This is how I tend to use SE sites:
- I work.
- I run into a problem I cannot solve myself (at least not easily, without devoting very substantial time or effort I cannot now devote). For example:
- I don't know how to progress in my task.
- I can see more than one way to progress, but cannot evaluate which way to choose.
- I cannot explain to myself why something that seems true is indeed true.
- I need help of someone more knowledgeable/experienced than me to progres!
- Type the question into an appropriate SE site
- Does the Similar questions box show this question? If yes, read. If not, ask.
From then... this is a coin flip for me. I'm notoriously incapable of grasping the fine lines between an on-topic question and off-topic question. Very often there are two very similar questions, one of which is highly upvoted, while the other one is severly downvoted and/or closed - and I cannot spot the difference!
Thus, unfortunately, I cannot craft my question so that it would be well-received, nor can I predict whether my question will be well-received or not.
I have a hypothesis on why does this happen. Am I not using SE for the wrong purpose?
I read this blog post from Jeff Atwood blog: What does Stack Overflow want to be when it grows up?
Excerpt from this post:
Stack Overflow ultimately has much more in common with Wikipedia than a discussion forum. By this I mean questions and answers on Stack Overflow are not primarily judged by their usefulness to a specific individual, but by how many other programmers that question or answer can potentially help over time.
The choice of audience wasn't meant to be an exclusionary decision in any way, but Stack Overflow was definitely designed as a fairly strict system of peer review, which is great (IMNSHO, obviously) for already practicing professionals, but pretty much everything you would not want as a student or beginner. This is why I cringe so hard I practically turn myself inside out when people on Twitter mention that they have pointed their students at Stack Overflow. What you'd want for a beginner or a student in the field of programming is almost the exact opposite of what Stack Overflow does at every turn (...) Can you use Stack Overflow to learn how to program from first principles? Well, technically you can do anything with any software. You could try to have actual conversations on Reddit, if you're a masochist. But the answer is yes. You could learn how to program on Stack Overflow, in theory, if you are a prodigy who is comfortable with the light competitive aspects (reputation, closing, downvoting) and also perfectly willing to define all your contributions to the site in terms of utility to others, not just yourself as a student attempting to learn things. But I suuuuuuper would not recommend it. There are far better websites and systems out there for learning to be a programmer. Could Stack Overflow build beginner and student friendly systems like this? I don't know, and it's certainly not my call to make. 🤔
OK, so this seems to be a problem of mine, I'm afraid?
SE is like Wikipedia - I should edit there if I am a knowledgeable individual who wants to contribute his knowledge to the public. If, however, I am in need of advice of more knowledgeable / experienced people than me - I should use SE as a read-only resource, or if I want to ask, I should look for other alternatives - forums, reddit, IRL talking to experienced people. (Yes, reddit and forums have the problem of incompetent people giving out wrong advice while SE attempts to bring these to a minimum - but this is not an excuse to use SE for purposes it is not designed for)
Is the above correct? Can this be the source of my incapability of understanding the fine lines between on-topic and off-topic questions?
...Should I stop writing questions on SE sites?