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Numerous times I have violated some custom or other trying to use Stack Exchange for asking and/or answering questions. Is, or can there be, a downloadable tome that presents the general theory and practice of Stack Exchange?

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    There's a tour and a help centre. You can find these via the top bar ? icon on the top right of the page. – Robert Longson Aug 25 '18 at 20:41
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No, there is unfortunately not a single downloadable "Stack Exchange for Dummies" reference manual.

Instead both Stack Exchange and the community are maintaining content that could qualify as a reference manual scattered around several places.

Here they are in random order:

It is important to understand the difference between Question and Answer sites (which is what the SE sites offer) and general forums. The latter are much more relaxed when it comes to content moderation, user interaction, diversion, distractions and allowed topics (either per site or thread).

On on SE site the goal is to collect and maintain content that is valuable for future visitors. What is valuable and what not is decided by the community and signaled by voting and moderation. Be aware that over time these common understandings of value can change, leading to confusion by new contributors.

Due to this focus on value for future visitors it might sometimes appear we forget about the individual that actually asked the question or the helpful expert that answered a question in a way we don't think has enough merit to be kept around. We do realize, today more then in the past, that this can be disheartening. However, moderation is focused on the content not on the user. It is not a personal vendetta against users, it is to maintain the overall quality of the content.

If you can post on Meta feel free to ask a question about why certain moderation was done, assuming good faith of the care-takers. Or hop in Chat if you have the privilege.

You might want to keep an eye on the post as they announce new features in the next 6 to 8 weeks that are part of the welcoming band-wagon.

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