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I have been asking tons of questions on Stack Overflow. I am well, indebted. As times goes by I learn more and more.

I started answering questions. Almost none of my answers are upvoted. I don't even know which questions match my expertise.

What are the tips for answering questions and how to find questions that fit your expertise?

You can check some of my answers. How can I improve those?

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+1 beacuse you like to return answers to the community. – Toon Krijthe Oct 7 '12 at 9:51
No upvotes, I don't even know if my answers are seen at all. So I do feel "all the other guys are smarter than I am let them do their things". But hei, if there are tips, I could use some :D. – Jim Thio Oct 7 '12 at 9:54
For a start; answering old multi-answer questions won't always get you upvotes... you'll be at the bottom of the pile – ben is uǝq backwards Oct 7 '12 at 9:54
Thanks Gamecat, and Ben. Great. Please turn that into an answer. – Jim Thio Oct 7 '12 at 9:56
@JimThio, although it doesn't look like it from your answers maybe that's your problem. I can't expand a one sentence comment into an answer... I have no need to; it's a comment. You'll get a good, comprehensive, answer shortly you don't need a one liner. (Or this'll be closed as a duplicate as I'm sure it must be but I can't find it) – ben is uǝq backwards Oct 7 '12 at 10:00
As questioners sometimes I feel like I am being too easy on answerers :) After all it's good enough they want to answer in the first place. Maybe I should review that too. – Jim Thio Oct 7 '12 at 10:23
sadly, one of the most important factors is being fast – ajax333221 Oct 7 '12 at 18:10
I must admit that I can't answer most questions on either even though I thought I was an expert :( – Jim Thio Oct 8 '12 at 1:41

Top tip:
Look at the answers that did get upvotes. Analyze them. How do they differ from yours? Are they more clearly formulated? Do they contain content you did not include? Are they more in depth? I personally find that by looking at competing answers, I often learn even more and get more out of a question than I have put in.

Or what about the time when they were posted? Was there already a highly upvoted answer, or perhaps multiple answers, which reduce the visibility of yours?

If you're just starting at this whole thing (answering-wise), don't despair. Your reputation might feel like a big rock which is almost impossible to get rolling. But the more you stick to it and the more you learn yourself in the process, the more momentum you will gain. Answering questions is a much a learning experience (or even more so) as asking them is.

With regards to your specific answers:
Your answers are of fairly decent quality, for as far as I can judge them. (Some more knowledgeable on the subjects might even call them good) Though there are quite a few answers for very old questions. Often with highly upvoted and accepted answers. Even if someone were to have a look at those, your contribution might not be immediately visible.

The answers are of course still welcome, but if your goal is rep you might want to focus on newer questions. Follow a couple of your favorite tags and scour them for new questions which you know the answer to. Don't be discouraged if there are multiple immediate answers. Take your time and write a good answer at your own speed. This will ultimately be appreciated. Don't mistake rep, or the lack thereof, as your contributions not being appreciated. Whether it be for answers to old or new questions.

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Wow thanks to say that my questions are "fine". Great. I'll find unanswered questions then :). – Jim Thio Oct 7 '12 at 10:20
...answers... ;) – Bart Oct 7 '12 at 10:21
I wanted to pick this as the answer but I want to wait a while first :) Thanks Bart to take the time to check my answers. I really appreciate that. – Jim Thio Oct 7 '12 at 10:21
You can decide what you do with acceptance at your own discretion. Feel free to leave this open for other contributions and views. There's no hurry. – Bart Oct 7 '12 at 10:22

Jon Skeet's oft quoted "Writing the perfect question" is an excellent guide to help you ask questions, but did you know he also wrote a blog post about answering them? Here are the key points of "Answering technical questions helpfully":

Read the question

All too often I've written what I thought was a great answer... only to reread the question and find out that it wasn't going to help the questioner at all.

Code is king

Answers with sample code are gold... if the code is appropriate.

Answer the question and highlight side-issues

Other developers don't always do things the way we'd like them to.

It's okay to guess, but be honest

This may be controversial. I've certainly been downvoted twice on SO for having the temerity to post an answer without being 100% sure that it's the right one - and (worse?) for admitting as much.

Raise the overall accuracy level

It should go without saying that a correct answer is more helpful than an incorrect one.


  • Challenge inaccurate information
  • Provide accurate information yourself

Provide links to related resources

There have been a few questions on Stack Overflow as to whether it's appropriate to link to other resources on the web. My own opinion is that it's absolutely appropriate and can add a lot of value to an answer.

Care about your reader: spelling, grammar and style matter

I'm lucky: I'm a native English speaker, and I have a reasonably good natural command of English. Having said that, I still take a certain amount of care when writing answers: I'll often rewrite a sentence several times until I feel it works. I've noticed that answers with correct spelling and grammar are generally upvoted more than ones with essentially the same content but less careful presentation.

A time-limited answer may be better than no answer at all

I answer Stack Overflow questions in whatever spare time I have: waiting for a build, on the train, taking a break from editing etc. I frequently see a question which would take a good 15 minutes or more to answer properly - but I only have 30 seconds. If the question already has answers, there's probably no sensible contribution I can make, but if the question is completely unanswered, I sometimes add a very short answer with the most important points I can think of at the time.

Don't be afraid to delete (or edit heavily) useless answers

It's almost inevitable that if you post enough answers, one of them will be less than helpful. It may start off being a good one, but if a later answer includes all the information from your answer and more, or explains it in a better way, it's just clutter.

Be polite

It's a shame that I have to include this, and it's even more of a shame that I need to take better notice of it myself. However boneheaded a question is, there's no need to be rude.

Don't "answer and run"

Sometimes an answer is very, very nearly spot on - but that final 1% is all the difference between the reader understanding fully and having a dangerous misunderstanding of the topic.

Have fun

In my experience the most useful users are the ones who are obviously passionate about helping others.

Read the article thoroughly (twice), it's an excellent guide on answering questions. By the way, this blog post was the basis of our "How to Answer" guidelines, which I imagine you've already reviewed.

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