Where can I ask a "how to get started" question on a Stack Exchange site with respect to technology?

What I mean is: for questions like

  • "How do I get started with Python?"
  • "How do I get started with OOP Concepts?"

and a bunch of similar questions, where can I post such questions?


What I really want to address is the fact that such questions are closed on a regular basis on many of the Stack Exchange sites. So if we had a place were these question would be accepted, maybe it would help reduce moderator effort and make things easier for the asker too.


This question is an FAQ Proposal to help everybody

  • 3
    Try Google first for some general research on the subject and when you have more specific questions Programmers might be a good place to ask those. – PersonalNexus Feb 8 '12 at 21:04
  • 2
    Personally I would start by asking Google that question, not stack exchange, however if the topic is too small for Google to give you any decent information than I suppose you could ask on programmers.stackexchange.com – Rachel Feb 8 '12 at 21:05
  • 4
    @PersonalNexus - No. If the question was "I'm stuck on this aspect of Python" or "I'm having trouble with inheritance" then they might work on Programmers. As stated they're too broad. – ChrisF Feb 8 '12 at 21:07
  • I thought programmers was for professionals only – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:07
  • 1
    @MozenRath - you can be a professional, but still getting started in a technology. – ChrisF Feb 8 '12 at 21:08
  • 3
    Check out the Tag Wiki - many have "getting started" guides listed there – Pekka Feb 8 '12 at 21:09
  • yeah that's what i thought. What I really want to address is the fact that such questions are closed on a regular basis on many of the stackExchange sites. So if we had a place were these question would be accepted, maybe it would help reduce moderator effort and make things easier for the asker too. – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:10
  • @PersonalNexus try posting your suggestion for Programmers as an answer if you're interested how many downvotes it will bring. Quoting ChrisF, as stated such questions are too broad for P.SE – gnat Feb 8 '12 at 21:11
  • @gnat Thanks, but no thanks. I kind of like that little bit of rep I have here. – PersonalNexus Feb 8 '12 at 21:16
  • 1
    The two example questions you posted would be more suitable for a help forum, I don't think they would fit in any Stack Exchange site. Too broad, very subjective, possibly too localized, take your pick. – yannis Feb 8 '12 at 21:16
  • I would still love to see one good open version of questions like that that contain a canonical answer to all getting-started materials, although changes of that sort of question existing on P.SE or any other SE site is like a snowballs chance in hell. – Rachel Feb 8 '12 at 21:20
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    @Pekka Am I the only one who can't find an explanation of tag wikis in the FAQ? – razlebe Feb 8 '12 at 21:37
  • @Pekka'sReputationBordello Can I convert this to an faq-proposal? – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:48
  • @Mozen I'm not really familiar with the FAQ building process - to my untrained eye, this looks like a good FAQ candidate, though. Why not flag for mod attention, they should be able to judge – Pekka Feb 8 '12 at 21:50
  • ok thanks. I have retagged it to add faq-proposal – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:54

Pekka's suggestion of the tag wiki's is perhaps the best we can do.

If the wiki for a topic doesn't already contain this information - links to web sites, books, tutorials etc. then perhaps we should be making all efforts to ensure that it does.

Then when people ask

"How do I get started in C#"

we can close and direct them at the tag wiki. The wiki can be copied to relevant sites so that the C# tag on Stack Overflow and Programmers will contain largely the same information. The difference being the site specifics of what's exactly on and off topic (for example).

  • what do you think about a site that addresses Q & A for tag wikis of all SE sites? – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:23
  • @MozenRath - I don't think there's that much overlap for a one size fits all approach. Each site (or couple of sites) would have their pretty much unique set of tags – ChrisF Feb 8 '12 at 21:36
  • hmm... Then probably we could add this discussion as an faq proposal? – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:38

"How to get started" questions are not a great fit for any of the Stack Exchange sites.

The key question to ask yourself is, could your question be reasonably and specifically answered in a short, factual post; or would it require extended explanation and possibly discussion? If your question fits the latter description then the chances are that you should instead be looking for a good book, or a tutorial, to get you underway.

When you get stuck with a specific point and need clarification, the chances are that there's a site that fits the bill. For example, if when studying OOP concepts you don't understand something specific about the concept of polymorphism, you could ask the question on Stack Overflow. (Though the chances are the question will have been asked already, and the answer is already there waiting for you to find it.)

  • I think if people try to approach the question, a lot of good knowledge resource can be developed for the newbies – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:16
  • @Mozen - undoubtedly true. But the format here is Q&A rather than tutorials. – razlebe Feb 8 '12 at 21:17
  • ChrisF gave a brilliant solution to the problem. Many of the Tag Wikis however, do not contain this kind of information. So, there has to be some effort made in that direction – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:20
  • I agree, tag wiki would be a great place to collate a list of resources. But you asked about "asking questions", and there's an important difference. Asking questions this vague is OT just about everywhere; but updating a tag wiki with a list of resources would benefit everyone. @waffles has done a lot of work recently to try to encourage this. – razlebe Feb 8 '12 at 21:23
  • I knew that most probably the answer would be no where for this question while posting. but i posted this as a discussion so that it can steer our thinking in this direction and now we can see a possible solution already – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:25
  • @Mozen It's a perfectly valid question, and your edit did a lot to make your intention clearer. +1 from me. – razlebe Feb 8 '12 at 21:28
  • thanks a lot. can you help me turn this into an FAQ proposal? I think that would help get the solution provided by ChrisF a bit more awareness. – MozenRath Feb 8 '12 at 21:31

This is a great question to ask, and a lot of other people have the same issue. Unfortunately, there are 2 problems that get in the way of giving you the answer you want.

  1. Stack Exchange sites are for questions with answers. And, though it may not seem like it at first, how to get started learning something doesn't really have one. It has many, many possible answers and no way to know which one is best.

  2. Stack Exchange technical sites tend to have a certain minimum requirement for level of expertise, which you probably don't meet (check the specific FAQ to see). Maybe you can come up with questions that are good enough, but you would probably do better to use Google or reference texts first.

A lot of the sites do have answers for canonical texts for learning certain topics, so you might search those. There may be "things every " (practitioner of technology X) "should know" questions as well. You may be able to get someone to talk to you on chat who wants to be generous with his time. And once you get started, you can ask questions (or more likely find questions asked before) that do qualify.

Also, there are plenty of resources outside Stack Exchange. The textbooks used in college courses are easily found, there are free on-line courses on a huge number of topics, on-line documentation, actual books, etc. Technical fields tend to involve a lot of self-directed research anyway, so learning to do that is not as much of an obstacle and waste of time as it might seem.

Good luck.

  • 1
    Personally, I'd fix your second point in something more along "have a certain minimun requirement of efforts ". The main problem of beginner questions (at least in the tags I follow) is that they are easily unswerable by looking at the docs/specifications/manuals. That show no effort whatsoever. But beginners might also ask WHY something they read in docs+specifications+manuals is like that, because they really can't understands it: that shows a nice effort, is much like asking your professor in class after a lecture. That is good, even if the person is a complete newcomer to the topic – Damien Pirsy Feb 11 '12 at 12:32
  • @DamienPirsy - That would be a reasonable policy. I think the official policy is on an individual site basis, but I think they all officially reject questions without reasonable research effort. In addition, some sites officially want some level of expertise. In practice those are guidelines enforced by human beings, who will very often give someone a break if they show they researched. So mentioning that is good advice. – psr Feb 13 '12 at 17:59

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