I have noticed (and a lot of other people have too) a large number of questions that exhibit a fundamental lack of knowledge of the concepts either of programming in general or the specific language / IDE which if answered will simply illicit another question from the OP with the next little piece of the puzzle.

These questions can be answered on SO but are not helpful to be answered on SO since its a very slow and labourious way to learn the basics of either programming or an IDE. In my opinion the correct answer for these kind of questions is that a good book (or I guess a good set of online tutorials) is the place to learn the basics then come along to SO to ask questions that come up once there is an understanding of the basics.

What do others feel?

  • +1 I agree. And you can tell who these users are by their question itself.
    – gideon
    Mar 19, 2011 at 7:52
  • 2
    A related problem might be: what to do when -the initial question answered- this next little piece pops up as a comment. "but now I get this and that error". Ignore? Add to your answer to make it some sort of multiple question-answer-tutorial-for-a-specific-case style session?
    – Nanne
    Mar 19, 2011 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


Buy a good book, or providing links to tutorials is a good answer to some of the questions that demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge, so long as it's done with respect.

Sometimes it does take someone pointing out how little you really know to make it clear to you that you need to dig into the subject more on your own. Others need a place to start. It's our job to gently help point people in the right direction.


I don't think it's a good answer in itself, unless the question was one of "How should I learn XYZ?" It's not actually an answer for the question.

If you don't want to actually answer the question, I think it's fine to add a comment of, "This sort of thing is best learned from a book."

Likewise if you're providing an actual answer to the question, I think it's reasonable to also recommend that the OP reads an appropriate book. If you can recommend a specific book at the same time, so much the better.

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