Fact: Stack Overflow shows up in Google searches. If you don't like answering questions, then please leave Stack Overflow.

Fact: The more basic the question, the more useful it is.

Fact: We don't have time to look up how things work in a Python text for two reasons:

  1. We're busy earning a living and have to do it quickly.
  2. There are no good Python reference manuals.

If there is a good tutorial or reference manual on Python, please tell us what it is. We'll leave Stack Overflow to those people who are so smart, they don't need to ask questions.

Why does the Stack Overflow community spend so much time and energy specifying that questions should show painstaking research? If we do painstaking research, then we don't need Stack Overflow!

  • 8
    Without examples, your question is meaningless.
    – user102937
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:10
  • 8
    Painstaking research !== a quick Google search Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:10
  • 10
    Stack Overflow isn't here to make you dependent on Stack Overflow. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:11
  • There is more than one page to Google Search results... Some things are buried deep within other forums
    – DeadChex
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:13
  • 14
    docs.python.org perhaps? I've answered various Stack Overflow questions based on that despite not knowing Python so it can't be that bad. (The questions haven't always been basic ones - there have been plenty that required reading a few different bits of documentation...)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:14
  • I downvote a terribly asked lazy question - "buut it could be useful". I downvote a typo question noone is going to find - "buut I researched and even asked clearly" Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:15
  • 4
    I've also answered a fair number of questions about topics I know nothing about, simply by acting as a Google relay server. If I can do it in 60 seconds, you should be able to do it in less. See also "python reference manuals". Tweak search terms to taste.
    – Jason C
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:25
  • 7
    What makes you think your time is more valuable than ours? Especially if you can't even find the python documentation?
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:37
  • @Kevin Well our time is less valuable to him that his time is. That's obvious. Most people are going to value their own time over another person's time.
    – Servy
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:38
  • 3
    Fact: I downvoted after your first "fact". SE isn't for, "Answer questions or leave". Never has been.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 0:05
  • They say "search like mad" "take all your time" ... "get mad in search" - but in this you will always work on THIS system. One could search like mad without need of any SO/SE system. One could even ask somewhere (a question must be already consisting knowledge here). And fighting through all the rules and all the slow graphical GUI and the Internet connections - ppl know the best how to be the best here ... after many years. But it's the higher percentage of efficiency. For professional it's much better to have his blog where he is respective owner and knowledge-form maker (providing proficien
    – Xsi
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 18:47

4 Answers 4


The fact is, SO is designed to be a place to which experts will want to come to answer high quality questions. The goal is to create reference material, not to do one person's work for them and then leave around a useless question with no reference value.

Most "basic" questions already have easily accessible reference material addressing those problems. Adding another question is not useful to the programming community. If you manage to ask a "simple" or "basic" question to which there is no easily discoverable solution (as well has ensuring that it's clear, complete, etc.), then it may well be an appropriate SO question, and you should see the community respond accordingly. If your problem would be solved with a very small amount of research/effort on your part, then it is not adding value as a reference.

The fact is, people answering questions don't have time to go around doing your work for you for two reasons.

  1. We're busy earning a living
  2. There are plenty of quality reference materials for most basic topics.

You should be spending at least some minimal effort searching for them before asking others to spend time doing your work for you.

  • "We're busy earning a living" - well, some of us don't have jobs, for different reasons ;)
    – Blue Ice
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 21:23
  • @BlueIce I was paralleling the question. Many people asking questions don't have jobs either.
    – Servy
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 13:44

Let's face it: "Look up this thing for me" questions are just not interesting at all to anyone except the person asking them.

When I hear people say that they don't have enough time to perform the most basic functions of their craft, I am reminded of a maxim that I used to see posted on people's office doors:

Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

  • Basically you guys are telling all of us FU, you're not smart enough for us. I will henceforth make EVERY effort to avoid SO altogether. All you Sheldon Coopers can then just smart each other off. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:19
  • 20
    Mission accomplished.
    – user102937
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:20
  • 1
    @user3023464 You're making it hard to have a reasonable discussion now.
    – Stijn
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:20
  • 8
    @user3023464 Why do you think we want you coming here just to ask questions that would be solved by sticking the question into Google. What makes you think that we'll miss those questions, given that you've seen we've been trying to actively discourage/eliminate such questions. You not being here means that many fewer bad questions to deal with.
    – Servy
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 20:21

All we ask is a minimal level of effort in your Stack Overflow question, to keep it open.

For it to be upvoted, we ask you to go one step further:

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That's what you need to do if you want your questions upvoted. They need to:

  • Be useful questions ("How do I concatenate a string in Python?")
  • be clear (no l33t speak, well formatted, good grammar, run through a spell checker)
  • Show research Effort:

    I'm trying to concatenate a string in Python. I have the following two strings: s = "my first string" t = "my second string" However, when I try to concatenate them using this syntax, "g = s + ',' + t" the code doesn't work the way I'd expect it to. Here's what the docs say on concatenating a string, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm missing.
    I'm expecting the output to be "my first string, my second string"

    How do I do this in Python?

If your question has all three of those things, it will be upvoted. If it lacks clarity, usefulness, or research effort, it will probably be downvoted.

That may or may not be 'painstaking', but it seems pretty basic to me.


I typically try to discern a users' experience level when evaluating if they've done research. The research I'd do is much different than what someone going through Codecadamy would. For most beginners, the key is doing something other than asking others, even if it's completely up the wrong tree. If your question can be answered through a quick Google search, you haven't done enough research, no matter your level.

Why do we require this?

StackOverflow isn't here to fix all of your programming problems. We're here to expand the total programming knowledge available in the world. If you don't do research before asking, your question only helps you (as it's already answered elsewhere) and therefore does not help the general programming sphere. Thus, it's a bad question.

A quick Google search is not hard. More than likely, you'll find a StackOverflow question with exactly what you need (don't forget to upvote if you do!).

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