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How to ask a question on stack overflow

5 strategies to post great questions and receive better answers

How to ask a question on stack overflow

If you are in tech, you know what Stack Overflow is. More than likely, you might have a love-hate relationship with the service — while incredibly useful, users can be quite confrontational about a post they don’t deem “worthy”, asks a previously answered question or simply uses the word thanks. Nonetheless, finding the right SO post can be much faster than scraping through pages of documentation just to remember if you should be using a concat() or a merge() .

So what is one to do? Brave the world of Stack Overflow, toxicity and all, or take a stand and try to live without it? For many programmers and data scientists, this isn’t really a choice. We need Stack Overflow. And despite the barriers to entry to get one’s post read/not downvoted into oblivion, there are a few guidelines that one can follow to increase the odds of being well received.

This article is a rules-of-the-road to decrease the likelihood of downvotes and increase the chance you get your post answered, if and when you do make that jump from casual reader to columnist. So without further ado….

The founder of Stack Overflow, Jeff Atwood, says there are 3 types of duplicate questions: 1) cut-and-paste duplicates, 2) accidental duplicates, and 3) borderline duplicates. While the last one is least likely to get your post flagged and deleted (i.e. it’s on the edge of being a duplicate based on slight variations), it’s always best to do thorough research to see if your question has already been answered.

Stack Overflow is very particular about having one beautiful, well-answered post for any specific question, bug, or install issue. If your question qualifies as answerable from another post then it probably won’t stay up long. That being said, if you do have a unique question, ask away!

In gist: Do your best to suss out if the answer already exists, and if it does not, you could be contributing something very valuable not only to yourself but also the larger community by making that post.

The reason you are on Stack Overflow at all is likely because you have a specific issue that needs fixing. Furthermore, a lot of the posts you look for are so valuable precisely because they are boiled down and presented in the most straightforward way possible. While you might not be using the variables apple , banana , and orange in your code, you can easily deduce what they are and rework such an example to fit your needs.

The same things goes in writing a good SO post. Starting with your own code, simplify and rewrite it in a way that a coder without a thorough grasp of your specific project topic would still be able to understand it (common variable names are foo , bar , x , y , z , a , b , c , apples , bananas , etc). Furthermore, isolate the problem by taking out any extraneous components unrelated to the specific bug you are having. By doing this, you increase the net benefit of your question to SO users overall and generate more goodwill by users who might be able to actually answer it.

In gist: Simplify, simplify, simplify — Einstein

One thing that will grind people’s gears really fast is thinking that you are asking them to write the code for you (even worse, for a homework assignment! 😮 ). To encourage people to want to help solve you problem, it’s crucial to provide a working code example in your posts. Additionally, depending on the issue you should also provide the current vs. expected output, error messages, summarize what you’ve tried already, etc.

It’s totally A.O.K. to ask a question, even for a homework assignment (😅), but Stack Overflow is only there to help you get un-stuck after you’ve gotten to the point of needing help. As with job interviews or first dates, putting in a good faith effort at the onset is going to drastically increase the odds that the people on the other end like you back.

In gist: Stack Overflow is not in the business of writing code, but of debugging it once you’ve already messed something up. Detailing your efforts at the onset will pay leaps and bounds when trying to get someone to give your post the light of day.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to say “thank you” probably more than is required. You just saved my life? Thank you. Picked up some cereal I like from the store? Thanks. Shared half of your PB&J? I’ll probably name my firstborn child after you.

Yeah, no, Stack Overflow and I do not agree on this one. The help section specifically states that “If you use signatures, taglines, greetings, thanks or other chit chat, it will be removed to reduce noise in the questions and answers.” So keep out all the hello’s, thank you’s, and sincerely’s when you write that post, or maybe just write them anyway and cut them out before you press publish.

In gist: Despite all of my instincts as a midwesterner, keep the niceties out of the equation and focus on making your question as straightforward as possible. Will it read like a saltine cracker? Perhaps. But will you avoid being downvoted? Yup.

