Why do some people not ask questions on SO? If it is only for reputation (which basically boosts their CV), they could instead do some investigations in spheres that interest them. So what's the point in only answering questions? Training to become a consultant?

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    They're good with Google? Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:14
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    Jack of all trades, master of none? Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 17:33
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    I'll add that (paradoxically) I think it's more difficult to make a good question than to answer it. When you answer a question, the limits are already placed around you. When you ask a question, the sky is your limit.
    – xanatos
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 19:09
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    @xanatos, some people like being placed in boxes and figuring there way out of there (according to that statement, which is subjectively true) :D
    – Denys S.
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:41
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    I would find this question more useful if it were reversed - "why do some people only post questions and NO answers". interestingly I've found a number users who've posted Questions in the hundreds, which is not a bad thing, but then it gives them quite a rep. Which makes you think they should know stuff because you assume the rep is from answers they've given. I was a little surprised to see one or two 1K/2K rep users post slightly vague/silly questions.
    – gideon
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 9:14
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    Maybe because they know EVERYTHING?
    – Calmarius
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 16:03
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    @Calmarius, there's not a single person in the world that knows everything.
    – Denys S.
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 17:14
  • I think it's more difficult to make a good question than a good answer. Answer: Find a question (easy: they're on the home page), if you know the answer, post it. Question: You're stuck, you waste people's time on SO, you get downvoted and question-banned.
    – bjb568
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 3:39

14 Answers 14


I'm one of those people who primarily answer questions. The reason is simple: I don't have many good questions to ask.

Usually when I have a question, I find that it's already been asked and there's no need to duplicate it. Once in a while I do come up with something that hasn't yet been asked and answered, and then I post it as a new question.

I also enjoy the research I occasionally have to do in order to be able to answer a question well. Other people's questions are often a good way to expose myself to things I normally wouldn't come across on my own.

  • But then what is a real good question? That just drives me crazy :-)
    – NaN
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 11:45
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    +1 I have 18 questions, but over 9K answers, that's a 500:1 ration. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 21:19
  • I wish I posted mostly answers. I post lots of questions because I am so ignorant of what I am doing. :)
    – neuronet
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 15:49
  • Or may be you lack the skill to form a good question, or shy..
    – user233372
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 19:33

Answering questions is a great way to learn a topic at a deeper level. I find I learn more from reading and helping others than asking things myself.


I rarely ask questions, mainly because most questions can be answered by Googling (!?!) and after 20 years service in software development and countless project tours-of-duty you do try to become as self-sufficient as possible.

Every question I ask is carefully considered as I value my SO account - so by the time I've phrased and re-phrased a question a new line of enquiry often opens.

The usual questions I ask are in techs that are entirely new to me or entirely new - and half of my questions never get any replies anyway.


There are many, many thoughts as to why people do anything, including giving free advice and information for what may seem to be no external incentive.

I subscribe to a much shorter list, but a relatively reasonable list of 16 basic motivations for human activity can be found on Wikipedia. Several of these motivations may lead one to answer questions on Stack Overflow:

  • Acceptance, the need for approval
  • Curiosity, the need to learn
  • Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
  • Power, the need for influence of will (especially for those who participate vigorously here on meta... ;)
  • Saving, the need to collect
  • Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
  • Status, the need for social standing/importance

Out of these, Stack Overflow selects very strongly for individuals who are motivated by status and acceptance. You get immediate feedback on your contributions to the site, and it's very simple to find your standing in the community. Social contact is given through posts, comments, and the chat feature. Curiosity and Saving are fed through the vast wealth of knowledge the site accumulates. Power comes from the advanced abilities one gains due to their reputation. And there are even individuals who come only because the system is very well ordered and understood - it's easy to interface with the site because there are rules, and they are enforced.

Of course, most people are motivated by more than one thing, but generally you can look at the list and count on there being two things that bring you back for more, despite no other apparent incentive.


Do you think it's easy to have a peer-review of how good you are as a programmer? When you go to a interview for a work they want hard facts, and they know they often get lies... But if you have a very high reputation on stackoverflow for your answers... well... THAT is a fact you can give. Perhaps you can't resolve their stupid interview-algorithm or you don't know how many ways there are to write a web service in C#, but there is someone that can tell that yes, you REALLY are good. The other way is to write a book :-)

And I will add that when you are good enough, google is enough for 75% of your questions. 24% of the other questions require responses too much long or too much based on your code and so you don't ask them (or perhaps you know that it's only a matter of time before you crack the problem). 1% you can ask.

If you are good enough, when you can't do a thing the first reaction isn't "ask someone else". It's "try harder".

