I understand why this question was marked as a duplicate, but the huge torrent of downvotes seems completely unwarranted. I also understand the general atmosphere of Stack Overflow isn't really new-user friendly, especially where it comes to the touchy topic of performing research prior to asking a question. Patience is thin in this regard, and perhaps that's justified.

But this behavior of downvoting someone into oblivion for coming to Meta and trying to learn how to do something properly is, it seems to me, completely counterproductive and merely perpetuates the view that Stack Overflow is an exclusive club for the elite which new people should be wary and fearful of.

The OP was legitimately asking how he could ask a better question. Shouldn't that behavior be encouraged? Shouldn't we reward people who try to become better Stack Exchange members instead of further punishing them simply for being new and ignorant of our cultural norms (which are, remember, fairly odd for standard Internet users)?

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    Well I guess the problem is not really that the question is a duplicate but that generally people didn't agree with what is stated in it. You have to keep in mind that votes on the meta can have different meanings. While they can still be about the quality of a post, they can also represent the general agreement/disagreement with what is being said. – Hugo Dozois Oct 21 '13 at 14:27
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    The problem is the complaining tone of the question. Woe is me, I've googled for 10 minutes, shouldn't that be enough? – user1228 Oct 21 '13 at 14:30
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    @HugoDozois What is there to disagree with in his post? The majority of his sentences end with a question mark. – asteri Oct 21 '13 at 14:30
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    On meta downvote means disagreement. I disagree that "of course I have tried to solve it myself, but everything went to compile errors. I guess nobody needs to know that, or that I googled it 10 mins." - First, it is not as obvious as OP thinks, and second yes, people do need to know that - it's faster to make OPs solution work than to write code for him. His post, if agreed on, would open a way to turn SO into free code writing service. – Mołot Oct 21 '13 at 14:30
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    I didn't downvote it, but I read that question as the OP being mildly outraged that he had to post what he had tried and wanted us to remove that restriction, not that he was looking for guidance on asking better questions. – Bill the Lizard Oct 21 '13 at 14:30
  • @BilltheLizard I can understand that from the opening tone. I suppose, for me, that was cleared up by his ending statements, which end with "Any thoughts?" That's of course completely subjective, though. – asteri Oct 21 '13 at 14:32
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    So if you phrase your rant as a bunch of rhetorical questions it's not a rant anymore, but an honest question? – Wooble Oct 21 '13 at 14:33
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    @Wooble It seems to me that categorizing what he wrote as an angry rant is a pretty slanted, pre-biased view. But you have a point; that IS how the majority of Meta users see these kind of posts, I guess. For example, I once asked a question about why one of my questions was closed, and people thought I was "demanding that it be reopened", when I simply wanted to learn why it was inappropriate. The predominant attitude here is an assumption of negative intent by the OP. Isn't that a bad thing? – asteri Oct 21 '13 at 14:36
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    Regarding "the general atmosphere of StackOverflow isn't really new-user friendly, especially where it comes to the touchy topic of performing research prior to asking a question". I don't think that SO is particularly unfriendly to new users, but rather to new programmers. SO claims to be for professional and enthusiast programmers, and those kind of individuals should already be in the habit of researching thoroughly before asking questions and should have reasonable debugging skills. New programmers don't necessarily have those things. – Joshua Taylor Oct 21 '13 at 14:39
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    Yet some users have the negative assumption that all our downvotes are unwarranted. And they subsequently try to cast Meta in a negative light, exclaiming we might be elitist and claiming there is a general Meta fear. Isn't that a bad thing? – Bart Oct 21 '13 at 14:40
  • @Bart While I appreciate your facetious humor, I don't believe all downvotes are a bad thing, and I don't view Meta in a negative fashion. I just perceive the linked question in a different light than you do, and I guess I'm surprised that so many people agree with you. But that's how it goes. – asteri Oct 21 '13 at 14:42
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    @JeffGohlke What about the question makes you think that he is asking for clarification about how to improve his question? His primary question is phrased as "Is it necessary to [say what you've tried]?" That's not asking how to improve his question. He didn't ask, "how can I incorporate what I've tried into the question?" – Servy Oct 21 '13 at 14:44
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    @JeffGohlke That was admittedly tongue-in-cheek. But I see far too often that users first grasp for outrage or outright rejection of what happened, rather than trying to understand it. Meta is by no means always an easy place to interact on. But voting here happens for a reason as well. And I'd generally try to understand that reason first, before coming to the conclusion that it should be dismissed or should negatively reflect on the community. – Bart Oct 21 '13 at 14:44
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    @jeff I'm not going to edit your title, but: Negative reinforcement means to remove something bad to encourage (reinforce) a behavior. Maybe you were looking for the word "punishment"? – dcaswell Oct 21 '13 at 16:21
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    completely agree with you. down vote is obviously getting abused. but i really don't care about how much points i get. – MonsterMMORPG Oct 21 '13 at 22:40

The OP was legitimately asking how he could ask a better question.

Was he? The question is rather unclear on it. At first glance I thought two things:

  • Who badgered him into including more information?
  • Why is he objecting to having to do so?

Then, visiting the question, I noticed there were no such comments at all. It was only then that I realised he must have gotten a message from the system, urging him to do something.

I'm still somewhat unclear on that, but if so, what was this message?

So in the end, I'm seeing a question that goes more towards a rant/outrage, rather than constructively attempting to improve something. And the question itself is not all that clear.

I ultimately did not downvote, but I can see why others might have done so.

  • Fair enough. I understand why people would downvote if the view was that it was just an angry rant. I guess I just came to the conclusion that he was, while somewhat frustrated, trying to figure out what was wrong with his post. Again, completely subjective. But since this is a community-driven site, if that's how the majority perceives it, so be it. – asteri Oct 21 '13 at 14:40
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    Maybe the "badgering" was a comment that is now deleted? – S.L. Barth - Reinstate Monica Oct 21 '13 at 14:41
  • @S.L.Barth Until he confirms, we will not know. It seems Johnny Bones was equally confused about this. – Bart Oct 21 '13 at 14:41
  • @JeffGohlke And those are just my perceptions. Other users who did downvote might have had entirely different and legitimate reasons for their votes. – Bart Oct 21 '13 at 14:42
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    Tricking the content filter is never well recieved either; "I mean, I had to write it and then I removed it in an edit." – Richard Tingle Oct 21 '13 at 14:59
  • True @RichardTingle. And it's that comment that made me think "Ah, the system nagged him into doing something...". – Bart Oct 21 '13 at 15:00

He wasn't asking how to go about asking a better question. He was asserting that he shouldn't have to. He was saying that he shouldn't have to explain what he has tried, and seemed to be proposing that we not ask users to provide that information when asking questions.

Had the user made it clear that they didn't understand how to ask an appropriate question and was looking for clarification about it then the question would have been quite different. As it is the user indicated that he (more or less) did know how to ask an appropriate question, but just didn't want to have to do it. It was a not particularly constructive rant.


When a question or post draws that kind of negative response on this (or some other) site, it is usually a signal that some "unwritten" rules have been broken.

I like the fact that the OP recognizes that the site has standards, and that he has a few of his own. The "like" stops there, though.

The consensus on the duplicated question was that you should use SE only as a last resort, after having tried "everything" else. The OP seemed to consider the site a "second" resort, to be used after he had tried one or two things.

That's a big gap in points of view, enough to account for the (negative) reaction from the site. This stemmed from the development of site norms over a period of several years.

And formerly "unwritten" rules regarding this matter are now, in fact, written.

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