This question is an exact duplicate of:

Continuing in the spirit of being nice (with all the recent pushes to be nicer to new users), I want to share something that I see frequently (I am working to build a list of examples, as per comments below). This is not limited to "new users", which of course has already been discussed to death.

A lot of times we see questions like "I want to connect my application to a database. How do I do this?" These are categorically "too broad" and by no means do they belong here. However, a lot of people (including myself) respond with snark and rudeness in addition to the appropriate close vote.

When I was in high school, I worked as a cook at Boston Market and Pizza Hut. I was cooking food, but by no means was I a chef. If I had asked a true chef, for whom cooking was an art, "I am cooking a pizza, how many pieces of pepperoni do I put on it and what is the precise oven temperature?" he would probably respond with something like "What? You don't understand cooking!" The question is almost incomprehensible to a chef who takes pride in his art form and is used to using instinct, taste, and experience to create; but the question is reasonable when one remembers that it is being asked by a person for whom cooking is just another job.

Similarly, when a person who is programming computers because it is a job asks a broad question without any apparent research effort being done, it could be because they genuinely (and validly) don't view their job as some sort of masterful art form that they are proud of, but rather as just another job (which they care about, it's just that they don't take the same approach), and they're simply looking for a solution that meets their requirements so they can move on. I think this may be a concept that isn't really aligned with the way many of the people who contribute answers here feel about programming.

These questions of course should be closed, but can we please try a little harder to consider where they are coming from and the mindset of the asker instead of being outright rude?

I had a little bit of trouble putting this into words but hopefully the spirit is coming across OK. If anybody here can improve this (especially the title, which I had difficulty with), please do.

Update in light of some answers and comments below:

I think it very easy to direct negativity towards the asker himself, but in some situations the root cause is the way the asker was trained to do his job. I realize that's way beyond anything we can or should be expected to address; but fundamental differences in the programming and training culture that an asker is a part of very much affects the attitude of the asker and how much value they place on finding answers on their own. I don't particularly agree with that culture, but the point is, an asker might not be a "lazy/stupid" person, it could just be how they were taught.

In light of this, another way to state the concerns above is: I suppose Stack Overflow has a heavy (and understandable) bias towards a certain kind of programming culture. However, it also seems that Stack Overflow has an apparent outward desire to be a global-friendly place to go for answers (see e.g. the tone of the recent Portuguese site creation blog post, which reflects a clear desire to be more inclusive). If SO outwardly stated that we only support the specific programming culture preferred by heavy answer contributors, then it would be easier to accept this kind of behavior as the norm; no false advertising. As it stands, it seems like a contradiction to an outward desire for a more tolerant attitude, and I think it will reflect positively on SO as a whole if we can try to at least show understanding (and again, these types of questions do not fit here, but it is not necessary to add a negative comment to the pool of information maintained here).

To openly not appreciate where others are coming from damages (slowly, yes, but also surely) Stack Overflow's efforts to maintain a positive global public image. As members of this community I think it is distinctly our responsibility to make sure that damage does not occur.

I believe this is what differentiates this issue from a basic "be nice to people because hurting feelings is bad" type of request. I do not and never will maintain that we need to be responsible for other people's feelings; but I do strongly maintain that we are responsible for Stack Overflow's overall culture and image.

marked as duplicate by gnat, hims056, Martijn Pieters, Aziz Shaikh, Danubian Sailor Feb 28 '14 at 11:18

This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question.

  • Not quite related, but still along the lines of "being nice": The difference between "how do I do this?" and "tell me how to do this" is more often than not a language barrier issue. Please consider that as well, it's very easy to interpret a question as an outright demand and meet it with a negative response. – Jason C Feb 26 '14 at 18:10
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    Can't speak for the downvoters, but you really didn't ask a question that I can see. This pretty much reads "Be nice to users". Ok, so do you have a question that you want to ask or a proposal that you want to discuss. – psubsee2003 Feb 26 '14 at 18:16
  • I don't know what you want us to discuss. You tell us you've been a little bit naughty and that you will try to change that. That's great and all, but what kind of answers are you looking for? – Stijn Feb 26 '14 at 18:16
  • @psubsee2003 This post is in the same form as Could we be nicer to new users?, which neither asks for information nor discusses a proposal. – Jason C Feb 26 '14 at 18:19
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    It's not inappropriate. We just vehemently disagree with the idea that we should be nicer to lazy askers. I have no problem with people for whom programming is just a job. But I don't want to do their job for them. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 26 '14 at 18:24
  • @Pëkka Ha, fair enough. – Jason C Feb 26 '14 at 18:24
  • @psubsee2003 "Generally speaking, random discussion on various topics isn't as well received as it was then." Why not? – Jason C Feb 26 '14 at 18:24
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    I don't see an issue with this question that would warrant its closure on 'discussion' grounds. Unless edits are made to tread newer ground than the previous question on this topic, it is a duplicate, however. – George Stocker Feb 26 '14 at 18:25
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    It could work well as an answer to that question, yeah. (I would still downvote it though because I disagree - nothing personal :) – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Feb 26 '14 at 18:26
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    @JasonC No. This is definitely a question that we should discuss -- if there's new information to be discussed. Do you have more information or something that would take the discussion beyond where it was 4 years ago? If you can point to community changes, policy changes, or anything that would warrant talking about this all over again, that's helpful. – George Stocker Feb 26 '14 at 18:26
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    The question can still be edited to add details if it's closed. – Josh Caswell Feb 26 '14 at 19:14
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    @Adel No kidding (case in point: YouTube), but that's not a rationale and I like to think we can set a slightly higher bar than normal here (I don't know about you but I get a lot of pride out of that). SO sets a very high standard for questions relative to other forums, and takes pride in that. I'd like to see that same standard maintained in comments and responses. – Jason C Feb 27 '14 at 1:11
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    @Adel Re: First comment: Absolutely! The only real concrete benefit from posts like mine is that at least it hopefully plants a seed of awareness and actual concrete ideas in others' minds, despite -1000 votes and ultimate (I'm predicting) closure. The day when SO comments have the same general regard as YouTube comments will be a sad day. – Jason C Feb 27 '14 at 1:18
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    @Adel As for the downvotes on this post, well... to be honest I've just accepted the fact that I suck at meta. But, seriously: I don't think down-votes are a problem -- I put some (some) faith in people's ability to read a post and think about it regardless of the vote count; the people that can't do that aren't really the type of people that are going to contribute to any type of changes anyways, so it's not for them. – Jason C Feb 27 '14 at 1:20
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    I pledge to keep up the illusion by submitting as many reasonable burninate requests as possible. – Jason C Feb 27 '14 at 1:24

