I am trying to answer questions in Stack Overflow, but I did answer wrong for the most.

I currently have one year of experience in programming, still, how many years of experience are needed to answer these questions that arise on Stack Overflow?

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    I'm 34, I learned BASIC at age 10, I've been programming for more than 20 years. And I still don't know all the answers and never will...
    – Xint0
    Nov 26, 2010 at 19:19
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    Ask in programmers ...programmers.stackexchange.com and also remember that may mislead someone with a wrong answer. Be humble and start "Although I've little experience ... I believe ... Please correct me ... etc" and people will be nicer with you Nov 26, 2010 at 19:20
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    This is one of the reasons I tend to specialise in html, css, jQuery questions; because while I don't always know the answer, I can go to JS Fiddle and test my thoughts and/or refine it if necessary. Doing the same in C, PHP or Perl strikes me as being far more difficult. Nov 27, 2010 at 0:50

4 Answers 4


If you don't know the answer, don't guess.

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    Sometimes a guess is better than no answer Nov 26, 2010 at 23:09
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    An educated guess is okay if no one else seems to have a good solution. I think anything that could potentially help the question-asker is fair game to be in an answer.
    – Jon Seigel
    Nov 26, 2010 at 23:19
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    I made an educated guess at Super User, and kept it an "iffy answer" so that it was clear that I was guessing...I got the accepted answer and a bunch of rep...it works...
    – studiohack
    Nov 27, 2010 at 1:43
  • a guess is fine if you say it's a guess. "Just a guess, but X" is different from "X". Nov 27, 2010 at 4:11

What matters is that you have an answer to the question at hand, not that you know all the answers.

You will never know all the answers, but you know some.


10 years or so - details at http://norvig.com/21-days.html . Good read.


There are going to be some questions for which you know the answer based on your current experience - the question is about a programming language you know, maybe on a system you know, and perhaps it is a problem you yourself have encountered and resolved. Even a 1 month newbie to programming might be able to answer the question with good insight into a problem that someone else (perhaps another newbie) ran into - and people with more experience may never have even thought about running into problems that way.

There are going to be other questions for which your experience is a less perfect fit, but for which you may well be able to give helpful pointers. Sometimes, researching an answer will give you valuable experience and knowledge - plus you can read the contributions of other people who know the answer. Again, you don't need a specific amount of experience to be able to answer such questions - you need an 'can do' attitude and willingness to do the research necessary to come up with the answer.

As the topics drift further from your current areas of experience, they get harder to answer based on your current experience. If you know Java but don't know C, it will be hard for you to answer questions on C. This is reasonable; don't try to answer such questions.

Use the tagging system - interesting tags in particular - to ensure you see the questions in the areas you know about, but also to see questions in areas you don't yet know about.

You will be in the 'learning phase' of your programming career for the next 25 years at least (I've been doing programming professionally for over 25 years - and I'm still learning most days; it is arguably a day wasted when I don't learn something new).

So, the direct answer to your question is:

  • 1 year's experience is enough to answer some questions


  • Lots of other people will also be able to answer the questions you can answer
  • You will need to learn more - by looking at questions and answers here, but even more by DOING - to be able to answer more questions.

There is no substitute for experience. But you don't have to have much experience in the general world of programming to be able to answer specific questions in the areas where you do have experience.

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