Questions that are asking for debugging ("help me find this error") or implementation ("how do I write...") have tended to be closed and down voted.

Why is this? And where should I ask these questions?


1 Answer 1


The Stack philosophy

A key principle in the design guiding Stack Overflow and the rest of the Stack Exchange network is that there is one right place to ask the question. While we acknowledge that there are often gray lines where something is appropriate for two different sites, there is likely a best site to ask the question on.

This helps make sure that questions about a topic are asked on the proper site, and that people looking for an answer to a question they may have but haven't asked yet can be properly directed to one site.

Stack Overflow is the place for code

Asking coding questions on Software Engineering when it belongs on Stack Overflow instead means that it will take longer for the person asking the question to get an answer - we don't have as much traffic and the community is fairly dead set on coding questions being off topic here.

If the question is a good one, it can take a few hours for it to get migrated to Stack Overflow. It's better to ask the how do I write and debugging questions there. Furthermore, in the case that it's a duplicate, the question frequently gets closed here with only minor hints at the duplicate nature. Asking the duplicate question (you searched first and didn't find it - right?) on Stack Overflow allows a much more rapid response to properly pointing the question to the one that has the answer.

On debugging itself

A fairly consistent comment that a person asking for debugging help will find is "have you debugged it?" There are numerous debuggers out there for all the different languages. A favorite post of mine lists debugging as the first and most important skill for a programmer. You will likely find that spending 5-10 minutes learning how to use a debugger for your language choice and putting a break point in at the proper spot will be faster than asking on Stack Overflow - and will let you answer questions there instead.

Don't look for more exposure here

Cross posting is frowned upon. Posting on multiple sites will often result in the question getting closed and down voted. Programmers also has automatic question bans enabled. Posting off topic questions here that should have been there and are there (so we won't migrate it) will bring the person asking the question a step closer to a question ban.

While this sounds scary, it shouldn't be. If you ask a properly researched question that isn't an opinion poll or too broad it is not likely to have the question closed.

On the Overflow vs. Exchange

On some occasions people familiar with other sites on and off the network are under the impression that ${something}Overflow is for the graduate level questions and ${something}.StackExchange is for the easier ones. This may be the case for Math and Physics, but it cannot be further from the truth for Stack Overflow and Software Engineering.

The distinction between Software Engineering and Stack Overflow is rather one of how far you are in the software development process. A rule of thumb is that if you are sketching out a design then Software Engineering is probably the better choice; while if you are trying to figure out some code in the editor Stack Overflow is better choice. And if you are looking for "write some code for me," neither site is a good choice and you should instead be looking for freelance coders to write it for you (no one will do it for free).

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