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The answers to the question Mixed signal PCB layout for PSoC contain useful and correct information, but in no way address the actual question.

What is the proper response? I don't feel that I should up vote them, but down voting feels kind of harsh. I did leave comments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not a great answer, but a side note, if they are giving an honest attempt and giving a good technical answer for what it may read that you are asking, I would not downvote. I would suggest that if you are getting answers this far off your question may need more clarify, but it also just may be so technical it causes problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Sep 13 '12 at 12:40
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One of the answers is mine.

I didn't address the question about the layout directly, because I felt there are other factors which deserve attention in getting a higher ENOB. Sometimes a question focuses too much on what OP sees as the solution, while a wider view at the options may be a better approach. (That was before you added details.)

According to the hints you get upvoting means "This answer is useful". Like I said OP can be too much focused on what he thinks should be the solution that he becomes blind to alternatives. In this question OP literally asks for a timer, but in the end the accepted answer just had a comparator, no timer at all. If you found it useful, for instance because it points at something interesting you had overlooked, then upvote. If you rather want to hear something different, then don't. But make clear that while useful it's not satisfactory, and emphasize the point of your question.

Downvoting means "This answer is not useful". So if you found it useful you I don't think you should downvote. Personally I use a bit different standard. I downvote rarely, because to me it means more like "This is pretty bad". I'd rather leave a comment, so that the poster can improve or correct the answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I see this as a common problem when answering questions. Sometimes the OP really doesn't know what he wants. Sometimes he really does want a specific answer to a specific question. It's very hard to tell which type of answer to give. In this case, I really was looking for information about the PCB layout, because I am using different sources to help me improve other areas (like the Cypress forum). \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 13 '12 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did not find your answer useful. No offence intended, as there was nothing wrong with it. There was just nothing in it that I did not already know, and it did not address the question. But I agree that down voting for me means 'pretty bad', or 'contains serious errors'. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 13 '12 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rocket - OK, no time now, but I'll have another look at your question and my answer tomorrow. (To my defense I'd like to point out that I answered before you added the extra information in the question.) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Sep 13 '12 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Defence accepted. I look forward to your answer. I will add some more clarification to my question too. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 13 '12 at 20:39
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I didn't look at the specific question that brought this up, but I want to comment on the wider principle.

I think it is often reasonable to provide background information that you think may be relevant and useful to the OP, even if it does not answer the specific question as asked. When this is done, it's good to state so clearly. I wouldn't downvote a answer like "This is not a direct answer, but some issues you should consider are ..." assuming the rest was reasonably written, correct, and at least vaguely relevant background material.

I also agree with Steven in that to me downvotes mean bad, misleading, poorly written gibberish, or outright wrong. At least those are my criteria for downvoting a answer.

Added:

Here is a good example of what I am talking about. This does not directly answer the question, but I think (obviously, else I wouldn't have written it) it was nonetheless useful information, particularly for the repository of knowledge this site is trying to build. Whether it actually helps the OP, I don't know, since that depends on particulars we weren't given. I can understand if the OP doesn't accept this answer, but note that it did receive two upvotes and no downvotes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is also good practice because solving the OP's problem is only part of the reason for the site...The other part is to build a reference for future readers. For some types of questions, we might think future readers will be more interested in the background or alternate solutions than answering some specific and exclusive question the OP wants to drill down to. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Sep 25 '12 at 17:54
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Just because an answer does not give you the answer you want, it does not mean you have to down vote it. Voting is also for others to indicate the validity of the answer, not nececerily for the person who asked the question to indicate their displeasure that the answer was not to their personal standards or matched their preconseptions. It is entirely possible that the question is phrased badly, does not give all the information or there might be a completly valid answer that was not forseen.

If a person does not like an answer to their question and the response is wholy or partly constructive they can just ignore the answer.

The bottom line is you have the ACCEPT button solely for the purpose of showing you accept ONE of the answers is what you believe is correct.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So the OP shouldn't ever down vote? \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 25 '12 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rocket: I think OPs should rarely downvote, if at all, since they are not in a good position to judge the validity and correctness of answer. If they were, they wouldn't have needed to ask in the first place. The OP is the one to decide which answer helped him the best, and that's what the accept button is for. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 25 '12 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop - An OP may not be able to know if an answer is correct, but he should surely know that an answer doesn't even attempt to answer the question. E.G. Q:"What colour should I paint my house" ... A:"I think you should install double glazing." \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 25 '12 at 15:31
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Downvoting is not a personal insult; it's a way of telling the poster, "Hey, this question/answer doesn't make sense in this context; please fix it."

The answer might very well be useful, but if it answers a different question, then in context, it doesn't make sense. In that case, I downvote. Remember: one of the points of Stack Exchange is to compile a resource for future visitors to answer their specific questions. Someone that is led to a SE site with a specific question should leave with a specific answer, not a brain dump of information.

In the context of answering a question: It is not up to the community to interpret your question differently based on what they think would benefit you the most.

In general: If someone thinks your question is better asked a different way (or that you should really be asking a different question), those communications should be carried out in comments.

Don't let people tell you what to ask.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You, sir, are a gentleman. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Sep 14 '12 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ No. People often ask the wrong question or one that assumes a particular solution. It is perfectly acceptable to tell them to step back and define the real problem. Sometimes the best help you can give someone is to tell them what they really should be asking. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 16 '12 at 1:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, and I acknowledged that: "In general:..." However, the place to rewrite the question is not in the answer. That conversation belongs in the comments, on meta, in chat, etc. Answers that answer a different question (whether or not it's the question the OP should have asked) are useless in the context of creating a resource for future visitors. If the OP realizes that they should have asked a different question, they should modify their question or ask a different one; not stand by while people answer a different question. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Laplante Sep 16 '12 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ No again (although I can only downvote this once). A quick request for more information belongs in a comment, but more lengthy background information or a detailed explanation of why you might want to do something completely different is a perfectly legitimate answer. Such a thing is not useless at all, although the OP may see it that way. It may actually be quite useful for future visitors of the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 16 '12 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see what you mean, but I still think we need to strike a balance between "shotgun answers" and closing/rewritting questions for which offtopic answers exist. I don't want to see this site turned into a giant index of questions like "You asked X, but you really meant to ask Y, so go check out this question Z." Stepping back a bit: I don't think there is any sweeping yes-or-no answer to this (meta) question. It completely depends on the situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Laplante Sep 16 '12 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Your post here seems to say that if it is asking for more information it should be a comment(downvote time?) and if it is saying that you should do it a completely different way but that way is invalid then it also sounds like downvotes are in order. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Sep 20 '12 at 3:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I'm not sure how you got that from what I wrote. I was specifically defending writing answers that are more asides and background information or answer a different question that the answer author believes is relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 21 '12 at 23:00

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