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I have asked a dozen questions now and have received negative feedback on most of them, with each question having at least one vote to close, and others getting down votes. I am especially frustrated with the reception this post has received, since it was a pretty simple yes or no question.

What am I doing wrong? I'm getting a mixture of too broad, too opinion-based, and off-topic remarks which tells me...that I'm doing everything wrong. Even after reading the help section and reading posts on how to ask questions better, I still don't understand.

For a site that is so strict about the way questions are written, there doesn't seem to be any good widely-accepted resource on how to build questions correctly. Or is there?


UPDATE: Here's another one that received tons of downvotes, and I don't know why. One of these downvotes ocurred literally within 20 seconds of me positing the question, which means the person didn't even read the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Side note: deleting a downvoted question and reposting it is not something we appreciate. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ Please go back and read the comments in your closed questions. I feel that they are accurately addressed the issues and reasons behind your question closures. Adding in constraints like "You must answer both questions" and "The question must start with..." are not true constraints and do not limit the scope. It just makes it sounds like you have an idea, but don't want to put the leg work into figuring the details out. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Sep 25 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee That's actually a very insightful comment that I hadn't even thought of... interesting. I'll keep that in mind! $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch The deleted question was originally a question that should have been in Writing SE - that's why it had so many downvotes. Then I tried to change the entire question rather than delete it - at which point people said I should just delete it and re-post it fresh, which is exactly what I did. $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ A good idea would be to inform yourself about the basics of the subjects on which you are asking questions. For example, what does it mean for a computer program to be written "in binary", as opposed to in hexadecimal, or in assembly, or in a low level language such as C, or in a higher level language such as Ada? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 25 at 16:39
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Just wanted to encourage you to make use of the sandbox to tune your questions before posting them, as people can help you avoid certain pitfalls.

Also, come visit the chat, as we can help you potentially focus and clarify your question to its core, and also it's a lot of fun.

As to your yes/no question, it might be getting down voted for a lack of research. The first comment is essentially "a virus is just a program, so yes."

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  • $\begingroup$ The question received both yes and no answers, which shows that it was a good question worth asking since people seem to having varying answers. $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Sep 24 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Where is the sandbox? $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Sep 24 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord SE is not a site for discussion. Its a Q&A site. If your question elicits a whole bunch of equally valid answers it not likely well constrained. My best advice would be to read this $\endgroup$ – James Sep 24 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ I was about to link you to the sandbox, but I see you've found it yourself. Hope it helps you with your questions! $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 25 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord, we ask users to answer only well asked questions for the very reason that we don't want to enforce the thinking "oh, it got answers, so it must be a good question". Not all users adhere to this request, sadly. So, that you received answer doesn't mean the question was well asked. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch That makes sense, thank you for explaining that. $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 20:54
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I just checked and I seem to have been the only one to upvote the question about a computer virus. I think the downvotes there are a herd reaction: people don't take the time to read the question, and just repeat the voting that the question seems to be having. Evidence for that is the question not having a single vote for closure.

Other than that you have three closed questions out of 15. You are doing good. Please keep participating in the site, we need people who ask good question and you are one of them. I specially loved your question about different sea levels.

About your questions that got closed:

How Would Ammonia-Based Life Evolve?

And

Explaining Planet Colors/Compositions

Were closed because a proper, correct answer could maybe take so much space as to fill a book, specially the first one. The latter, though, is one vote away from being reopened. Mea culpa: I personally voted to close that one, but on second thought I believe that one small set of substances per color would do for a short post. I have voted to reopen it.

As for:

How Can I Explain a Teleportation Machine?

The core of the question seems to be:

What are some ways I can explain the development of teleporters in a scientific-sounding way?

