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I lead product development for a small software company, and we are in process of releasing our software for implementation by our partners. Part of the documentation we want to provide is real code examples of customizations that can be done as part of an implementation. I see three options for this:

  1. Formal documentation, possibly in wiki format
  2. A series of blog posts
  3. Self-answered Stack Overflow questions

The last option is appealing to me for a number of reasons:

  • The Stack Exchange voting system allows us to know what examples are most useful
  • Comments give us feedback as to when we need to enhance the examples
  • The community can provide alternate answers/examples that might be better than our own!
  • Developers looking for help or example code are more likely to find them on SOF
  • We can still post blog articles or formal wiki documentation that link to SOF, perhaps with supplemental commentary?

I could see doing the same thing for programming-related support tickets we receive, should a question we receive be deemed helpful for others.

I want to be sure though that we are not abusing the platform. Is this within the spirit, intent, and rules of SOF?

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2  
Just be wary: The SO users don't tend to enjoy people who use the system for something other than the default "someone who legitimately doesn't know something asks a question, and they get to answer it." However valid that use may be. See this answer for details. –  BinaryTox1n Mar 14 '13 at 3:16
    
I guess Programmers might be more suitable for this. –  FallenAngel Jan 1 at 13:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

No, Stack Overflow is probably not the place to document your product or provide example code.

Stack Overflow is the place to ask real, solveable problems about your product.

You may also self-answer those questions. If the solution to those problems involves documentation of your product or example code, then documenting your product or providing example code is fine.

However, if all you actually want to provide is documentation or example code, and don't really have any particular problems to solve, another format would suit you better.

Consider just providing your own formal documentation.

That format leaves you with more freedom than the strict requirements of our Q&A system. That's common and conventional, and it's what people tend to expect to see.

There's no particular reason you should be using Stack Overflow as the central host for that stuff even if you could. Our requirements may even be more trouble than it's worth if the material you want to publish doesn't come naturally to a Q&A format. Attempting to force it into our Q&A system might be self-sabotage of otherwise good documentation.

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Yes, this is within the rules of Stack Overflow. However I think we are looking for clear and complete questions and answers. This means that some things that should be in documentation don't fit here.

I would say formal documentation are needed to cover:

  • Architecture
  • Full example code - I suspect to set up a framework and use it would be too much code for here.
  • Marketing - a home page for the product

Stack Overflow is good for

  • Mini HOWTOs
  • Specific problems
  • Help
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This isn't an abuse of the system, it's encouraged in fact. Just be careful. Stackoverflow isn't intended to be a replacement for proper support channels, but rather a supplement to it.

Make sure that you follow proper Question/Answer format. (I.E. your question, should be an actual question, and your answer an actual answer.)

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2  
True, but - if it's an obscure niche product that no one has ever asked about on Stack Overflow, adding a load of "artificial" questions on SO may not be well received. –  Pëkka Apr 13 '13 at 8:01

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