Meta Stack OverflowWhat Stack Overflow is Not
[+258] [36] Robert Harvey
[2012-04-07 16:50:41]
[ discussion faq stackoverflow etiquette ]

This post is intended to be a reference for the various comments made to new users asking them to change something about their post.


If you link any of these, I recommend that you personalize your comment a bit to avoid accusations of rudeness. Example:

We don't know what you are thinking [1]. Please provide more detail about your thought process so that we can provide you with a decent answer.

This is not a tutorial. Rather, it is a way to provide "Just-in-Time" authoritative feedback to new users who trip over one of these well-known land mines.

Stack Overflow Is Not/Does Not

Return to FAQ index [34]

Was the removal of the "language tutorial" link from the main post deliberate? - John Dibling
@JohnDibling: Yes, I was trying to fold the whole "Tutorial" concept into "Stack Overflow is not a research assistant." I think I'll have to rethink that. - Robert Harvey
@JohnDibling: OK, fixed. - Robert Harvey
I had been using the "research assistant" post in comments to SO posts asking for fundamental, tutorial-like language help for quite a while before posting a specific answer here for it. The reason I ultimately added the tutorial answer is because the "research assistant" answer just... didn't quite fit. - John Dibling
I see that. Looks like it gets to stay. Some other answers didn't quite make the cut; see - Robert Harvey
Thanks for that link. I wasn't aware of that conversation. You might take a look at this conversation I'm having to get a feel for how these comments & actions are percieved by newbies. - John Dibling
Yeah, that's good. Most of the grief was apparently being caused by the answer titles being linked in the absence of any other context. So now we have kinder, gentler titles. - Robert Harvey
Should Does Not be separated into a second section with an "SO Does not..." header? It sorta reads awkwardly as is - Ben Brocka
Distinguish between "old" and "new" seems to be "off-topic". I think it would be better keeping as a reference for "noobs" with bad quality questions. BTW I added another answer. - gdoron
and what about not a shopping requesting/suggestion site? - PresleyDias
@PresleyDias: That's already covered under Stack Overflow does not make product or service recommendations. - Robert Harvey
@RobertHarvey Could we use this in sites that are not SO? What I mean is that those users might say "Hey but that is for SO, not for us". - Alenanno
[+222] [2012-04-07 16:53:29] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a research assistant

The Stack Overflow community is very forthcoming with their help, provided you have done a few things to help yourself. [1] Have you:

  1. Put some effort into researching the problem,
  2. Attempted to write some code yourself
  3. Attempted to debug your code when it has failed, and
  4. Some basic, fundamental knowledge of your tools?

The SO community will not write a complete solution for you, develop a complete walk through of a problem, or do your background research for you, unless your question is specific and focused on a reasonably small scope.


(74) "The SO community will not write a complete solution for you", the problem with SO, that it will write a complete solution for you, because there always that guy who wants to increase it's reputation points...bad, very bad. - gdoron
(58) @gdoron True, some people will write a complete tutorial, and I don't want to discourage that, but I still find it rude for people to ask for or expect a complete tutorial. I've seen people say that they've read the Wikipedia article on X but still don't get it, "so can someone write a better explanation?" If they're requesting a complete article, it's time to read a book or take a class. - Bill the Lizard
(3) @BilltheLizard. I do want to discourage that behavior. Writing a complete answer including fixing the question is make SO a code welfare, and actually not helping the OP in the long run (as described in the what have you tried article). I would be happy if they would stop (but they won't). - gdoron
(12) @gdoron: It depends. When you're just starting out with computers/programming (or just a new language/system), nothing less than a complete example is sometimes enough to help you understand what's going on. - Mehrdad
(9) @Mehrdad. And that is why you have google for... tutorials, demos and starting with the basics. And a book is even better. SO is definitely NOT the place for learning new language/system from the basics. - gdoron
(18) @gdoron: so you're saying Google is/should be a better place to learn about programming than SO? SO is supposed to be the Google of programming question. If you need to google it, SO has failed. I fail to see how anyone are better off by people googling random tutorials of unknown quality, rather than finding a high-quality peer-reviewed tutorial on SO - jalf
(14) @jalf: You have it backwards. You're supposed to Google it and find the result at SO. - Sparky
(2) @gdoron: I'm the guy who always wants the reputation points. My performance at work is judged by it. - Sparky
(2) If I'm starting out with a new system and have questions, my search process would be something like - first check any known documentation, then Google, then SO search, then SO chat, then SO question but only if all else has failed. That said I've not actually needed those last two steps yet. - raveturned
(29) @gdoron: I think that complete tutorials and examples (that can fit on a single web page) are a perfectly good and desirable use case for Stack Overflow, and I wish more people did them. But I also think that asking for them in your questions is a totally unrealistic expectation. - Robert Harvey
(4) I don't know what's with wrong with users writing complete, detailed answers "just for reputation points". They are (apart from badges) everything you get for participating here, and it's the asker's choice if he wants to read complete solution and understand it, or just copy&paste the code. - Bartek Banachewicz
@BartekBanachewicz: Sure, it's the askers choice to copy/paste code. Then it's the answerer's choice to decide if the OP is just being lazy. - Robert Harvey
(1) @Robert But the complete answer could still be of use to the community, even if the asker is going to just copypaste the solution. I'm talking about something like greater benefit than loss here. - Bartek Banachewicz
@BartekBanachewicz: Are you talking about asking questions or writing answers? As a general rule, copy/pasting is problematic for many reasons, and I don't think it's what we're really talking about here. What we're talking about here is asking for complete tutorials or wholesale problem solutions. send-me-da-codez in other words. Copy/paste is a symptom, not a solution. - Robert Harvey
(1) I have to say that a complete answer is ok, as long as you're sure you're explaining what it does in each step so that whoever reads it knows why it works, not just that it does. I definitely agree that coming in and expecting strangers to write a full-length example is not welcome at all though, especially when it comes to homework. - chris
Some people are overdoign it... i think this part of the code of conduct is fueling the ego of some users. It might be a personnal opinion but if someone asks a question it might be because he researched the matter. I tend to keep my question simple beacause my english sometimes can becaome a bit confusing for some. But all the prior research and stuff has been made before i post the question here. This place should not become a place where lazy users post code of conduct in all the questions that are 200 line long with code through it. There should be an effort made on both sides . - Lunatikzx
@gdoron About "That guy that wants to increase his reputation". Interestingly, this is usually happening with those with low rep. I don't think I've ever seen a full answer to a "give me solution" questions from anybody with a rep above 3K or so. - Aleks G
@AleksG. I have, and if you have 10K you can see this 33K answer - gdoron
@gdoron Usually you'll get one like that when that answer was given while the user still had low rep. I say "usually", not always. - Aleks G
@AleksG. I notice you have rep < 10K, so I'll tell you what you can see there, yesterday the 33K user answered how a one can get a discount at Paypal... - gdoron
@gdoron Fair point - Aleks G
[+144] [2012-04-07 16:52:03] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow doesn't know what you are thinking

