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I'm a daily user of Stack Overflow and it really is an amazing source of knowledge. However, after discussing with some colleagues, I'm wondering how often one should really ask a question at Stack Overflow (or any other Stack Exchange site for that matter). Due to the amount of good answers I find on the site, I'm tempted to ask at once I stumble upon a problem I cannot solve. I realize this will probably make the site 'worse' in the long run, so how much research, trial-and-error etc. should one do before asking a question?

I can't help but to feel somewhat 'stupid' from time to time when I ask a question and some random person replies to me that I should look here and there, before posting some half-angry comment about always having to try something, clean up my examples or search better.

Ultimately, I guess my question is somewhat divided;

  1. How often should I ask a question on Stack Overflow?
  2. How much experience should I have before asking? (Am I asking a 'dumb' question, that really is a waste of 'space' and that could be resolved using Google a bit more thorough)
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1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

How often should I ask a question on stackoverflow?

Feel free to ask a question whenever you have a good question to ask. There really is no hard limit or a fixed question rate. But if during a work-week you consistently end up asking a question each day, I would be suspicious. They might all be wonderful, but in general when I see users ask at such a rate there is a big factor of "you didn't research this, did you?".

How much experience should I have before asking? (Am I asking a 'dumb' question, that really is a waste of 'space' and that could be resolved using Google a bit more thorough)

Don't ask if you didn't research. Once again, there is no hard limit. We have dealt with users saying "but I've googled for 5-10 minutes and didn't find anything". Perhaps I'm not the person who should comment on this, having never asked a question on SO, but to me that's not nearly enough. Google for information, read relevant documentation, take a stab at solving your own problems, etc. Once you've exhausted all reasonable means, come to SO and ask your question. That might mean hours (if not days) of research in my personal opinion. Not minutes of googling.

Added benefit is that, with all the experience you've gained by then, you will be able to ask a good, well-formulated, concise question with all the information on what you've tried and what you've dismissed. And most of the time, such questions are not dumb. If with all that effort it still turns out to be something that makes you go "d'oh", at least you know you did all you could. We all have the occasional brainf*rt. As long as that is not the case for each question you ask, you'll be just fine.

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Thank you for a brilliant answer! :) I do tend to 'google' for a few hours and in general try to exhaust different solutions that I can come up with based on the information I come across. Thank you again! –  Nicklas Winger May 28 '13 at 8:14
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@niwi Just make sure you explain what you found through Google, and don't only mention that you've searched for hours. Some users try to justify lack of research effort by saying that they did search Google, but never describe what they found and why it didn't help. –  slhck May 28 '13 at 8:27
    
Point taken! :) I guess I should be better at saying what I've searched for, including code-snippets that describe what I've tried and why I cannot get themn to work. Looking forward to a new life on SO ;) –  Nicklas Winger May 28 '13 at 8:41
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Actually, there are hard limits on number of questions per day and number of questions during a thirty day period (at least on Stack Overflow): 6 and 50 respectively. See: The Complete Rate-Limiting Guide –  Al E. May 28 '13 at 13:10
    
@AlEverett Ah true, there are indeed hard limits enforced by the system. And if you hit those, you might certainly want to take a step back and wonder what you're doing. –  Bart May 28 '13 at 13:24

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