  • Completely agree (not with the interview part, though :D). Through this question I got all the variants (which were not obvious, i.e. the one with "I have no good question", that's actually bad if someone has nothing to ask about), so I had my own intention after all. :)
    – Denys S.
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 18:58
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    @den I'm obviously biased, but I don't think it's bad to have nothing to ask about on SE sites. It doesn't mean I don't have questions at all. It simply means I don't have questions that need to be asked on SE either because they've already been asked, are off-topic, or simply would not make a good SO/SE question (e.g. a poll).
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 21:50
  • @AdamLear, Yeah, I was talking particularly about SO/SE, cause usually it's the fastest resource to produce options that should be tested, and that's why I use it predominantly (other resources are usually specific). Sorry for that, everyone differs in his means of getting things done. :)
    – Denys S.
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:40

What if computers and programming languages are the spheres that are interesting?

Some of us have worked with this for a long time, and already asked all the questions a long time ago. If I can pass on the answers to those that have the same questions now, that makes me feel good. It also somewhat feels like a payback to those that once took their time to answer my questions.

With 30 years experience you really don't need to boost your CV anymore. :-)

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    I'm in total agreement. Some of us do this type of stuff because we enjoy it. Pure and simple. Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 5:17

Maybe they don't have any questions? In other cases, they may be embarrassed at having to ask questions and may do so from a different account.

  • This is the thing I don't understand. Why would anyone feel embarrassed for asking a question?
    – Shaun Han
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 14:59

Well, I actually am a consultant. So I have all the questions and all the answers.

And answers pay better here.

  • You get money for reputation? :)
    – Denys S.
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 18:15
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    Sweet, sweet reputation. I get bragging rights over co-workers for one ;) Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 18:16
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    Consulting: If you aren't part of the solution, there's a lot of money to be made in prolonging the problem. ;-D
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 18:20

I just like fixing things. :/

A question without an answer is a problem unsolved. As a developer I'm a problem solver by nature, so I answer for the love of making things work a little better. Even if the problem happens to be people rather than code.

Although to be fair I ask a few things, so I'm by no means as magnanimous as I try to make out.


Most of the times because by answering questions it seems that we are able to learn more quickly. Like Will Thalheimer presented in his "The Learning Benefits of Questions" article:

research shows that that questions can produce significant learning and performance benefits, potentially improving learning by 150% or more.

And sometimes because:

"I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question."

Yogi Berra


A late, late answer... I post few questions because I have other sources of information and usually my questions are so specific that only a few people could possibly answer them. Most of my questions stem from other answers or discussions - someone brings up an interesting point so I ask a separate question rather than a hard-to-find chatroom discussion.

On bicycles, for example, the last question I was tempted to ask led the Australian importer of the product to refer me to the manufacturer in Germany who got an engineer to email a reply. So my question here would likely have been one that between one and five people in the world could have answered. It is also not something that other users would have found useful "when servicing this rarely-serviced part, if you happen to have made your own copies of the right tools, you can...". Before that is a question that is still open now and the answer appears to be "no, no-one makes that".

But I do enjoy crafting answers to questions about bikes, and generally sharing my knowledge. Quite a few of those involve links to posts on my personal website where I also share knowledge (but in a way that isn't necessarily relevant to SE. The website is "I did this project" which sometimes leads to "I had that problem too, so I did this project").

I also find that my questions tend to attract downvotes, often with no discussion, and I am guessing that that is because they tend to be quite closed questions, or they require considerable knowledge to answer. "I want to do Q. I have found references A,B and C that say Q can be done. But trying X,Y and Z none of them work. Here is my documentation/a simple example". Not infrequently I get answers like "don't do Q", "use tool X instead" or "here's how to do something-like-Q", and I edit my question to make it clear that "like-Q is not Q". They also attract positive comments, sometimes of the form "that is a perfectly formed question, thank you". But also downvotes.

(FWIW I have an account per employer for work-related questions because that way the account and the job-related questions stay with the job when I leave)


My main sphere of interest these days is a relatively minority-interest language, REBOL.

The REBOLsphere has a thriving, if small, community; and it has forums and such that predate SO.

Newcomers to REBOL may ask questions on SO, and REBOLlers are happy to answer them here. And a couple of people have chosen to ask most of their REBOL questions here.

But in general, SO is not the natural place for asking REBOL questions: the REBOLsphere and the SOsphere have very little overlap.

That may also be true for many other "long tail" topics and for mainstream topics from another mainstream (SO has very view mainframe questions for example, another of my interests; mainframers are also served by pre-existing community ecospheres).

That leads to some interesting questions about how and why and should SO adapt to be the destination Q&A site for various long-tail spheres. But they are other questions, and this is an answer.


Asking a question is not easy always. People hesitate to ask questions as they don't find a better way to explain their problems properly.

On the other hand, answering a question also requires deep study of the matter. I personally prefer this. It helps me to get into the matter.

This platform also helps me find solutions.


Sometimes they might have two profiles. For a example, I have two profiles. One profile for ask questions. One profile for answer questions. I am using my real name for answer questions and fake name for ask questions.

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    That's not the point in this discussion. Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:30
  • @ShaWiz This is the total point of this dicussion Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 7:25
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    No it is not. Question is "why people not asking questions" not "do people use different accounts". It's like asking "What juice you like to drink?" and getting "I like bread" answer. You answered a different question. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 8:29

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