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When writing SO questions I tend to only press the submit button 5–10% of the time before realising my error (typically something mundane). The act of putting the problem into words, along with writing up a good background of the problem (as you should for a good question) often forces an objective viewpoint/reevaluation of the problem.

Very much this. The flow for me goes:

1) I don't understand that. Let me ask StackOverflow.

2) I'm having trouble phrasing my question properly. What do you call $X? Googling ensues

3) Oh nevermind, I get it now <closes tab>

Damn. I thought I was the only one who does this :'D

On a serious note, this effect can be applied to our everyday problem as well. Such as when you are feeling lethargic, you'd want to write down all of your thoughts in a list to see the bigger picture and figure out how simple it can be to finish a task at hand.

s/lethargic/anxious/, and I do this all the time! Doing a quick mind dump usually clears out my anxiety, or at least reduces it to a manageable level, allowing me to continue doing things.

You should check out the book "Getting Things Done", which is based on taking what you described and using it to stay organized and adaptable. If you've got anxiety it would probably help at least a little bit.

Consider posting and answering yourself. I found myself searching for the same problem months later and once I found my own answer.

Hehe, has happened to me as well.

Also when I kept updating my blog posts about stupid problems that gooogle didn't answer seemed to attract some audience.

More than once I've had a problem, found the solution on stackoverflow, clicked up-vote and then got "you cannot vote on your own answer."

This makes me wonder what the bounce rate for Stack Overflow questions is and what percent of visitors actually make it through the submission process.

This would actually be an answerable question, because of SO's draft mechanism.

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Sound of typing


I've been thinking along the same lines for a very long time. Thanks for the inspiration to finally ask!

They've responded to questions like that before.


Ooooh, nice one. Thanks for the link!

That's awesome!

If they have a big enough database of half-typed-then-abandoned questions, do you think it would be possible to train an RNN (or something) to read a post in progress and predict at what point the answer should be obvious to you?

Not the same, but while writing the title it suggest other posts.

I seem to recall something similar which does pattern matching comparing the code that you're typing with a database of code in accepted stackoverflow answers and gives "smart autocomplete". Not sure how I stand on the overall impact of such a thing but technically it was cool. :)

On the other hand in the past year especially my experience has been I am asking something for which the documentation is very bad, I don't know enough about the particular problem area I am trying to solve to make a concise description with code examples that nearly work but don't, and as a consequence I just drop it and say it's not worth asking here because nobody will help you understand the problem area unless you understand it really well. Too bad SO has replaced user groups in so many cases.

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