The title is pretty descriptive, but as it suggests how much research do you do before asking a question on Stack Overflow, or Server Fault?

I tend to do research quite a lot into topics which I consider easily searchable such as questions about an API or something that is easily identifiable, has clear keywords and is a problem many people would have had.

Questions that relate to something not working as expected, where code samples are needed I tend to ask right away. The main problem I can see occurring in SO is people ask the questions right away as the quality and speed of answers is so good.

  • 1
    Unfortunately, you are asking the WRONG PEOPLE. Anyone who is on MetaSO is someone who is engaged in the community. These are the people who are more likely the go the extra mile, and put a little more effort in their questions and answers. These are not a typical sample of questioners on SO or SF.
    – devinb
    Jul 2, 2009 at 13:18

4 Answers 4


I search my language docs, Google, and the proper site. If I find nothing after about an hour of looking (depending on how hard the proper is - harder problems mean I look harder, obviously), I ask it because I figure it's only adding to the database of questions and answers.


I do as much research as possible, because I don't like having to ask questions. (Maybe I should just get over it.)


There's a balance between doing as much research as possible and none at all. After all, the point of Stack Overflow for me is to save time without wasting the time of others.

I tend to look in the books I have to hand, ask colleagues if I think they might know, and perform extensive Google, Bing, and other searches before I ask a question. However, even then, I sometimes discover the answer moments later.

I don't think people should be smacked down just because someone else found the answer by googling as web searches can be a fine art sometimes; any encouragement that can be given for someone to do better is more appropriate than discouragement, which usually leads to disenfranchisement. As the age old adage goes, it's easy when you know the answer.

  • Sometimes you don't know what the name of what you're doing is, which makes it difficult to find it with a search engine. Jul 2, 2009 at 2:35
  • @Brad: Exactly.
    – Jeff Yates
    Aug 21, 2009 at 15:27

I often only do a basic googling and if I don't find an answer or don't understand an answer I do I a search on stackoverflow. If my problem is solved I upvote question and good answer and go on working.

If the problem is not resolved I begin to write the question and look at the questions stackoverflow relates to my question. If my problem is not resolved then I ask the question.

Sometimes this goes very fast and means to add some very easy questions to stackoverflow like how to access the last list element in python.

I think that if the answer is not on stackoverflow and some programmer could be interested in it too then it is worth asking the question to improve the quality of data that is available on stackoverflow. If it isn't interesting at all nobody will upvote the question.

  • Or if the answer isn't interesting then nobody will upvote the answer ;) Jul 1, 2009 at 23:47

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