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I usually post long answers to questions with some illustrations of how to simulate the problem, where applicable, and possible option to fix it. My understanding of posting an answer is to make it useful for others and not just the community.

How do I access Excel data source from an SSIS package deployed on a 64-bit server?

For the first time I received a down vote for an answer being long. User left the below comment.

-1 as this is excruciatingly long, for a relatively simple question. Keep to the point. SO is a a Q&A system, not a tutorial repository.

This answer was not even the longest of my answers. All my answers look long because I use lot of screenshots. Anyways, it was surprising to see the comment and left me wondering if my answers are not suitable for SO's Q&A style approach.

I am trying to understand if the answers that I am posting are considered tutorials and unfit for SO's Q&A style. It will be nice to have someone shed some light so I can understand if this is just one user's opinion or the above comment embodies the community's views as well.

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That one might be a little heavy on the screenshots. Useless length is discouraged, useful length is fine. I don't think this question needed that much to answer it. – Linuxios Mar 20 '13 at 13:45
I may invite him to check out the answers posted to this question. Yes, answers, plural, with an S. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 20 '13 at 13:46
@Linuxios: Sorry, I don't know what defines the useless length. I prefer using screenshots while answering questions under ssis tag. – user213400 Mar 20 '13 at 13:50
@BoltClock'saUnicorn: wow. Just, wow. Now I remember why I don't use visual studio anymore. :). – Linuxios Mar 20 '13 at 13:51
Would it be possible to have a TLDR version that gets to the point up front first for people already familiar with SSIS then the more detailed version afterwards? – Martin Smith Mar 20 '13 at 13:55
@Siva: I don;t know anything about SSIS, so I leave that question to those who do. I suggest adding either a TLDR, or replacing some of the screenshots with instructions (if someones a programmer, they should be able to find the Ok button). – Linuxios Mar 20 '13 at 13:55
@Siva: For example, on screenshot #5, can't you just say "Select the "Excel" connector", instead of that whole picture? – Linuxios Mar 20 '13 at 13:56
@MartinSmith: Yes, I have been revisiting some of my old answers to follow this approach with better headers. I have only cleaned few of my answers so far but it is still in progress. – user213400 Mar 20 '13 at 13:57
@Linuxios: Yes, I could have. That's why I am asking the question here on what is considered the correct approach by the community. If this type of answers are unwelcome, then I rather not spend time writing one. – user213400 Mar 20 '13 at 14:08

Long answers, whether or not it's due to screenshots, are often a sign that you've been unnecessarily verbose. Usually, if it actually does take several screens worth of information to answer a question, the question was too broad in the first place. If a question is of reasonable scope, usually it's possible to answer it more concisely. Answers as long as yours are often less useful to readers, and a downvote on an answer means, as the hover text says, "this answer is not useful", so it shouldn't be too surprising to see a downvote. You should generally interpret it as motivation to be more concise, which is not necessarily the same thing as being less thorough.

In the specific case of your answer, the screenshots do indeed appear a bit iffy. Though you've numbered and referenced the screenshots, there's no way to jump back and forth easily between screenshots and text, and it's difficult to tell from the text which ones are "for reference" and which ones are actually worth the time to go look at. It's also unclear if the detailed steps to reproduce are really necessary in order to answer the question. Particularly if you've already posted it on your blog (though your link doesn't take me to anything useful) there's no need to also post it all in an answer - you can just provide the link for more information. So it seems that the length is in some sense unnecessary. But even if it is necessary, when an answer gets this long, it's likely worth putting in a bit of effort to shorten it where possible - avoid being too wordy or adding nonessential detail. At the end of the day, what really matters is how useful it is to someone who finds it later, and a lot of those people are going to want to know how to fix things without spending 15 minutes reading.

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I quite often answer with something short (on the X menu, choose Y, then select the A, B, and C checkboxes, click Advanced, and fill in the server name) and then say - more details and screenshots are on my blog and link to it. This gives me something to blog about and keeps the answer more SO-like, but enables folks who need the pictures to see them. – Kate Gregory Mar 20 '13 at 14:15
@KateGregory: Interesting. I have been chastised on occasion for providing external links, with the comment that SE is supposed to be self-contained to avoid link rot. It seems the community is divided on that issue. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 20 '13 at 14:32
@GangDownvoted The two aren't mutually exclusive. If you could put everything in the answer, there'd never be a need for external links. The thing that's bad is when important information is only on linked-to page. In that case, link rot means the answer becomes useless. If the link is a "for reference" or "for more information" link as part of a good answer, then the link is useful to the readers, and even if it rots the answer is still good. – Jefromi Mar 20 '13 at 14:36
@GangDownvoted see and for tips on avoiding chastisement – Kate Gregory Mar 20 '13 at 14:55
@Kate: Great guidelines; I will use them. While laziness is generally regarded as a virtue in programmers, perhaps I was being over-lazy in some earlier posts. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 20 '13 at 14:59

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