sometimes when a new questions asked, usually by a new user with low rating (like my self) some of the more experienced users tend to make a comment like:

  • "what did you try"
  • "show your effort first" etc ....

it is not always a dumb lazy question, sometimes the OP really has no clue what to do, or where to look
so it is ok if I answer such questions, or I should wait till the OP shows some effort ?

  • 12
    If someone doesn't have a clue, surely they at least did a web search first? That qualifies as effort and is something they can post too.
    – Oded
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 13:18
  • I don't think any of these comments Discourage OP from asking a Question, rather it helps OP!! Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 13:19
  • 13
    Teaching people to come here instead of trying / googling is not what we would like, now is it? So as long as it is kept in a nice tone, it's legitimate. Other thing is - sometimes OP gets the answer and then downvotes and comments "tried it already but it does not work for me because ..." - yet another reason not to answer before OP's own attempts are shown.
    – Mołot
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 13:27
  • 7
    this may be more personal than generic but if I vote to close for not demonstrating a minimal understanding and someone answers a question I usually do not bother upvoting the answer as I think this is not how SO was designed to work. Poor questions should be closed - as simple as that. Answers to such questions should never be posted as it encourages new users to follow that schema which is not what we(community) want.
    – user221081
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 13:45

4 Answers 4


I think those comments are completely fine. Why should I (or anyone else) waste our time to try to understand an incomplete (or non researched) question when the OP hasn't even tried to help themselves? It's part of the learning process. Learn to use the tools around you (like Google) and if you're having troubles getting something to work, post a detailed question about it.

To be honest, I haven't come across a poorly written question yet where the OP couldn't find the answer to on Google. For example:

How can I validate an Email address taken from a HTML form? (I know it's old)

I mean, a simple Google search brings up a ton of answers.

Plus, keep in mind what kind of questions are acceptable here on SO. It does specifically say NOT:

"Questions you haven't tried to find an answer for (show your work!)"

  • We want SO to be at the top of google searches for relevant queries. If googling gives a top result that is not SO, I would solve the problem after learning how from the link. If you successfully solve it, then post a question and answer it, otherwise post the question with what you have, and what doesn't work
    – Cruncher
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 16:40
  • 2
    Also, it's worth noting, that people often don't know how to search for their problem, where as a more veteran programmer could find the right keyword
    – Cruncher
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 16:43

I always approach these from the perspective of help me to help you. That is I never say (and rarely think)

If you can't be bothered to put in a scrap of effort, I can't be bothered to help you

Instead I'm thinking more like

Give me some place to start so I can be helpful in your specific situation

If you know what API to call, but are a little confused about the value for the fourth parameter, an answer telling you what API to call will be somewhere between offensive and useless. If you are calling the right API and passing the right values, but forgot to initialize something first, a detailed list of the parameters and their meanings will again fall between useless and offensive. And so on. From this point of view, when I ask what you have, I'm not challenging you, I'm pleading with you for the details I need to be able to help.

Alas, most readers will just hear a rebuke and accuse SO of being an uncaring and unfriendly place. I don't know what to do about that or how to suggest you word your comment. It's an issue I have yet to solve.


It's your call whether to answer or not. There are no rules, but we definitely want to discourage questions that do not demonstrate any effort to solve the problem.

A majority of those minimal effort questions tend to be FAQs of sorts, while some fall into the now non-existent too localized category.

That said, you could always navigate to OPs profile to get some clue about the sort of questions that have been asked before. Unless it's a first-post, you'll get a hint.

As far as comments go, consider having some templates:

I usually prefer these rather than What did you try?.


SO is a site for professional and enthusiast programmers. Asking a question that demonstrates no effort indicates a lack of professionalism and/or a lack of enthusiasm. The OP is lucky to get a comment at all, rather than having the question closed as off-topic.

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