I've noticed a few times that an OP will ask a sensible question demonstrating a reasonable amount of knowledge, and then be totally stumped by a simple answer.

The reasons could vary, as we all have different backgrounds, and all have to learn somewhere, which is fine. However, it seems that for some questions at least, the OP reveals a gap in their knowledge that shouldn't be there if they can ask the original question.

For example, in Android SMS - in excel format, the OP successfully retrieves info from a DB, and wants to share it with Excel. However, the OP doesn't understand what a CSV file is.

I'm not picking this post for any reason other than it's the most recent example I've seen. This makes me wonder if the OP is asking their own question - is SO being (ab)used by helpdesks?

Note I don't have a problem with helpdesks using SO (I'm sure I did it at some point in my career) but the OP should understand what they're asking.


It seems more likely that they are trying to interpret a client's request. The language usage seems to suggest that English is not their first language, and while most of the request demonstrates this, some portion of it appears to be written as taken from a request for quote or project description with a different language style.

It reminds me of some of my work with people from vastly different time zones and educational background where even the simplest requests have to be thoroughly explained, as though the "common terminology" isn't common enough.

It's quite possible that what they really are asking for is help translating project requirements.

  • Not sure if that meets your definition of a helpdesk, though. ;-P – Pollyanna Apr 25 '11 at 3:20
  • Makes sense. Not sure if I'd call that a helpdesk, but probably would define it as abuse of SO (although of course, most of us have been here at some point looking for info on how to do work tasks). – Phil Lello Apr 25 '11 at 3:27
  • @Phil: I usually assume most people asking questions are either asking for work-related reasons, or students. Although I could see this particular kind of thing becoming abusive, there is nothing at all wrong with using SO to get help with work per se. – Nicholas Knight Apr 25 '11 at 4:51
  • @Nicholas Absolutely right; I would have edited out the 'info on works task', as it dilutes my meaning, but can't edit my comments. My concern is posts that read like the OP isn't the one with the problem, doesn't understand the problem, and will just copy/paste a response to a paying client (or into code), rather than learning. – Phil Lello Apr 25 '11 at 6:44
  • @Phil Wait, we're supposed to learn when we get answers to our questions? Man have I been doing this wrong! – Pollyanna Apr 26 '11 at 3:08

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