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I was having trouble with something. So I posted a question. It was immediately downvoted and then, after I edited it and rewrote it it was downvoted again and then closed.

Now I should mention that I don't care about my points. At all. I'm here to learn and help, not to get points and badges. Of course the points, like money, are useful for what they can do (some of those privileges are very useful and properly a bit hard to get).

Which brings me to the question "What's the point of Stack Overflow?" Isn't this a site that's supposed to connect, for lack of better terms, students and teachers? Question-askers with answer-givers? The old adage "there is no such thing as a stupid question" seems to be true everywhere but on Stack Overflow.

There truly is no such thing as a stupid question. A question is simply someone asking for help. Even if their wording is terrible, [a] it can be corrected and [b] that same terrible wording might help other find the answers to questions as people who don't know things often don't know those things in similar ways.

Ok. I've spent an hour or so reading justifications for downvoting questions (downvoting answers seems quite clear). None of them made much sense to me and I finally realized why, which is why I'm writing and trying to make this wonderful site better:

What is the point of Stack Overflow?

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closed as not constructive by Rosinante, jonsca, Toon Krijthe, Al E., Rory Sep 13 '12 at 11:00

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You don't even know enough to figure out what code to post in your question, and you are wondering why we can't help you with it? You seem to have a decent occurrence of getting helpful answers before this one post, so, why the existential angst? –  Andrew Barber Sep 11 '12 at 18:51
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Just to prevent any comment about this: Downvotes on Meta are often used to indicate disagreement as stated in the Meta SO FAQ. –  Bart Sep 11 '12 at 18:54
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As for your 'corollary': A post closed as a dupe does provide exactly that: a path to the correct answer (by having the prominent link at the top to the original). without that, it's actually not a 'path' to anything, but another disconnected bit of stuff. –  Andrew Barber Sep 11 '12 at 18:55
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We don't downvote questions purely on the basis of being stupid. Nobody said your question was stupid. Maybe it wasn't clear, but it wasn't stupid either. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 11 '12 at 18:55
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In regards to the specific question you highlight, I'm familiar with the subject matter, yet I'm having a hard time following what you're asking or understanding where the problem might be. Compare it to one of your earlier questions on a similar topic: stackoverflow.com/questions/12024011/kal-delegate-issue where you provide a specific error and narrow down the code responsible. That was clear, and it received a good answer. Even images that show the UI layout and problems you're encountering could greatly help this question. I think it's just a matter of clarity here. –  Brad Larson Sep 11 '12 at 19:05
    
@AndrewBarber Do you always, 100% of the time, know exactly what code is responsible for every problem/bug that you're having? –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:21
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@arigold - If you can't track this down to the specific code responsible, images of what's going wrong could be the next best thing. For UI issues, images can go a long way toward describing the problem, with or without relevant code. I've seen them make a huge difference in questions like this. –  Brad Larson Sep 11 '12 at 20:15
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There absolutely are such things as stupid questions. There are also off topic questions and questions with no objective answer. None of these types of questions are suitable for Stack Overflow. When these types of questions do get posted, we downvote them, close them and delete them. If this keeps somebody from posting additional bad questions, it's working as designed. –  meagar Sep 11 '12 at 20:39
    
@BradLarson, that big on posting images is brilliant. I never thought of it and didn't see it suggested in any FAQs or anywhere else. IMHO, that should go at the top of the FAQ. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 23:20

5 Answers 5

Isn't this a site that's supposed to connect, for lack of better terms, students and teachers? Question-askers with answer-givers?

No.

This site is (or tries to be) a high quality canonical resource, that's the main purpose, not mentoring. Voting helps separate content that is useful, from content that is not, and that's about it. No one is claiming your question is stupid, or worse that you are stupid, clicking the downvote arrow only means:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Do not take down votes personally, they are only a signal to readers that the community considers the question problematic and that they should be very careful and apply good judgement when reading it.

Furthermore it's also a signal to answerers that the question probably can't be reasonably answered and their time could be better spent elsewhere, perhaps helping people that went through the trouble of researching and trying to solve their problem before asking. Stack Overflow, and Stack Exchange in general, are collective resources and we don't have an unlimited supply of answerers and our answerers don't have an unlimited supply of time at their disposal.

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There truly is no such thing as a stupid question.

That's demonstrably incorrect.

