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I recently gave an answer for this question. Not only is it a fairly basic question, but its answer can be easily derived from the official documentation freely available on the net.

My answer was short, and in the spirit of "take this, this and this, and go fill the blanks by yourself with your own brain". I could have spent the same amount of time just giving the person the piece of code for him to copy verbatim.

I rather preferred to teach the man to fish, instead of giving him the fish cooked and chewed. However, shortly afterwards descended a barrage of answers in the style of full fledged Wikipedia articles, which of course ended with more up-votes.

Aren't these answers diminishing the purpose of this website?

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No, not at all. The point of this website is very much to be like Wikipedia. So I can't really understand why "a barrage of answers in the style of full fledged wikipedia articles" could possibly be a bad thing. –  Cody Gray May 5 '11 at 9:34
    
@Cody: [needs references] :) can you point me to the stated philosophy/mission of Stackoverflow? it very well may be I am in the wrong place –  Dan May 5 '11 at 10:45
    
Hmm. Start here. If that doesn't convince you, you'll need to read the other questions asked and answered here on Meta. This site aims to become the canonical resource for programming-related issues. That's a lot like Wikipedia, which aims to become the canonical resource for, erm, everything. –  Cody Gray May 5 '11 at 13:07
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@YOU: Not a duplicate. Dan is complaining about people who give answers that are too good, with full sample code, etc. He's suggesting it's better that you "teach a man to fish", rather than providing a fully implemented solution in the form of an answer. I'm sure there are duplicates, but this isn't FGITW. –  Cody Gray May 5 '11 at 13:09

3 Answers 3

Personally, it took me a couple of tries to understand your answer. My first reaction was 'what result?`. This may have made perfect sense to you when you wrote this, but you have to remember that you are not answering this question for the OP alone, but every other user that has this problem who comes along later.

While it's commendable that you're trying to educate the user about the technique, I believe you would have added more value to your answer if you had included a code sample as well.

Also, how do you come to the conclusion that detailed answers diminish the purpose of the website? Having a well researched, complete answer with code examples doesn't add anything negative to the site. If we expect (and demand) well written questions, we should have the same criteria for our answers as well.

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I see your point. However, I don't think StackOverflow should replicate documentation pages; I am convinced that someone who can fire up a compiler should be able to read the docs and come up with the answer to that particular question. I got the impression that the poster was just being lazy and taking advantage of "reputation-hunger" of other members of the site. –  Dan May 5 '11 at 8:43
    
@Dan, yup just copy pasting doc pages doesn't really add much to the site at all. It's unavoidable that you're going to get lazy question askers (you should head over to the PHP tag ^_^), but a lot of question askers are students and their google skills are negligible. I'm not condoning lazy askers, but every clearly written question deserves an answer (if it doesn't have one already) imo, and those who choose to answer them shouldn't be dismissed as people going after reputation. –  JohnP May 5 '11 at 8:54

Once the OP asks really simple question it most often mean he doesn't search for education because if he does, he would probably try to look for answer alone and get it within first google search. I usually try to provide code sample together with some explanation. Such answer take more time but has the best value for both users searching education or just code sample.

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I guess you're a better person than me. –  Dan May 5 '11 at 10:47
    
@Dan: I don't think so :) –  Ladislav Mrnka May 5 '11 at 10:48

I could answer this question for you, or I could suggest you try searching meta stack overflow.

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+1 for sense of humor. I just wanted to discuss the issue and hear other people's take on the matter. –  Dan May 5 '11 at 7:36
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@Dan: I strongly suspect there's other questions on meta that have already discussed this topic. –  Andrew Grimm May 5 '11 at 7:39

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