Always provide enough information in your question so that we can answer it.

Make sure your examples are relevant to your question and complete. Don't ask about features in your code which you have not shown in your example.

Don't just state "it's not working" or "I have a problem." We need to know what exactly is wrong, which means what error message you get, if any, or at least what exactly is happening versus what is expected to happen.

(4) When you say you have a problem, that usually means you expected one thing and got another. Specify these things, especially what you expect. - David
(4) Please, if nothing else, the error message. From an error message, most people have a prebuilt library of reasons associated with it. Also, please don't just post a 200-line code segment, and then an error on Line 156.... We have no idea where that is, and we're not going to count down 156 lines from the top (assuming it is complete) to find it. Please point out where the error is. - chris
@chris: Or even better, don't post 200-line code segments to start with. Still, pointing out the location of a specific error is very helpful if not necessary to receive a good answer. - Niklas B.
@NiklasB., the 200 lines was obviously an exaggeration, but it's still very annoying to find even in shorter programs. - chris
(3) And please post the actual error message, not what you think it says. Cut and paste please. If there is a stack trace or dump, post that too, within reason, and if a specific line of source code is indicated, make sure you have made it clear which line that is: a mere line number is not good enough. - EJP
on the other hand if you have a problem and you don't know what is causing it, you don't know exactly what qualifies as relevant (or enough) information. - valugi
[+125] [2012-04-07 17:40:01] Oded

Stack Overflow doesn't provide product or service recommendations

Requests for book recommendations, suggestions for tools, and product comparisons tend to attract poor-quality answers [1].

We cannot reliably tell you what the best book, language, platform, tool or library is. We might be able to tell you which one will meet your specific needs right now - but chances are that won't help anyone else a year from now.

Instead, try to ask questions that prompt instructional answers. Seek explanations, not suggestions: be specific about what you need to accomplish, learn, or buy, but ask how to accomplish it, learn it, or select it.

See Also


(2) We cannot tell you what is the best book, but we'll put our Amazon referrer URL in to your post. -
(2) - Which will also be lost when the question ends up being deleted (along with the answers and the reputation gained) - Oded
Best library? But we can, we do it in a lot of topics ;) And with books, why not ask, which is good and which is the lost of money? - lechlukasz
If questions are community wiki then it should be closed or not? - Somnath Muluk
(3) @SomnathMuluk - If they are off-topic, they should be. A moderator may decide to keep a question if it has historical significance. - Oded
@Shog9: Your edit makes the answer too long. I pared it down a bit; the blog entry describes in sufficient detail what can be safely omitted here. - Robert Harvey
@Robert: not sure what guidelines you're using for length on these, but I don't particularly care if they're 1 line or 100 - if there's no constructive advice, linking to it is worse than useless. If you can't spare the space for that, you're better off just linking to the blog post directly. - Shog9
@Shog9: There's no guideline, other than is there a chance that a new person will actually read this (i.e. the shorter the better). Admittedly, it's a bit subjective, but I'm basing it in large part on my own sensibilities: just tell me briefly what I did wrong, why it doesn't work and how to fix it (which this answer does, in its current form), and link to some authoritative resources, if they exist, so I can explore those if I'm interested in digging further. - Robert Harvey
@Robert: I'm mostly ok with it how it stands - just don't want to see a return to the "enumerate badness" form it took prior to my edit. There was a guy using it as a stand-in for mod-messages: that's a pretty good sign that describing the problem has trumped describing the solution. - Shog9
[+116] [2012-04-07 19:14:59] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow won't do your homework for you

Do not simply copy/paste your homework questions, and expect to get an answer.

If you get stuck on a problem, show us your work, and explain why you're having trouble. Community users are expected to help you get unstuck, not solve your problem for you.

You may use the [1] tag on your homework questions, and part of the community may complain if you do not, but it is not mandatory. Concentrate on asking a good question that will help you learn.

See Also
How to ask and answer homework questions? [2]


(17) @Phoenix - My personal favorite was the time a student copied an assignment and included the "do not seek outside help or use the Internet" warning at its bottom. The professor from the course now uses a screenshot of that question in the first session of all his programming classes as a cautionary tale. - Brad Larson
Isn't that a meta tag? Aren't we not supposed to use meta tags? - Ephraim
(1) @Ephraim, it's been discussed. - Kirk Woll
(1) The use of the homework tag is not as popular as it once was. Its removal now has wide support. - Gilles
[+108] [2012-04-07 16:52:54] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a social network

Please avoid lengthy commentary that detracts from the focus of your question. An optimal post contains only a succinct description of your problem and any relevant background information.

Example of post containing unnecessary commentary:

Hello dear people, I started a new project two weeks ago and am really excited. I have two days left to complete the part where I need to input user names and emails and then store them to the database [etc.], but I'm worried because my girlfriend's birthday is this weekend. Can you help? Thanks in advance, Jimmy.

Preferred alternative:

I need to input user names and emails and then store them to a database. Here's what I've done [short description, code samples, etc.], and here's where I'm stuck [short description, code samples, etc.]


