How to StackOverflow

I recently read an interesting post on using StackOverflow as a hiring metric, something I think has some merit.  It actually encouraged me to start regularly contributing back to the community, instead of just lurking.  However, in my recent experiences I’ve noticed two categories of questions:

  1. People who have dug into the documentation (for the language, OS, a third party SDK, or whatever technology they are trying to get to work) and then post a well-thought out question (with code and stack traces, if appropriate).
  2. People who want the community to do their homework for them (in some cases, quite literally so).

I’m all for contributing to the community, and I think everyone should be free to post their questions.  But the way to do StackOverflow questions correctly is to take the first approach.  Do some investigation first, and if you can’t figure it out on your own then post your question–and do it in a way that will help us help you.

If you post something like #2 I’m going to continue to ignore your posts, or vote them down.  I actually gain something personally from working on questions like #1.  Sometimes I learn something new, or in framing an answer it helps clarify in my mind some information I haven’t used recently.  I get nothing from posts like #2.