I saw a comment to a question about sending data from an iPhone to a PHP webservice that stated

Stack Overflow is a code-writing service...

At first I was taken aback. It was only a few hours earlier that I had told another user that the SO community is not in the habit of writing libraries of code for people.

But then I began to think, and came to the conclusion that SO does provide a code writing service; it's just never called such.

I guess this is because we don't like to think of ourselves as beholden to the coding needs of all the questioners, and saying SO is a service makes it sound like we serve people, and no one wants to be thought of as a servant.

Are you a servant of the SO questions?

  • 11
    Based on the context, I think that's a just a typo.
    – MPelletier
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 14:16
  • 1
    We are not servants of SO nor are we addicted to it...most of the time. Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 14:29
  • @MPelletier: Good point. Although Martin says "but more so..." which implied to me it was more than a service, but still a service.
    – Meta Ellen
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 14:39
  • @Popular Demand: I feel no need to roll back, but for the record, previous is a synonym for earlier. I new wot i wos doin wen i rote it
    – Meta Ellen
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 23:13
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    Just as a remark, it was a typo as Martin stated later in the comments. Commented Nov 10, 2010 at 12:53
  • I think there are several different use cases. The question you cited is a good example of folks trying to use Stack Overflow as a code writing service by making no effort and dumping requirements. Stack Overflow gets its share of that garbage. But there's also the other type of question... Many folks post questions, attempt to solve the problem, and get help by way of answers.
    – user173448
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 5:37
  • I never noticed this was migrated here, way back when. It clearly shouldn't have been.
    – Meta Ellen
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 10:43

4 Answers 4


I dislike the term service, because in my mind service equals expectation, and that can lead to a feeling of entitlement (where answers are due, and not offered). SO is an open community, and most answerers are askers too (and wish for the reverse to be true).


Stack Overflow is a question-answering service, and much of the time those answers involve writing code. It's no more complicated than that.

No, it's not specifically a code-writing service because you can't ask for any arbitrary code and expect to get an answer. 99 times out of 100, if somebody feels that there isn't really a legitimate question and that somebody is just asking other people to do their [job|homework|exam] for them, they'll refuse to answer and probably downvote or vote to close.

The important point is that contributors don't blindly follow orders; rather, they expect and insist that the inquirers do most of the work themselves by organizing their thoughts into a single coherent question that's relatively easy/straightforward to answer by someone who possesses the right knowledge.


I wouldn't recommend it, but you could choose to think of it that way if you wanted. It's just that you're gonna be be disappointed if you do.

As a code writing service, StackOverflow would perform poorly. Questions that ask you to provide more than about 1/2 page worth of code generally get ignored or closed, and even if not we usually expect you to provide a skeleton. Of course, you could use Stack Overflow to generate the skeleton and other pieces ad nauseum, but then you're talking about composing rather a large number of questions. By the time you do this you could have written most of the code yourself.

  • Especially considering that if all of those questions are good enough to get useful answers, you've just written yourself a functional spec.
    – mmyers
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 16:31

We may be, among other things, a snippet-writing service. I don't see much in the way of larger code fragments being written.

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