StackOverflow is not the alternative to TL;DR

I spend a good amount of time on StackOverflow. It is hands-down the best online resource for quick "How do I...?" questions, as any programming-related Google search will quickly show.

However, it is not a replacement for documentation. I come across countless questions where individuals did little to no research before asking a question there. If you're going to ask a question on StackOverflow, it should be because you've dried up every other resource. Just look at my profile. At the time of writing, I have 1,434 answers and just 27 questions. Now, that's not because I know everything there is to know and never have to ask anything; far from it. I taught myself C# and ASP.NET MVC, and believe me, I had questions. I've run into so many points where I just didn't know how to proceed or didn't know how to accomplish something I needed to do that it's impossible to keep count. But, and it's a huge "but", I didn't just jump over to StackOverflow and ask a question there. I searched Google; I read documentation; I read books. Those 27 questions are from times where I exhausted every last resource I had at my disposal and so finally turned to the community to see if someone could point the way.

Now, I don't say all that to toot my own horn. I don't do the hard work of reading and researching, so I can look down on those that don't. I do it because that's how learning happens. Reading sucks. Researching is worse. It's frustrating. You have to sift through a lot of crap to find nuggets of gold. But, in the end, you walk away with this glorious thing that's better than just knowledge; you walk away with understanding. You get it. It make sense. And, you can use that understanding when you hit your next problem. It builds on itself.

When you run into an issue, maybe take a cursory glance at the documentation, but just say screw that, and ask the StackOverflow community to spoonfeed you, you cheat yourself. You got your answer, but you don't understand why you had the problem or why the answer fixes it, and the next problem you run into, you won't have any better understanding of how to approach it. So, take the time to help yourself. The road may be long and winding at points and the journey hard and trying, but when you get there, it feels good. There's an enormous sense of accomplishment knowing that you, not some other Joe out on the Interwebs, solved it. You figured it out. Then, you can be the one out there helping others find their way instead of groping in the dark, yourself.

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