't often ask questions on SO largely because I can usually find the answer by googling - and often quite quickly. By the time I get to asking on SO I'm asking something quite obscure that I can't find any useful web resources on.

To some extent, it could be said that I 'know everything', or at least the web 'knows everything' and I'm passably good at guessing what text snippets might get pertinent search results (error messages or API calls along with 'code example' or 'code snippet' are often good search terms). Most of my higher-rated answers appear on questions that are really more general knowledge than answering specific 'how do I do this' points.

I've asked 10 questions on SO and gotten satisfactory answers for 8 of them - which isn't bad given that SO is almost a last resort for me.

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1  
Your experience is very similar to mine. I can usually find answers to questions I have (or even other people have) by Googling. Perhaps I just get lucky with the search terms I use. I also make sure I search the MSDN for .NET questions first too. –  ChrisF Feb 9 '10 at 20:12
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Like Kara, I type-out but never submit questions all the time. Mostly, I say to myself "that's a dumb question" and go find the solution -- it's kinda like I get my own desire to figure out an answer and basically give the 0th answer. :)

Also, people who work for me know about my account. Some of the most interesting questions I have had that might have community benefit from have been because of disagreements among people who work for me and I feel that it would be inapprorpiate to post those disagreements.

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High-rep users have the desire (and ability) to provide high-quality content, whether it is a question or an answer. But, asking good questions is hard (emphasis on the word "good"). There are many more opportunities to provide good answers, once the question has been asked.

High rep or not, they are only one person... and there are (as of this post) about 61,000 people who have asked questions on Stack Overflow. So, naturally, the opportunities to answer questions are much more prevalent than coming up with one to ask yourself.

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When I want to know the answer to a question, I usually so some research beforing asking someone else for help. Maybe that's a generational thing - "back in the day", we didn't have StackOverflow, or even the Internet, and Compuserve took too long.

When I have a focused question, I ask it on SO. I just haven't had many small, focused questions lately.

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I only ask questions to learn. If I see something that makes me stop and think, I'll Google and then turn to SO to either find the answer (if Google failed) or to learn more than what Google told me.

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In my very personal case:

  • I answer more Java question for that's the language I have more experience in.

  • I ask non-java questions, when they get in the middle of a task I'm performing in my daily work: SQL, JavaScript, Python[this last only for joy] etc.

The fact I answer more that what I ask is because my main technology from every day, is the one I have more experience with: Java

The day, I stop working in Java, I bet I will flood StackOverflow with tons of questions from the new tech.

I assume the same would happen with Jon Skeet if he have to work with... mhhh ( gee with ... ) .... well with ... COBOL, for instance....

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