It's all too easy to blame Help Vampires for problems in Stack Overflow.

But it's not them, it's us. The people who feed them.

If the question is an exact duplicate, let them know it's an exact duplicate.

If the question is a trivial question about something from the standard library, don't forget to link to the standard library documentation while answering the question.

If someone asks "Why doesn't this code work?", and the debugging is trivial, don't just do the trivial debugging for them. Show them how they can debug it themselves (for example, tell them about warning flags).

Unfortunately, reputation goes to those who feed the help vampires, not those who help cure them. These feeders don't just get reputation from the vampire. They also get reputation from the rest of the community. (For example, 11 upvotes on an answer to a duplicate question)

I'm not meaning to be ill-intentioned towards the help vampires. Some of them haven't been taught properly how to program or how to problem-solve, and I suspect some of them are so stressed out they aren't thinking straight. Asking a question is more effort than googling, so it's not a case of laziness. But so long as the feeders deliberately don't teach the vampires how to fish as opposed to merely giving them a fish, they're going to continue to be worse off.

  • 1
    So is there something you wanted to discuss or is this a soap box?
    – Aarobot
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 23:36
  • @Aarobot: I thought that soap boxing was allowed on meta. Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 0:00
  • @Aarobot I think this is in reference to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/86307/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/86165/…
    – user142852
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 0:02
  • 2
    Andrew, why didn't you just post this as an answer to the help vampires question? The "discussion" tag is not a free-for-all to post random rants; you're not actually facilitating any kind of discussion here, nothing here is actionable, this just reads like a ranty blog post.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 0:41
  • 1
    Ironic how this has been closed as duplicate too...
    – Cyclone
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 1:04
  • @Aarobot: It's suggesting a change in behaviour, like meta.stackexchange.com/questions/73382/… Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 1:27
  • 6
    I think the biggest problem is that the duplicate-identification-while-writing-question is miserable. The "Related" links after the question is posted often find duplicates. I think that's because the related links consider tags and the other doesn't... is there already a meta topic about this problem?
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 3:44
  • 1
    Hmm, how ironic.
    – biziclop
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 9:30

1 Answer 1


This is not untrue. I find it difficult to not downvote a wild-guess answer to a particularly poor question. Although I always do, it is unprovable to be an incorrect answer.

There's a secondary effect that's far more troublesome. I think we're teaching question askers to intentionally post vague and poorly documented questions. Because if it is a good and detailed question, the odds that it will be closed as duplicate are great. That doesn't happen to the "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" questions. No idea how to fix that btw, looks like a systemic problem to me.

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