I've noticed that the guidelines as to how to ask a question hint sometimes that the questions should be useful to others, not just the person asking the questions.

Seems like a good idea - aim to ask a question that others might have as well, help more people.

But sometimes, I have no choice but to ask a very specific question, because my problem is so specific, I can't find the answer anywhere.

You can skip to the last paragraph to get to my question

I recently had a post of mine downvoted. Actually, most of my posts have gotten a downvote.

I'm assuming it's not because I didn't do my due diligence, because I always spend a lot of time making sure the answer isn't out there before I ask (And I very rarely miss something, because just as I wouldn't want my time wasted, I don't want to waste others' time).

I'm also assuming it's not because what I write is unclear. Most of the purposed edits make slight corrections - an occasional spelling mistake, or phrasing - English is not my native language...

I also try to be as detailed as possible, so whomever is kind enough to attempt to help me won't have to waste his time interrogating me. It's hard to balance giving all the details with not writing too much.

Basically, I assume that the main reason for my posts being downvoted is because they aren't of interest (and of course I might be wrong, but I think thi is still a valid question)

So, is lack of interest in a question a valid reason to downvote it? I've always percieved the stackexchange sites as a platform to ask for help, but downvoting a question on the grounds that it isn't interesting makes things... different.

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    Related (if not a dupe): meta.stackexchange.com/questions/185102/… May 28, 2018 at 19:14
  • @πάνταῥεῖ thanks, reading that right now. Looked up a few terms, but didn't get any hits. "Too localized" didn't occurr to me. May 28, 2018 at 19:19
  • @πάνταῥεῖ Can't edit, so: I do see your point, but I'm not enirely sure you're right. It's tough because you can't really predict the audience for some questions, while the examples given ("find the typo", "core dump") are indeed very specific to something created by the user asking the question, and only of interest to him, but not the kind of questions I was referring to. We can let the community decide. May 28, 2018 at 19:25
  • Hmm, if you hit a problem (especially an IT related one), that isn't widely experienced and recorded at the internet (suspecting you did an appropriate google, bing or duckduckgo search) is an indicator, that you missed to take on focus of a particular step in your process that could be source of the error. May 28, 2018 at 19:43
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    And even more important: Make sure to give everyone everything at hands to reproduce your problem. If you can't, you need to take more efforts into that. May 28, 2018 at 19:45
  • I fear this discussion might be moved to chat if it doesn't end soon. But this may be relevant to the validity of my point when your caveats don't apply. In my latest question, for example, I did everything multiple times, step by step, even twice with guidance on the phone from Microsoft support (the experts). Alas, the problem cannot be reproduced, at least, not without some answers to my questions. May 28, 2018 at 19:53
  • None of this makes any coherent sense. There is no question link and I assume that many comments have been deleted. May as well delete what remains of this question. May 29, 2018 at 5:33
  • @MartinJames don't think anything was deleted... As for what the question is, read the last paragraph May 29, 2018 at 7:39

1 Answer 1


Your question should be asked in a way that is written in the best interests of the reader. That's the most laconic way I can imagine to express it.

That boils down to including all relevant information, clearly stating the problem, giving the question a title that suggests the content of the problem, giving any relevant (minimal) examples, stating what you've tried or searched for, etc - but what it boils down to is just having some empathy for the reader, like anything else you'd write.

So, your question only needs to be useful to someone else that has the problem you're having; it's not your burden to prove that your problem is something that's likely to happen again somewhere else in the universe.

The exception to this is what too localized was trying to capture in spirit - stuff that's essentially an OH DUH! moment (a typo, running 'make' in the wrong directory, not getting enough coffee or sleep, etc) - at which point there's some concern about leaving stuff around that people will likely trip over while searching. That kinda stuff should probably just be deleted once it becomes obvious that there's no point in keeping it.

What you're seeing is a reaction to what some of our most experienced users see as a problem with low-quality questions, and their frustration at us for not doing enough about it. While Robert Harvey is correct, there are no concrete rules of voting, folks used to hold off on down votes quite a bit more judiciously until the floods started coming in.

We're rolling out a wizard for new users to ask better questions (goes into testing in June; I'll have a post about it soon) and tackling what turns out to be more of a guidance problem on our part than a quality problem of the masses. We just didn't do a good enough problem helping folks get off on the right foot, and we made the tough choice of kicking that problem down the road to meet urgent business needs - but we own that, and we're fixing it.

I think, once we have a site that's around 277% less pissed off at what they perceive as folks being lazy (mostly, because we completely fail at guiding new users properly), this will self-correct to a large extent. Then, we can look at what else we might need, including a self-assessment of how relevant our moderation tools are now that we've solved a lot of the problems that we initially set out to solve.

But, (and I love to show this), much more stuff gets accolades than resentment, as evidenced by voting (up / down) trends, from the live firehose (25k+ rep needed):


You don't often see folks coming here and saying THOSE JERKS PROVIDED ME WITH A FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE!!! - but this doesn't reflect the new user experience as well as it should, and it doesn't show our (growing) attrition rate.

But what I really hope folks do is blame us, as in the company, and stay in dialogs with us while we work to fix the experience. The people that just give their time every day deserve your default assumption about them to be good, way more than we deserve it.

But at the same time, any on-topic question that can be understood and answered, even if requires rare knowledge or depicts a problem that wasn't something silly and totally unrelated to what was initially explained deserves a place on the site, an answer, and some appreciation for the time people spent creating a lasting artifact.

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    Alright, the last paragraph basically told me how you would want the users to behave ideally, which is mainly what I wanted to know. I believe my questions are generally up to these standards, but I'll wait and see if I have anything to learn from whatever changes you're going to make. Hope everyone else who upvote the question got their answer as well. I've noticed that not everyone got the point of my question (I'd welcome some constructive criticism on that if anyone wishes to offer some) May 30, 2018 at 20:10

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