Would it be reasonable if I intend to learn a new language, to ask programming questions that are just "TOO SIMPLE" for anyone who has 6 months or so with the language but are not so obvious at the beginning (first couple of weeks?)

Most of the times the answers are a Google away, but sometimes you really have to know WHAT to "google" to get good results.

Things like specific syntax are hard to find in Google for instance (the next thing I want to ask: )

What is this called in Python:

 [('/', MainPage)]

Is that an array .. of ... erhm one dictionary? Is that


A tuple? (or whatever they call it?)

I think it would take me 5 - 15 mins to find out with: STFW, but it would take me less than a minute using Stack Overflow.

Plus, I would be giving away 25 rep points every time (10 for the upvote, 15 for the accepted answer)


Related question (which does not really answer mine:) Does Stack Overflow encourage developer laziness?

  • Yeah, you should see the questions I'm about to send in on ASP.NET MVC.
    – squillman
    Aug 21, 2009 at 19:59
  • Did you end up asking newbie questions about a new language? Jun 11, 2010 at 7:43
  • @Adrew Yes, I do it quite often, every time I see an unknown feature in a language I SOflowit
    – OscarRyz
    Jun 11, 2010 at 16:09

7 Answers 7


Please do. I for one would like to see a lot more experienced developers/SO users doing this. I think experienced developers with a fresh set of eyes on a new language would add a lot of valuable content to the site.


Jeff Atwood has always maintained that there is no question too noobish for SO. Just be sure that you are writing the questions as well as you can and not asking people to write code for you.

  • 1
    Funny that on Superuser noobishes is often mistaken for bad questions. But anyway I agree that these questions earn their place on SO.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 21, 2009 at 20:10
  • 2
    With it's much broader (in my opinion) mandate, SU will be the loosest of the sites as far as question quality I think.
    – EBGreen
    Aug 21, 2009 at 20:12
  • Who is Jeff (I know, but your answer does not explain it) and where did he say that?
    – mgutt
    Aug 12, 2019 at 14:51
  • This was so long ago I don't know a specific instance. This just came from a general sense of blog posts and podcasts.
    – EBGreen
    Aug 23, 2019 at 4:42

Go for it! Spolsky made a point of this with his "How do I move the turtle in LOGO?" question.

StackOverflow exists to be a canonical repository for all things programming. This includes newbie stuff, too (and/or especially). Feel free to post something that's programming related that you actually want an answer to. Some answerer will be very grateful you did!


I'm just about at the point where I'm going to request that "Google" never be mentioned on SO :) Joel already expressed his desire to see all questions, simple or complex asked on SO. Google indexes SO. If anybody google's a simple question, for our own good, we should hope the user lands on SO. If we continue to forbid simple questions, SO loses out on a massive demographic of young-programmers. Telling users to "Google it" sends them away from SO, which is NOT what we should be trying to do.

Besides, easy questions mean easy rep.

  • 2
    If you're the fastest gun in the West. :)
    – John Rudy
    Aug 21, 2009 at 19:29
  • 4
    Not always. I've been the first to answer questions in the past only to see somebody else post the same answer 1 minute later, and get upvoted-accepted.
    – Sampson
    Aug 21, 2009 at 19:31
  • @Jonathan Sampson - I agree. I'm seeing Fastest-Gun becoming less and less of a factor if you have something to say. In recent months, my truly better answers are being voted up, even if they are posted much later than the quick answers. If they're about the same quality, the newest wins. Aug 21, 2009 at 20:22
  • I don't mind simple questions at all, the Python question is a good example. Some questions are just made for google however, and I will happily respond with a lmgtfy link (for example stackoverflow.com/questions/1319550). Do you think that's unwarranted? It's not the type of question I like to see anyway.
    – Thorarin
    Aug 24, 2009 at 3:28

There is no question too simple for StackOverflow, but I am not going to be one to guarantee that you will be getting any upvotes for them. If the community thinks your questions aren't up to snuff or are trollish in nature, they'll punish you with downvotes.

I assume you are asking this as a hypothetical and not because you yourself are the lazy developer.

  • +1, you were right about my answer. Multiple questions grouped together is not a good idea, I just wanted to point out that he would likely be downvoted for asking multiple simple questions.
    – Brandon
    Aug 21, 2009 at 19:29
  • @Brandon: But then I would upvote him, so ha!
    – Eric
    Aug 21, 2009 at 19:29
  • 1
    @TheTXI: No, it is really because I'm lazy. After spending a year with SO, I don't really want to get information from anywhere else. I might read a tutorial or skim through a couple of pages to figure out what I want, but really. Asking a trivial question on SO IS very easy and effective. For instance, this question took about 35 secs to be answered: stackoverflow.com/questions/1313805/… :) And those 35 secs I'm pretty sure were spent on SO refresh strategy. I don't mind get dv if I get knowledge. What I'm worry is to be get the Q closed.
    – OscarRyz
    Aug 22, 2009 at 2:22

Elementary questions are fine here. Duplicate questions aren't. I don't care if you don't STFW, really, but you should at least try to search the S? you're posting on.

  • 1
    My 'S' is executed while I'm typing the question title :) :) If I don't get an interesting result there, I continue with the question. That prevent me today from asking 4 others stupid questions: What's the difference between "" and '', what's the % operator in python and two more that I'm ashamed to admit here :P
    – OscarRyz
    Aug 22, 2009 at 2:26

Definitely post your "simple" questions here - just make sure that they are very well written. A well written question should get upvotes, which will rank it higher in the system, meaning it will likely be higher on the internal search results.

More over, Joel and Jeff want this to be a reference site where any programming question can get answered. If we have lots of nice, clear questions on here about simple programming questions (the sort that every noob has), and also very clear answers in response to these questions, then we have increased the pool of knowledge and (hopefully) made things easier for beginner programmers.

Even if the question gets closed as a duplicate, it will still stay in the system, because it will link to the other open question. This is good for seo, because it means that there are more keywords linking to the site. This is why the duplicates don't get removed from the system, just closed - its all about trying to help as many people hit the site as we can get.

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