Just like there is an art to tagging TDS articles, there is also an art to writing a succinct SO title and adding the correct tags. This can be a tricky business; the full tagging guidelines can be found here, and here is a discussion on how to formulate a good title.

Each question can have up to five tags and each tag should be relatively specific. Some good tags could be about the language your using ( c# , css , html , javascript , python , r ), the technique ( support-vector-machines , neural-networks , latent-dirichlet-allocation , decision-trees ), or a specific functionality or package ( hover , image , search , decoupling , dplyr ). As for titles, it’s best to go with something that is succinct yet descriptive.

In gist: A clickbaity title might work on Youtube but the opposite is true for Stack Overflow. Furthermore, tagging is an important step to getting seen among the stream of hundreds of new questions asked every hour.

Stack Overflow can be an enlightening, toxic, helpful, confrontational, generous, snobby medium of which is certainly here to stay. With these tips, I hope that you’ll feel more comfortable joining the SO community and posting your own questions when facing the inevitable hurdles of the profession we have chosen. Safe travels and happy coding!

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Available on Free, Basic, Business

Improve your chances of getting an answer by following these tips. Search, research, and keep track of what you find. Even if you don’t find a useful answer elsewhere on the site, including links to related questions that haven’t helped can help others in understanding how your question is different from the rest.

Summarize the problem as a title.

The title is the first thing potential answers will see, and if your title isn’t interesting, they won’t read the rest. So make it count:

Try to sum up your entire question in one sentence: what details can you include that will help someone identify and solve your problem? Include any error messages, key APIs, or unusual circumstances that make your question different from similar questions already on the site.

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are essential! Remember, this is the first part of your question others will see.

If you’re having trouble summarizing the problem, write the title last – sometimes writing the rest of the question first can make it easier to describe the problem.

Explain the problem.

Before you provide any code, start by expanding on the summary you put in the title. Explain how you encountered the problem you’re trying to solve, and any difficulties that have prevented you from solving it yourself. The first paragraph in your question is the second thing most readers will see, so make it as engaging and informative as possible.

Help others reproduce the problem.

Not all questions benefit from including code. But if your problem is with the code you’ve written, you should include some. But don’t just copy in your entire program! It likely includes a lot of irrelevant details that readers will need to ignore when trying to reproduce the problem. Include just enough code to allow others to reproduce the problem.

Include all relevant tags.

Try to include a tag for the language, library, and specific API your question relates to. If you start typing in the tags field, the system will suggest tags that match what you’ve typed – be sure and read the descriptions given for them to make sure they’re relevant to the question you’re asking! Read more about using tags.

Proofread before posting.

Now that you’re ready to ask your question, take a deep breath and read through it from start to finish. Pretend you’re seeing it for the first time: does it make sense? Try reproducing the problem yourself, in a fresh environment and make sure you can do so using only the information included in your question. Add any details you missed and read through it again. Now is an excellent time to make sure that your title still describes the problem!

Respond to feedback.

After you post, leave the question open in your browser for a bit, and see if anyone comments. If you missed an obvious piece of information, be ready to respond by editing your question to include it. If someone posts an answer, be prepared to try it out and provide feedback.

As the author of the post, you will also receive notifications for all new activity to your question. These notifications will appear in your inbox on-site, but you can also receive notifications via email.

Accept an answer.

One of the most important parts of asking a question is to make sure that the correct answer is accepted and pinned to the top of the others. Not only does this give the author of the answer a small reputation boost, but it also gives a clear indication of what solved your problem and that your problem is solved.

Questions with an accepted answer appear differently in lists of questions to give others a quick indication that the problem is resolved.

Did you know? Just because a user is deactivated doesn’t mean the accepted answer can never be changed for that question. Admins can accept answers on behalf of deactivated users.

Additional resources

Learning to ask a good question is a worthy pursuit, and not one you’ll master overnight. Here are some additional resources that you may find useful:

I’ve just been told off for asking a question in the wrong section and that I should have asked it in the main section. However, the main section doesn’t have an “Ask Question” link that I can find! Stupid question (since I found it in this section), but how do I ask a question on Stack Overflow?

