The quality of questions on Stack Overflow seem to have gone down hill dramatically in the last six months. There seem to be far more general questions along the lines of why doesn't my code work.

A large number of questions seem to be asked by people who have very little general knowledge or basic skills in programming. Most of them would be served by reading a general introduction to XYZ programming language.

I fear that many questions on here are being asked by people that are working as cheap outsourcers. By answering the question, are you indirectly doing yourself out of an in-sourced job?

  • 3
    What scares me is that I work as a Release Specialist in an environment where I know more about programming best practices than 90% of our developers, and many of them I wonder how they made it as far as they did... With that being said, I don't think we have to worry about losing our jobs to out-sourced "talent", but more to the Peter Principle
    – Taegost
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:05
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    On the plus side, I've had a few questions that I've asked before that really embarrassed me because I thought they were really basic... But after scraping the bottom of the barrel here, I learned to not feel so bad :)
    – Taegost
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:06
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    I'd argue that, if you can be out-sourced so easily, especially to coders of such questionable quality, you either are 1) working for a company that would have outsourced regardless of skill/talent and therefore are only boosting your resume by showing how well you can coach and mentor the less-experienced, here, or 2) not making your own value clear enough to your client, so that they understand the difference in quality between your work and that of an outsourced developer.
    – mori57
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:06
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    "[...] quality [...] gone down hill [...]" - That's definitely a topic for Meta, and constructive suggestions to improve the community are always welcome. I'll admit this system isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn good. Perhaps the noise to signal ratio has increased over time, but that's to be expected isn't it? We're seeing a lot of bad questions, but we're also seeing a faster rate of questions, so do the numbers support the observation? As for the overall question, I don't think quality developers are at risk because of this site.
    – David
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:07
  • Whilst I agree with @David, the amount of 'noise' seems to outweigh the 'signal' at times. The amount of time mods and other committed users must spend sorting the 'wheat from the chaff' must be extensive. Surely we could implement an auto-quality/auto-duplicate checker (an interesting coding project!) and if a question (or indeed an answer) does not meet the initial quality checks it won't get through. Hard problem.
    – MoonKnight
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:13
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    Nothing about this is new. The site has been dealing with lots of bad questions essentially since inception. And of course it was only ever created in the first place because of all of the other programming q/a sites out there that were flooded with crap. Clearly there have been people asking lots and lots of crap questions for a very long time.
    – Servy
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:23
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    You are suffering from the recency illusion; this is far from a recent phenomenon. I still find plenty of good, interesting questions to answer. The dross gets cleaned out eventually, come help out! Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


I wonder by answering some of the questions on here are you doing yourself out of a job?

On the contrary. You're demonstrating knowledge and gaining internet visibility that can help you land a job, promote your book, push technologies you like etc.

That said, you really shouldn't answer debugging questions.

Questions in the format:

Hi, I have this problem with code, plz fix:

10000 LoC code dump

Should not be answered, they should be closed, and downvoted. Questions involving code (most) should contain a self contained minimal code example.

If the question is general and on topic , then it's good and should be answered.

People here, at least me, participate because we believe in the ideal that programming should be accessible and free to learn. Obviously if you do not believe in promoting free knowledge that's an ideological difference we have.

I've learned here quite a bit too :)

  • One of the problems is that there is no closing reason for such questions (any more), and apparently mods think that they are OK to be left open. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/207950/… meta.stackexchange.com/questions/216491/…
    – sashkello
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 3:35
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    @sashkello I agree, but then again, the fact you can't really close them doesn't mean you should answer them. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 9:55
  • Well, but someone is always there to answer => easy rep => people with high rep with lots of privileges who are no real experts.
    – sashkello
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 10:07
  • @sashkello welcome to Stack Overflow :( Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 10:07

Even Jon Skeet!??! He's guaranteed a job ;-)

But you're disregarding the fact that most of us do this for fun , yep we enjoy answering the questions. Sometimes I learn the material better by answering the question, even if it's an easy question. I might even retain it better than the person I was helping.

But yes, I generally empathize. Is it sad that some lazy kid can sometimes post a two-liner and have an expert deliver $200.00 of value? In a way, yeah .. it is.