The point of downvoting questions is in the tooltip that appears when you hover your mouse over the downvote button.

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful (click again to undo)

Questions posted on Stack Overflow should not just be useful to the person asking the question, they should (at least potentially) be useful to others who will run into the same problem. If you don't include enough information for the question to be reasonably answered, then it isn't useful to anyone.


To address your comment here:

A corollary to this: closing a question as an "exact duplicate" should only be used if the text of the question is literally an "exact duplicate" showing that the person didn't even search for their question. Otherwise, it's just another path to the correct answer.

We close questions as "exact duplicate" for exactly that purpose, to provide a path to the existing answer. If a question has already been answered, even if it's not a word-for-word duplicate, closing it inserts a link to the original so anyone who searches in the future can find the answer without us having to duplicate the effort of answering it again.


And to address your comment on the original question:

Sure, a newbie might need to learn how to ask questions but "closed as not a real question" is from a very axiomatic perspective, technically and precisely incorrect. It was at most a poorly worded question (although I thought I took care of that).

True, closing as "not a real question" is not always 100% technically correct, but keep in mind that this is a piece of boilerplate text that gets inserted when questions are closed. It covers a wide range of reasons to close a question, as is explained in the paragraph included with the close banner. "Poorly worded question" doesn't cover all those cases.

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See also knowyourmeme.com/memes/… –  Keith Thompson Sep 11 '12 at 19:04
    
Just so we're clear, that youtube link is just making fun of people who have trouble with language. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:10
    
Who cares if someone answers the question again? Is there not enough hard disk space for all of the questions? Of course there is. Maybe a 'new generation' of stackoverflow enthusiasts can get their legs wet. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:13
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@arigold Why do we need people to post the same answers to questions we already answered years ago? We're here to provide one canonical reference, not dozens of search results that all say the same thing. –  Bill the Lizard Sep 11 '12 at 19:17
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Funneling searchers (and any new information) to a single spot from duplicates is just an extension of the original impetus for SO, @arigold. Piecing information together from multiple forum posts sucks, and so does piecing it together from duplicate questions on SO. –  Josh Caswell Sep 11 '12 at 19:18
    
@BilltheLizard Who's "we"? Is this about you? And what is "one canonical reference"? Data, as you may or may not know, is a messy thing. It's elegance is in the interpretation. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:19
    
@arigold the whole point of this site is to make that interpretation as easy, as, well, elegant, as possible. It's not elegant to piece together 5000 "how to parse HTML wit regex plox" questions to come to a single answer. It is instead better to have all but one of those closed, all pointing to the one place to collect answers to that one question. It makes sense if you think about it; we only need one question for each, well, question. –  Ben Brocka Sep 12 '12 at 0:09
    
@BenBrocka I see what you're saying regarding duplicate questions and it's a decent way to go about doing that. It allows for slightly varied wording of the same question. Of course that's only one reason questions are closed. And, as gleamed from the attack on my initial Stack Overflow question, I still feel that removing both upvotes & down votes from questions would better serve the point of this site. It seems that there's a bit too much concern for "reputation" and "privileges" and "badges" which, I'm assuming, the accumulation of which is not a specific point of the site. –  ari gold Sep 12 '12 at 0:14

The point of Stack Overflow is to be a useful repository of programming information so that anyone who needs an answer can find it on any programming problem.

To do that, we need two things:

  1. Well written questions that define a problem.
  2. Answers that solve the problem posed in the question.

We can't have #2 without #1. Whenever someone asks a question on the site that can't reasonably be answered, it's not useful to the community as a whole. We expect the Original poster to put effort into making their question clear, properly scoped, and pertaining to Programming.

That means that we expect research. We expect that you've tried something, and in most cases, we expect that you have at least some code to show for your efforts (even if it doesn't work).

To answer the reason why your question was closed: You should include the simplest amount of code needed to reproduce the issue. If you can't reproduce it simply, then that means you probably don't understand the problem well enough to explain it to others. There are lots of examples of questions where the OP did just that. Here's one.

Downvotes are the community's way of saying that your question isn't useful. It's immediate feedback. Without downvotes, you wouldn't know if people thought you had written a bad question unless they took the time to respond. Most people wouldn't (we are lazy creatures), and they'd just move on. Your question would sit there idle, and you'd wonder why no one cared about your problem.

