I recently saw a question about a problem (or possible bug) with some product on Stack Overflow. At first, I wanted to suggest that the asker post his question to that product's support forum.

When searching for the URL of that forum, I noticed that the product developer closed its support forums and now advises users to post all their questions on Stack Overflow instead.

Is this within the intended use cases of Stack Overflow, or is this abuse?


9 Answers 9


I think this idea of using Stack Overflow as an official support forum is inside-out : the community has to adopt the project, find it of interest, and talk about it on Stack Overflow.

Pushing to one particular destination from inside the project feels like forcing a fit for the community rather than letting one organically evolve.

One way is as you saw with Subsonic -- where they simply provide a single link to Stack Overflow among other links of places people can go to discuss Subsonic. I think that's an OK nudge and if you want to seed it with one or two questions yourself, that's fine too.

But outsourcing your forums or support to Stack Overflow alone is abusive and definitely frowned upon.

  • 37
    Should probably modify your last sentence for what was done with Facebook. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 17:01
  • 7
    "But outsourcing your forums or support to Stack Overflow alone is abusive and definitely frowned upon." Unless you have a lot of money like Facebook, right? Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 16:24
  • 8
    @nicol there's no money in the Facebook arrangement, and it is absolutely true that we would get a ton of Facebook API questions regardless because Facebook is, well, Facebook.. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 17:46
  • 4
    Despite it being "Frowned On" it is commonly done. I have seen several examples. But the one that jumps to mind is Microsoft's Pex and Moles (now Fakes). They closed (read-only) their MSDN forum and put a sticky question on it says: Pex forums shifting to stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/pex (social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/pex/thread/…)
    – Vaccano
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 14:30
  • Hi Jeff, I just wanted to know what are your thoughts re: my comment below: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3966/…
    – Ika
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 18:59
  • 1
    I posted that about Google using Stack as a Google API support group ("please don't post your question on this google group, post it instead on stack, even if your question will bother the users and be downvoted) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/291860/…
    – JinSnow
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 13:52

I've spoken with Kevin Bourrillion of the Google Java Collections and Guava projects. He's recently announced that Stack Overflow should be used as one of the support mechanisms. From his mailing list post:

Where-to-post summary:

  • How do I? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error, why? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error and I'm sure it's a bug -- file an issue!
  • I have an idea/request -- file an issue!
  • Why do you? -- the mailing list!
  • When will you? -- the mailing list!
  • You suck and I hate you -- contact us privately at [email protected]!
  • You're awesome -- aw shucks!

That sounds like exactly the right balance to me. Topics requiring "deep" knowledge and discussion are likely to be best on a specialist list - whereas questions which "dabblers" can answer easily would do well on SO.

It's one thing for SO to be a user-to-user forum so that fellow developers can help solve problems, but I don't think it's really appropriate for reporting bugs and making feature requests for technology vendors (whether open source contributors or companies) to reply to.

I think it's fine for SO to be one of the encouraged ways that users help to solve each other's problems, but I wouldn't want it to be the primary support forum for a technology (insofar as reporting bugs, defects, feature requests, etc.).

  • 4
    ok, the last two bullet points were only meant as a joke... the email address I gave was "[email protected]" :-) Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 21:59
  • @Kevin: Ah - when I read the post the full email address was anti-spammed. Not knowing who Glenn Beck was didn't help, either ;) I'm leaving them in anyway, as it's part of the character of the post...
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 22:08
  • 2
    @Jon, to get a feel for the Glenn Beck sentiment, watch "The Daily Show" (More4 8pm most days in the UK), they have a go at Beck almost every night. Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 22:35
  • More than a year later, I think this policy of the Guava project is in no small part responsible for there being a wealth of valuable Guava content on the site: stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/… Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:33
  • You can see the latest style of how we're pimping SO on our main project page under "How to communicate with us": guava-libraries.googlecode.com -- does anyone still want to try to convince me that this is abusive of SO? Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:35
  • 1
    @Kevin: Glad to hear it's working (although as per mailing list discussions recently, it's sometimes hard to get the word out). I still think the "discussions/feature requests on a mailing list, answerable questions on SO" is a great model.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented May 7, 2011 at 17:38
  • Can we add a new kind of flag to raise when someone files a bug report for some product on SO? Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 14:37

I think explicitly saying "SO is our support forums" is a bit weird, but saying "StackOverflow is a good place to asking programming questions, such as those involving SubSonic" (as they are doing) is perfectly valid.

Using it for bug-tracking, or general discussion of SubSonic wouldn't be appropriate - but mainly because such questions aren't appropriate for SO anyway!

