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I don't really know where to post this.

I like Stack Overflow and it has been a great help as I build various applications - all with no formal training in computer science.

My concern is that I find many questions downvoted or criticized for being poorly worded or too simplistic.

I realize that often a Google search will reveal an answer, but is this site and its boards meant solely for folks who have already searched the internet for an answer? I thought this was an open forum for any code related question? Why should Google or some other source be used prior to seeking advice from the dedicated and experienced Stack Overflow community?

Many of the questioners on this site have limited English, limited access to education or other issues. This site is supposed to be the solution for this, no?

I learned to code primarily by reading and posting to a message board called on http://www.4guysfromrolla.com/ (this was 10+ years ago). The help and advice I got, despite some VERY, VERY dumb questions by me, helped me build and sell a large website.

Anyway, I see lots of new questions on the PHP tag with negative scores within minutes of being posted as if they are "dumb" questions, when I find that they are honest questions by people who simply need help.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 17 at 14:20

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by djechlin, gnat, Martijn Pieters, Hugo Dozois, Lukasz Mar 17 at 15:20

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I thought this was an open forum for any code related question: I'm sorry, you thought wrong. Stack Overflow is not a forum, and we do have quality standards. This is why Stack Overflow is so popular, because we filter out low-quality posts all the time. –  Martijn Pieters Mar 17 at 14:22
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"My concern is that I find many questions are downvoted or criticized for being poorly worded or simplistic." This is only a concern if said questions aren't actually poorly worded or simplistic. –  Yannis Mar 17 at 14:22
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ALWAYS Google for your solution before asking it. Show that you've tried to research your problem before asking us. Most of us don't want to spend time answering the same question over and over again. –  Joe Mar 17 at 14:22
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but is this site and its boards meant solely for folks who have already searched the internet for an answer? Yes. Yes it is. Because this site gets 7,000+ questions every day and seeing thousands of easily Googleable questions come in every day and burying the good questions sucks the soul out of you. –  Pëkka Mar 17 at 14:22
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You are not alone with this observation. While there are good reasons for policing the posts, my sense is that the power rush that people experience once they get some control on the board makes it difficult for them to maintain a certain level of openness and tolerance. This actually works against the quality of the content, imo. –  cdonner Mar 17 at 14:26
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Stack Overflow isn't an education site, an English language help site or a forum. It's a Q&A site for solving specific programming problems. I think your idea of what you think the site is about isn't the same thing as the actual purpose of the site. –  JonW Mar 17 at 14:27
    
Ironic, of course, that this question is being downvoted. –  ssaltman Mar 17 at 14:35
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No, not really. –  Michael Petrotta Mar 17 at 14:38
    
@ssaltman Here on Meta, votes are also used to express disagreement. –  S.L. Barth Mar 17 at 14:38
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Nothing ironic about it @ssaltman. You posted a question filled with horribly wrong misconceptions about Stack Overflow. What did you expect? –  Yannis Mar 17 at 14:38
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@ssaltman Actually it would have been ironic had it been upvoted a lot. The fact that your low quality question, stating that low quality questions are being unfairly downvoted, was in fact downvoted, just makes it true. We downvote poor quality questions here on SE. It's that simple. –  Servy Mar 17 at 14:50
    
@gnat How is that a duplicate? This isn't just saying that posts are getting too many downvotes, it's basically saying that SO should have no quality standards, and should welcome literally every single posted question. –  Servy Mar 17 at 14:56
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"Why should Google or some other source be used prior to seeking advice from the dedicated and experienced Stack Overflow community?" meta.stackexchange.com/questions/192123/… Seriously, you want to ask people to work for you when you can't even be bothered to try the obvious things first? And you think there is something wrong with us?!? –  dmckee Mar 17 at 15:15
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Wait, this was migrated? Uuuuuugh. –  Won't Mar 17 at 17:19
    
Wow, this question was downvoted so much it illustrates the point that the users here can be mean :-) I guess people are people though, some are mean and some aren't. Thankfully this site is largely free from the merciless trolling that plagues so many other sites at least. –  Jonathan Jun 25 at 18:04
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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

but is this site and its boards meant solely for folks who have already searched the internet for an answer?