2 Answers 2

If so, you were not “told off”. You were instructed about where to properly post it.

As for where the ask question link is; it’s in pretty much exactly the same place on each site. The page to do so on Stack Overflow is here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/ask

I think some of the disconnect here might be due to how you perceived there to be ‘sections’ of a ‘main site’. Going on an assumption like that, I can imagine how you would arrive at some of your confusion.

Basically, the Stack Exchange network contains about 80 sites as of right now. It is essentially impossible to have them operate as ‘sections’ of the same website, as a result. However, I believe a conscious decision was made that it was desirable to split the sites like that anyway, and allow each to operate as a separate community.

Yes; that absolutely does somewhat decrease the usability across the network, as far as navigating between them all. There are elements of the main Stack Exchange site which mitigate those issues for those of us with multiple accounts, though. Also, though; the various communities span a broad range of topics, and it would be even more harmful to usability to force people to have to navigate amongst content that is not at all related to what they are interested in; For example, I have no interest in ever seeing any content from the Gaming or Cooking sites.

There are more reasons why that I could go into, but I’m not even 100% sure I’m right about what the disconnect is. There are questions here that can help you understand why the communities are split like they are. My point is just that it is on purpose that the communities are split.

5 strategies to post great questions and receive better answers

How to ask a question on stack overflow

If you are in tech, you know what Stack Overflow is. More than likely, you might have a love-hate relationship with the service — while incredibly useful, users can be quite confrontational about a post they don’t deem “worthy”, asks a previously answered question or simply uses the word thanks. Nonetheless, finding the right SO post can be much faster than scraping through pages of documentation just to remember if you should be using a concat() or a merge() .

So what is one to do? Brave the world of Stack Overflow, toxicity and all, or take a stand and try to live without it? For many programmers and data scientists, this isn’t really a choice. We need Stack Overflow. And despite the barriers to entry to get one’s post read/not downvoted into oblivion, there are a few guidelines that one can follow to increase the odds of being well received.

This article is a rules-of-the-road to decrease the likelihood of downvotes and increase the chance you get your post answered, if and when you do make that jump from casual reader to columnist. So without further ado….

The founder of Stack Overflow, Jeff Atwood, says there are 3 types of duplicate questions: 1) cut-and-paste duplicates, 2) accidental duplicates, and 3) borderline duplicates. While the last one is least likely to get your post flagged and deleted (i.e. it’s on the edge of being a duplicate based on slight variations), it’s always best to do thorough research to see if your question has already been answered.

Stack Overflow is very particular about having one beautiful, well-answered post for any specific question, bug, or install issue. If your question qualifies as answerable from another post then it probably won’t stay up long. That being said, if you do have a unique question, ask away!

In gist: Do your best to suss out if the answer already exists, and if it does not, you could be contributing something very valuable not only to yourself but also the larger community by making that post.

The reason you are on Stack Overflow at all is likely because you have a specific issue that needs fixing. Furthermore, a lot of the posts you look for are so valuable precisely because they are boiled down and presented in the most straightforward way possible. While you might not be using the variables apple , banana , and orange in your code, you can easily deduce what they are and rework such an example to fit your needs.

The same things goes in writing a good SO post. Starting with your own code, simplify and rewrite it in a way that a coder without a thorough grasp of your specific project topic would still be able to understand it (common variable names are foo , bar , x , y , z , a , b , c , apples , bananas , etc). Furthermore, isolate the problem by taking out any extraneous components unrelated to the specific bug you are having. By doing this, you increase the net benefit of your question to SO users overall and generate more goodwill by users who might be able to actually answer it.

In gist: Simplify, simplify, simplify — Einstein

One thing that will grind people’s gears really fast is thinking that you are asking them to write the code for you (even worse, for a homework assignment! 😮 ). To encourage people to want to help solve you problem, it’s crucial to provide a working code example in your posts. Additionally, depending on the issue you should also provide the current vs. expected output, error messages, summarize what you’ve tried already, etc.

