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I have tried to make my questions on Stack Overflow as good as possible. They are clear, have no typos, and I even spend an extra 15 minutes making sure they are ready to post.

The moment I post, I get -3 downvotes, and then my question was closed:

How To Train A Model Similar to ChatGPT in Tensorflow.js?

I know it is a newbie question for Machine Learning, but I get so frustrated that new comers can't get any help because of people judging how their question looks at first glance. It is just sickening. I wonder if some of these people are trolls and are doing this on purpose.

I have been in several communities, such as Cloudy Nights (Astrophotography community) and even when I asked even a dumb question, they were always nice, even if they didn't have a good answer off the top of their head.

Anyways, I wish I had a better place to ask questions that are programming-related where people weren't so toxic and unwelcoming. Has anybody else felt this way at all about it?

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    They are not trolls, they just hardly read beyond the title, especially if it's a poor title. The title alone makes it look like you don't know where to start. I'd use something like "how to make a neural network operate on strings rather than scalars" (though I'm not an expert in this), the question might've been received better then. Jul 30, 2023 at 20:33
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    One of the problems is equating words like "toxic" and "nice" with voting. Voting's just quality control, it doesn't have those kinds of adjectives associated with it
    – Clive
    Jul 30, 2023 at 20:40
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    You've got an explanation to why your question was closed in comments to question itself. Regarding downvotes, we cannot know exact reasons why every person who downvoted that post did it. But for me linked question reads as "I've been building with wood for a few years now, but decided to switch to concrete. How can I build Empire State building with it?"
    – markalex
    Jul 30, 2023 at 20:42
  • Heads up: Because you posted on Meta, the Meta Effect may cause your Stack Overflow question to get voted on more meta.stackexchange.com/q/235225/1081494
    – cocomac
    Jul 30, 2023 at 20:44
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    "new comers can't get any help because of people judging how their question looks at first glance" You generalize from a single experience? Maybe other newcomers actually get help. Anyway, your question is in principle fine, only too broad. Try to be more specific and break it down. I'm sure, at some point your question will be received better. That doesn't guarantee an answer (and even AI won't be able to answer it, or did you try that already) but it's the right way. Jul 30, 2023 at 20:47
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    "Why are some people on Stack Overflow so toxic?" I haven't seen toxic reactions to your question. Do you mean that all downvoters or close voters are toxic by definition? Jul 30, 2023 at 20:49
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    This question belongs on meta.stackoverflow.com. That said, the key is offering a stepping stone, i.e. a piece of code that shows what you tried. Not to check if you tried, but to show which level of understanding you start from. In all my experience with answering questions I've seen it makes a huge difference to know where to start and feeling there's hope of being understood. Check your better received questions. There's more to asking good questions, but you already did it a couple of times. Jul 30, 2023 at 20:59
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    "new comers can't get any help because of people judging how their question looks at first glance" is untrue. Newcomers can get help, but the questions have to be on topic. Your question isn't on topic, which is easy to determine at a glance. It's well out of scope for the site. Also, SO isn't a help desk--it's a community-curated Q&A site. It's best to view your question as "how am I helping contribute to the greater body of programming knowledge?" rather than "how do I get my immediate problem solved ASAP?" Calling things "toxic" is almost always counterproductive
    – ggorlen
    Jul 30, 2023 at 21:16
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    Staging Ground is supposed to prevent such incidents, but the company got sidetracked. Jul 30, 2023 at 22:13
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    Related: Why am I getting downvotes on my detailed & relevant question?. The corresponding Stack Overflow question was also about TensorFlow: Classifier for time-series data with tensorflow.js (now deleted) Jul 30, 2023 at 22:29
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    Stack Overflow is not a forum. If you seek or insist on a forum experience, then Stack Overflow is not the right place. Here are some alternatives: list of alternative sites on MSO. A longer, but less credible list. An older list here on MSE. Jul 30, 2023 at 22:45
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    How could anyone give an answer to "How To Train A Model Similar to ChatGPT in Tensorflow.js?" in an answer that fits within a Stack Exchange post? It cost more than $100 million just to to train GPT-4, not including all of the work that went into development for the multiple variations of GPT, GPT-2, GPT-3, GPT-3.5, GPT-4, etc.Honestly, my mind boggles at how much information would need to be imparted for anyone to get from starting from scratch to being able to do all the work of somewhere between 30 and 100 people over multiple years.
    – Makyen
    Jul 30, 2023 at 23:29
  • @Makyen +24 on this comment sadly proves my point about people not reading questions beyond the title. :/ Jul 31, 2023 at 21:57
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    @HolyBlackCat I don't see how that proves your point. Your point wasn't "that question is written poorly". It was "people didn't read past the title". While it might be that the OP is really just wanting to know how to use strings instead of integers, they repeat the "train a model to be similar to ChatGPT" in the question body. If the issue really is "how do I use strings instead of integers", then they need to significantly edit their question.
    – Makyen
    Jul 31, 2023 at 22:09
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    I have to say, "how do I supply strings rather than integers as training data to a Tensorflow model?" is not anywhere near the universe of interpretations I could have come up with for that question, and if I saw someone else edit the question down to that, I would have been very confused, and skeptical as to whether it accurately reflected OP's intent. Jul 31, 2023 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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Downvotes and close votes aren't symptoms of toxic behavior, as these are some of the moderation actions that could be done by the community. This is explained in the site tour, the site help center, and the site meta. Stack Overflow has banners, sidebar boxes, and other user-help elements pointing to the site topic, scope and workings.

