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Let's say a client asks me to perform a certain task. During this task I ask a question on StackOverflow to solve a certain detail or issue. What is the etiquette on asking questions related to freelance projects that I am paid for? When asking questions during my free time, open source projects, or research projects I certainly do not see a problem. However, in paid consultancy work what is the stance of the SO community on this. What is the etiquette surrounding them. I have some ideas on them, maybe others could comment?

  • In principle I think this should be fine, as long as I am not only a leech, but contribute back to the community by answering other people's questions.
  • Should I disclose this is consultancy work from which I benefit financially?
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up vote 14 down vote accepted

It can be OK given suitable circumstances:

  1. Is it an interesting question for future readers?
  2. Is your client OK with any details you post being submitted under these terms? (If not you might end up in hot water)

Ideally you can abstract out the interesting part of the question into a "Short, Self Contained, Correct (Compilable), Example" - enough to show the question concisely and make it useful for future visitors.

Without that the question is likely to be either "too localised" (i.e. only helpful to you) or "not a real question" (i.e. insufficient detail to do more than speculate).

There's no need to specifically mention that you're making money from this in my view - it's hard to say exactly but I bet a lot of people are asking (and answering) questions as part of their employment. So long as you're not using the question itself to drive traffic to your client there isn't an issue. (Most likely don't even name the client).

Even if you were asking a question purely out of intellectual curiosity that makes you more employable and so you stand to benefit financially in the future! It's very hard to think of a question where you wouldn't stand to gain in someway.

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I agree that as long as the question builds the community on SO, it is fine to ask the question even if you get paid to do the work. – Paul Hiemstra Jul 15 '12 at 12:58

People ask questions all the time on Stack Overflow (and on any Stack Exchange site for that matter). Some of the people asking questions will do so to solve a problem they are having at work. People are getting paid at the end of the month for the work that they did - how they managed to solve a certain problem is of no concern to their place of work. (as long as they didn't have to break any laws ;)

What I'm saying here is that there is no difference between a person working as a free lancer asking questions on the site or a person in a fulltime job asking questions or even a person programming as a hobby developing a free service in their own free time.

There doesn't have to be any special procedures for asking a question - even if the answer will help you get paid. People provide assistance on the site regardless of your situation. You are not required at all to state what your purpose for asking the question was. The existence of your problem is enough reason to formulate a question.

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I agree that people who work at a company benefit from aksing questions on SO and getting work done. It's only that in freelance work there is a more direct connection between the task and the payment that I was interested in the opinion of people on Meta SO. – Paul Hiemstra Jul 15 '12 at 12:56
No - I don't think there is that much of a difference. In both cases you are getting paid to write code. – Lix Jul 15 '12 at 12:57

The good the bad and the ugly

The bad
From my experience in SO, some people with low reputation, or non at all come and say, my client ask me to do that, how can I do it asap?

The ugly
You client ask for impossible things, but because you are not have get this job at the first place before know what its impossible and what not, you come to SO and ask for crazy thinks, and when they answer to you that this can not be done you replay "come and say that to my client"

The good
Your client ask you to make something, you tell him what is possible, and make him some limits to what he ask, then you start the developing and in one of ten points you stack for hours, and then you come on SO and make your question about that point.

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Thinks? Really? – Rosinante Jul 15 '12 at 17:08
@Rosinante Sorry, typo, one of my (many) weakness – Aristos Jul 15 '12 at 19:51

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