I know it sounds ridiculous but I can't ask any programming-related question in SO, without seeing that super-annoying reply

what have you tried? see about stackoverflow..

I know, and ok, if that's the rule of stackoverflow, so be it.

But what if I didn't tried anything because I don't know what to try, and that's why I'm asking it in SO ?

so, one remark and one question:

  • I think that the rule "only ask questions about things you have tried" is ridiculous. I would like SO to be a database where every question should be asked (so that all programmers could find useful answers, not only specific cases.)
  • And my question : what if I have a "how do I do this.." type of question? what.stackoverflow.com should I enter?

Thanks !

  • 4
    If I didn't try anything Stack Overflow is not for you. Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:18
  • 5
    If you don't know what to try, break your problem down to the smallest thing you do know how to try. Build it up from there. If you have broken it down and still do not know what to try, google like mad and try something. If that leads nowhere, hire someone. The information is clearly out there, or else nobody here would have it. Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:19
  • @user414076 that's a good approach. And I try to do that. And for most of the basic cases, Google handles it. But Google's algorithms that make the results depend on who you are, rather than what you search for, is really starting to make me lose hope for Google, or I'm just getting stupid :) Thanks anyway !
    – user223150
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:33
  • @ShaWizDowArd Fine, but I am surprised that a website's policy facing towards losing people.
    – user223150
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:35
  • 4
    You're missing the point there @user223150, there's already millions of questions and well over a million people... the point isn't to get more people the point is to help everyone. If you can't be bothered to search, especially if your question is already answered, before asking a question then you're going to come up against some hard resistance from those people (including me, I admit) who try to keep the site "clean". The website isn't trying to lose people, it's just that there's so many of them we're trying to make those who ask as opposed to search think more before doing so. Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:38
  • What have you tried? Commented May 23, 2013 at 8:31
  • When you say don Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


You can demonstrate effort by explaining what you understand and what you don't understand.

I understand that you can foo the bar with a baz, since the types are mutually consistent. But why can't you foo the bar with qux, even though the type of qux is also consistent? The documentation is unclear on this, only stating that qux cannot be used as a factory method for fooing.

Unfortunately, due to the existence of help vampires, simple "how do I" requests don't do well here, often being interpreted as canihaztehcodez.


If you put no research into your question then SO is not for you. If you spent an hour working on a problem, then you tried something. I bet you did. This can include:

  • Prove your search efforts. "I found this in the Javadoc but it didn't work for this reason, and this related SO question that also doesn't quite work because of this difference." This is really useful for SO because it tells us it's something probably new and worth working on.
  • "these methods I thought might apply but didn't." Better informs what you are actually trying to do in case your question your is unclear.

Anyway I cover this more here.

  • 6
    I'm not a big fan of "this is what I searched for. I found a, b, c, d, and e, but they didn't answer my question." Some OP's are using this as a proxy for demonstrating effort, but showing a bunch of links or what the search term was doesn't really illustrate prior research or help us understand the OP's level of knowledge.
    – user102937
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:21
  • @RobertHarvey "I checked the Javadoc, saw these questions on SO but they didn't quite apply", etc. I'll integrate this into my answer later but gotta run. Thanks!
    – djechlin
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:22
  • 4
    Ultimately, this just transfers the responsibility for good searching techniques from the asker to the answerers. The fact that the user performed a search (or many searches) is not really relevant in determining whether the question is useful. If the user doesn't understand the data, we can help. If the user can't even find the data, do we really want to become their tutorial provider? Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:27
  • @RobertHarvey thanks for reflecting my thoughts. So pretending to have searched is more valuable than creating original content in SO?
    – user223150
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:36
  • 1
    @user223150: No; pretending to have searched is valueless for everyone, including those trying to create original content.
    – user102937
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 22:38
  • @RobertHarvey updated
    – djechlin
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 2:06
  • @GeorgeCummins updated
    – djechlin
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 2:07
  • @user223150 updated
    – djechlin
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 2:07

Generally speaking a little research will lead you to a starting point. Check for questions that are similar to what you are looking for, look before you ask, otherwise you end up asking that others look for you.

I would strongly recommend reading: What Have You tried?

When I was new to SO I saw a lot of "what have you tried?" comments, this was before they were filtered out. One linked to this article and, believe it or not, it was helpful.

If you're new to SO or new to programing in general it may shed some light on problem solving and how to ask for help when you really need it.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .