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What are the people on this website looking for?

  • Straight, working code that they can just copy/paste into their programs?
  • How they should think, the function and the patterns they should use, links to documentation, blogs discussing the problem, related topics, etc.

Sometimes I've seen people give a good hint to help askers resolve their problem (by which I mean, if they would have used this link/pattern/function they would have solved their problem). But instead of accepting such an answer, they would rather accept an answer from someone else who gave them the code to use directly.

So, which strategy should answers follow?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Dec 12 '10 at 20:59

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

This is actually a good question :) –  Trufa Dec 12 '10 at 21:36
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4 Answers

The short answer would be: IT DEPENDS but:

I would say you can (ROUGHLY) get your answer on the relationship between code and text in the question.

Whole lot of code and no explanation of the problem == solve my problems don't bore me with the details.

Code in between lots of explanation == help me understand the problem and solve it.

Of course you have to see each question individually, I guess with a little reading in between lines, you can see what the OP needs/wants.


I would also say that among newbies, code is much appreciated since if you only help them in the theoretical approach they might have a rough time coding the idea.

(This might be also a good approach to see what people want/like, the more "theoretical" / "conceptual" the question is, the less code it will need - in most of the cases of course)

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I'd say there are askers and askers. Some of them have actual problems to solve and they seek solutions, be it code or explanation. They tend to want to understand both the problem and the solution(s).

Others, well, I suspect, are not quite sure what they're looking for. Mostly beginning/casual developers, confused by terminology and by the programming language, they often cannot communicate their questions properly. Some of them cannot type, some can barely speak English. You can feel their pain, but actually helping them is hard. I guess too many people are tricked into believing that software development is about 35.28 times easier than it is. Such victims definitely expect copy-paste-ready code and don't appreciate being told to "go start learning". On the other hand, a novice who is aware he's a novice is sometimes a pleasure to meet, especially when you see his progress.

Of course, the above is overgeneralization and oversimplification.

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How about the ones who ask one question but mean something totally different and when you answer the first question they respond with, "I updated my question because it wasn't what I meant.". And then, of course, you get downvoted by everyone else who comes along for being such a noob to have given an answer that was SO totally wrong and off topic. –  Greg Dec 13 '10 at 15:19
That's just - um - "bad luck"? Something like the dark side of answering questions. Maybe, it's appropriate to delete your own answers since they're no longer relevant? Sure, there are people playing games too, but it's a huge problem for themselves in the first place. –  Costique Dec 13 '10 at 15:26
Are we allowed to delete our own answers? I've clicked the "delete" button but nothing seems to happen. –  Greg Dec 13 '10 at 15:43
I'm pretty sure I deleted a couple of my answers when I realized I misunderstood the questions, but, to be honest, I didn't check if they were actually deleted for good. –  Costique Dec 13 '10 at 15:46
@Greg: Not only allowed, but encouraged; I've been in the exact same situation you describe, and it sucked, but at least I got a badge out of it. (The "delete" link works just fine for me, have you tried refreshing the page?) –  ЯegDwight Dec 13 '10 at 15:52
@Greg - since deleted answers are still viewable by those with over 10K rep and owners, you'll see your answer still there, just with different coloring, etc. It's still deleted for most of SO and the public. –  justkt Dec 13 '10 at 16:51
@Greg: Yes. They get toggled to the "deleted" state. While they could be later undeleted, it's unlikely: I have not yet seen an answer deleted by its owner and then undeleted by someone else. I'm not sure whether it is possible to actually remove the answer from database - flag it for moderator attention and explain, they might be able to do that. –  Piskvor Dec 13 '10 at 16:58
Everyone - thanks for the info. I saw the change in color and didn't realize it meant the answer was not visible to others. –  Greg Dec 13 '10 at 17:12
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I'm inclined to including both (if possible). I.e. give some code snippet, but also explain how things should work and where to look for more details. Hence I leave it to the asker to decide whether just a copy-paste would do, or he needs to read more.

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An answer to their question?

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