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I'm asking this question out of pure interest. I noticed sometimes that voting just goes on a roll either way, and recently found myself asking one of those questions that just got people on the wrong foot.

It is interesting to see how my question about a feature request was received negatively, while another similar question was received very well. Obviously I did something wrong, but what?

I will be grateful if someone could point out how I managed to a) ask a really bad question, or b) ask a not-so-bad question in a really bad manner.

For comparison, my question was: Can we make it easier on new guys? and was voted down promptly to -11 (at the time of writing). A similar question, Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? was voted up to 816 (also at the time of writing).

Now firstly, it was my bad for missing a similar question. My question should not have been asked in the first place, so that was one stupid thing I did. Secondly I don't think I should have used the word 'ironic' while comparing the closing of a vote to the summer of love campaign, because maybe that started the snowball rolling. So, sure enough, next time I'll try to improve my wording and do a better lookup for similar questions. Lastly, maybe the example scenario I referenced moved the focus away from the actual question, which was actually a feature request (a crap one probably, but hey).

I have a particular interest in written conversation, so this was an interesting lesson for me. Here are the 10 steps to successful business writing from the index of Jack Appleman's book. I know they are not all applicable to SO questions, then again, maybe they are:

  1. Understand the demand for good writing
  2. Know where you're taking your readers
  3. Be explicit, clear and concise
  4. Grab your readers's attention
  5. Write with rhythm to hold your readers
  6. Organize to help your readers understand
  7. Choose a tone that produces good results
  8. Put your best grammar on the page
  9. Edit, rewrite, and refine
  10. Master the documents you use most often

I guess I failed miserably on point 7 ;-)

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I think the big difference is your question summarized with "can't we make it a bit more difficult to close or down-vote questions if the person is asking his first question", while the other question asked "Could we please be a bit nicer to new users?". The 2nd is something most of us agree on and we can implement easily simply by paying attention to how we interact with new users. The 1st is something that would take some SE intervention and require a change in the site framework, which users disagree with. –  Rachel Aug 9 '12 at 14:13
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The big thing here is that downvotes have a different meaning on meta. They don't mean "you wrote that badly" so resolving to write better won't help. They mean "I disagree" and a feature request to change SO's code or rules attracts more disagreement than a suggestion that people change their tone. –  Kate Gregory Aug 9 '12 at 14:29
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Thanks @KateGregory, I missed that point. My understanding was that I asked a really bad question. If one could interpret it as 'this is a stupid idea', then everything makes good sense. –  JacobusR Aug 9 '12 at 15:06
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@JacobusR Don't even think of it as "this is a stupid idea"; think of it as, "this is an idea I don't support, and would not like to see implemented". –  Andrew's a Unitato Aug 9 '12 at 17:04
    
SO feels like home again... thanks everyone! –  JacobusR Aug 9 '12 at 18:09
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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

No snowball here whatsoever.

First of all, that +816 question existed for several years and received only +6 votes since August 3 when you posted your own question.

Second, to the point: your post is a combination of accusation (look what you did, you scared people away) and proposing features that will harm the community - by making it harder to close questions, more bad questions will stick around and pile up.

Bottom line is - many new users ask bad questions. Maybe it's not their personal fault that they are not good programmers or don't know how to ask questions in a proper way but that does not mean we should allow the site to be piled up with bad questions. The question ban is not instant: it takes at least three, probably more, downvoted questions before the account is banned so the user does have a chance to improve. As the highly upvoted discussion suggests, those who downvote should kindly tell the author how he can improve.

If a person can't take criticism, it's his problem - nobody is forcing anyone to ask questions on Stack Overflow and I do think there is improvement as result of the Summer of Love campaign.

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No accusation intended, but yes, I see your point. –  JacobusR Aug 9 '12 at 15:11
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