I'm a bit discouraged by the bad reputation that I've gained recently. Whenever I ask a question about a programming language that I'm relatively unfamiliar with, it often brings me a lot of ridicule from the rest of the community (which may be well-deserved, since the amount of ignorance that I have shown may in fact be unacceptable).

Should I stop asking questions about programming languages that I am unfamiliar with, and focus on just one programming language instead? I feel quite discouraged by all of the downvotes that I've gotten as a result of my lack of expertise in certain subjects.

One recurring pattern that I've noticed is that questions are often downvoted if they demonstrate relative unfamiliarity with a particular subject. I'm reasonably familiar with the JavaScript and Java programming languages, but I'm relatively unfamiliar with Bash, Lua, Python, Haxe, and C# - therefore, my relative unfamiliarity with these subjects will tarnish my reputation, since everyone expects me to be well-informed about every subject that I have ever discussed here. If one of my questions is downvoted, I usually take it as an indication that the rest of the community is appalled by my apparent ignorance of a particular subject, and deems me to be worthy of ridicule. Perhaps I'm being overly-sensitive, but I find all of these negative reviews to be quite upsetting.

Now I'm faced with a dilemma: Should I stop asking questions about subjects that I'm relatively unfamilar with (in order to avoid being downvoted), and only discuss topics that I am familiar with, or should I leave Stack Overflow entirely, assuming that my contributions have been mostly unconstructive and harmful?

  • I'm aware that the tone of my question may seem excessively pessimistic - but that's mainly because I'm beginning to doubt my overall usefulness as a contributor to Stack Overflow (and therefore, my apparent lack of usefulness to the rest of society in general). – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 4:18
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    Which technologies are you currently using to develop an active software project? Those are the technologies that you should be attempting to answer questions for. Ignore the rest; you need your finger on the pulse of a technology to effectively answer questions on Stack Overflow. – Robert Harvey Jul 16 '13 at 4:23
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    I suggest avoiding all discussion, regardless of the subject. Stack Overflow doesn't really do discussion. I know you're going to quibble over the fact that "it is just a word" and "I really meant 'asking questions'", but words are important because they have meaning. Lots of people ask discussion-based questions, or prompts for discussion masquerading as questions. These are the questions that get downvoted and/or closed. – Cody Gray Jul 16 '13 at 7:54
  • @CodyGray I wasn't referring to opinion-based discussions. I know that these types of discussions don't usually lead to objective answers, so they aren't usually useful here. – Anderson Green Jul 17 '13 at 17:04

One recurring pattern that I've noticed is that questions are often downvoted if they demonstrate relative unfamiliarity with a particular subject.

That's really not why you're being downvoted. People are commenting on your questions to explain downvotes.

  1. How can I find all indices of a value in a multidimensional array? is a reasonable question to ask, but you don't show any attempt of your own.

  2. How can I keep track of equivalent functions in different programming languages? has the same problem, but as you pointed out, you were posting an answer yourself at the time you asked the question. I think it's just a really impractical problem, and probably would have gotten downvotes even if you had tried to solve it in Java or JavaScript.

  • I was really taken by surprise when I realized that "How can I keep track of equivalent functions in different programming languages" was considered a "bad" question. This is a problem that I often face when designing source-to-source compilers (and therefore it seemed like a reasonable question to me). But source-to-source compiler design is a relatively obscure subject, so I can understand why the question was unfavorably received. – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 4:11
  • A simple piece of paper would suffice. Or a spreadsheet. – Robert Harvey Jul 16 '13 at 4:12
  • @RobertHarvey It would certainly suffice, if I were working with just a few different programming languages. If I needed to keep track of dozens equivalent functions in dozens of different programming languages, then I might need to use a database of some kind. – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 4:15
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    For comparison, look at the big yawn this self-answered question got: meta.stackexchange.com/q/188903/102937. In my experience, crowdsourcing a question gets much better answers; that's partly why self-answered questions have such a hard time of it. The only way a self-answered question gets any respect is if it's good enough to post on your blog, but then, y'now, you'd post it on your blog. – Robert Harvey Jul 16 '13 at 4:16
  • @AndersonGreen It might help if you explain why you're storing equivalent functions. Are you writing some super generic program that can be converted to any language? That sounds like a monumental task – Richard Tingle Jul 16 '13 at 6:34
  • @RichardTingle Yes, that's exactly why I asked the question. – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 13:53
  • @AndersonGreen I admit i'm relatively new to programming but why are you doing that – Richard Tingle Jul 16 '13 at 13:58
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    @RichardTingle I'm actually working on a domain-specific programming language that is intended to be compiled into as many different programming languages as possible. It's a very interesting concept, since it allows me to automatically generate entire software libraries in Ruby, Java, JavaScript, Python, and Lua. – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 14:02
  • @AndersonGreen I can see the advantage of that (I was imagining whole programs rather than libraries); good luck with it, I imagine getting the syntax right is going to be the hardest part (the if its got {} in java it needs indentation in python etc etc) – Richard Tingle Jul 16 '13 at 14:05

I found a nice advice in your most DV Question: Don't denigrate yourself. Do more research.

Please, quit the most hated members of the entire community self-appointed role, unless you can provide some statistics that prove that.

BilltheLizard already shown where you're having problems. And to solve them, read the guide How to Ask and especially the Related articles that you find in that page.

With that "technology" (I mean, knowledge) at hand, I think you'll be able to write even the most n00b Question and increase by numbers the chances of receiving a very good Answer.

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    @notify doesn't work in answers. :) – Robert Harvey Jul 16 '13 at 4:25
  • @RobertHarvey, how do you say? Reflexive action? :o) – brasofilo Jul 16 '13 at 4:26
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    I'm only calling myself one of the "most-hated" members because Stack Overflow has been draining away my self-esteem - mainly because of my over-sensitivity to criticism. I take Stack Overflow quite seriously, and I'm trying to do as much as I can to be a constructive user. – Anderson Green Jul 16 '13 at 4:28
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    @AndersonGreen The net is not a good place if you are over-sensitive to criticism. Downvotes can be very hard for the selfesteem, but you have to not take them for more than what they are. I know exactly how you feel about it, because I feel exactly the same. There is a lot of perceived unfairness - why do they upvote the guy with the more rep, when his answer is the same as mine, why do they downvote a reasonable question, etc. You have to let it go, don't take it personal and try to notice when the scale tips the other way and you get the upvotes where a newbie feels (s)he should have 'em. – user213634 Jul 16 '13 at 11:00
  • @AndersonGreen And remember, the personal (serial) downvotes are removed by the scripts. ;-) – user213634 Jul 16 '13 at 11:01

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