Basically I think if it was a valid StackOverflow question, it's irrelevant how the user came to ask post it on the site

  • 1
    "SO is our technical support forums" seems to mean the same thing as "StackOverflow is a good place to asking programming questions, such as those involving SubSonic"...
    – Pacerier
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 22:30

I think directing users to SO is perfectly OK and is completely the intended use of SO. Didn't Google choose SO as its main Q&A platform for Android? How is that different other than the number of users?

  • exactly, and that's also why some google are complaining about. "Just ask them even if you bother stack users and if your questions are downvoted". That said, I agree that some people would not mind accepting paying a fees while being downvoted in the customer service / support system.
    – JinSnow
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 17:23

I run several popular open-source projects myself, with their current support forums ranging from none, github issues, and google groups. All of these are failing for one reason or the other, and the community at large is requesting moving to Stackoverflow for tag-based support to solve the issues we're facing.

Perhap's Jeff's distain could be phrased a bit better, as I'm unsure how the following is abusive:

  • questions and answers / support: stackoverflow
  • discussions: google group
  • dev tasks: github issues
  • chat: irc

As this is exactly how stackoverflow is used presently for anything that is open-source or provides a public API. I've got question and need an answer. The only difference, is that the project owners would then endorse such actions. Shopify has jumped onboard and done this and seen great results.

It seems the benefits are quite clear:

  • answers by a huge active community dedicated to helping each other


  • answers in a closed small community who may not even be around to check

So I really don't understand any destain for this, as it seems great on all fronts...

Update: Klement posted a comment on the question indicating that Joel Spolsky seems to agree with the use case of using stackoverflow as a support channel for projects.

Update 2: Seems Jeff has a more concise opinion about this here:

Provided that …

  • vendor has some tangible evidence to support the idea that this question gets asked by real users, and isn't just them imagineering "important" questions about their "important" product into the world

  • vendor is not using Stack Overflow as their primary method of support

Then it is OK.

and after reading all the trello meta complaints, it seems that as long as you make it clear that stackexchange is a community driven and generic, it is okay. If you imply that stackexchange is our dedicated support forum for any type of question, that is bad.


I just want to point out that there is an official answer on Stack Overflow


  • How do I? -- Stack Overflow (tell them what tags to use -- your product and language at minimum)
  • I got this error, why? -- Stack Overflow
  • I got this error and I'm sure it's a bug -- file an issue (on your own site)
  • I have an idea/request -- file an issue (on your own site)
  • Why do you? -- your own community (developer forum etc)
  • When will you? -- your own community

We will try this on the WordPress Stack Exchange, as it is also a great way to get experts (plugin writers) on our site. We hope that we can keep feature requests and bugs away since all plugins in the official WordPress repository use one shared Trac.


I would like to add some observations and suggestions on the topic.

SO has a very specific & strong stance regarding astroturfing and self-promotion on SO. For example, posts form specific users that revolve around a specific product/company are ruthlessly deleted by moderators (even when they bring valuable information and where full disclosure is provided).

I am subscribed to several SO Tags and over last year or so I noticed a trend where I am literally spammed by posts related to a specific product/service.

Case in point, iText Software BVBA Corp moved their user community to SO. The company lead (B.L.) is fairly active on SO, but the posts bypass current controls for spam detection. Further iText users are tagging their posts under generic tags such as , , , etc, are providing recommendations that evade all spam filters that SO set-up around astroturfing and self-promotion. It seems to me that SO moderators are spending lots of their time going after little fish while astroturfing & self-promotion on a bigger scale is happening right in front of their eyes.

If some specific actions/measures are not implemented I see a trend where more and more companies\orgs would follow the same pattern resulting in progressively higher-levels of bias & noise on SO.

I don’t have a bullet-proof solution, but I could offer some suggestions. Perhaps all posts that are related to a specific company product/service can’t be tagged with a generic flag. So if something is tagged as can’t be tagged as generic – automatically by SO. Posts that go to generic feed/tag can’t talk about a specific product/service (otherwise they are flagged for deletion) etc. These considerations would also apply to search terms (‘Related’ & ‘Linked’ sections).

What do you think?

