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(If it has already been asked forgive me, I actually did search for it before asking.)

I'm new to SO and even newer to meta; maybe I shouldn't ask, as the question is a silly one, but I actually care to know: should we avoid to ask a question just because maybe others will found that the question is stupid and will then downvote us?

Of course, people who care very much for their reputation may end up having a better rep than people who care less, but will they have learned (and taught) more than others?

This isn't a pointless question: I have some questions I'd like to ask, but not sure if I should or not.

My point is not that I don't want to receive negative votes, my point is: Am I offending the community by asking questions that may receive negative votes? I'm not, of course, talking of questions like, "How do I sum two numbers?" or, "Do my job and send me teh codez - and remember to sign it with my name", that is: I'm not talking of the form of the question, but of its content.

edit: I want to make it clear that by "silly questions" I don't mean "How many programmers does it take to change a bulb?", but rather questions that are programming related, but maybe not professional programming related, or not very urgent.

Here is an example I just posted that seems a legitimate (though maybe not crucial) question to me and which I was unsure of whether to ask or not.

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I take it you mean "Silly" as in "Appearingly Stupid" rather than "Amusing/fun"? Most of the answers are about amusing/fun questions, but I get the impression you're asking about "Really really basic" questions –  Mark Henderson Aug 30 '09 at 1:28
    
I just edited my question, trying to be more specific. –  giorgian Aug 30 '09 at 1:32
    
Re: Edit >> I don't think I would consider that question "silly." It seems completely legitimate. –  Jonathan Sampson Aug 30 '09 at 3:51
    
Anyone remember the pony question? Now that was some top-notch silly. –  bananakata Aug 30 '09 at 16:32

5 Answers 5

Questions can be as silly as you like as long as they are on topic.

The sites are intended to be newbie friendly and people will usually give fair warning via comments if you've crossed some lines. I've seen very, very, very basic questions asked with lots of upvotes even.

But, in any case, the worst thing that can happen is to get downvotes, which is not at all a big deal, just learn from it and try again.

EDIT: That's a very valid question, do more of them. They don't have to be urgent or for a real job or anything like that. Just programming related.

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The easiest way to know whether your question is offending the community is to check the score. Our humor can be very fickle and one question we can vote up lots, while other questions that try to be funny will end up getting buried.

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3  
Note that we on Meta tend to be less fickle. Also note that's a euphemism for "We have low standards." –  Eric Aug 30 '09 at 2:46

That is not an easy question to answer. Many of us browse questions with different intentions. Some of us are in rep-building mode, and don't want to see nonsense come across the screen. We feel it creates unnecessary noise and contributes nothing to the pool of questions.

Others browse out of boredom, and would love a silly question. They may even want to get one-up on the OP and provide an even sillier answer. Like-minded individuals will drop in and up-vote, or others may drop-in and downvote into oblivion, voting to close as "not a real question."

If there's anything my answer here can communicate clearly, it's that I have no idea if silly questions should be asked. In my personal opinion, give it a shot, but don't take it personal if a slew of developers come by and shut it down. Be optimistic though, while I don't usually like silly contributions, there times when I can't help but to upvote them excessively - it all depends on how that days has been :P

Best of luck.

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Generally questions on SO should be programming related: about specifics of coding, about programming languages or concepts.

If you post a silly/fun question, you should assume that it will be voted to be closed, as there are many users out there now with the power to vote a question closed and you only need five to agree. With that in mind, you really only have to worry about whether offending 5 users is an issue, not the entire SO community. In the end, I wouldn't sweat it.

If you are worried about posting a question that might seem silly/inexperienced, don't worry about that either. The easier the question, assuming that it is programming related, the faster you will likely get answers, as others will be jumping in to grab rep. Just be sure to accept a valid answer in the end.

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If it's a programming question that should have a clear, correct answer - go for it. Just phrase it seriously and you'll do fine. There are plenty of easy questions on SO with up votes. And there's plenty of code golf and the like as well.

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