It’s totally A.O.K. to ask a question, even for a homework assignment (😅), but Stack Overflow is only there to help you get un-stuck after you’ve gotten to the point of needing help. As with job interviews or first dates, putting in a good faith effort at the onset is going to drastically increase the odds that the people on the other end like you back.

In gist: Stack Overflow is not in the business of writing code, but of debugging it once you’ve already messed something up. Detailing your efforts at the onset will pay leaps and bounds when trying to get someone to give your post the light of day.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to say “thank you” probably more than is required. You just saved my life? Thank you. Picked up some cereal I like from the store? Thanks. Shared half of your PB&J? I’ll probably name my firstborn child after you.

Yeah, no, Stack Overflow and I do not agree on this one. The help section specifically states that “If you use signatures, taglines, greetings, thanks or other chit chat, it will be removed to reduce noise in the questions and answers.” So keep out all the hello’s, thank you’s, and sincerely’s when you write that post, or maybe just write them anyway and cut them out before you press publish.

In gist: Despite all of my instincts as a midwesterner, keep the niceties out of the equation and focus on making your question as straightforward as possible. Will it read like a saltine cracker? Perhaps. But will you avoid being downvoted? Yup.

Just like there is an art to tagging TDS articles, there is also an art to writing a succinct SO title and adding the correct tags. This can be a tricky business; the full tagging guidelines can be found here, and here is a discussion on how to formulate a good title.

Each question can have up to five tags and each tag should be relatively specific. Some good tags could be about the language your using ( c# , css , html , javascript , python , r ), the technique ( support-vector-machines , neural-networks , latent-dirichlet-allocation , decision-trees ), or a specific functionality or package ( hover , image , search , decoupling , dplyr ). As for titles, it’s best to go with something that is succinct yet descriptive.

In gist: A clickbaity title might work on Youtube but the opposite is true for Stack Overflow. Furthermore, tagging is an important step to getting seen among the stream of hundreds of new questions asked every hour.

Stack Overflow can be an enlightening, toxic, helpful, confrontational, generous, snobby medium of which is certainly here to stay. With these tips, I hope that you’ll feel more comfortable joining the SO community and posting your own questions when facing the inevitable hurdles of the profession we have chosen. Safe travels and happy coding!

As the result of extensive analysis of Stack Overflow questions and answers, researchers have come up with some dos and don’ts about framing questions that will result in useful answers.

When we’re stuck with a seemingly intractable programing problem, a Google search will often lead to Stack Overflow. Sometimes there will be the answer we’re looking for. Other times what we’ll discover is someone with the same, or very similar problem as an unanswered question.

Fabio Calefato, Filippo Lanubile and Nicole Novielli from the University of Bari in Italy set out to investigate how information seekers can increase the chance of eliciting a successful answer to their questions on Stack Overflow.

They started from the premise that the success of Stack Overflow and similar community-based Q&A sites depends mainly on the will of their members to answer others’ questions. They write:

When formulating requests on Q&A sites, we are not simply seeking for information. Instead, we are also asking for other people’s help and feedback. Understanding the dynamics of the participation in Q&A communities is essential to improve the value of crowdsourced knowledge.

The researchers proposed a conceptual framework of factors potentially influencing the success of questions in Stack Overflow. As shown in this diagram, they considered Time of asking the question, the Presentation Quality of the question and its Affect (positive versus negative in overall formulation) as “Actionable factors”, i.e. those which the person asking the question could control. The other factor taken into account was Stack Overflow Reputation, which is something difficult to manipulate as it built over time and requires experience to answer questions, and was therefore classed “Not actionable”

How to ask a question on stack overflow

(click in diagram to enlarge)

The actionable factors in this framework are influenced by existing guidelines for asking questions on Stack Overflow. Its policy of Be Nice and the advice to write questions using a neutral emotional style leads to including Affect.

