A developer’s guide to Stack Overflow

Maourice Gonzalez

Stack Overflow logo

The developer community is not unlike most other communities out there in the sense that sometimes we are very divided. The division is not necessarily bad, it really stems from passion. Some of us are very passionate about the tools, languages and platforms we code with and for but one thing we most certainly all have in common is the online resources we lean on when a problem pops up we can’t quickly resolve on our own.

Although documentation for most programming languages and frameworks is usually pretty robust, there are situations and problems we get ourselves into from real world implementations no documentation can help us with. In these cases help has to come from others which potentially have gone through the same perils. Well that’s where Stack Overflow comes in.

There are some basic rules to using the platform which go a long way. Chances are the question you are posting has already been asked and possibly answered. The number one thing to remember is to search before you post. Nothing irritates contributors on this and other sites more than people asking questions which have been answered many times before. Performing a Google or Bing search sometimes is not enough. If queries through search engines don’t yield meaningful results, using the site’s built in search functionality sometimes gets you much better matches.

Stack Overflow Votes

The next thing to keep in mind are votes. Questions with more votes will have better quality answers, sometimes more than one valid solution to the problem. This is often overlooked and could be a costly mistake that could have you wasting valuable time trying to implement an incorrect or flawed solution.

Probably one of the most important but overlooked aspects of the site is up-voting and marking responses as correct. This not only helps others avoid low quality responses, but also rewards contributors of correct responses with badges and reputation points they can use to unlock privileges within the site.

One thing to keep in mind is, be detailed. Providing a vague description of your problem won’t get you anywhere. Post up sample code and be as descriptive as possible. Doing so will cut down on the back and forth and I can tell you from experience there is no such thing as providing too much information. Chances are your questions will be ignored if they don’t have enough information for somebody to help you, some people avoid responding to questions which are vague, so keep this in mind.

That’s really all there is to it! Remember search before you post, be detailed when asking questions, avoid down voted posts and up vote helpful responses!