How should I go about answering questions on Stack Overflow?

The Stack Overflow answer of which I am most proud is this one:

rails add column to user model

I wrote this while actively working on my first Ruby-on-Rails project. I was relying heavily on Stack Overflow for solutions to problems, so I tried to give back a little by finding questions I could answer, just like you’re doing now.

It helped that I had recently read Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial (now updated and online: Ruby on Rails Tutorial (Rails 5)) and I was working my way through other published works as well: Rails Anti-patterns, Clean Code, etc. I was constantly reading. I was easily readin

The Stack Overflow answer of which I am most proud is this one:

rails add column to user model

I wrote this while actively working on my first Ruby-on-Rails project. I was relying heavily on Stack Overflow for solutions to problems, so I tried to give back a little by finding questions I could answer, just like you’re doing now.

It helped that I had recently read Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial (now updated and online: Ruby on Rails Tutorial (Rails 5)) and I was working my way through other published works as well: Rails Anti-patterns, Clean Code, etc. I was constantly reading. I was easily reading 3 times as much as I was coding in terms of time spent.

It also helped that I had tried to answer a few other questions and discovered the hard way how little I actually knew about most concepts in Rails. It was a very humbling experience to be half-way through an incomplete answer only to look up and see that two better answers were already posted.

Finally, the question I linked above came along. Thanks to the effort I’d already spent on my own project, I knew I could quickly answer the question with real code that worked. I tested the snippets a few times anyway just to double-check. At this point, it didn’t bother me that someone else had already posted an answer. I knew my answer would be helpful even if it didn’t earn any points.

A few years later, it’s earned me nearly 300 points, including 10 this week. When you’re ready, a question you have trained yourself to answer will come along. The two big keys I take away from this experience are:

  1. Immerse yourself in a subject that a lot of people are using to solve real problems
  2. Start a real project of your own using that language or framework and set a realistic goal for completing it.

When you’ve got a bunch of SO tabs open anyway because you’re trying to complete a project quickly, you’ll be in a better position to see that one question that you are uniquely equipped to answer.

Yes, I think that’s a good strategy. If you don’t know the answer, then figure out the answer and then try to write a good explanation for it. I did that a lot back in 2013, and even though I’ve learned a lot, I still have to do that sometimes.

Even in the languages I’m familiar with, most questions are out of reach as I glance through. I think researching and then answering more questions would be a good exercise in problem solving.

Exactly!

You will be a better developer by practicing over and over again even you familiar with it, also you help other developers like you while you doing it. Win win.

How would you recommend I go about it? How should I select questions where my answer will be seen?

I usually monitoring newest C# questions with Newest 'c#' Questions link so I regularly see questions when someone add it with that tag.

Martij

Even in the languages I’m familiar with, most questions are out of reach as I glance through. I think researching and then answering more questions would be a good exercise in problem solving.

Exactly!

You will be a better developer by practicing over and over again even you familiar with it, also you help other developers like you while you doing it. Win win.

How would you recommend I go about it? How should I select questions where my answer will be seen?

I usually monitoring newest C# questions with Newest 'c#' Questions link so I regularly see questions when someone add it with that tag.

Martijn Pieters answer’s on How do active answerers find questions to answer? explains really good this.

A2A’ed, my thanks.