As regards Presentation Quality, the main advice for asking questions that will elicit an answer is to use a title that summarizes the specific problem. Other hints on Writing the perfect question are those proposed in 2010 by Jon Skeet, who, the researchers point out, was the Stack Overflow contributor with the highest reputation. His advice can be summarized as:

  • Use short, descriptive question titles
  • Be concise
  • Use capital letters where appropriate
  • Provide sample code and data
  • Provide context through tags

The researchers add to this the extra guideline:

  • Provide context through URLs

With regard to the Time factor, the researchers guideline of:

  • Be aware of low-efficiency hours

is derived from Bosu et al (2013) which reported that the most successful time slices correspond to the working time in the USA, where most of Stack Overflow experts resided at the time of their study. They observed that the highest proportion of questions with accepted answers to be in the time frame corresponding to 3:00-6:00 PM of West Coast US time. In addition, they found that questions posted during the weekend are more likely to be answered than questions posted during the week.

The researchers made an analysis of over 87K questions extracted from an official Stack Overflow dump of 21 million answers to 13 million covering the period July 2008 to September 2014. The questions in the dataset were restricted to those in the final month prior to the dump. This was in order to use the reputation scores of those seeking technical help. The researchers argue:

Since Stack Overflow allows users to gain at most 200 reputation points per day, it is reasonable to assume that the reputation category of most users stays unvaried over a month.

They removed from the dataset self-answered questions, those removed or closed by moderators and those edited after original posting. They also removed questions asked in the final 3 days prior to the creation of the dump to avoid introducing a bias into the results because the community had not had sufficient time to answer them.

From the set of 87,373 questions, 30,797 (35%) were Resolved – i.e. “successful” in terms of the analysis and overall those asked with a Positive Sentiment were twice as likely to succeed compared to Negative ones.

How to ask a question on stack overflow

The chance of having a question answered increased with Asker Reputation. Those from persons considered Trusted users according to Stack Overflow’s system (i.e with a reputation score of 20K or more) were rare in numerical terms – there were just 376 of them, but almost half 182 (48%) were Resolved. Trusted users were also able to get away more often with expressing negativity. For Established users (with reputation scores between 1000 and 20,000) the resolution rate was 44% and for Low Reputation users, with scores between 10 and 1000, which accounted for the majority of questions, it dropped to 40%.

The success rate for New users, with reputation score less than 10, was only 21% and their questions were the most penalized for expressing Negative sentiment negativity. This could be interpreted as newbies being shunned by the community, however this isn’t as extreme as it appears. To count as an answered question on Stack Overflow the person who posed the question has to mark it as being accepted. In fact many questions count as unanswered simply because new users are unaware of this requirement.

As part of their investigation the researchers looked at a sample of 100 questions that were deemed “unsuccessful” on Stack Overflow and found that 38 of them had useful answers and that 17 had answers that provided a solution.

How to ask a question on stack overflow

As a result of extensive analysis, backed up by a survey of Stack Overflow users, the researchers reported that Presentation Quality is the most relevant success factor concluding:

We found that regardless of user reputation, successful questions are short, contain code snippets, and do not abuse with uppercase characters. As regards affect, successful questions adopt a neutral emotional style.

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How to ask a question on stack overflow

For most technical questions in the database space, there are several things you can do to get the best and quickest answers from the largest number of people. The most succinct advice I’ve seen is in the help center for Database Administrators Stack Exchange:

To get even more TL;DR: The easiest way I’ve found to quickly set up a question for SQL Server is to use db<>fiddle. Create a representative table, enough sample data to cover edge cases, desired results, and the query you’ve tried that doesn’t work.

Don’t post screenshots (or photographs of your screen). Background here. People need actual CREATE TABLE and INSERT statements (best provided in a fiddle) to get right down to solving your problem. If they have to spend any effort creating a table and building sample data, they’re more likely to just move on to the next question.

Don’t reprimand people for providing feedback on parts of your design or code that may or not be related to the specific problem you have right now. All you’re doing is discouraging them from participating further, and that only hurts you. If parts of your code aren’t relevant to the problem, don’t include them. We don’t need 15 outer joins to evaluate why ORDER BY isn’t working as you expect.

