When is stackoverflow not the right tool for your challenges?

David Gold Mar '20: New project. 1,000 customers and profitable. Before: Helped scale saas $1M to $75M ARR

August 14th, 2013

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?

Nathan Ridley Director at AxeFrog Systems Ltd

August 14th, 2013

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.

Jeff Whelpley CTO at

August 14th, 2013

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 AnyFu or Clarity where you can talk to an expert for a short period of time (i.e. 30 min to an hour).

Karl Diedrich Principal Engineer at Mebio, Inc.

August 14th, 2013

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. 

Kevin Matthews Director of Engineering at Action Factory

August 14th, 2013

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

Jonathan Vanasco

August 15th, 2013

There are two types of problems people typically have:

1. High Level - Approach / Strategy

2. Low Level - Implementation

For High Level problems, StackOverflow won't work -- they'll kill those questions as "not constructive".  You need to have a professional and personal network of people to bound ideas off of.  

For Low Level problems, StackOverflow often works, but there are still dedicated mailing lists and online groups for most technologies and open source packages , along with IRC channels, which are often filled with the core package maintainers and developers, not just end-users.

David Cornelson Founder at Wizely, Inc.

August 14th, 2013

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.

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

August 14th, 2013

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.

Matthew Szatmary Senior Video Encoding Engineer at Twitch.TV

August 14th, 2013

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. 

Aleksi Asikainen CTO, Chief Architect – I help startups figure out technology and build great products

August 14th, 2013

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.


August 14th, 2013

Actually I created a service to solve this problem.

Here is feedback directly from one of our customers on our 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 you 

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 =>