So apparently "What have you tried" comments are now disallowed:

Comments can't contain that content.

But this comment:

And what have you tried?

is accepted by the system – and has two upvotes.

What's the proper thing to do in this situation? Should I flag as "not constructive / off-topic" or just let it go? I'm assuming this type of evasion is against the spirit of the comment ban.

  • 14
    Yep, flag away. Single flag should nuke those comments. Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 20:20
  • 7
    More importantly, leave a more helpful comment about what the question is missing.
    – user200500
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 20:26
  • related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/122986/178816 (should this linked question be deleted since the accepted answer has 107 upvotes declaring "yes, you can leave a "what have you tried" comment)?
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 20:34
  • @TravisJ This isn't about whether you can leave the comments, because you are now prohibited from leaving them. It's about what to do in the case of a violation.
    – wchargin
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 20:35
  • 2
    @WChargin - Your question is about what to do in a one off example to bypass the new standard and I am not saying it is in any way a duplicate of the related question. My comment was left not as an answer to your solution but as a topical point to the "What have you tried" situation as it currently stands. The linked question seems to be counterproductive to this new stipulation.
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 20:39
  • 2
    What have you tried to remedy this? :P
    – Cole Tobin
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 0:58
  • Also, if you do a comment with "What have you tried?" with one more space between What and have (or any of the other words) it will go through. Look, I'll show you (do not flag): Commented May 31, 2013 at 21:08
  • 2
    What have you tried? Commented May 31, 2013 at 21:09
  • 2
    What have you tried? Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 15:58
  • 1
    Apparently, this comment is not forbidden in Meta. It is forbidden in SO, though. I was just testing. Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 15:59

3 Answers 3



What's the proper thing to do in this situation? Should I flag as "not constructive / off-topic" or just let it go?

According to the post which states that "what have you tried" is no longer proper:

… comments that consist of little more than "what have you tried" can be deleted with a single flag.
   – Shog9

What have I tried

I answer a question every once in a while on StackOverflow. I would say that I am well aware of the comments including "what have you tried" or with the same intention, and the situations involved in them.

I usually ask for an edit by stating what I feel others would need to know to be able to properly answer the question, a helpful hint, a generally accepted standard or guideline, or what I feel is lacking.

In my opinion, at the heart of the "what have you tried" issue is what is known as a "help vampire". It seems to me, "what have you tried" usually stems from a reluctance of users to blatantly do the work of others. This is where it is important to provide guidance on how the OP can share more details or more requirements to narrow down what is usually a rather vague question.

Unfortunately, sometimes the OP really is trying to just get some very specific work done for them here without trying themselves, and in that case I feel a vote to close as "Too Localized" is appropriate if it is unlikely to help anyone else out (for common situations I believe it can be understandable to show a simple implementation that others can edit and re-use).

As stated in the linked material, if the question is beyond saving it can always been downvoted and closed. Ideally, it would be improved so that someone can answer it.

  • Some time ago Matt Gemmel posted an article on his blog that resume his point of view about the "What have you tried" question. That point of view happens to be mine, too. There is a difference about problem solving and asking for code ready to go - I never used that reply before, nor will now use it in the future... but I can totally understand what people try to convey with that comment. That said, I will gladly see this new rule as an advice to nuke similar question instead of trying to change the behavior of the asker. Good to know.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 8:18
  • PS: forgot the link
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 8:19

As a conclusion of a related question where I asked how are we expected to behave after this ban, I think that just asking variants of "What have you tried" is not constructive (and then a flag is deserved). It is not wrong to ask OP about their effort in understanding their problem, but that should be done with the intention of educating them. If one doesn't agree, the action should not be commenting but downvoting, voting to close, or taking a break.

Tim Post♦ said that (emphasis mine)

Boilerplate well worded comments can be used, but it's generally good to tailor them a little so they engage specific parts of the question. Otherwise, it looks like someone, well, left a boilerplate comment. While somewhat helpful, that's not very engaging. The more specific you are when you point out issues, the more likely the user is going to be to understand and fix them. If you want to help the user, you need to engage them, not just type at them.

Finally, you can still link to whathaveyoutried.com, provided that you've given some additional context with the link.

If you don't have the time, inclination or patience to help the person, then avoid commenting altogether (...) Remember, leaving a comment to help a new user is supposed to be just that - help, not a whitewashed way to show your dislike for the question that they asked.

And Shog9♦ added that:

If the question needs code, say that; if the asker should read the docs, say that. If you're just upset 'cause he's lazy, down-vote.

If you're just looking for some small indication that the author had done a bit of reading on XML serialization before asking, a comment such as "Have you read up on Java's support for XML serialization?" would probably get your point across.

  • 1
    +1 This is the answer. The whole point the phrase was banned was because it wasn't helping anyone and was just plain rude. If you don't have time to help the user than just don't. Just don't.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 0:14
  • Update: I flagged a link-only "What have you tried"-style comment as rude/offensive, and the flag was deemed helpful.
    – Javier
    Commented Mar 30, 2013 at 5:42

I was not aware of the "what have you tried"-policy, and I left a comment with "so what have you tried so far", so the system accepts my answer.

I got this message: Auto change radio selection on another form to read a post on Meta regarding "what have you tried"

and it works for me :-)

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