A complicated part of asking a good question is finding the right balance of providing enough information but not too much. Be careful not to over-simplify, because people will have to ask you prodding questions to get enough information to solve the problem (and in the meantime others may have already tried to solve a now different problem – we call these “chameleon questions”). On the other hand, the word “minimal” up there is first for a reason – sometimes people will post 800 lined of T-SQL when 5 would have been enough.

I have some further advice that gets into more of the nitty-gritty, though it is admittedly SQL Server-centric:

Erik Darling, the nicest former bouncer I know, has a worthwhile walk-through for you here:

Gianluca Sartori has this great post:

Stack Overflow has its own version, but it is less focused on database problems specifically:

Though there is also this Stack Overflow tag wiki that focuses on query optimization problems specifically:

There’s also this great meta question:

And this great post from Tomáš Zíka about not being lazy:

And finally, Jon Skeet has multiple blog posts discussing the science of a Q & A community, and they are well worth a read, whether you ask questions, answer them, or both:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

I am a passionate technologist with industry experience dating back to Classic ASP and SQL Server 6.5. I am a long-time Microsoft MVP, write at SQLPerformance and MSSQLTips, and have had the honor of speaking at more conferences than I can remember. In non-tech life, I am a father of two, a huge hockey and football fan, and my pronouns are he/him.

Questions in this tag are being cleaned up in preparation for the tag’s removal from the system. Please help by replacing it with more useful tags or by closing and deleting off-topic questions using this tag.

This tag is in phase 4 of the burnination process described here. The question and comments have been cleaned to allow for on-topic discussion about the burnination of this tag. Please keep it that way.

If you want to discuss the process of burnination itself, post a new question on Meta or visit the SOCVR chat room.

I recently came across the tag write being used, and upon checking it out I noticed it had no description, and only few questions (65 as of time of writing). While adding nothing to the post.

Does it describe the contents of the questions to which it is applied? and is it unambiguous?

No, the tag is not unambiguous and doesn’t say much about the contents of the question. It is used in different contexts including:

  • writing to files (txt, pdf etc)
  • writing to CLI
  • commands called ‘Write’

Is the concept described even on-topic for the site?

In most cases the tag does seem to be used in combination with writing to a file from a given programming language.

Does the tag add any meaningful information to the post?

Definitely not. Just from seeing the tag you have no clue what the poster wants. What does poster want to write to? A file, variable, memory address, book, poem? For most writing operations there are already specific tags in place such as streamwriter fwrite filewriter console.writeline that would give way more information

Does it mean the same thing in all common contexts?

I don’t think so, although most seem to be about file writing it is also common in programming for just “write” to mean writing to memory, lists/dictionary’s (or other variables) or console outputs.

Alternatively there is also the (still ambiguous) writing (327 questions), so maybe a merge or synonym works better.

How to ask a question on stack overflow

3 Answers 3

Note that we’re burning two tags: writing and write. They have mostly identical question buildups, and currently don’t need separate advice. Feel free to edit this answer if that changes, or edit with other observations.

  • A number of questions relate to specific classes/functions for writing; examples include streamwriter, fwrite, filewriter, and console.writeline. We don’t need to create additional tags for uncovered APIs, but if they exist, using them may be appropriate.
    • The POSIX’ [write] API is present in a number of these posts; if we need a tag beyond posix, linux, or another contextually appropriate tag, unistd.h is the better name for a tag. That tag does not currently exist, and it’s somewhat undecided whether such a tag is needed in the first place.
    • In most cases, however, a simple language tag will suffice.

The writing and write tags are in the process of being burninated. You can help out by reviewing the questions with these tags, and.

It’s easy to find the top Stack Overflow questions of all time — but the *current* top questions gives us what’s important now. Find the how-to here, and an interactive dashboard to get to the top trends.

Stack Overflow in 2023: Predicting with ARIMA and BigQuery

Can you predict the top Stack Overflow tags of 2023? BigQuery makes this easy, with its new support for training…

Here’s the interactive dashboard you can use to get the answers to your specific questions. Below, find the story of how it was created and why it matters.