  • 5
    If you feel that a particular user or users are violating the spam policy then flag their posts. If the flags are denied and you feel they shouldn't be then this belongs in its own meta question, not as an answer here, so that it can be discussed. You want to discuss the application of the policy to one or two cases, not what the policy is.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 18:48
  • 2
    I do this regularly, however if you read my post you would realize that this is essentially not possible. We are dealing here with swarms of users / communities. Also I am talking about general trends and am using an example from my domain. You can probably come up with many other examples.
    – Ika
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 18:56
  • 3
    So you're asserting that every single site that uses SO for support (when it's on topic) is engaging in spam, and that it's not actually possible for sites to use SO for support without it being spam? If so, then yes, it belongs here. If not, and you're simply saying that some specific set of support communities are engaging in improper behavior then that should be its own question in which the appropriateness of that communities responses can be discussed.
    – Servy
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 19:24
  • 2
    Getting closer :). I certainly can’t assert that that every single product on SO is spam… this would probably take a long time to enumerate and prove …. I am just reporting a general trend that I observed. This is not connected with any specific company or product. So if your assumption that everyone on SO posting in reference to a specific product/service is tagging the post with general tags instead of the product specific tag, then I would agree with you that most of it is spam (i.e. I am being fed information that I am not after).
    – Ika
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 21:25
  • Hmm, can anyone in Stackoverflow please provide the official stance and if there is anything planned to resolve the issue?
    – Ika
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 21:43
  • 4
    The official stance is summed up in the "self promotion" section of the help center, Ika. If you want something more detailed / specific, I can provide numerous links to discussions here on meta, but in brief: answering questions about a product you're affiliated with is awesome - recommending your product in answers to questions where they're at best tangentially related starts to get sketchy. BL's participation (from what I've seen) is exemplary - he answers questions asked about iText written by folks using it, which is exactly the point.
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 17:48
  • Please let me explain how we work at iText Software (I am QA Engineer there). We have customers who paid for a support contract. They can ask questions in our JIRA and are guaranteed to get an answer from one of our developers. But iText also comes as an AGPL variety. It started out on SourceForge, including a mailing list. But as we all know, SourceForge is essentially dead. Everyone jumped ship to GitHub for code hosting, and a couple of years ago the mailing list started drying up, around the time StackOverflow started. We at iText followed where are users were going. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:09
  • So how does support for "free" (AGPL) users work? Of course our developers give priority to paying customers in JIRA, but if there's time left, we take a look at SO. I have even set up an integration between SO and our Slack: every time someone tags a question with "itext", we get a notification. There are a handful of "power users", long time iText users, who also answer questions on SO. And then there's Bruno, who writes most of the documentation, often based on actual SO questions. You may or may not like his style, but at least he's passionate about his work. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:16
  • 1
    When I joined the company 2 years ago, I made it one of my personal projects to bring clarity in all those support channels, because honestly, it wasn't clear for us and it wasn't clear for "free" users. I based myself mostly on Jon Skeet's answer higher up on this page, because I fully agree with it. I've used SO much longer than my current tenure at iText. There were many occasions where I flagged to close a question when they are asking for a tool recommendation, where I might just as well have promoted iText. That would have helped the OP (maybe) but it would have been against the SO rules Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:25
  • HOWEVER. Recently we noticed a new trend. People who have a question about pdf technology, with products of a competitor, also tag it with "itext". Why this tag spam? Because people who answer questions about itext are also people who know about pdf technology in general, so maybe they also know the answer to a question about a competitor's product. That's not nice. At all. Here's an example: stackoverflow.com/questions/38147798/… Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:29
  • About the swarms of users / communities: we don't systematically upvote each other's answers. Sure, it happens occasionally, and we make fun of each other at work with our SO reps, but it's actually very rare. We do band together when some maintenance needs to be done, for example setting 'itextsharp' as a synonym of 'itext'. It's exactly the same product, just ported from Java to C#. Oh and by the way, here I am, commenting on meta after 8 PM on a Friday evening. I'm not getting paid to write this. In fact, I'm going to play Kerbal Space Program now. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:47

Stack Overflow is by far the best technical Q&A website for its content. But I DO NOT think it should be used as the support forum for a product and here is why. From user's perspective, I've seen these serious potential problems when posting questions:

  1. Newbies with new accounts may not have enough privileges to post questions yet. Should you have to build up some "reputation" here before asking something about another product you possibly paid for already?

  2. Stack Overflow may deny your right to post questions for a while if previous questions did not attract enough votes and interest. You get discouraged to ask niche questions about possibly obscure products, because you may get further penalized.

  3. If something happens with your Stack Overflow account here, your support will be denied to all products using these sites. Is this fair?

  • You don't need reputation to ask a question. You only need an account. So your first point is not correct.
    – rene
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 6:57
  • @rene - Rules changed over the years (I remember when years ago you didn't need an account). Now there are many limits in the number and frequency of posts. There are also many user restrictions you do not find in any support forum, this was my point. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .