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Is there a problem with asking a programming question on StackOverflow (or any other StackExchange site) on Erev Shabbos, so that they will eventually be answered by the time Motzei Shabbos arrives? Specifically because there is a decent probability that a non-shomer-shabbos Jew will answer it.

And: Am I allowed to benefit from such an answer?

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I wonder if these similar-seeming cases would have the same answer (and if so what that answer is): ordering a book from Amazon (with regular shipping); dropping a letter in a mailbox; making an ILL request at the library. –  Monica Cellio Jun 14 '11 at 18:53
    
What about Shabbat in different timezones or weekday in Israel and second day Yom Tov in chul? (is this the same question?) –  David Perlman Jun 14 '11 at 19:05
    
@yydl, why do you think "there is a decent probability..."? And what are you calling "decent"? –  msh210 Jun 14 '11 at 19:07
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@yydl If you ask a question in the US on Friday when it already Shabbat in Israel would you have the same problem? And, if you ask a question in Israel when it is second day Yom Tov in chul is this also the same problem? And I guess this goes for answering a question which could then cause a Jew to read and respond to you answer ... –  David Perlman Jun 15 '11 at 8:19
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@msh210 and wrt non-jewish respondents, most of my answer below would still apply - and furthermore, this would be equivalent with advice as pertains to goy shel shabbat: don't say "Please turn on the light", but rather "I would have liked the light to be on". You're not asking a specific goy user to type you an answer, you're presenting a problem (i.e. lack of knowledge) to a (very large) anonymous crowd. –  AviD Jun 16 '11 at 11:34
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is not an halachic answer, but rather a practical one.

While it is true that there are a lot of Jewish programmers, and specifically Jewish SO users, it is still a relatively low percentage of total SO users.
Moreover, the odds of a specific user answering your question are incredibly small (well, except maybe for this one, but he's not Jewish AFAIK...) - even if you aggregate all the Jewish SO users, you still have a pretty small percentage overall (definitely less than 1 in 60, though I don't know if that would have halachic implications in this case...).

Even for Jewish SO users, you'd additionally have to:

  • factor out the religious Jews, who wouldnt be answering on Shabbat (or chag) anyway;
  • factor the different timezones - so just because it's Shabbat for you right now soon after you ask the question, there is a wide range in Shabbatness (? Shabbatability? ...) of other non-religious, jewish SO users;
  • Factor the fact that SO is a primarily professional site, i.e. most users use it most often during the work week (okay, Friday afternoon in the winter may have overlap...). In fact, the moderators have mentioned that there is a substantial dip in usage over the weekend.
  • Even if you consider only the [non-religious, jewish, SO users who access SO on Shabbat] - its likely they wont read your question (unless it's in one of the most popular tags, or *really well written - but what are the odds of that?? ;) )... and even if they do read it, it's an even lower percentage that would answer it right away.
  • For that matter, even if you ask your question on Tuesday, there is a practically even chance of it being read and answered by a [non-religious Jewish SO user during Shabbat in his own timezone].
  • Also factor the fact that even if you didn't ask the question, that [non-religious Jewish SO user during Shabbat in his own timezone] would likely be answering other questions instead. So you are not causing him to violate the sanctity of Shabbat, that is of his own choosing. (And btw - if SO were to shutdown on Shabbat, he'd be doing something else instead - FB, SMS, driving to pubs or the beach, whatever...).

As for benefit - and I'm not sure this is the exact halachic position - but I was taught that one can benefit from some forms of chilul shabbat, provided that you are not benefiting from the fact that it was chilul.
I.e. if it could have equally been done after shabbat, but happened to have been done on shabbat, then it's a just a question of leaving enough time after the end of Shabbat, such that it could have been done after Shabbat (in order that you dont profit the "preparation" time).

In short, if you happen to know with any level of certainty that a [non-religious Jewish SO user during Shabbat in his own timezone] answered your question - wait till long enough after Shabbat. If you were to know that he would be answering your question and only your question, you'd probably be better off not asking at that point - but then again, there is no reasonable way to know that (unless you really try...)

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re Jon Skeet see here: skeetfaith.blogspot.com –  David Perlman Jun 16 '11 at 12:21
    
@David, yeah I was kidding about Jon... :) Also, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9134/jon-skeet-facts –  AviD Jun 16 '11 at 13:08
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