1. How can I utilise the Stack Overflow website as a beginner in software development?
  2. What is Meta Stack Overflow?
  3. What is the best way to contribute?
  • @Bart, Stack Overflow, not StackOverflow! :-)
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 11:35
  • Does this answer your question? FAQ for Stack Exchange sites
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 13:46

3 Answers 3


Remember that the Stack Overflow FAQ and the Meta FAQ are the first places you should start. More advanced-level information about Stack Overflow is also covered in the series of FAQ here on Meta. Assuming you've already perused those documents, I'll try provide answers to your specific questions:

  1. Stack Overflow is a wonderful resource for developers at all levels. There are two primary ways to utilize the site:

    1. The first way is the obvious one: asking questions and getting [nearly immediate] answers from knowledgeable people in the field. Make sure that you read the FAQ to understand how the site works! Also note that poor questions don't contribute anything to the site and will get closed quickly. If you don't know how to ask a good question, consult the following list for tips:

    2. The second way is not quite as obvious, but perhaps event more valuable. Rather than asking questions, you can read the answers that have already been provided to existing questions. The site has been around for long enough now that there's an extremely rich backlog of content already. Chances are, you can already find enough information to answer any beginning programming question you could possibly have. You can also begin to take your knowledge deeper, by trying to understand the answers to more advanced topics. There's often no better way to learn the technical nitty-gritty by browsing the answers to questions for your favorite tags. (And as a bonus, you'll get a feel for how to ask/answer questions yourself.)

  2. "Meta" derives from a Greek work meaning "self" or "about its own category". Therefore, Meta Stack Overflow is a site for discussing topics about the Stack Overflow website itself. It's also a support website that you can use to get help about things related to Stack Overflow, and even a place where bug reports can be filed. See this question for more details.

  3. The best way to contribute (and the only way that is available to new users) is by answering questions. If you think you can help someone, no matter how old the question is, please leave an answer. Writing good answers is difficult, but there are lots of excellent examples already available.

    As you begin answering questions and gaining reputation, you will be able to do other things, like leave comments, edit other users' posts to clarify things or improve formatting, and eventually, even help to clean up the site—for example, by voting to close duplicate questions.

  • Pretty thorough! I would also add as #4: upvote/downvote answers as you see fit and also accept answers to the questions you asked. The beauty of stack overflow is its community driven continuous feedback process.
    – CoolBeans
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 15:51
  • @CoolBeans: I didn't make up the numbers myself... I was answering the questions that the OP specifically asked. He's the one who numbered them. In light of that, I didn't think upvoting and downvoting answers merited specific mention, since it's covered pretty well by the FAQ. Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 15:54
  • Fair enough!
    – CoolBeans
    Commented Apr 30, 2011 at 15:56

Can I suggest you read the FAQ and spend some time reading other's questions and answers before you ask lots of questions.

I'm not suggesting this question, your first on Meta, is a bad one -- it's better than most.

But the answers to a lot of questions about Stack Overflow and Meta will become obvious after watching and listening for a while.


Okay to answer your questions.

  1. Beginners should start looking to the FAQ and to the Meta FAQ. After that you should know the language that your intending to work in and look for answers to questions you already have. It most useful if you know enough about programming to know what your questions are.

  2. What meta stack overflow is is covered in the Meta FAQ. Basically its the place where Stack Overflow, Super User and Server fault questions are asked. Such as your question.

    • Ask sensible questions, that haven't already been covered.
    • Provide answers to what you do know.
    • Vote for questions that you find helpful.
    • Vote for answers that you find helpful.
    • Get a feel for how the site works.

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