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Whenever I ask a question on Stack Overflow, or any Stack Exchange site, such as

How can I change x to do y

it seems that the community is most interested in pointing out my question is stupid, either by not answering my question at all

You shouldn't even have x in the first place

Your capitalization is very wrong

or by thinking that if the answer is obvious to them, it should be obvious to me.

me, in a comment on an answer: "I'm sorry, I don't overly understand what you mean. Can you provide an example?"

counter comment: "@Matthew: What do you think happens to your SqlParameter?"

Is there a way I can avoid this? How can I know if my question will be considered annoying?

Should I prepost every question on meta and ask if it's appropriate?

I want to get the most out of Stack Exchange sites, and feel that I need to improve the way I ask my questions. Basically, how do I phrase them to make the community more receptive to them? Any tips?

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Maybe you are wording your questions incorrectly. Try having a read through this – codingbadger Feb 8 '11 at 18:04
For context: The question in question.... Hmm, I'm not an expert in the subject matter and SLaks is admittedly being a bit harsh, but I think you may be taking the tone too seriously. After all, it's constructive input. Also note that the remark about capitalization - as far as I can tell, a hint on improving coding style - was made by the same user who gave you the actual answer to the question. – Pëkka Feb 8 '11 at 18:11
We've all been there, don't take it personally. – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 18:13
SLaks is SLaks, but a Diamond-Moderator should really not express himself that way. This goes totally against the "be nice" entry in the SO FAQ (edit: I realize now that this was posted when he wasn't a moderator yet, but still ...) – BalusC Feb 8 '11 at 18:13
+1, I'm with you. Sometimes you just want to know how something works to know how it works, not because you want to make a dangerous kludge or stupid micro-optimization or whatever else the answerers are assuming. – Pops Feb 8 '11 at 18:16
@MatthewU - if you find a comment offensive you can flag it. – Wikis Feb 8 '11 at 18:16
@BalusC - I didn't interpret it as rude, merely laconic. – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 18:16
@BalusC yeah, true, the tone in that one is not nice. But looking at the OP's question history, this seems like a relatively isolated incident to me. Not enough to make a generalization... Although I can symphatize with the point @Popular makes – Pëkka Feb 8 '11 at 18:16
People being a little hard on new users or new developers has been a concern for a while (see Could we please be a bit nicer to the noobs?), but I don't think that's the case here. I don't think SLaks is being harsh, he's just trying to help. – Brad Larson Feb 8 '11 at 18:22
I've had my fair share of negative commentary with SLaks too ;) [but he seems to have toned down a tad lately, so lets hope it stays that way :D ] – jcolebrand Feb 8 '11 at 18:23
@BalusC: You are aware that SLaks wasn't a diamond moderator when he posted that answer? – Powerlord Feb 8 '11 at 18:28
@R.Bemrose: Yes. Are you also aware of the edit in my comment which I made within the minute? – BalusC Feb 8 '11 at 18:33
@BalusC: No, because you hadn't yet edited it when I loaded this page before replying. – Powerlord Feb 8 '11 at 18:35
@R.Bemrose: That's indeed possible. – BalusC Feb 8 '11 at 18:37

I think you might be overly sensitive. Looking at your questions and answers, you have not received any down votes. The community does not appear to be objecting to you at all.

Please keep the following in mind:

  • You are talking to seasoned programmers. Many of us cherish brevity and constantly endeavor to be as succinct as possible.
  • You are using a medium that lacks diction and voice inflections. It is easy to see something as abrasive that was not intended to be abrasive.
  • You should always proof your work before posting. Most browsers will pick up on spelling mistakes, but do try your best with grammar. A good trick is to read your question out loud prior to posting it.

The quality of your writing is an indicator of your effort when engaging the community. We're all here to improve, and as long as you strive to do that, I really don't see a problem.

Don't take it personally.

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The votes have been pretty good, yes, considering what I'm saying here. But those quotes are actual quotes from questions of mine. And I recently asked for a FAQ clarification on meta for programmers stack exchange, which did receive a down vote. That one puzzles me the most. – MYou Feb 8 '11 at 18:16
@MatthewU - Some people, especially in this industry are just very blunt. They don't mean anything by it. I really see no problems, and it looks like you've been utilizing the resource that is Stack Overflow rather effectively. I really wouldn't worry about it. – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 18:19
@MatthewU never mind the downvote. That is normal on Meta. To me, your questions are all fine, on all sites. – Pëkka Feb 8 '11 at 18:19
@MatthewU - @Pekka has a great point. Down votes on meta are to say "I don't like that idea" or "I disagree with that". Most of us have had questions or answers completely bomb here. Meta is a very strange place. – Tim Post Feb 8 '11 at 18:21
@MatthewU ~ Know this: MSO is treated as a different beast than all the other sites in SE2.0 combined. Here downvotes mean "I disagree" not "that's a bad idea" (infact the other meta's don't track votes because if this afaik) ~ So when you get a downvote here, it means "I don't like this question" or "I think this is a bad idea to be implemented" or "this guys a friggin nutter" or whatever. Stick to trusting votes on SO and just having votes on MSO. Any interest means the community notices you on MSO, which is nice enough in its own way. – jcolebrand Feb 8 '11 at 18:21
@drachenstern, yes, I'd far rather have downvotes and answers on meta than just plain indifference! – Benjol Feb 9 '11 at 12:32
I like this moderator and the calm tone of this answer – systempuntoout Feb 9 '11 at 13:12

Yes, been there. Sometimes the responses can be harsh. This question (disclaimer: that I asked) and the many useful answers will I think help a lot:


  • Don't take personal criticism to heart.
  • Do the homework before posting a question.
  • Post the context of your question.

to name just a few.

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Now that I've had a moment to read the linked question above

He was offering two specific pieces of advice/commentary:

There's an accepted naming scheme on MS projects, that we all pretty well use to keep things readable cross-domain (so if we share code, we both read it the same) and he as advising you (in a succinct manner) to change how you were casing your program code.

He was asking what do you think happens to the SqlParameter and you ignored his question. (or deleted something, idk)

So: Context helps. Responses help. Asking "what do you mean by that comment, I'm confused" helps.


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