  • Signing your post with a name is not needed. Users can click on or hover over your name to know more about you.

  • Adding @user in your question/answer does not notify the user. When you want to start your post with @user, it should usually be a comment [1].

  • Please remember that the best way to thank someone who answers your question is to accept their answer [2].


(8) "We don't care if you are [...] a veteran". Indeed; veterans can have the same problem as the n00bs: "So I'm just working on this project in my spare time (employed at IBM for the past 35 years, keeping the APL compiler running across six generations of mainframes), and I really can't figure out why this documentation from Apple is so crappy. What I'm trying to do isn't that hard -- I've done it a dozen times over the years -- but for some reason they just make it impossible for the iOS..." - Josh Caswell
(28) Rule of Thumb: Your question (and its answers) should look like a miniature blog post when you're done. Would you put "LOL ROFL thanks in advance" in one of your own blog entries? No, you wouldn't. - Robert Harvey
(10) @RobertHarvey LOL ROFL - bobobobo
(4) I think it does matter somewhat whether the question is coming from a newbie, or an experienced programmer. Answers will (and should?) be different depending on the level of the asker. - I. J. Kennedy
(5) @I.J.Kennedy questions are not being answered just for one person -- they're being answered for the entire community to see. As such, it's important that they be useful and accessible to everyone, regardless of the skill level of the person initially asking. - Charles Duffy
To whomever deleted my comment from earlier: If you want to delete my comment again, go right ahead, but I think you're mistaken about either the definition of "Social Club," or what Stack Overflow actually is. Social Club: a formal association of people with similar interests Princeton. At any rate, acting as if the community is some static, discussion-devoid library of programming "truths" is just flat out wrong. How many questions exist with multiple valuable solutions? The discussion is what makes SO worthwhile. - Funktron
(3) @Funktron: You're being a bit pedantic. If you need a better title for the answer, it is this: "Don't mistake Stack Overflow for a social club; while there may be similarities, it doesn't have the same purpose or goals." Discussion is not generally something that is highly valued here; Stack Overflow seeks to find answers to questions, not engage in discussion or debate. Unregulated discussions are what make ordinary forums the bastions of banality that they are. - Robert Harvey
@RobertHarvey I think all you're doing is failing to differentiate between unproductive vs productive discussion. Discussion takes place all the time between users among successive answers, edits, etc, to formulate a number of solutions to problems. Background info is entirely subjective and posts need to be graded based on the effectiveness of communication, not whether or not someone thinks they should "care" about a particular detail. To give example, as noted above, having a perspective on a user's experience level is COMPLETELY useful in structuring the most helpful response. - Funktron
@Funktron: Then offer better wording, but don't hinge your argument solely on what you think a social club is or isn't. - Robert Harvey
@RobertHarvey Fine, I'll put together an edit this evening and offer it up. - Funktron
[+102] [2012-04-19 17:47:04] The Guy Who Disagrees With You

Stack Overflow won't inspect your entire code base

Please don't copy-paste a large block of code and expect us to find the error in it. If you are looking for feedback on a specific working piece of code from your project in the following areas…

  • Best practices and design pattern usage
  • Security issues
  • Performance
  • Correctness in unanticipated cases

then (and only then!) check out

See Also
Short, Self Contained, Correct (Compilable), Example [1]


This kind of overlaps with "do my homework for me", but it's come in handy more times than I could count. Besides, it's not always homework that comes with a wall of code. - Makoto
(12) Also please don't link to some other place where you have pasted all the code, or some live website where the javascript is attempting to run right now. - Kate Gregory
(5) On the other hand, I love it if people asking SQL questions also crosspost a simplified but sufficient schema relating to their problem to sqlfiddle or similar. Easier to answer the question if there's a place you can quickly jump in and test a solution. - Amadan
I'm rolling back the last edit because I felt like it was redundant and lessened the impact. - The Guy Who Disagrees With You
@Amadan: Especially if it is on SEDE. - Mark Hurd
[+93] [2012-04-07 16:51:50] ChrisF

Stack Overflow is not a forum or discussion board

Stack Overflow is specifically designed to get answers to your questions. [1] Extended discussion is a distraction, so please don't ask us to engage in it.

Do not post as answers:

  • New questions.
  • Have you solved this yet?
  • I'm getting this problem too.
  • Thanks for posting an answer to this, I've been looking for a solution for ages.
  • @User: I think...

If you need clarification about a post, leave a comment instead.

If you have relevant additional information to add, edit the post instead of adding a new answer. Rather than simply adding new text to the bottom of your post, try to incorporate the new information into your existing text.

There should rarely be the need to use "EDIT" or "UPDATE" markers or strikethrough text. There is never the need to add "SOLVED" to your title; instead accept the answer [2] that was most useful.

See here [3] for additional discussion.


Do we feel there is any consensus about When is “EDIT”/“UPDATE” appropriate in a post? (I often feel that's a typical forum thing too.) And I guess this FAQ will be considered authoritative. If not, if anyone needs references: We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers and Help us build a great library of canonical answers. - Arjan
(3) @Arjan I don't feel it's ever appropriate; most people are going to see the latest revision and eventually, after the most is "dead", users are only going to see the final copy of the post. If you need to tell specific people you've edited your post (answerers), leave a comment. - Ben Brocka
I couldn't agree more, @Ben, but am not sure if you and me (and 4 upvoters) agreeing makes it a FAQable statement ;-) - Arjan
@Arjan I KNOW that issue has come up before - Ben Brocka
(2) I hear that SO Chat is a great place for discussions. Worth adding that to this answer? - raveturned
[+82] [2012-04-07 17:17:59] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a spell checker or code formatter

We expect you to put a minimal amount of effort into your post to make it look professional. We expect:

  1. Proper spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation
  2. Your post to be clear and understandable
  3. A good title [1] that can be effectively searched by Google
  4. Your code to be properly formatted (See Markdown Help [2] for Code)
  5. Your code to compile [3] (unless your question is specifically about that)

Capitalization is especially problematic. If your shift key is broken, get it fixed. If you're posting from a cell phone or other mobile device, there are settings on the phone that will automatically capitalize and fix misspellings for you.

