Quite often I will find a few core users post the same type of comment like Mitch's against this question SO: SQL to return missing rows. I have read the reread the FAQ but can not find any reference to such a requirement.

In case the comment is deleted, for the sake of discussion, it is reproduced here:

Please post the code you have written so far. People generally do not like to just write your code for you. As it is, this is a work description, not a question.

Right at the top of https://stackoverflow.com/faq is the section

What kind of questions can I ask here?

… if your question generally covers …

        * a specific programming problem
        * a software algorithm
        * software tools commonly used by programmers
        * matters that are unique to the programming profession

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

I have flagged the comment as noise, but I am guessing that will be a bad move for my flag weight. You can't win every time.

I am trying to get some discussion going as to whether this type of comment really helps the question at all or is it just incendiary, condescending, offensive (to the asker) or just noise?

This is a public site and everyone can feel free to just move along past a question they don't like, right?

Note: IMHO, the question was concise and very clear, so there was no issue on that front.

  • 2
    I'm all for being snarky to lazy bums (and willing to put up a fight for that policy any day), but this case looks different: It's a well asked question with a lot of effort put into clean presentation. I'd say if the question wasn't altered within the 5-minute window, the comment is indeed a bit out of line. (My impulse would have been to comment "What is your question?")
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 0:52
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    @Pekka It's not a one-off, it's easy to check user activity. But let's not get sidetracked, this question is not about Mitch but the general comment "type". The particular question just happens to the be prompt for this Meta question. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


Comments like the one left prodding for more work on the side of the asker is a sign of the oncoming burnout that will envelop and maul those answering.

They who see too often plenty of creative ways to ask what appears to be either a homework question, one from a bidding board or just trying to get a client off their back, but where the question itself is void of even a first go attempt at tackling the problem.

Staring down the gullet of a question that presents the outline of a problem and wants for a plate back and covered in code all done, tested and commented pushes some to the wall. Especially when you sense a hint of lazy from not even writing code that doesn't work.

Writing code that fails to compile is way more effort than just saying you have a problem and "needz teh codez pls urgento".

Others, unfazed by the gall of it all, will just answer regardless.

There are limits to the pains digital sharecroppers will face.

  • +1 sharecropper, although if you meant to reference gold farming, the gamer in question was really a gamer not on job (I think) Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:54
  • I meant to comment on the answer too.. so is your vote that these questions should exit S-O? Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:55
  • Well all know too well the addictive nature of SO and that's the game we play. But, would vote "try harder" on the question type. Yes, they write up a nice job detail, but where's the effort to code something in the first instance? @cyb
    – random
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:56

Welcome is a bit of a loaded word. These questions tend to be tolerated but I'd say they are far from being welcome.

There's a bit of policy on the How To Ask page:

Do your homework

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and most of all it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

I tend to agree with this recommendation, and although I'd probably personally be more tactful in the comments for a reasonably well-written question, I don't think that such comments are out of line.

The discussion reminds me of the dreaded "computer question" I get on the phone from family members every few weeks. Is it a specific question that I can answer in 2 minutes or less? OK, fine. Does it involve me spending 7 hours trying to clean out a bunch of malware? Go pay someone who specializes in that sort of thing.

Same with Stack Overflow. We aren't the free version of Rent-A-Coder. I'm not suggesting that every question should be answerable in 2 minutes or less - I myself have contributed several answers that actually took upwards of an hour or two to put together - but the fact remains that we will automatically view suspiciously anyone who appears to be asking us to do their jobs for them.

We like to be treated like people, not helpdesks. This shouldn't need to be in a FAQ, it's common decency.

  • @Aarobot - while I appreciate your answer, it seems to fly at a tangent from the question [1] it is not homework (or at least not identifiable as) [2] this particular question is a 1.9 minute answer for me, so how does that fit view suspiciously anyone who appears to be asking us to do their jobs? Are there jobs that take only 2 minutes? [3] the questions I am asking about are those that are a specific programming problem. It is a problem to the person. You don't have to know if they attempted it. So, do any of those points alter your answer? Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:29
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    Must the questions end with - I have tried code block but it doesn't seem to work (the code from noobs could be junk and doesn't help any). Or I don't even know where to start - does that make the question more palatable for you? Looking at the question, there are obviously no end to people willing to answer it and still feel respected as people - maybe the issue lies elsewhere? Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:32
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    @cyberkiwi: I think it's pretty obvious that nobody is referring to that kind of homework. "Do your homework" means "try to solve the problem yourself first". And Pekka, above, already pointed out that your specific question may not have warranted that response, but you replied that you care more about the general issue, and so that is what this answer relates to.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:34
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    And, @cyberkiwi, it is never helpful to say "doesn't [seem to] work". It's best if answers show some code and say, here's how it didn't work (expected vs. actual result). It's true that not every answer requires that, however, you have to try to gauge how complex your problem is; if it's going to require a mountain of code to solve as opposed to a few lines, then it's not appropriate to ask for a code solution; instead, ask for a general approach.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:37
  • Touche. It would have been more palatable to link to [how-to-ask], but the user has read it once and ticked on [thanks, I will keep these tips in mind when asking]. The page clearly puts it as a tip, prefaced with To improve your chances, so it is hardly a policy -IMHO. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:40
  • @cyberkiwi - bottom line is you don't want to be that person saying plz send me the code. There's a whole lot of gray area between that and an intelligent question, I grant that; nevertheless, if people feel that you're a bit too far on the wrong side of that blurry line, they'll probably call you out on it. Sometimes they're wrong, or in a bad mood; maybe that's what happened in your case. Other times, they may be justified.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:41
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    @cyberkiwi right, it's not a policy, because people can break it and still sometimes (often) get away with it. It is, however, a community standard. There's no policy against farting in an elevator but I shouldn't have to explain why most people don't do it.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:42
  • The problem could be a work description to some - like a Sudoku QA having to test a puzzle - but to others, it's fair game and an easy challenge for 2 minutes. If it's a work description to one, one is free to move on. One is not compelled to answer them all. It could also be that the question is out of one's depth to quickly comprehend. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:44
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    @cyberkiwi: Or it could be that the question is very well within one's depth, and they are trying to explain to the questioner that he's drastically underestimated the complexity. This is all very speculative and really can only be managed on a case-by-case basis. If you're sure that the comment was unwarranted, reply to it or flag it. I'd say 9 out of 10 times comments like that get posted, the question really is showing genuine laziness. But people make mistakes, and comments can be ignored just as questions can.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:50
  • So would you personally condone attacking every asker that attempts to put up a question without a code block? Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:52
  • @cyberkiwi: I object to calling that comment an "attack", and what I personally condone as far as comments are concerned is of little consequence to the question you actually asked (which was, in a nutshell, what is the threshold for questions being accepted?). I also already addressed the issue of questions without code; whether or not a request/demand for more information is warranted really depends on the complexity of what's being asked for vs. the amount of information that's already in the question. There is no one-size-fits-all formula.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:56
  • @Aarobot - it's a matter of degree, but I can't imagine the receiving end being too pleased with being called out as lazy or inept (to even attempt something) Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 1:58
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    @cyberkiwi: Very few people respond well to criticism. Sometimes it's necessary regardless, and although I tend to agree with Pekka that it was probably unwarranted in your case, I also don't think that the comment was particularly insulting or inflammatory, it was just very matter-of-fact.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 2:10
  • @Aarobot - I think you got the wrong facts - I personally was not involved in that question. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 2:16
  • Sorry @cyberkiwi, I didn't look too carefully at the author. Doesn't really change anything else I've said, though.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 2:34

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