If a user asks a question that is rudimentary and shows that perhaps they are new to programming, is it better to give a complete, working solution or point them in the right direction so they can teach themselves?

More specifically, I mean in a situation where the user seems to want 'codehereplz' instead of at least giving something a try after being given 'hints' or a partial non-code solution.

I know that I learn best by doing something myself after being pointed in the right direction, but is that the best thing to do?


The goal of the Stack Exchange system is to provide the best possible answers to a corpus of questions. Given that, here are two possible ways to deal with what you're describing:

  1. If you think a question is asked in bad faith, it's better to either not bother or leave a comment.
  2. If a question is truly terrible and would not be useful to other site visitors, vote to close instead (if you have enough reputation) and/or leave a comment explaining why you think the question is bad.

In either case, responding with an answer that doesn't actually fully address the question is just as bad as a less-than-ideal question: it adds noise for others hoping to get answers who may have stumbled upon the question.

Basically, assume Google isn't working. If you want to answer, provide a full, useful answer rather than teach everyone how to search for the answer themselves.

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    Thanks for the clarification - will use this philosophy from now on. – Saladin Akara Nov 18 '10 at 3:15
  • +1 because you made me google the definition of "corpus" – zeroef Nov 18 '10 at 6:00
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    I'd like to reopen this issue. Let's have a look at this: [stackoverflow.com/questions/20141793/… question. In a matter of seconds several people answered it, me too. I tried to give the guy all tools he needs, and other people provided ready code. So - which way is more stack-overflow'y? Should I post working code or explain the answer so that anyone can learn WITHOUT googling? [1]: – Filip Malczak Nov 22 '13 at 10:22
  • @FilipMalczak I felt it was a legitimate question that you could have simply answered. He showed the code he tried out, reported an error he was getting and showed research regarding his problem. We really want to avoid helping people who put little to no effort and simply demand answers without actually learning. I can also see other people having the same problem and they would find the question useful. I want to say that we don't want to handle every question a new programmer has, but we can definitely cut them some slack sometimes. It just depends how they ask. – aug Nov 22 '13 at 10:38

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