And that depends on opinions. There are plenty ways in which you could do that with technobabble, and we'd hardly be able to find consensus on which is more fitting. My suggestion is to do it like Stan Lee did - the more you try to science out the extraordinary, the less interesting it gets. Think about the Hulk. He was born out of a gamma ray shower. How did gamma radiation create that monster? You don't need to know! Think about Antman now. He shrinks and grows because of Pym Particles. So how do those particles work? You don't need to know! If we try to explain those things, they stop being interesting.

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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted it as well - but I understand the downvotes and do not see them as a "herd reaction" in this case. Rather, the question is a reality check on the basic of basic level software engineering/computer science concepts and its sometimes hard for those of us with knowledge in those subject to remember how little one can know when starting out. (i.e. there was research but the research lead to a misunderstanding of a very basic concept which can seem to be "lack of" if you work in this field). $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Sep 25 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ I'll also note (as someone who has worked in this industry for 15+ years & teaches it now) - 3 of the answers given are just wrong so it seems that this misunderstanding is not unique to this asker. $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Sep 25 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ "three closed questions out of 15" and out of your 'top' page, there's only like two Q's with any DVs. If anything, you're under par for a relatively new and somewhat zealous user. My 2c: Look at the differences between the ones on your top page and those that everyone's clamoring about. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Oct 4 at 3:00
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I honesty don't think you're actually doing anything particularly wrong. In a way, your queries kind of remind me of another member, Chasly from the UK: loads of interesting questions, with so very many of them inexplicably downvoted, or closed or reopened or closed again or argued over. Bizarre.

Hmmm...

You've been at SE long enough to know the basic rules. You're kind of new to WB.SE, though, and it could be you're not quite up to speed on how they apply in this forum.

I certainly don't think you're doing everything wrong, but there are two main issues I've seen with your questions:

  • you like to write, so you do have to be careful when approaching the ill-defined marches of what we consider to be "story based" questions (I think your extinction level query and perhaps even your binary virus query can be argued as being story or plot based.)
  • take care to read, reread, edit and reedit your queries so that they all ask a single, focused worldbuilding question for which we'll provide you a single, focused answer. You also say that you tend to overthink. This often results in "overwritten queries" --- too many nebulous ideas, too many possibilities. Generally speaking, when title and body don't match or when an OP asks multiple questions or suggests multiple variations on a theme, we tend to mark the query as too broad. You are cèrtainly welcome to ask multiple questions! Just ask them one at a time (and for preference, append links to related questions).

As for writing questions "correctly" ... the strictures are really imposed by Stack Exchange itself. The model being one single, focused query gets one single, focused response. But our art / activity / hobby is not like physics or math or history where discrete questions and answers are possible. Almost every question here is, in some way, "opinion based" and "broad".

Generally speaking, less is best when it comes to queries. If someone writes a comment to the effect of "so basically, can XYZ do DEF", chances are good you overwrote your question in the first place. Maybe too many details, maybe too many directorial orders ("good answers will tell me..."), maybe too many nuances.


I honestly don't get all the downvoting, though. I've not downvoted any of your queries (that I'm aware of) and have upvoted several recently. Just my opinion, but downvoting should be reserved for poorly written, poorly researched, inappropriate questions. Otherwise, vote to close.

For the linked query under consideration, the virus one, I note that you got a number of excellent and thorough answers. While I'd consider the question to be arguably "story based" (you're asking about a plot element), I see no reason to downvote it.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't downvote the virus question, but.. at least for me, it shows a lack of effort in research that could very well deserve one. Just checking the wikipedia page on Computer Virus already gives you some good understanding of what they are and how they work, and some googling afterwards will show that "Universal Viruses" are extremely unlikely. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Oct 1 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ The rule of thumb I use is that a given question can be answered by looking at the wikipedia page for that subject. If yes, then it is probably a good candidate for a downvote. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Oct 1 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ I have downvoted several, and the reason is always a clear lack of research. When a question could have been answered by spending an hour familiarising yourself with the basics of a topic, is should not have been asked here. $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Oct 3 at 2:20

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