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When is stackoverflow not the right tool for your challenges?

Generally, when you come across a technical problem your first response is to Google it. 9 times out of 10 Stackoverflow is w/in the first few results. Is there a point where it doesn't go far enough to help you overcome your challenge? What do you do then? Buy a product?

13 Replies

David Cornelson
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David Cornelson Entrepreneur
Founder at Wizely, Inc.
I actually started investigating this, including starting on a proof of concept. The solution I came up with is not necessarily technology-oriented and would work with many types of challenges. I've researched my approach and it doesn't seem to have an existing implementation.

If you want to know more, let me know.
Nathan Ridley
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Nathan Ridley Entrepreneur
Director at AxeFrog Systems Ltd
The only time StackOverflow is not useful is when either the problem is so obscure that most people haven't encountered it, or the problem is too specific to my circumstance and pasting a whole tonne of code for someone else to debug is unreasonable. In those cases, the correct response is perseverence and further disection of the problem at hand. The answer is always there, it just needs to be broken into smaller pieces.
Dimitry Rotstein
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Dimitry Rotstein Entrepreneur
Head of R&D at SafeZone
Then I go to the other search results. Sometimes (even if not often) they can be more helpful than Stackoverflow. If that doesn't help, I try solving the problem myself. It takes time and effort, yes, but it is also a possibility. And if that doesn't work, then I ask for help in professional forums (not Stackoverflow itself, though - something more private and cozy) or call someone I know. Although I don't remember when was the last time I had to resort to this.
Jeff Whelpley
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Jeff Whelpley Entrepreneur • Advisor
CTO at GetHuman.com
I am confused by the second part of the question (a product?) and the first comment back. Are you just trying to ask what you do during the 10% of the time when StackOverflow doesn't have the answer? There is no 'product' I am aware of that magically solves your problem, but you may want to explore services like AnyFuor Claritywhere you can talk to an expert for a short period of time (i.e. 30 min to an hour).
Karl Diedrich
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Karl Diedrich Entrepreneur • Advisor
Principal Engineer at Mebio, Inc.
What kind of product are you proposing to buy? I don't think there is a product to replace technical knowledge like Stackoverflow. I think Dimitry had the idea for the next step which would be posting your question somewhere. I usually use mailing lists specific to the technology I have a problem with if I can find an answer with a search engine.
Matthew Szatmary
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Senior Video Encoding Engineer at Twitch.TV
If there already exists a product that solves you technical issue buying is usually a better choice than developing anyway. If you're developing a custom solution, hiring or contract an expert in vertical should pay off.
Kevin Matthews
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Kevin Matthews Entrepreneur
Director of Engineering at Action Factory
Stack Overflow is a great tool to explain what is in the documentation. If SO fails, read the docs. If the docs aren't clear, read the source code (where available). If the source has a bug or is missing the feature, fork the repo and fix it (if you can). If there is a product that solves the problem for less cost than the cost of the time invested in the process above, buy it. Kev
Aleksi Asikainen
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Aleksi Asikainen Entrepreneur
CTO, Technical Director, Software Architect, Game Designer – I build technology for startups
Stack Overflow is a great tool for getting exact answers to exact questions. But it doesn't help so much on understanding what's strategically wise nor give in-depth understanding on why some development practice is a good one.

(I don't think you can buy a product to replace that kind of insight. You either have it, or you don't. It comes from decades of experience and from the intimate understanding of your own product.)

If you can, talk directly the developers. Many products have developers hanging on an IRC channel or similar media, and they're surprisingly willing to answer your questions, provided that they're not the kind Stackoverflow can answer.
Jonathon Kresner
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Jonathon Kresner Entrepreneur
Actually I created a service to solve this problem.

Here is feedback directly from one of our customers onour angellist page.

"
Overall, it's been a great experience. My expert helped me get past some stumbling blocks that I'd spent hours trying to get past on my own (using stackoverflow, etc). Sometimes the problems are obscure and there's nothing online to help youget through it. Beyond that, it's a pleasure working with a talented programmer and observing how they do things. You can watch one of my sessions here:http://youtu.be/l9BItvriQmk


To answer your question, stackoverflow is very useful when you already have context. If you are just one step away from unlocking your solution it is invaluable. Where it breaks down is when you are missing multiple steps & ideas. The short question/answer format is nothing like leveraging EXPERIENCE. For example setting up development environments and processes with multiple steps is unique to each company and it's something they've come up with over time.

Let us know if you need help with anything, money back guarantee => http://www.airpair.com/find-an-experts


David Gold
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David Gold Entrepreneur
Channel Marketing 2.0
Thanks for the quick responses.

Karl- Could you give me an example of a mailing list you've recently used? I'm a bit unclear w/ that method.

One would seek technical knowledge to debugging your code, or get past technical obstacles that are in the way of their goal . You go to stackoverflow, try to be specific enough to get your answer, test, succeed and move on. But at what point does the challenge fall into the realm of having to buy a solution?

I'll give you an example: Some time ago I was looking into creating a local environment of a wordpress site for dev purposes. There was a number of resources (unfortunately a lot of resources means that it won't be easy) vs. a few solutions out there that did it for you (the most expensive I remember was $250). I went the hacker route and figured it out w/ help from Google searches.

Are there specific challenges related to technology that you would actively seek out a solution vs. hacking thru it w/ help of Q&A sites like SO? Maybe it's a case-by-case question, but how would you determine the tipping point from "I'm going to hack thru it w/ SO's help" to "I'm going to look for a solution that accurately addresses my challenge"?
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