You want the community to focus on your problem, not your post's problems. It's not fair to the community to ask them to answer your question, and clean up your post also.


(2) Obvious exceptions apply to the compilability rule, for example, it could be perfectly reasonable to ask a question about why some code doesn't compile. - Peter Olson
(8) Another obvious exception is users whose native language isn't English. Obviously we should be a bit forgiving with language issues sometimes... - Mehrdad
(19) very ,very true, @Mehrdad. it would be nice if we could find a good way to describe most people are forgiving when it comes to grammar.. but not so much when people are writing like this.i mean ,in a way that i feel is wrong in ANY language.. u understand,i guess... (that said,i find it surprisingly hard to mimic the odd writing that some use here ,really..!! is there any common name for the way i wrote this very comment??!) - Arjan
(2) @Arjan: Actually, that's a pretty good imitation! - Josh Caswell
@Arjan, maybe a direct reference to txtspk could be added? - Benjol
@Arjan Not bad indeed, maybe next time you could throw in the word "Xcode" and spell it with a capital "C." - MDT
what about acronyms? I noticed that some stack overflow veterans developed a SO type of vocabulary for answering the OP. Maybe not all the people are so smart to get them. - alinoz
@alinoz: The glossary is here, although to be honest, most of those terms are meta terms and should really not be needed all that often on the main site. - Robert Harvey
@Robert Harvey: thank you for the link, i have added to my favorites. For me not all of them are so obvious, for example i have encounter OP (original poster) in an a topic related to medicine and it was not obvious at all. - alinoz
[+73] [2012-04-07 17:44:24] minitech

Stack Overflow is not a role-playing game

Badges and reputation are nice, but they are just motivators. We are all here to help each other, and maybe gain a few reputation points in the process, but don't make that your only goal.

Don't try to game the system with sockpuppets and other devices. Reputation is supposed to be a measure of your effort to help the community, not a way to show how cleverly you can cheat the system. Gaming the system just lowers the value of rep and badges for everyone.

Be here because you want to help people and/or get help yourself.

(72) But... but.. shiny! - Xeo
(11) I put on my hat and wiz-aww. - tombull89
(8) lvl 25 math geek LFG - Jack Maney
It is not, realy? It's with one's head to play with SO or RL. You gain both, help and fun, and you not lose unproductively a peace of time since you collecting the knowledge on SO. Cheating is bad not only here. - lionbest
[+64] [2012-04-07 17:07:00] Oded

Stack Overflow is not a job seeker or career advice site

Students and Job seekers

  • We cannot tell you what technology to study
  • We cannot tell you what technology to seek work with
  • We cannot tell you what technology is "best" for your future [1]

Recruiters, HR and hiring managers

  • We are not a recruitment site. That's what Careers [2] is for

See Also
Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice [3]


+1 for the link to "Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice". - Jonathan Leffler
[+63] [2012-04-07 17:27:20] casperOne

Stack Overflow does not collect lists of things

The Q&A format of Stack Overflow is not meant to handle storing lists of anything other than answers to questions.

Lists are broad, all-encompassing and do not have upper limits on the number of items in them. They are also very temporal and mercurial in nature, requiring time and energy to make sure that the list is always up-to-date.

If you want to store lists of things, you are free to store them on your own site(s) on the Internet; placing them on Stack Overflow will not do anything to help the popularity of them. If the list is truly of value, then people will notice. You are free to put a reference to your lists in the "about me" section of your profile.

(40) Ironically, this very question solicits a list of things. (This is, however, obviously one of those exceptions we sometimes make on Meta when we have to shoehorn information into the Q&A format as best as possible.) - Josh Caswell
(8) The Q&A format of Stack Overflow does not handle, nor is it meant to handle storing lists of things. - I think this sentence should go. I'm completely onboard with the notion that list questions are bad, but it's an unfortunate truth the the QA format of SO is beautifully suited to handling lists of things, as modeled by this question. - razlebe
(1) @razlebe I can see how technically, the case can be made, but conceptually it violates everything that we're trying to do with Stack Exchange. That said, if there's better wording around that point to emphasize/clarify that, I'm on board. Feel free to edit. - casperOne
[+62] [2012-04-07 22:59:15] Kerrek SB

Stack Overflow is not attacking you personally

If your question or answer gets a downvote or gets closed, or someone says something that you don't agree with, or that you flat out don't like, it is not personal. This just indicates that someone disagrees with what you have written.

If you do encounter abuse (towards yourself or another person) you can flag for moderator attention.

But please first try to ensure that you are not being overly sensitive, and that it is not just a question of cultural differences.

(4) -1 There's several reasons why it's possible to flag questions and answers, and some of them are to do with personal attacks. - Andrew Grimm
(6) @AndrewGrimm: Those kinds of attacks are not welcome on Stack Overflow. A well-placed moderator flag takes care of those situations. - Robert Harvey
(23) @AndrewGrimm there's a large body of new users who feel downvotes or closures are personal attacks. There's a much smaller body of actual personal attacks and they're generally very different. If it's a real personal attack it's not really related to this message; it's the attacker, not the system/community, that's attacking them. - Ben Brocka
[+60] [2012-04-07 16:55:08] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow does not work like those other sites

If you came here expecting to use your existing knowledge of how online forums work, you may be disappointed. Stack Overflow is very different.

Before you ask or answer your first question, your should read the following:

You should also consider "lurking" for awhile first, reading other people's questions and answers, to get a feel for what is considered appropriate interaction in this community.