Yes, yes it is.

I thought this was an open forum for any code related question?

It is not. We do not welcome just any question here. The site has standards for quality, and will not accept questions that do not meet them.

Why should Google or some other source be used prior to seeking advice from the dedicated and experienced Stackoverflow community?

To improve the quality of questions, and because no value is added to the programming community by adding yet another answer to an issue that is already widely accessible. Value is added when answers are given to topics that either cannot be found elsewhere, or are at the very least, hard to find or where there are not other high quality resources. When this happens that topic will now have a searchable, quality, answer, and won't need to be asked again.

I learned to code primarily by reading and posting to a message board [...]. The help and advice I got, despite some VERY VERY dump questions by me, helped me build and sell a large website.

That's good for you. There are still other sites out there like this. SO isn't one of them, and it doesn't want to be one of them.

Anyway, I see lots of new questions on the PHP tag with negative scores within minutes of being posted as if they are "dumb" questions, when I find that they are honest questions by people who simply need help.

This at least tells us that our quality standards are being upheld, which is good to hear. It also means that lots of people are posting low quality questions, which is a bit unfortunate.

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Don't forget that the SE network uses volunteer time, and ensuring questions meet a certain standard means they don't waste it with sub-par questions. –  fbueckert Mar 17 at 14:38
    
I'll accept this answer. I have taught school in rural Africa, and I think some acceptance of the limits of education on the part of stackoverflow moderators would go a long way. I was always taught that there are no dumb questions. And I still believe that. –  ssaltman Mar 17 at 14:39
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@ssaltman The difference is that SO is not a school, a substitute for schools, a mentorship program or anything of the sort. There's learning involve, obviously, but the primary focus is on solving problems and building a library of high quality content, not teaching. A perhaps subtle difference, but an important one nonetheless. –  Yannis Mar 17 at 14:45
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Unfortunately that is just a statement to keep everybody happy and to upset no one. Reality is though, that there are most certainly dumb questions. And we see those on the site each and every day. –  Bart Mar 17 at 14:46
    
@ssaltman I personally disagree, and feel that there are dumb questions, but that's just me. Regardless of whether or not you consider all questions acceptable doesn't mean SO is obligated to answer any question. There are already lots of competitor sites that accept everything. SO has thrived specifically because it doesn't. –  Servy Mar 17 at 14:46
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@ssaltman Completely true, there are no dumb questions - but there are inappropriate places to ask questions, dumb or not. SO has, for various reasons, chosen to limit its scope –  Clive Mar 17 at 14:51
    
@ssaltman I appreciate your mindset and I'm sure it makes you a great and popular teacher in the real world, but I put it to you it doesn't work on a web site this big. Try being active in a traditionally low-quality tag for a while and you'll see it wears you out. –  Pëkka Mar 17 at 14:54
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First, formulate a bit what kind of specific problem the question is going to answer. If it addresses something specific is not "dumb" question, as far as I know as long it's a question/answer thing and not a discussion it's fine.

Second, whenever you write the question's title, there appear many possible matches. Open most of them in browser tabs and read them. Yes, many has info on things that don't match 100% what you're looking for, but may have some info that makes you closer to the answer (happened to me, and in the end I didn't ask anything at all and had the answer. Lucky strike? ^_^u)

Last, if you find a clue in the matches, or maybe it gaves you an idea of what to search (a jargon term, a related technology, command or something) google it a bit, and you may find something.

If you're sure you haven't found it on internet, in previous posts, and is a question to an specific problem... well, I don't see problem asking that.

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Anyway, I see lots of new questions on the PHP tag with negative scores within minutes of being posted as if they are "dumb" questions, when I find that they are honest questions by people who simply need help.

I also believe that all the questions are "honest" questions, but one thing you must understand is that these honest questions has been asked by other honest people many times already, or the people who ask these honest questions are not taking to account, that they should at-least make a simple effort to show they have tried to solve the problem, instead of coming here and asking every bit of question that comes to their head, which results in diminishing the stack of quality and unique question in stackoverflow.

So, at the end.. the problem originates due to a sheer disregard or lack of understanding how stackoverflow works on the newcomers part.

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