Is a comment "What have you tried" considered an appropriate comment for questions

  • without doing any research by the OP

  • without having tried anything by the OP

  • with the I-am-too-lazy-to-resolve-this-my-own attitude

  • with do-my-homework attitude



1 Answer 1


The actual, literal form of the comment "What have you tried" is, in my opinion, bordering on being inappropriate, at least in most situations I encounter. It's not inappropriate because it asks what someone tried, but instead because it's just as vague as the question that the commentor may be seeking clarity on.

Instead, be specific. What do you mean when you ask someone what they've tried. Why do you want to know? As an op, why does this matter to me? If you explain these things in the comments, you're more likely to get the information that you need to answer the question, and the asker is more likely to understand why this information is needed, which results in better cooperation.

Hi user123, can you explain to us what you've tried so far? The best SO questions show that you've done your research, and this information also ensures that you get the best possible answers as quickly as possible and that you don't get answers that you have already tried. It also gives us a place to start in helping you. Hope this helps, good luck!

While you may not need be as long-winded as I can be, the difference between "What have you tried?" and my comment is that in this example, I'm actually communicating with the asker as a human being, which typically gets much better results for my reputation score, the asker's solved problem, his/her desire to contribute positively to the community, and the general quality of Stack Overflow questions.

  • 5
    In my experience the question "What have you tried?" is immediately followed (or even preceded!) by a close vote, so I guess the commenter is actually just signaling that the question is about to get closed as "not a real question", instead of really asking for information. Sad but true...
    – Tudor
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 6:20
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    @Tudor Unfortunately, what I more often see as "sad, but true" is that no matter what you ask or explain to many OPs, you never get any more information at all from them... just indignation that no one answered their 'question'. (for the record, I don't think I have ever left a bare "what have you tried?" comment) Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 6:21
  • @Andrew Barber: Indeed this is often the case, especially with new users (since veterans are more likely to know how to properly ask a question) which makes people simply want to close it and not bother.
    – Tudor
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 6:26
  • @AndrewBarber - Sometimes you get more information. It just depends. It's also a quick way to tell if you're dealing with a help vampire. If they don't "get it" after my first comment, then I unleash my downvote wrath and close vote wrath and don't respond to further comments from them. It helps dispel all doubt, and in the cases where they do improve their question, it's a nice feeling to see them get a bunch of upvotes because of your help. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 6:44
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    @jmort253 Agreed, entirely. It is a great feeling when you see someone react to it appropriately, and get upvotes - and answers - as a result. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 6:52
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    @AndrewB I think the indignation is culture clash. We want new users to join the culture of be detailed, be informed, be thoughtful, be useful for future reference. Being very polite and explaining in any stock response to a too-little-info-or-research style question helps the user psychologically to enter the culture, whereas a curt or barely concealed criticism will of course drive them away or into flaming. It's important to model the traits you seek when responding to new users. Subtext that says "help us help you" is more behaviour-changing than subext of "we don't like your question".
    – AndrewC
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 8:27
  • @andrewc I understand what you mean, but I have seen the indignation far too often when people are bending over backward to help the OP by explaining why we ask for more info, and being entirely polite about it. I wouldn't even think of being put out by indignation in response to snark. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 14:37

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