(15) I'd definitly add to the list of must-reads. One of the biggest problems is incomplete examples. - Xeo
(4) Is it worth also adding Certainly good background reading, if not required. - raveturned
Is this post implying that lousy questions that aren't well written and well thought out are welcome at "other online forums"? - Andrew Grimm
(2) @AndrewGrimm: Generally speaking, yes. Part of SE's charter is to raise the signal to noise ratio above what is normally available at other online forums. - Robert Harvey
(2) @AndrewGrimm: I don't know about "welcome", but they are certainly prevalent in many (I'd even say most) forums. - Joachim Sauer
Don't really like the wording here...also that's a massive pile of links to throw at someone - Ben Brocka
@BenBrocka: I'm open to suggestions. I'd be happier if the links just contained the faq, How to Ask and How to Answer, with a suggestion to "lurk" for awhile to get a feel for the community. How does my new edit look? - Robert Harvey
Isn't just "doesn't work like other sites" sufficient? And something simpler like "Stack Overflow is a question and answer site, not a forum of discussion board" (maybe a link to that answer?) instead of the remark about participating the same way. I'm trying to think of who this answer is meant for's broad enough I'm not sure who to target it to (and thus what info is most helpful) - Ben Brocka
@BenBrocka: It's targeted at new users who jump in without reading anything, including the instructions that they must check a box stating that they have read them before they can post. It's targeted at those people who ask a few questions, and then wind up on meta asking why they can't post questions anymore. - Robert Harvey
[+60] [2012-04-07 19:57:30] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a proxy for customer support

If you have a problem with some organization or individual's product, tool or service, try to get it resolved with the organization or individual directly first. They are the experts, not us.

Stack Exchange sites are not designed for personal communication; they're about questions that can be asked and answered by the community. Posting a question on the off-chance that someone from Google or Microsoft might read it may not be the best plan. If you require information from a specific person or company, send an email.

We are not Facebook. If you have a programming-related question about Facebook's API involving actual computer code, feel free to ask it on Stack Overflow. If you need your Facebook account unlocked, or have some other customer service-related problem, we can't help you with that.

(39) Worth making this one more explicit about facebook? - Flexo
Is there a conflict between this answer and the answers to ? - vasco got lost
@vascogotlost: Not really. We're quite happy to answer questions about developer tools, including installation. What I'm taking about here are highly localized questions (the "how would we know that" variety) that are asked on Stack Overflow because the company makes it too difficult to ask them directly. Let these companies pay for their own support people. See also Stack Overflow is Not Your Last Resort, which you yourself posted. - Robert Harvey
OK, that makes sense, thanks for the clarification. - vasco got lost
[+58] [2012-04-07 16:51:24] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a link farm or search engine

Don't ask questions that can be easily answered with a simple Google search. Don't just ask for links to external resources in your questions.

Don't post bare links as answers. If the link breaks, your answer becomes useless. If you wish to promote your blog, provide some value with your answer, such as code samples or a brief summary.

See Also
How can I link to an external resource in a community-friendly way? [1]


(6) @Raven I don't agree with this body text; sometimes that link isn't so easy to get, the problem with link-only answers is that you should explain your answer so that it's actually useful. - Ben Brocka
@RobertHarvey this section escaped me, thanks for pointing. And I feel this should be 'promoted' up a bit - as from what I see, SO is becoming a search engine of a sort. - NSGaga
(5) I have noticed a trend recently for people to give their questions titles similar to what they'd type into Google to find the answer. You'd never go up to a colleague and say "Python Terminate Thread" -- your colleague would just look at you like you'd sprouted an extra head. We are people, we respond better to questions than search terms. - kindall
[+56] [2012-04-07 21:14:37] Lix

Stack Overflow is not a paid service

Stack Overflow is not a place where -

  • users get paid to answer questions.
  • users are required to help anyone; we do it because we want to.

Do not offer financial incentives to get people to answer your questions. Offer a bounty instead. [1]


(3) Well, in the high ends there is some free (promotional) stuff. - Tom Wijsman
(1) @gobernador - The recent edits to this whole post have been to make it less aggressive and more informative. Your edit was in the wrong direction. - Lix
[+54] [2012-04-07 17:05:01] Ben Brocka

Stack Overflow is not a one-way street

We're not here only to get help, but to give it. Don't only ask questions. Give back to the community by answering questions, editing posts, and/or helping others.

If some answer happens to resolve your problem, mark it as accepted [1] so that other users who find the question know the most likely answer. If you find an answer yourself later, do post it so that other users who find the question know how you resolved the problem.


I wasn't sure if we wanted to add "leave comments" or "flag inappropriate posts" in here. Some comments are constructive but it requires elaboration, and not everyone flags appropriately... - Ben Brocka
(16) Real questions are almost as useful as good answers. So anyone putting effort in either asking or answering is welcome. - Simon
(1) @Simon that's why I included edits, should probably include something about "you don't have to answer to contribute". If you're never editing other's posts, flagging spam/crap or even remotely trying to help other people you're getting verry close to help vampire territory. - Ben Brocka
(4) -1 if newbies feel obliged to answer questions, we'll get a "blind leading the blind" situation. - Andrew Grimm
@AndrewGrimm: OK. But the notion of giving back to the community is baked into the system; we even have a moderator message template for it. - Robert Harvey
(3) @RobertHarvey Is the message visible to mere mortals? - Andrew Grimm
(2) @AndrewGrimm: Not unless you've been bad. This should really be self-evident; when it becomes apparent that a user has no other interest but to get answers to a large number of questions, it becomes abusive to the community. That's essentially what the template says. - Robert Harvey
@AndrewGrimm it's really not ONLY about being able to answer other people's questions, but if you're not answering, editing other's posts or flagging/closing whatsoever, then you're not being a team player. You don't have to have massive topic area experience to do much of that. - Ben Brocka
(2) @BenBrocka when you're talking about editing other's posts, are you talking about editing for content (which newbies should avoid), or editing for grammar and spelling (which is often seen as too pedantic)? I also think that closing and flagging should be done more often by experienced users, and only in more severe cases by new users. - Andrew Grimm
Maybe I should start a new meta question on this topic. - Andrew Grimm
(13) I disagree with this. I have no problem at all with someone who wants to do nothing but ask questions as long as they are engaged, show research, know when to accept answers, when to vote, reply to comments, etc. I don't care if they answer questions or edit posts. Asking good questions is very much a way of giving to the community, I think it's actually one of the best ways. - Wesley Murch
[+50] [2012-04-07 19:45:24] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow is not a perfect model of its guidelines

You may be tempted to ask a broadly-worded, fun [1], or otherwise off-topic question, using questions already on the site as evidence that you can ask yours.