Let’s see first what questions have received the largest number of pageviews through time:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

  • The top Stack Overflow question of all time — with more than 7 million views since its creation 9 years ago — is not even a programming question: “ How do I undo the most recent commits in Git”.
  • From the top 10 questions, 4 are related to git, 3 to JavaScript, 1 to Java, 1 to Linux, and 1 to HTML. What’s missing?
  • There are no Python questions in the top 10 list. Surprised?

So let’s take a look at the top 10 question — not from all time, but from this last quarter. This is how the Stack Overflow world looks now:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

  • The top question shows that people are still trying to figure out “ How do I undo the most recent commits in Git” — with more than 400k pageviews this last quarter.
  • The programming world has changed: Now 4 of the top 10 questions are related to Python.
  • Java is gone — it doesn’t show up within the top 10 questions any more.

The trend is even more evident if you look at the tags for the top 30 questions:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Java and SQL are gone from the top 30. Meanwhile Python now dominates the top 10 and top 30 Stack Overflow questions — by current pageviews.

Now you can look at what the top questions for any tag are. Before we take a look at them — can you guess the top questions for JavaScript, Python, Go?

JavaScript, Python, Go: Different challenges for each

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

The first thing you can notice with this dashboard are the top current 10 questions for any tag, and how they’ve trended through time. Python devs keep asking about “ Iterating over dictionaries using ‘for’ loops”, JavaScript devs ask “ How do I remove a particular element from an array in JavaScript?”, and Go devs need to know “ What is the best way to convert byte array to string?”.

TensorFlow struggles

How to ask a question on stack overflow

People are really excited about machine learning, and TensorFlow is one of the top projects in the space. But most of the top questions show people struggling with issues like “ TensorFlow not found using pip ” or the ability to work with their current CPU/GPU combos.

A worthy goal for the TensorFlow team: With this dashboard they’ll be able to track how these questions trend down through time — if they work out a foolproof way for devs to install TensorFlow with pip.

Kotlin top 10: Now and then

With the dashboard you can jump to see the top 10 questions at any given quarter. For example, let’s compare the top 10 for Kotlin in 2018Q4 vs 2017Q2:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

This looks good: Most top questions from 2017 disappeared into the void — and as a guess, let’s say that the team was great at solving common issues people had back then. And on the 2018Q4 side you can see how most current top questions are new, and not the same as many months ago.

Redis top questions — focusing on Java vs C#

This are the top 10 questions for Redis:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

You can see that the current top question for Redis ask how to install it on Windows. If you are a Redis developer working to improve the Java libraries, this doesn’t tell you much — luckily our dashboard also allows us to filter for subtags.

Let’s look at the top 10 Redis+Java questions instead:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

If we filter for “redis” and “Java” then we see different questions: Most of these are related to Redis and Spring, for example. Which are different to the top question for Redis and C#:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Oh yeah — the top question for Redis + Java asks for simple C# examples. Maybe developers can’t find these in the official docs?

With this dashboard you can also see how many answers each question has. For example, the top question “ Convert a String to int in Rust?“ has 5 different answers. Go has 12 different replies to “ What is the best way to convert byte array to string?” and 20 to “ How to efficiently concatenate strings in Go?”:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Dig beyond the top 10

Why stop at the top 10? You can also go deeper into the top 30:

How to ask a question on stack overflow

How to ask a question on stack overflow

You can find all this data in BigQuery. Every 3 months Stack Overflow publishes a snapshot of their latest data, and we make sure to have a fresh copy ready to be queried.

Top Stack Overflow questions, current vs all time

Finding the number of pageviews for each question through time

For this I started by storing a copy of each snapshot through time — and then proceeded to calculate the difference of pageviews between the snapshots.

Luckily the query looks pretty simple:

Top questions per tag

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Top current questions that haven’t been updated in more than a year

How to ask a question on stack overflow

Now you can go back to the top of this post to play with the dashboard. Please share what you find!

Then also check out what tags are trending and which ones are going down, with The real Stack Overflow trends:

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