We have had dozens of posts that either directly or indirectly try to chip away at this issue. Invariably, the consensus is that things work fine. And I think I agree. We have to sacrifice some quality, but things are working superbly. c'est la vie!

A long time ago when I was a dew-eyed youngster, I tried something tangentially related - Proposal: after 4 downvotes within first minute, prevent anyone from answering ; admittedly it's way too crazy of an idea

Also see: Can we prevent some of the low-quality questions from entering our system?


What drives me away from here

I think that gradually we'll get better at this issue. There will be some AI used eventually. Moderation is pretty good overall. A lot of times, when someone comments quickly with "where's your effort?" then others also follow suit, and nobody answers it. But sometimes people compete to answer it. It all depends, and sometimes a user gets lucky I guess.

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    “I might even retain it better than the person I was helping.” – I’d say that is true most of the times simply because you learn stuff a lot better when you explain it to others. That’s why trying to explain your own code to others will help you find mistakes etc.
    – poke
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 19:37

I think the concept of Stack Overflow is lost on some people. They try to treat Stack Overflow as a regular forum. Even if other users take the time to provide a decent answer chances are they won't bother to accept one.

Also many users are providing short answers in the comments section directly below the question rather than providing a proper answer. As a result many 'answered' questions show up as unanswered.

The moderators need to delete these questions if the original poster hasn't touched the question in some way for a week or more. By touched I mean:

  • Edited their question for clarity
  • Commented on a provided answer
  • Upvoted/Downvoted an answer
  • Accepted an answer

We all had to start somewhere when programming so I wouldn't want to put new users off from asking questions. We just need to ensure those who don't fully engage with the platform have their questions removed.

To answer the original question:

I don't think I'm doing myself out of a job by answering questions. If you have a stack overflow careers account you can use your SO contributions to your advantage when looking for work. From experience more employers are seeing the benefits in this.

A lot of questions may be asked by users in outsourced roles. If they are struggling with matters of syntax then they won't be employed for long. Staff turnover in outsourced roles is often very high.

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    There is no reason whatsoever to remove a question for no reason other than that they haven't performed the actions you have described. A question should only be removed if it adds no value as it stands, and if it cannot, or is very unlikely to, result in quality answers provided in the future. Having the question author upvote answers is not required in any way, nor is them accepting answers. Neither of those actions are event particularly important.
    – Servy
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:40
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    I'm not sure what this has to do with the question Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:41
  • @Servy 'A question should only be removed if it adds no value as it stands, and if it cannot, or is very unlikely to, result in quality answers provided in the future.' ...and that is the standard of questions that I and the OP are talking about. If a user posts a 'why doesn't my code work?' question and answers are provided and they never respond what use is it? Chances are they've answered their own question, will never respond and now we have more unanswered questions to sift through.
    – MrP
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:53
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    @MrP Why does the OP need to respond to those answers for them to be useful? Their usefulness is unaffected by whether or not the OP responds. If the answers are useful in their own right, there's no need to delete the question. If the answers aren't useful, it doesn't matter whether the OP responds at all, the OP responding doesn't make an answer useful if it wouldn't otherwise have been useful.
    – Servy
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 15:56
  • @Servy 'the OP responding doesn't make an answer useful'. I'm talking Stack Overflow where precise answers acknowledged by the OP are very useful. Other Stack platforms it doesn't matter as much.
    – MrP
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:07
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    @MrP And I'm saying that there is no need for the OP to respond at all. If someone posts a great answer with a lot of useful information then it's a useful answer. I don't care whether the OP accepts it, or upvotes it or not. I will upvote it. I, and others, can find it useful. There is no need for the OP to even read it for that value to be provided to others. You seem to think that the point of the site is to provide answers to people asking questions. It is not. The point is to create a useful repository of knowledge for the internet at large.
    – Servy
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:11
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    "Edited their question for clarity" What if the question is fine as is and needs absolutely no editing? "Commented on a provided answer" What if the asker has absolutely nothing to discuss about the answer? "Upvoted/Downvoted an answer" Brand new users can neither upvote or downvote. "Accepted an answer" Accepting an answer is strictly voluntary. We can't tie anything - especially deletions - to something that might never happen.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:14

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