Kyle Brandt just posted an excellent article on the ServerFault blog, on the LMGTFY syndrome, and related crabbyness.

There is one thought in there which I feel ought to be posted somewhere prominent, though I'm not sure where:

Don’t think of answering the person who asked, think of answering the question for everyone

You're answering the question, not the asker.


2 Answers 2


I found this post, because I had the same question. I think this is a good idea. Every community develops written and unwritten rules. Most rules are covered in the faq, some can be found here at meta, but some are only found by getting it as you go, or worse, by getting slapped. Some are buried even deeper. A faq entry on answering would really help.

For instance: I only just found out that with the [homework] tag one is supposed to "guide the student in solving the problem, rather than simply showing the complete answer". It's very easy to miss the popup description of the tag and offer a full fletched solution.

Other examples where rules may apply:

  • Answering your own question, when, why.
  • Giving credit to sources from which you 'derive' an answer (to put it friendly).
  • How to show that you edited an answer. Some explicitly start a paragraph with 'Edit:' or use strikeout, but often you only see that the answer was edited and some comments clearly apply to a previous version.
  • When to answer in a comment (and potentially leave a question 'unanswered')

On the other hand, there is no obligation to read the faq, so would it have any effect?


While I agree with you on the general idea of answering the question, there are lots of questions on SO with solutions obvious to most readers, but apparently not to the original poster (OP).

Not taking into account duplicates and off-topic questions, there still are many questions asking the same thing from a slightly different perspective - similar enough to be seen as the same topic to most readers, but apparently not to the OP, or else he would have found a question in the suggestions.

These questions need to be answered in respect to the asker.

  • Yeahhhh, well, you're presupposing that the OP actually read the suggestions :)
    – Benjol
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 20:06
  • @Benjol In dubio pro reo (benefit of the doubt) - I'm just focussing on those OPs that try to fit in with the SO crowd... Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 7:08

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