Recently, I realized that most of my coding problems are solved either by digging through the Stack Overflow archive or by simply asking a new SO question.

Still, I spend lots of time fooling myself, thinking I will manage to find the solution without any help. It usually results in a really high frustration level and the whole thing ending at Stack Overflow anyway.

So here is my question: "How long does it usually take before you finally post your problem Stack Overflow, where it gets solved amazingly quickly (compared to the time lost on 'solving without help')?"

  • 1
    to the programmers!
    – nanda
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 13:10
  • 3
    I have solved many problems by typing a precise, correct, SO question.
    – SLaks
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 0:40

6 Answers 6


SO is my last ressort after I did some research on my problem (usually start with a simple google search), several tries on my own (different approaches in code), slept a night and reading the documentation.

You see. I like solving problems on my own and an answer on SO doesn't give me the same satisfaction.


As Ralph says, it depends on the type of problem: but for me it's whether I can formulate my problem as a question or not. I can't ask a question until I have a precise idea of what my problem is, and a terse way of expressing it.


The following sort of odd thing has happened to me several times.... I begin to type out a question for Stack Overflow. I first set up the question, and then I usually describe what I've already tried. As I'm writing this out, the answer has popped into my head several times. It'll be something like, "I've already tried blah; it doesn't work because..." and suddenly there's a Eureka moment.

It's like talking to a teddy bear.... I guess this is what Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike describe in The Practice of Programming.

Another effective technique is to explain your code to someone else. This will often cause you to explain the bug to yourself. Sometimes it takes no more than a few sentences, followed by an embarrassed “Never mind, I see what’s wrong. Sorry to bother you.” This works remarkably well; you can even use non-programmers as listeners. One university computer center kept a teddy bear near the help desk. Students with mysterious bugs were required to explain them to the bear before they could speak to a human counselor.


This highly depends on the type of problem. Many problems are tedious or just plain knowledge or know-how. Instead of consulting a manual or searching the internet, I by now know that SO is a good place to go. And I do so within minutes.

Yet if a problem is interesting (at least to me), I hesitate to go there too early. I don't want to spoil the fun. I might try for quite a while myself.


As soon as I have done a quick Google, I try to write the title for a StackOverflow questions. If I can get a clear title that explains the problem in a way that a other user that know the answer can “spot”, I then post quickly.

If I can’t create a good title, it is unlikely I will get any good answers quickly, so I continue to investigate the problem myself.

Yes the body is important for explaining the problem, but the title is used by most people to decide if the will spent the time reading the body.


I treat my SO how I treat my CSS; If I can't solve it in 47 minutes I give up and use tables.

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