Can I ask why a lot of the answers people give are quite aggressive on stack overflow. I do a lot of PHP development and I notice that people ask questions and the immediate answers are always critical of the original posters query.

I even see newbie questions which are knocked back with comments like "I suggest you read the PHP help files before asking such a simple question", where the answer could have been as simple as $a++ for example.

Please explain why a lot of people on here shoot down the OP before even attempting to answer the question in hand?

  • 15
    I do it because I hate laziness. If you can't spend 5 minutes doing a basic search, why should I spend time helping you? Try and help yourself first. If you're stuck, post what YOU tried and I'm more than happy to help
    – relentless
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:10
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    Giving someone code that they aren't going to understand is not being helpful. It's harming their ability to learn how to program, and often putting them in a situation where they won't be able to effectively utilize what they have been given to solve their larger problems, however helpful it may appear. Helping someone learn how to solve their own problems, or simply being told that a given problem is beyond their current capacity to solve, can very well be helpful, despite the fact that it can sometimes be hard to hear.
    – Servy
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:13
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    @LowerClassOverflowian They also get way more low quality contributions than most other tags.
    – Servy
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:14
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    Because failure to read the manual means the poster considers his or her time more valuable then the time of those trying to answer. They should be accompanied with a relevant link to that documentation though. It helps to accompany even beginner questions with what the OP tried, or at least how he/she searched for the answer. It may be a simple unfamiliarity with jargon that prevents them from finding the answer, but without them telling us that, it just seems lazy.
    – Wrikken
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:16
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    @LowerClassOverflowian mentioning error messages: Many OP don't even search for them. I can't count how many questions I closed where if I googled the error, there were plenty of SO posts already about that exact problem with a perfect solution
    – kero
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:19
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    @LowerClassOverflowian My impression is more that the problem lies from the fact that the language is designed to cater to people without a formal programming education, unlike many other languages. (Which is not to say that there aren't lots of professionals, just that there are proportionally more amateurs.) It ends up with a lot of amateurs that simply haven't learned how to figure things out on their own, and so need to ask way more questions than professional programmers.
    – Servy
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:20
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    To emphasize Servy's point: Many don't use the uttermost basic debugging methods, so when you need to comment "What does .. output", it gets frustrating after some time
    – kero
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:23
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    "I suggest you read the PHP help files" is not really that aggressive at all. There is no personal judgement here, just a valuable suggestion.
    – sashkello
    Feb 27, 2014 at 6:19
  • this is just silly. first of all, most people google the answer before asking questions. second, the idea that you just send people off to read PHP manual looking for the answer just so they "learn how to find it" is as dumb as saying we shouldnt have wikipedia so you learn how to find answers in a library. Jul 22, 2017 at 19:45
  • @Wrikken "Because failure to read the manual means the poster considers his or her time more valuable then the time of those trying to answer" uhh. no? it means the poster thinks getting a 2 minute answer from someone who knows the answer is more productive than spending 30 minutes in the manual finding the same answer. the whole point of stackoverflow is to increase productivity. i go on wikipedia instead of a library for that same reason. Jul 22, 2017 at 19:47
  • Your library comparison does not really apply, unless when you enter a library, you demand from the first patron that comes along to fetch you a certain book you don't know the author of, and only have a vague idea about the title. While they may be able to help you if they're very kind, helping you to help yourself is better for you in the long run. Also, you completely ignore the second part of my answer about actually linking where it can be found.
    – Wrikken
    Jul 25, 2017 at 13:09
  • But it's a different mindset about using SO I suppose: I want queries and answers that are useful to other people as a resource. You want your single use-case answer and move on.
    – Wrikken
    Jul 25, 2017 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


I think there's a big misunderstanding going on. A huge misunderstanding, actually.

What happens is that you have newbies and veterans clashing. The newbies are in a different mindset, the "hey this is a forum and I'll ask and they'll help" mindset. They think of it kind of like Yahoo Answers, you ask and quickly get something useful.

Well they know that some people can be mean. Everybody knows that. It's the internet.

But they didn't expect: not only do they get a few meanies, but there's no meat!!! Where are the goods!!?!

Stack is different. The reason Stack is different from others is the heavy moderation. And yes, it is heavy. In just a minute or two, your question can get closed. That won't happen elsewhere.

But learn the rules and play by them, and you can benefit from the really useful stuff here.

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    Sorry to be blunt, but did you even read the question? It's asking about getting "aggressive" answers, not about the lack of answers.
    – Doorknob
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:44
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    @Doorknob I think the OP actually means comments
    – scrowler
    Feb 27, 2014 at 1:53

Because it's more profitable to guide someone towards a good solution than it is to answer a specific question on how to do something ill-advised, and it's more profitable to guide someone towards a reliable reference than it is to copy-paste the reference into SO every time they have a question.

  • says who? are you the judge of that? i doubt it. i dont need you to guide me to a solution im not a sheep. i know what im asking and why im asking. if you dont want to answer move on. Jul 22, 2017 at 19:49
  • @user2914191 work on convincing people that you you're capable of spelling two-letter words properly before you try to convince them of your good judgment in other areas.
    – hobbs
    Jul 22, 2017 at 20:02
  • what are you talking about kid? Jul 22, 2017 at 20:07