Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Programming questions, of course! As long as your question is:

  • detailed and specific
  • written clearly and simply
  • of interest to at least one other programmer somewhere

... it is welcome here. No question is too trivial or too "newbie". Oh yes, and it should be about programming. You know, with a computer.

Do look around to see if your question has already been asked (and maybe even answered!) before you ask. However, as long as you've looked, if you end up asking a question that has been asked before, that is OK and deliberately allowed. Other users will hopefully edit in links to related or similar questions to help future visitors find their way.

It's also perfectly fine to ask and answer your own programming question, but pretend you're on Jeopardy: phrase it in the form of a question.

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. This is a place for questions that can be answered!

Also, try to refrain from asking questions about Stack Overflow itself unless you absolutely, positively have to. Most programmers don't come here to learn about the intricacies of Stack Overflow; they come here to get answers to their programming questions. Let's try to help them out by not cluttering up the system with navelgazing meta-discussion.

Be nice.

Treat others with the same respect you'd want them to treat you. We're all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor.

Be honest.

Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it down. Insert comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Even better — edit and improve the information! Provide stronger, faster, superior answers of your own!

Do I have to log in or create an account?

Nope. You can answer and ask questions to your heart's content as an anonymous user, much like Wikipedia. However, there are some things you won't be able to do on the site without registering. But it's super easy to register if you want to. All you need is an OpenID account.

What is reputation?

Reputation is completely optional; normal use of Stack Overflow — asking and answering questions — does not require any reputation whatsoever.

As we've said all along — Stack Overflow is run by you! If you want to help us run Stack Overflow, you'll need reputation first. Reputation is a (very) rough measurement of how much the Stack Overflow community trusts you. Reputation is never given, it is earned by convincing other Stack Overflow users that you know what you're talking about.

Here's how it works: if you post a good question or helpful answer, it will be voted up by your peers. If you post something that's off topic or incorrect, it will be voted down. Each up vote adds 10 reputation points; each down vote removes 2. Amass enough reputation points and Stack Overflow will allow you to do more things on the site, beyond simply asking and answering questions, such as:

15 Vote up
15 Flag offensive
50 Leave comments
100 Vote down
250 Close your questions (no longer accept answers)
500 Retag other people's questions
750 Edit community wiki posts
2000 Edit other people's posts
2000 Delete comments
3000 Close other people's questions

At the high end of this reputation spectrum there is little difference between users with high reputation and moderators. That is very much intentional. We don't run Stack Overflow. The community does.

Other people can edit my stuff?!

Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your questions and answers being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

What about...

If you're looking for excruciating detail, we host a section of constantly evolving Stack Overflow FAQs that document everything about the site.