Although we have rules, the community, for the most part, decides which posts get to stay and which posts do not, unless a post is clearly off-topic. Some posts get to stay, regardless of the rules, because they are stellar posts having intrinsic value or historical significance. [2]


(2) I've often thought it would be useful to add an offtopic area of some sort (at the top level, parallel to StackExchange, SuperUser, etc.) specifically to be the place this sort of question gets migrated to, instead of closed. People obviously like the "fun" questions, but if the goal is to not clutter up the primary areas with things that are not specific answers to specific questions, perhaps it would be easier to dig a drainage ditch rather than halt the river. - Atario
(1) @Atario: That's been tried before. - Robert Harvey
So Programmers is it? Why don't I see any "fun" questions (i.e., "What's your favorite..." "What's the worst...") there? - Atario
(2) @Atario: It was a failed experiment. The new scope is substantially different from "Not Programming Related." Some people on the site still struggle with that. - Robert Harvey
So in what way did the experiment fail? - Atario
@Atario: See - Robert Harvey
Hrm. So "because Jeff Atwood said so" is the true answer, it seems. :/ - Atario
@Atario: That's how everyone seems to interpret these events, but the reality is that the site was already failing before SE stepped in. It was failing because Stack Overflow was using it as a recycle bin for their unwanted, bikeshed questions. - Robert Harvey
I don't get it. The fact that it was catching all the questions that weren't supposed to be in another place means it was a failure? How so, I thought that was the whole point? - Atario
(1) @Atario: Read the link I posted, carefully. This isn't about Jeff Atwood not letting us have any fun anymore. It's about a flawed premise; that you can somehow stand up a dumping ground for all of the bikeshed questions and expect it to work. - Robert Harvey
(1) I'm still not getting what constitutes this "failure" or "not working" you mention. Is it that people weren't migrating the "bikeshed questions" to it? Is it the very existence of such questions in the first place? Is it that people weren't learning to post them there instead of other exchanges? What? - Atario
[+49] [2012-04-07 21:22:39] Lix

Stack Overflow is not a place for rude or offensive interactions

Keep interactions between users and the system civil, professional and clean of any language that could be considered rude or offensive.

Keep provocative pictures out of your Gravatar. It's not about free speech; it's about being professional.

(3) I agree with the sentiments in this answer, but I think it should be split up into saying "hostile behaviour isn't appropriate" and "Stack Overflow isn't a free speech zone for provocative pictures". - Andrew Grimm
Politness is a tool only used online by the stupid to censor others they disagree with. This is also true of "personal soapbox" arguments. - Ron Maimon
(5) @RonMaimon: But the opposite can also be observed, that there are people here who's only goal is to be disruptive in some way. Stack Exchange has a specific purpose, and that purpose is undermined by people who wish to co-opt it for their own purposes. - Robert Harvey
@RonMaimon I hope I never have to deal with you! Oh shoot, I'm being offensive and not polite - Juan Mendes
[+46] [2012-04-24 14:37:03] Won't

Stack Overflow does not allow tags in titles

Stack Overflow has an extensive tag system [1] which allows users to identify what technology is involved in a question, watch or ignore certain subjects [2], narrow their searches to a specific area [3], and even learn about the tag's subject via its wiki [4].

This tag system works. You can rely on it to notify users who are interested in a tag about your question. Stack Overflow is optimized so that tags are indexed by search engines along with the content of the question. Users are guaranteed to view your tags, and will take them into account when answering your question.

Therefore it is completely unnecessary to force tags into your question titles.

You absolutely do NOT have to use any one of the following forms when composing your title:

  • [tag]: [question title]
  • [question title] -- [tag] [tag] [tag]
  • [question title] in [tag]
  • [tag] [tag] [question title] [tag] [tag] [tag]
  • [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag]

The only time you should use tags in your title is when they are organic to the conversational tone of the title. For example,

JavaScript, jQuery: When should I use one or the other?

is an example of forcing tags in order to compensate for a lousy title. The title would be much clearer if rewritten thusly:

Can I use jQuery to foo the bar on the baz, or am I stuck using plain JavaScript?


(24) If you ask the question in the first example, I will hurt you in unimaginable ways. - casperOne
Canonical question and answers on this issue here? - Benjol
(2) I find the title of this answer a little too harsh. How about, "Stack Overflow does not need you to add tags to Titles for SEO Purposes", or something like that? This title should mention "tag" (every example uses that word). Talking about "your skills" is a bit personal. - John Saunders
[+45] [2012-04-07 17:13:05] Oded

Stack Overflow is not your personal soapbox

Do not post rants, unsubstantiated opinions, or inflammatory questions or answers.

If you have a beef with the way things are run on Stack Overflow, ask a question here on Meta Stack Overflow. But don't make your only argument that it is not fair, or that people aren't being nice.

It is important to allow people to "soapbox" as there is a great harm in suppressing soapboxable truths in most scientific fields. If stackexchange doesn't create a high level of respect for user speech, and that means ignoring rudeness or soapboxing, it will drive away scientific experts. It will also drive away crackpots, there's very little difference between the two. - Ron Maimon
(14) ...that's a risk I think we're all willing to take. I'm quite happy with a crackpot-free site. - The Establishment
[+44] [2012-04-15 21:22:53] Bill the Lizard

Stack Overflow is not a code translation service

If you have working code in one programming language, don't just post it to Stack Overflow and ask others to translate it to another language for you. Instead, try to write the code yourself and post what you've tried when you run into problems. Explain the requirements in plain English, not in code in another programming language.

(2) might want to include something about researching workarounds between languages as not all of them lend themselves to direct conversion, and there are resources that you can find that show conversions between languages. - gardian06
[+43] [2012-04-07 19:49:40] Rob

Stack Overflow is not responsible for answering questions that would otherwise have no home

The fact that you can't find anywhere else to ask your question does not automatically make it suitable for Stack Overflow.