Downvotes might mean that the question is unclear, unhelpful and lacks research.

Questions that aren't a good fit might be closed but could be reopened once their problems are solved if that were possible. Posts that are blatantly out of place might be better to delete them. Be warned that having many bad-received posts, even if deleted, and not having enough good-received posts might grant your account a post ban.

In this case, your question already has a comment of one user giving their opinion about what's wrong with it.

As you have enough reputation to participate in Stack Overflow Meta, you might ask how to proceed with your post. Remember to search before asking and make your new posts accordingly to the site / community workings.

If you receive a post-ban, you can demonstrate your willingness to comply with the site's norms by kindly requesting its removal through the Contact Us form. Staff might have the ban lifted by dissociating any problematic posts from your account.

Remember that posting on Stack Overflow is a privilege. If you have grievances against Stack Overflow, it's important to present them reasonably and follow the site's norms. Simply complaining without valid claims won't help you or others have a productive and beneficial experience on the platform. The same is true for Meta Stack Exchange and any Stack Exchange site.

Related

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    And closed questions can be edited and re-opened. Jul 30, 2023 at 20:48
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    Provided they're salvageable...
    – Cerbrus
    Jul 30, 2023 at 21:37
  • @Wicket I try and try to improve my posts, but even this entire post is a great representation of these sites. Why the hell is there even reputation? Seems odd as people who hate you can even delete your post because they have more so called "Reputation". That's why I hate stack overflow...
    – Adude
    Jul 30, 2023 at 21:54
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    @Adude you and many other new users seem to be under the impression that downvotes or other moderation activites are personal attacks. They are not. Your post was closed with a clear reason on top, and if you fix it then it will be reopened. These measures are in place so that the sites don't turn into a garbage dump. If you hate it here, you can look to other Q&A sites, but their quality is not guaranteed.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 30, 2023 at 22:18
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    And no one insulted you in the comments, if anyone did their comment would be deleted because derogatory remarks are not allowed here.
    – bobeyt6
    Jul 30, 2023 at 22:19
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    @Adude Please remember that Stack Overflow has specific topics, scopes, and norms. If you do not follow them appropriately, any claims you make may not be valid. The same about your feelings about Stack Overflow; if you don't accept Stack Overflow as what it is and don't follow its workings, then Stack Overflow can't do anything to help you handle them, as any complaints you might have will be invalid. I'm sorry, but you might have to look for another community / site that meets your expectations.
    – user1359324
    Jul 30, 2023 at 22:22
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    "I try and try to improve my posts" - did you try to read the guidelines that explain what is expected of posts? When you try to improve your posts, do you keep those guidelines in mind? When people give you specific advice about a post, do you try to act on that? "Why the hell is there even reputation?" - Did you try looking it up in the help center and reading the explanation there? "Seems odd as people who hate you can even delete your post" Did you try considering that people might not hate you? Jul 31, 2023 at 0:33
  • The post about the TL doesn't seem very useful/relevant here, since that's a mod-specific chat room. Jul 31, 2023 at 8:17
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I have tried to make my questions on Stack Overflow as good as possible.

First off: if your concern regards the actions of Stack Overflow users with regard to a question posted on Stack Overflow, and an objection to the apparent culture of Stack Overflow, you should ask on meta.stackoverflow.com, not here. This site is for discussing the software and the network overall - if you are complaining here about something, it should be a complaint that would make sense about other Stack Exchange sites as well, or propose policy that you think should be network-wide.