Your question should be a reflection of how much effort you've put into the problem. If you've put a lot of effort into trying to solve it, chances are people will answer the question and try to help you. If you don't put a lot of effort into it, why would you expect other people to?

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the problem is that the most active members of the community are not always the ones for whom the question is relevant. There are newbie questions as well as advanced questions. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:29
    
And for what it's worth, I did spend a lot of time researching. In fact, I pretty much never post on Stack Overflow without exhausting every path as well as spending quite a bit of time on figuring things out myself (because I like to). –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:30
    
In terms of questions being idle - they can be idle for many reasons. Heck, right now I have a question that has been idle for a while with 3 upvotes (I disagree with upvoting questions too). –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:31
    
This is a discussion that, I think, I started so I'm wondering how my responses to other comments aren't relevant. But regardless, let me ask you what I asked the rather snide @Andrew Barber up above - do you always know what code is responsible for the problem/bug you're having? –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 19:39
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@arigold If you don't know, then how can you reasonably ask other people to know? Also: Select isn't broken. codinghorror.com/blog/2008/03/… –  George Stocker Sep 11 '12 at 19:42
    
Are you asking how I can expect others to know which code to look in if I don't know where to look? Isn't the part of the whole point of this site? For example "take a look in your AppDelegate for the UIApplicationDelegate protocols - you might find what you're looking for there". –  ari gold Sep 12 '12 at 20:31
    
Again, I'm still trying to figure out what the point of this site is, given the need to value questions so strongly (up or down)... –  ari gold Sep 12 '12 at 20:32

Two things:

  1. What is the point of Stack Overflow (Ed: apparently the space is significant, it is just hidden in the logo)?

    From the FAQ:

    ...practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face...

    The emphasis was mine, and if you read above it in the FAQ:

    We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them...

    Your question was deemed to be unanswerable due to a lack of source code.

  2. Why downvote questions?

    All votes are valid that are not the result of fraud. Up, down, sideways. Every. Vote. Counts.

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since I can't vote this sideways, I'll vote it up ;) –  Andrew Barber Sep 11 '12 at 18:56
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I'm waiting for the meh arrow. –  user7116 Sep 11 '12 at 18:57
    
meh_votecount = views - upvotes - downvotes Most things are unsurprisingly quite meh –  Daniel DiPaolo Sep 11 '12 at 19:04
    
@sixlettervariables, you only quoted the first part of the sentence. Here's the rest: "but if your question generally covers … a specific programming problem a software algorithm software tools commonly used by programmers practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession … then you’re in the right place to ask your question!" Of course, that makes my question a viable question. Why didn't you include that? –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 23:18
    
Again, sometimes when you ask a question, you don't know what part of the source code is relevant. That seems pretty logical. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 23:19
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@arigold: if it's that open ended, your question is not a good fit. We unfortunately can't devine problems in code we cannot see. Additionally, folks found it hard to understand just what exactly the problem was. As a general rule questions without code face far greater scrutiny, because usually they're not good questions. –  user7116 Sep 11 '12 at 23:31
    
@sixlettervariables, that's not what the faq says. It suggest source code if you can, but logically allows for otherwise. There was no way for me to know what source code to put in. Through both my initial question and this meta post, several folks have offered rather helpful suggestions. At this point I'd know where to look. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 23:33
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@arigold: you're welcome to that opinion. I'm trying to help you avoid these problems in the future. No code == suspect question. –  user7116 Sep 11 '12 at 23:34
    
@sixlettervariables It's not my opinion, is it? It seems to be the answer to the very first question in the Stack Overflow FAQ. –  ari gold Sep 11 '12 at 23:36

Stack Overflow and all other associated sited are for connecting people of different groups (students, teachers, IT professionals). This site is helping anyone who has a question.

Everyday there are thousands of questions raised in the community. For other users to read and understand the problem clearly, the question should be well formatted.
For phrasing the question in relevant terms, one should follow the guidelines for phrasing a question.

The one who follows the guidelines carefully and phrases the question in a relevant and meaningful manner needs to be appraised by upvoting, so as to teach other users about how to write a well formatted question.

And the one who writes the questions using random words without maintaining any of the rules and regulations needs to be downvoted, so as to encourage them to write formatted posts and to tell them that there is something wrong in the post that needs some consideration.

At all, downvoting and upvoting is just to preserve the questioning standard of the community

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