The FAQ states that you can ask questions about:

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers

Note that many questions unsuitable for Stack Overflow are appropriate on some other Stack Exchange site. For example, if you've created a website in ASP.NET [1]:

These are just examples, but the main point is: Stack Overflow is for programming questions, not necessarily for any and every question that's related to something you've coded.


(3) I foresee linking to this one a few times! - Andrew Barber
(3) I have a complaint using specific examples (pretty much everything after "We are not responsible for answering questions that would otherwise have no home."). What is nice about this particular answer (that I like to quote as a reason why I'm closing a question) is that it is (well, was) neutral -- it did not emphasize any particular other reason that it was closed. If I'm linking to this answer it's because it's precisely that they used the excuse that they "tried everywhere else". - Kirk Woll
Sometimes it will be very much about programming, but still totally inappropriate for SO. I worry that the examples sited has the potentital to simply give people yet another opportunity to complain -- "well see? it was about programming!" Yet the whole reason this question exists is because that's not nearly enough to disambiguate why it was closed. Best just to leave this answer simple and concise. - Kirk Woll
(1) @KirkWoll As the original poster of the original (deleted) answer (Stack Overflow is not a last resort), I agree with you 100%. Your comment has caught my intent when I made the original post, I feel it has now been changed to be less useful. I also do not understand why it had to be deleted to be reposted. - vasco got lost
@vascogotlost, if I'm going to be pedantic, this answer (which I originated 52% of, at this point!) predates yours. Look at the answer ID you linked, as compared to the answer ID of this one. Also, the "example" always formed part of this answer because (and I appear to be in the minority between you, me and Kirk) I believe examples help make things clearer =) - Rob
@Rob I don't remember seeing your answer when posting mine (was it deleted?), but I see that yours does pre-date mine. Reading my comment above again, it does sound a bit petulant. It wasn't meant that way, sorry. The main thing is, the point is made, I did like it better when it was shorter though :) - vasco got lost
[+28] [2012-04-22 05:12:02] TylerShads

Stack Overflow is not a place to talk about Stack Overflow

If you have a question about the site, whether it be how it works, a bug you found in it, or an idea you think might be beneficial for the site, ask on Meta [1] (this applies to ALL SE sites!).

See Also


(13) Rule 1 of Stack Overflow is... - Rocket
[+28] [2012-04-24 05:22:38] Eric Lippert

Stack Overflow is not a source for creative ideas or market research

We do not know:

  • what real-world problem your entry into the Imagine Cup should solve
  • what clever algorithm you should write your master's thesis about
  • what new open source project you could create that people might contribute to
  • what tools do not exist that professional developers might buy if you wrote them
  • and so on.

If you have a specific, technical programming problem relating to your contest entry, your thesis, your open source project, your developer tool, and so on, Stack Overflow is a great place to ask it. But brainstorming up novel, creative ideas for you is not what we do; that's your job.

[+27] [2012-04-22 23:34:42] Rosinante

Stack Overflow is not a law office

Questions on the interpretation of licenses, or contracts, or any other point of law, are not what we do here. There are other resources on the web that offer overviews and tutorials of common FOSS Licenses, and, as for contracts, this is not the place.

Where can we go for informal legal advice? - Gili
[+23] [2012-04-20 16:09:24] gnat

Stack Overflow does not allow cross-posting

Don't post the same identical question over multiple Stack Exchange sites as it leads to fragmented answers splattered all over the network.

See Also

Is cross-posting a question on multiple Stack Exchange sites permitted if the question is on-topic for each site? [1]


[+21] [2012-06-08 09:44:01] gdoron

Stack Overflow is not a debugging service

Avoid asking generic "What's wrong with my code" questions:

  • "What is the problem with this code?"
  • "Why doesn't this code work?"
  • "Am I doing this right?"

If your code doesn't work, tell us exactly what the problem is, and paste the exact wording of the error message into your question. Include the steps you've already taken to try and diagnose the problem, including your use of a debugger and breakpoints.

Paste the relevant portion of your code into your question. Pastebins, Fiddles and links to your website are OK, but we still need to see the important code in your question.

I made some changes. - Robert Harvey
@RobertHarvey. "Some" :) - gdoron
Well, yeah, it's basically a rewrite. But some of us write more than just web applications, and this subject already has some coverage at Stack Overflow won't inspect your entire code base. - Robert Harvey
@RobertHarvey. I would keep the " not a debugging service" title. Up to you. - gdoron
Not to be pedantic, but isn't solving programming problems "debugging" (amongst other practices)? I think the title could be better, what next? Stack Overflow is not a Question and Answer service? /cc @RobertHarvey - Kev
@Kev: Then suggest better wording. The intent is to discourage people from pasting their code and asking us to debug it for them. That's what code debugging tools are for. - Robert Harvey
@Kev. Yes, SO isn't a a debugging service, you shouldn't write a URL\ (Read the first revision) Paste a lot of code and expect to get an answer from the "Service", SO isn't a magic, people here actually need to spend their time to solve others bugs. SO users shouldn't be abused. - gdoron
[+20] [2012-05-21 21:43:05] JohnMcG

Stack Overflow is not a collaborative development environment

Please do not post a question, receive an answer, then edit your question with that answer incorporated with the expectation that the community will now address whatever problem you are now encountering.

We are trying to build a repository of questions and answers to programming problems. Editing your question to remove the first problem you encountered means that future programmers will not be able to find your question, and the answers that others have put work into will now appear to be nonsense.

If an answer gets you past one problem into another, mark the most helpful answer as correct, try to work through whatever new problem you're encountering, and if necessary, post a new, self-contained question, with your new problem.

(1) Wish I could +100 - Adrian
[+19] [2012-05-03 18:43:38] Robert Harvey

Stack Overflow cannot tell the future

Speculative questions about what will company X do, or what direction will technology or language Y and such take, are not answerable.