I am quite familiar with Stack Overflow's policies etc., and it makes sense that you would be concerned about similar behaviour elsewhere on the network if you encountered it; so I will answer anyway.

Onward: "trying" does not imply success. But more importantly:

They are clear, have no typos, and I even spend an extra 15 minutes making sure they are ready to post.

It appears that you fundamentally misunderstand what the standards are. "clear" does not qualify a question. More importantly, the purpose of questions on Stack Overflow is not simply for the person asking to get some specific information, i.e. personalized help. The purpose is to contribute to the library of high quality, detailed answers described in the site tour (which parallels the network-wide one).

To this end, a question that is left open needs to be:

  • within the site scope, and not redundant with existing questions (so people know where to look for it)
  • clearly written (so that it can be easily read), in English (so everyone knows what to expect and there are reliably people available who can read and evaluate it)
  • clearly stated - i.e. describe a problem that can be understood (so that it can be answered meaningfully)
  • about a problem that other people could have (so that it adds value)
  • focused on one, specific issue (so that people can decide what to search for, do a search, and find the Q&A)

If we can fix these issues by editing (for example, to fix simple typos, or use clearer wording with better grammar to explain an idea that was well understood), generally we do that. Making sure that your English prose "has no typos" is the least important part of posting on Stack Overflow. (Of course, you definitely show make sure that any code posted does not have typos, and that it directly reproduces the error you are talking about.)

We close questions with the specific and direct purpose of preventing them from being answered. For duplicates, any answers should go at the duplicate target instead; for other types of questions, answers are not appropriate on the site.

In your specific case, the question was closed as off topic. I can only speculate on others' reasoning, but my guess is that they felt that the question does not represent a practical, identifiable programming problem. I would have voted instead to close the question as Needs More Focus. How-to questions on Stack Overflow need to ask about one specific, technical aspect of a project that might cause a problem for someone. "How do I train an AI model?" (the apparent substance of your question) does not qualify, and neither would e.g. "how do I make a Discord bot?" or "how do I implement [insert popular game here]?".

In other words, Stack Overflow does not host guided tutorials. The proper scope of a how-to question looks more like:

(Those are the top three questions in the Python tag that explicitly have "How do" in the title.)

Training a model obviously and inherently involves multiple steps, and it will depend upon specifically what you are training the model to do (whereas e.g. checking for a file's existence is going to be effectively the same process no matter what the name is or what it's expected to contain or why we are looking for it).

I know it is a newbie question for Machine Learning

I cannot emphasize the following point enough.

Being a "newbie", "beginner", "easy", "basic" etc. question has absolutely nothing to do with whether it should be closed or why, and your question was not closed for that reason.

Questions are closed because they do not meet the above described standards.

Full stop.

Meanwhile, everyone is permitted to downvote content as they see fit, for the purpose of rating its suitability for the site's goals. Not your goals. My personal policy is to downvote everything that I think should be closed, except for duplicates that present the problem clearly and have a good title. Some people have other reasons to downvote things that they don't agree need to be closed. Some people might downvote "easy" questions because they think that such questions are not useful. I think they are wrong, but this is a democratic process.

but I get so frustrated that new comers can't get any help because of people judging how their question looks at first glance. It is just sickening. I wonder if some of these people are trolls and are doing this on purpose.

I can assure you that hardly anybody "does this on purpose"; there are many checks and balances built into the system, and people with a tendency to troll will almost inevitably violate the code of conduct, in particular by leaving unacceptable comments.

I can assure you that whatever distinction you think might exist between "how the question looks at first glance" and its actual quality - per the standards we have established in order to accomplish the explicit goals of the site - is unlikely to be meaningful. It's very easy to read a question that is asking "how do I train an AI?" and see that it is not suitable for the site, and reading it more carefully doesn't change that, because it actually is unsuitable for the site.

We do not host questions because you or anyone else thinks the question is free of typos, interesting, personally important, or anything else like that. We host questions because they are valuable as part of a library of detailed, high-quality answers that can be used by others as a reference.

Newcomers absolutely can ask questions that get answered, and it happens all the time. On the other hand, I have voted to close questions that were asked by people who have had their account for more than 14 years, and left (polite, tactful) comments to explain clearly why they should know better. The question standards are exactly the same for everyone and have nothing to do with expertise.