You have a well written question and a state your point well. This is a critique, but not meant in a nasty way - it is simply trying to illustrate the futility of achieving what you want.

"I want to connect my application to a database. How do I do this?"

Let's flip that around a little. What would you say if a junior civil engineer came up to you and asked you how to connect a bridge to land? Would you look at them funny and mention that they should have already learned that? Or that the right way to do it depends on the situation?

Just to be absolutely clear: Stack Overflow intended to be a canonical resource for answers, but it is not a training ground for people learning to code. It's a subtle difference, sometimes there's no difference between those two except for the way the question is presented.

The question is almost incomprehensible to a chef who takes pride in his art form and is used to using instinct, taste, and experience to create;

To get to be an experienced chef, he had to try many things and he would have failed many times. At no time would he have gone to someone and said "Gimme teh pizza'z", then taken them and ran. No, he would have burnt a few, tried a few different things, asked questions along the way, and eventually learned how to do it. This is what good coders do too. There are enough recipes out there telling you exactly how to make and cook a pizza. The same goes for tutorials about connecting your application to a database. If users bothered to read those tutorials we would get a lot fewer questions about database connections.

it could be because they genuinely (and validly) don't view their job as some sort of masterful art form that they are proud of, but rather as just another job

Herein lies part of the problem. You need to flip this one around again. You are an experienced professional, and you are busy. You have your own code to write and your own deadlines and technical challenges to meet. You dedicate some time to Stack Overflow because you enjoy helping and giving back, and your boss (or wife/husband/significant other) is understanding of this. Then someone who has no real skin in the game and can't be bothered reading the thousands of tutorials out there and can't be bothered (or is incapable of) composing a half decent question rocks on up and asks "Halp! I need to connect to my database and show a value in a textbox! Halp this is urgent! It was due yesterday! Lulz!". Sit back and think, exactly what would your reaction be?

I choose not to answer these types of questions. If someone does, then I congratulate them. However lots of people out there don't necessarily have the patience to just turn their back and let someone else deal with it - their reaction will be to communicate to the user that their skillset (or question) needs some improvement (I'm phrasing this in a very polite way). This is a normal part of human behaviour.

Taking this back to your chef example...

if a part time worker for whom it is "just a job" rocked on up and said "Halp! How do you make a souffle? The customer has been waiting three hours and I was out the back smoking and gossiping for the last two of those! Lulz!", how would that chef react? What about the master civil engineer when asked about connecting the bridge to land?


snarky comments are not helpful or constructive, however you can't stop them, you can merely react to them when they appear - especially when it is in response to ignorant or lazy questions. And we shouldn't encourage or reward lazy and ignorant questions. If someone fails to deliver in their "just a job" then maybe it wasn't the right job for them...

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    I'm marking this as the answer because it is such a solid counterpoint that I think it effectively ends the discussion. I especially appreciate your first example with the "civil engineer", which is precisely what does bother me about those types of questions (e.g. "If you're an Android developer, no wonder my phone always crashes"). My point was to ask others to resist outwardly acting on that thought with a rude remark. Truthfully it's not even so much about not hurting somebody's feelings as much as it's about contributing to a negative view of SO from outside. But, I agree with you here. – Jason C Feb 26 '14 at 21:18

I'd like not to generalize, but maybe this happens when people come panicking asking for their code to get fixed.

Theoretically, StackOverflow is a place where you can share knowledge with the community, not a pastebin for outsourcing your problems.

More often than not, you can definitely see the difference between a question asked so it that can be useful to others in the future and one that just wants professional help for free.

Then, certainly it's not fun to come here and find somebody telling you to start from scratch because you are doing it wrong, but sometimes even those comments can be useful, right?

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