We don't know when the next version of [your favorite technology] will be released, nor do we know if [your favorite technology] will become the next big thing.

(2) But one of your example questions is answerable. Example question "When will Windows 8 be released?" Answer: "Microsoft have not set a firm date. They have committed to a nearly-complete Release Preview in June 2012. Plausible rumours say the final release will be Oct 2012." No crystal ball. Useful. Based on expertise. Not argumentative. No extensive discussion. - MarkJ
(8) @MarkJ: That kind of information is either already readily available from other public sources, available from the manufacturer, or not available at all. The question itself is too localized since, once the release date passes, the question becomes irrelevant. I'd call "plausible rumors" speculative. - Robert Harvey
(3) I'm struggling to understand how "information is available from public sources" is a valid criticism of an answer, especially when you also strongly dislike speculative answers! This question is of interest to hundreds of millions of Windows users / developers. Yes, the info becomes irrelevant after the release date. Many questions on SO have a short shelf life because they are inevitably specific to particular language versions, for instance. Speculative: is your position really that Windows 8 might be released this year, or in 20 years time, no-one knows?? - MarkJ
(5) @MarkJ: See Are Some Questions Too Simple? If it's not readily available via Google, for the love of God, just ask Microsoft. See also Stack Overflow is not Customer Support - Robert Harvey
Let's take some steps back. You've proposed "when will next version of technology x be released" as an excellent example of a question so speculative, you need a crystal ball to answer! My point is that it is not a good example of this class of question. Our discussion has been interesting. You've proposed a number of other (much more plausible) reasons why the question should be closed, including that the info is readily available from public sources - pretty bizarre for a "speculative" question, don't you think?? I really think this is not a good example for this post. - MarkJ
(3) @MarkJ: We still don't know when the next version of [your favorite technology] will be released, nor do we particularly care. - Robert Harvey
[+16] [2012-05-08 20:11:37] Lix

Stack Overflow does not reverse-engineer other people's software

Don't post a link to someone else's software or site and expect us to analyze it for you. We will not reverse engineer someone else's application so that you may better understand how they did it.

If you really like a feature on some site - investigate!
Crack open your Chrome developer tools [1] or Firebug [2] consoles and start poking around.


[+14] [2012-06-05 15:07:33] John Dibling

Stack Overflow is not a language tutorial

The Stack Overflow community is happy to help you gain a deeper understanding of the programming concepts you have already learned, but the question/answer format is not well-suited to questions that seek basic understanding of a language's syntax and rules.

Questions such as:

  • What does virtual do in C++?
  • How do I do multithreaded programming?
  • Teach me how to do this?

are much too "big" to fit in to the question/answer format of Stack Overflow and are better learned by reading language texts and following tutorials.

[+12] [2012-06-13 17:58:10] Frédéric Hamidi

Stack Overflow is not tied to your deadline

Even if you are working under a lot of pressure, and you think a quick answer will allow you to deliver on time, do not post things like:

  • It's urgent.
  • Please answer as soon as possible.
  • Hurry up. (That one was probably due to the language barrier, but still.)

We are volunteers, and doing that is commonly viewed as disrespectful at best, downright rude at worst. It will work against you, because your question will usually suffer many more downvotes and/or close votes than it would otherwise have.

Instead, you can put a bounty as soon as the delay (two days) has elapsed, or possibly link to the question on your social network of choice to attract more eyes.

[+9] [2012-06-15 14:31:08] Discount Gucci Handbags

Stack Overflow is not a replacement for a quick search

Many questions have already been asked before, and received some good answers that will help you immediately. The first thing you want to do is find out whether such a duplicate might already exist.

Think about what search terms might lead you to a good Google result. If you can't think of any terms, enter your question - a complete sentence! - and see what comes up. Alternatively, enter what you would have used as your question's title. Very often, this will already give you a solution to your problem.

If that doesn't yield anything, try the same searches on Stack Overflow. Did you know that SO has a powerful advanced search? [1]

If that doesn't work for you, either, then click Ask Question [2] and fill in the "Title" field. Pay attention to the area underneath. See the list named "Questions that may already have your answer"? Check that out, too, it may already contain a good answer for you.

enter image description here

If that doesn't give you anything useful, either, then it's finally time to go ahead and ask!


This is a bit long. Can you condense it? There is some overlap with "Stack Overflow is not a link farm or search engine," which already explains that we don't replace Google. - Robert Harvey
@Robert I slimmed it down a bit. What do you think? I would like to keep the instructions - Discount Gucci Handbags
[+6] [2012-06-16 13:16:57] Discount Gucci Handbags

Stack Overflow is not guaranteed to keep all your content

Content that is deemed off topic or not constructive on Stack Overflow may be deleted at any time. Deletions can be initiated by the votes of at least three users with more than 10,000 reputation points, or a moderator.

The interpretation of what is on-topic, and what is not, may change, or become stricter, over time. This has happened in the past, resulting in the deletion of many questions, [1] even popular ones.

If you contribute something to Stack Overflow that you think must be preserved for the ages, make sure you keep a backup copy, especially if it answers a question that is close to the border of off-topicness.

If you feel something has been deleted in error, flag the question for a moderator's attention. For valuable content that has been closed, but deserves to stay visible, there also is the historical lock [2].


[-1] [2012-06-21 02:53:28] djechlin

SO is not a profiler.

Avoid asking questions like "Which is faster?" unless you have already tried profiling the code yourself, and if you actually know it is causing performance problems in your code. If you have not put in research effort, chances are you will be told that the difference is only nanoseconds and it is "probably optimized out by any modern compiler anyway." If one alternative you are proposing is much clearer or more straightforward, always go with that choice unless you have demonstrated the code is affecting your application's performance and have demonstrated the less clear code performs better. It is OK to ask for advice regarding how to profile or how to determine if your code is affect performance, provided your question meets other SO criteria.

discussion here. [1]


(1) I'm not a fan of this. We already have one passive-aggressive statement which covers similar ground; why do we need another? - Makoto
(1) @Makoto For the reasons discussed in the link "discussion here." - djechlin