I have tried posting on Stack Overflow a few times, and I find it somewhat challenging to put together a question that people will like. It seems a large chunk of people on here have many thousands of reputation points, so I often feel like a fool in comparison. I am a very anxious person and I have a serious fear of being judged by other users, who typically vote my question into the red very quickly, causing me to scramble to change it to meet their comments' requirements. It seems that this fear is part of the mechanism that Stack Overflow uses to get people to write better posts. The problem is, it's taking me some time to get to the point where I can ask good questions. I know I'm going to keep making people mad, until I've got the hang of this, so how do people get over this fear as beginners?

  • 1
    Your own questions doesn't look too bad. Are you asking for yourself or for another user?
    – rene
    Jan 13 '14 at 20:47
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    I was asking for myself. I am always able to post and typically edit until people are happy; I just feel very apprehensive about posting in the first place.
    – hunt
    Jan 13 '14 at 20:49
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    "who typically vote my question into the red very quickly" you have only one question with any downvotes, and it still has a net positive score (by the looks of it; it was a poor question you successfully fixed based on user feedback), out of seven questions, unless you've deleted a whole bunch of questions.
    – Servy
    Jan 13 '14 at 20:50
  • @Servy - 2 deleted, one with no downvotes, one with a single downvote.
    – Oded
    Jan 13 '14 at 20:51
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    Even high rep users are afraid. Seriously.
    – jscs
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:01
  • @JoshCaswell That linked answer is indicating that users aren't as afraid as they should be, not that they're too afraid...
    – Servy
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:06
  • Anthony, the poster of the answer, is himself my example, @Servy. As am I myself.
    – jscs
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:08
  • Actually, the main reason I don't ask more is precisely because of this. Even with a mid 4-digit rep, I'm still just that bit concerned when I post something on SO. Jan 14 '14 at 9:10
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    every time you are afraid look at this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/182266/…
    – Mohammad
    Jan 14 '14 at 19:11

Pretty much everything you need to know is here: https://stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask

What it boils down to is this: respect people's time. Don't expect them to read your mind, or guess at the level of your expertise, or try and figure out how to solve your problem from incomplete information. Come to the table with some fundamental skills, and describe your thought process that led you to ask the question ("Show your work," as your math teacher would say).

Everything that can possibly go wrong with a Stack Overflow question is here. It's tough-love advice, but it's also comprehensive. If you follow all the advice there, it's hard to imagine your question getting downvoted or ridiculed.

  • This is exactly what I was hoping for. I thought I had read the "how-to-ask" page, but I think I was looking at a page specifically about writing code examples.
    – hunt
    Jan 13 '14 at 20:56
  • @hunt that was likely the MCVe page, which if you can create one will drastically help in creating an answerable question (and sometimes, finding the answer to it yourself).
    – user213963
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:02
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    One tactic that I strongly recommend, @hunt, is putting some time between typing up your post and posting. Write it out, then leave it for a day. You'll see all kinds of things that you could improve just with that little bit of perspective.
    – jscs
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:02

Ask yourself why you are afraid:

I'm afraid they will know I don't even know how to reverse a string in place!

Nobody is going to sneer at you for not knowing the language you're trying to write in or the framework you're trying to use. You don't need to know all of it perfectly. Set this fear aside.

I'm afraid they will know I don't know how to run my application, or what an integer is!

This is legitimate, not because you'll be mocked or scorned but because SO is quite bad at tutoring beginners. If you don't know what a loop is, or what the difference is between && and || (or however they're spelled in your language eg AND and OR), not only might people be cruel to you but they probably can't help. It doesn't fit the Q&A thing well. Find a tutorial and come back when you have a SPECIFIC question.

I'm afraid they'll mock my spelling and grammar, tell me I put in too much code or not enough, yell at me that they can't tell what I'm asking, and downvote or close my question.

This is a good fear. The best cure is to read the help centre and the How To Ask links you can find all over the site. I have some links in another answer: https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/180698/147247

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    I want to mark these both as valid answers; I'm leaving the first person marked as the answer to be fair, but thank you for using that tone!
    – hunt
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:14

There is a simple answer to your question: there is no way of avoiding being judged.

If you post a question in a public forum, it is like standing up and talking in a public place. People will judge what you say. If you are truly anxious about this, there is nothing that SO or SE or the community here can help you with, because it is not something specific to SO or SE.

Indeed, for SE sites it is vital that people judge what you say. Because for them to answer your question, they must form a judgement about what you want, and what might help you. And they have to judge whether answering your question will be a waste of their time. Or degrade the quality of the site.

It seems a large chunk of people on here have many thousands of reputation points, so I often feel like a fool in comparison

SO is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. It is meant to be the case that highly knowledgeable people answer questions posed by the less knowledgeable members of the community.

But when you say judged, I suspect you mean being judged harshly. Avoiding that is simple: just post a high quality question. To do that, just read and digest the content of the Help Centre.

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