But if you are asking a question because you just want to "get help" - without considering whether your question fits the format - without taking the time to figure out if you can ask a question that fits the format and also addresses your motivating concern - without trying to see if someone else asked it already - without trying to figure out where the problem is, or having a clear specification for the input and expected output - without trying to break the task down into logical steps and figure out what actually is causing a problem -

- then Stack Overflow is not the right place for that. By design.

I have been in several communities, such as Cloudy Nights (Astrophotography community) and even when I asked even a dumb question, they were always nice, even if they didn't have a good answer off the top of their head.

We are nice everywhere on the Stack Exchange network. As linked above, there is a very thoroughly discussed Code of Conduct, and people are expected to abide by it, and will be punished for violations.

Nothing that you describe in your post here, however, is a violation of the Code of Conduct, and nothing you describe is "not nice". Downvoting and closing questions has nothing to do with you, and is not attacking you or being mean to you. It is just conducting the site's business as normal.

When you ask a question on any Stack Exchange network site, it is not starting a "thread" on a "forum" where you are the "OP" and people are volunteering to discuss whatever it is that you're trying to figure out, and help you solve a problem. That's called a discussion forum, and there are millions of those on the Internet. But other things are allowed not to be discussion forums. Wikipedia is one of those. So is Stack Overflow.

When you ask a question on a Stack Exchange network site, rather than being "your question", it is a proposed contribution to a library. The library has an absolute right to reject such a contribution outright, and an absolute right to determine its criteria for doing so.

Anyways, I wish I had a better place to ask questions that are programming-related where people weren't so toxic and unwelcoming. Has anybody else felt this way at all about it?

Yes, countless people feel this way about it. That doesn't change the fact that this mindset is fundamentally not compatible with participating on Stack Exchange. People who feel this way generally go off and find discussion forums, and then realize that the places that let you ask whatever question you want and expect personalized help, almost always end up being vastly more "toxic" (whatever that means).

Standards like ours mean that nobody has an excuse to express anger, belittle your skill as a programmer, question your intelligence, say that you should use a different programming language / IDE / operating system etc. They mean that experts who see the same question a thousand times don't get frustrated with writing out a similar answer a thousand times and feeling like they have to customize it for everyone. They mean that when you find a question with a search engine, you can immediately tell whether it's what you wanted, directly see a clear example of the problem, easily read and understand the question. They mean that you then get high quality answers that are also written with the questioner's likely level of expertise in mind.

And almost everything that goes wrong on Stack Overflow, in my experience, is a result of not applying those standards strictly enough.

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  • Here "....We are nice everywhere on the Stack Exchange network. ..." maybe you meant kind. Nice vs. Kind- Google search ->first match - What Is the Difference Between Niceness & Kindness? Jul 31, 2023 at 1:45
  • I worry about the term because I came from a culture where being kind is despised, and being nice is worshiped. Jul 31, 2023 at 2:04
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    @AugustoVasques I meant "nice" in the sense that the old code of conduct used to say, which doesn't seem to have made the distinction you have in mind. (The original draft of the 2019 version apparently said "Be kind and friendly" where it ended up saying "Be inclusive and respectful".) But what I really meant, I think, was courteous. Jul 31, 2023 at 2:06
  • I don’t think you read the post I linked. Dr. Snoopy questioned my abilities on stack overflow. And you guys for sure aren’t nice.
    – Adude
    Jul 31, 2023 at 2:30
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    @Adude. Thank you for your observations, but we are not here to debate your feelings. The interest discussed here is to expose the community's values to all those who are willing to refrain from fantasies and assumptions, and choose to add value to the platform. Jul 31, 2023 at 2:54
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    The comment, by my reading, does not question your abilities. It neutrally explains why the question is not suitable for the site, and then tries to verify whether you have done the appropriate research. I agree that it could be phrased more tactfully. But again, rude comments are against code of conduct. If you think someone is being rude in a comment, the correct course of action is to flag the comment, not go to Meta and rant about the entire platform. Jul 31, 2023 at 8:34
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    "And you guys for sure aren’t nice." I went out of my way to explain clearly and calmly what all the relevant policy is. I volunteered probably more than an hour of my own time to organize all of that and add the relevant policy citations. Being "nice" doesn't mean changing policy for you because you think it should be different, or allowing you to use the site how you want because of your own idea of how "getting help on the Internet" works. Seriously, we are far more tolerant of people getting it wrong here than, say, Wikipedia, which in turn is infinitely more tolerant than a compiler. Jul 31, 2023 at 8:38

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