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I am trying to figure out the best way to learn new things on Stack Exchange, and ultimately design a study plan to help myself and others. To this end, I'd like to hear how others use these websites to achieve this end.

I am a programmer, and thus naturally inclined to use Stack Overflow.

Here is what I currently do:

  • I have a list of interested tags
  • I try to read questions from each tag, as much as I can (sort of random)
  • If a question that I can answer catches my eye, which happens rarely, I give it a shot
  • I occasionally ask questions regarding problems I confront at work or encounter while reading technical books/articles or watching video lectures

I am not sure if this is an effective way to achieve my goal of learning new things on this site, and I want to refine it.

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Frequently I'll try to answer a question that I don't already know the answer too. I'll go digging through google and documentation and stuff and see if I can get an answer that will help the asker. Even if I'm unsure of it, I'll post it anyway. If it's incorrect it gets down-voted and its no big deal, I wasn't planning on it being 100% correct anyway. Then I'll go and read the up-voted answers to see what I did wrong/how it should have been answered.

This is actually how I taught myself how to program a few years back.

Plus, you get them right more frequently then you would expect.

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When I find an interesting question but don't know the answer to it, I'll research the answer. Once I've found a solution that works, I'll go back and refresh the page - usually, someone else will have posted an answer by that point, so I'll compare what I found with what they suggest - thereby learning both from my own research and that of others.

I'm absolutely terrible at asking questions, being much too impatient when it comes to finding answers for the problems I face day-to-day... Indeed, all but one of the questions I've asked on Stack Overflow were prompted by other questions on Stack Overflow. So I tend to avoid asking questions - there are plenty of people with real problems who can use the help.

I also try to spend a bit of time editing questions and answers. Plenty of folks struggle with English and/or Markdown and can use the help. A nice side-effect of this is that it exposes me to topics I'd otherwise avoid.

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Agree with your second point. I, however, am completely different in relation to #1 - I post first, ask questions later. If I'm not totally sure, I Google it. Once, I answered a one-sentence question right, thought I had it wrong (edited it again), then rolled it back. Needless to say, the asker (who was watching carefully) got a bit confused :). –  Lucas Jones Jul 15 '09 at 23:04
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