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I saw a comment to a question about sending data from an iPhone to a PHP webservice that stated

Stack Overflow is a code-writing service...

At first I was taken aback. It was only a few hours earlier that I had told another user that the SO community is not in the habit of writing libraries of code for people.

But then I began to think, and came to the conclusion that SO does provide a code writing service; it's just never called such.

I guess this is because we don't like to think of ourselves as beholden to the coding needs of all the questioners, and saying SO is a service makes it sound like we serve people, and no one wants to be thought of as a servant.

Are you a servant of the SO questions?

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Based on the context, I think that's a just a typo. – MPelletier Nov 9 '10 at 14:16
We are not servants of SO nor are we addicted to it...most of the time. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 9 '10 at 14:29
@MPelletier: Good point. Although Martin says "but more so..." which implied to me it was more than a service, but still a service. – Matt Ellen Nov 9 '10 at 14:39
@Popular Demand: I feel no need to roll back, but for the record, previous is a synonym for earlier. I new wot i wos doin wen i rote it – Matt Ellen Nov 9 '10 at 23:13
Just as a remark, it was a typo as Martin stated later in the comments. – Time Traveling Bobby Nov 10 '10 at 12:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I dislike the term service, because in my mind service equals expectation, and that can lead to a feeling of entitlement (where answers are due, and not offered). SO is an open community, and most answerers are askers too (and wish for the reverse to be true).

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I agree. I don't want askers thinking they deserve an answer. – Matt Ellen Nov 10 '10 at 8:09

Stack Overflow is a question-answering service, and much of the time those answers involve writing code. It's no more complicated than that.

No, it's not specifically a code-writing service because you can't ask for any arbitrary code and expect to get an answer. 99 times out of 100, if somebody feels that there isn't really a legitimate question and that somebody is just asking other people to do their [job|homework|exam] for them, they'll refuse to answer and probably downvote or vote to close.

The important point is that contributors don't blindly follow orders; rather, they expect and insist that the inquirers do most of the work themselves by organizing their thoughts into a single coherent question that's relatively easy/straightforward to answer by someone who possesses the right knowledge.

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I wouldn't recommend it, but you could choose to think of it that way if you wanted. It's just that you're gonna be be disappointed if you do.

As a code writing service, StackOverflow would perform poorly. Questions that ask you to provide more than about 1/2 page worth of code generally get ignored or closed, and even if not we usually expect you to provide a skeleton. Of course, you could use Stack Overflow to generate the skeleton and other pieces ad nauseum, but then you're talking about composing rather a large number of questions. By the time you do this you could have written most of the code yourself.

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Especially considering that if all of those questions are good enough to get useful answers, you've just written yourself a functional spec. – mmyers Nov 9 '10 at 16:31

We may be, among other things, a snippet-writing service. I don't see much in the way of larger code fragments being written.

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