See title. When a user never modified their "about me" section the API doesn't return that, which then causes my parser to go wild returning errors. However, when a user has modified their "about me" section, then later on deleted it, the "about_me" shows up with nothing in it, but it can at least still be parsed. I would like to have the about me show up for every user, registered, unregistered, edited and unedited.


3 Answers 3


There are a great many fields on objects returned by the API that will be omitted if they are not set.

  • The user fields you mentioned.
  • locked_date, bounty_date, etc. on questions and answers
  • a whole slew of user_timeline and post_timeline fields depending on the *_type of each

... and many more.

We do this because omitting a field clearly indicates that it has no value, and isn't just populated with the "default". It also makes (human) reading returned values much easier, as you don't have to slog through a bunch of "blahblah": null lines.


Yeah, just displaying blank string will be great.

And also same for

  • accept_rate
  • age
  • location
  • website_url

too (may be there is even some more)

Note: Personally, I don't have any problem with existence of those field or not though


There are lots more.

The problem is that having something blank doesn't convey that the user hasn't filled it in... just that it's blank.

I think it should stay the way it is.

  • 1
    the problem is if a persons application expects it to be there, then it should be there. In my app it'll take a lot of code to make it so it doesn't always expect those fields, I think it'll be easier to modify a few lines of the API to make those lines show up, just with no data in them, of course I could be wrong...
    – Matt S.
    May 22, 2010 at 20:10
  • 2
    The app shouldn't expect them there then. May 22, 2010 at 21:51

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