See this question:

Cause of LED burn

Somehow this question has received six upvotes, despite that the problem is obvious to anyone with even the most basic understanding of electronics, and there is hardly a search that does not contain the words "how" and "led" on Google that does not yield the solution.

I couldn't find a similarly basic question on Stack Overflow, so I made one: error in python program. I don't have enough rep on SO to see the up/down vote split, but it got a net -3 votes and three votes to close as "too localied" in 15 minutes. The correct answer was upvoted, as were the correct comments, but the question was clearly not well received. In 15 hours, the question was closed.

The upvote mouseover says "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear".

The downvote says "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful".

The goal of Stack Exchange, I've thought, was not just to find questions, but good ones. I've read this several times, but see this blog post:

SO (and later, SE) would be a platform to encourage intelligent, invested answers deserving of links across the Internet and useful for generations to come.

Too local? Take it to Yelp. Too easy? Take it to Google. Too subjective? Take it to Quora. Too fun? Take it to Facebook.

It seems to me that this question was upvoted on solely on the basis of having a clear answer, but not being a good question.

I'd also point out that this question itself (meta-meta!) has received a downvote. Was it because "this question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful?" Or, was it because someone just didn't like the implication of this question?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It is true on every SE site that the most simple questions receive the most upvotes. The community reviews questions and answers, nearly everyone in the community feels qualified to review the question and gives their stamp of approval. SE has found there is not an easy way to fix it, it just can be resolved. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Second, although the arrows do not say it, meta votes represent agreement with the point of your question, not a measure of quality. If a terribly written question is posing an idea I agree with I should upvote, if a well written question, which yours is, is an idea I disagree with, I would downvote. Meta uses votes as, well, votes to measure agreement. If you get downvotes it just means people do not agree, not that you have done something wrong. I appreciate you bringing issues you see in the community to meta, Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Down votes in meta only mean disagreement, not that you're wrong, you must be the only living brain donor, implications about your mother and the 6th fleet, and that you smell bad, like they do on the main site. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2013 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


First I should point out that I wrote the answer you are referring to, which at this time has received 11 up votes.

I took this as a good example of a ignorant but not stupid question. This guy clearly lacks even the most basic electronics knowledge, but his question is reasonable in that context. Perhaps he could have found the right search terms to answer this question on Google. Quite possibly the not quite targeted search terms he would have used would have yielded a bewildering pile of stuff, some unrelated and useless, some over his head, and maybe a decent answer in there somewhere although he may not have found it or recognized it in the large pile of search barf.

But he asked here, and he asked well within his limited knowledge. I don't have a problem with that. I tried to keep my answer pretty simple and explicit, while still providing a little more information that he can absorb with some additional learning on his own. I also thought this was a pretty good LED with resistor question, so answered it in a way to make it useful as a reference for future "what kind of resistor do I need with my LED?" questions.

I disagree that this site is only for advanced electronics questions. The important thing is that the questions themselves are well asked and the asker is truly in need of information that isn't trivially excessible out there at his level of knowedge. For example, if someone asks "How much current does my PIC 16F84 take?", then I hope we would downvote it to oblivion and close the question. The difference is that anyone that knows enough to ask about a particular PIC and its current draw must know there is a datasheet and has no excuse for not knowing this information is in it.

A similar but acceptable question would be "I am confused how the various supply currents in the datasheet for my PIC 18F84 on page xxx apply to my project. How do I use these to determine the expected current draw?".

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Strongly agree. The reason for those upvotes on the answer as well as the question, I suspect, is because of all the beginners who were too bashful to ask such a question themselves, for fear of a harsh response. This kind of question, and answer, induces beginners to read a bit and get deeper into the subject close to all our hearts. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2013 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was referring to upvotes on the question, not your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:12

I have no problem with answering questions like these, and I wholly advocate being friendly to beginners. But one can do all these things without upvoting the question. An upvote isn't just a cookie to the asker that says "good job, you have asked a question that is on topic and can be answered." That's indicated by not closing the question. Rather, if I take all the questions and sort them by votes, the ones at the top should be valuable and interesting questions that don't provide something I can easily get somewhere else.

Not all ignorant questions are bad ones; only the ones that are easily answered with Google are bad questions. Here's an ignorant but good question: How does the current know how much to flow, before having seen the resistor? It's a good question because no combination of the words in the title or question fed to Google will give the answer. Even if you know to look for transmission line, this question is a great rhetorical explanation which I've never encountered anywhere else.

On the other hand, Cause of LED burn is an ignorant but bad question because even if we search for "cause of led burn", we get How to Wire Resistor Load in LED Lights on the first page. If one were to try the same search with more ordinary English, like "how to light/use/connect LED", the answer is in the first result. Even just "how LED" gives an answer. Even just "LED" finds Wikipedia as the first result, and the first paragraph under "Considerations for use" discusses a current limiting resistor. It has more translations than I care to count.

There's really no excuse for not finding this information. Anyone who asks other people to answer it either needs a reminder of basic etiquette or help in developing basic research ability.

It is true that the evaluation is only as good as the people reading it, but is it really true that more people than not in this community thought this was an interesting question? I think the problem is more that people are overlooking the intended basis for evaluation. Google already ranks the most common problems most highly; the value in SE is that questions can be ranked on a basis that can't be calculated by computer algorithm: interestingness.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't vote on the question one way or the other, but I have different criteria for up or down voting of questions. Actually I rarely upvote questions because really great questions are very rare. However, I frequently downvote them because unfortunately sloppy, poorly worded, and poorly thought out questions are all too common. The question may have been upvoted because it was generally to the point and properly written, but also this may be closer to the level of a lot of lurkers here. Or maybe others were just supporting this guy for taking a chance on looking stupid. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2013 at 19:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Your question voting requirements so stringent, but so unhappy when people apply the same rule for fyou? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Feb 12, 2013 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. As I said, I didn't vote on that question, which certainly means I didn't downvote it. I rarely ask questions here, so have little experience with how people vote on my questions. I try to use good English although my spelling isn't always the best. I got two downvotes for electronics.stackexchange.com/q/34745/4512 but unfortunately no explanation so I have no idea what I'm supposed to do differently next time. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2013 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop In the past I remember you being one of those more sensitive to downvotes, I just thought this view for voting on questions a bit duplicitous for your view on answers. I have no idea why people downvoted that question either but -4+310 works in your favor more then well, the more people that see the question the greater chance someone who downvotes sees it, but as that question shows, the greater chance someone who upvotes sees it also. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Feb 12, 2013 at 18:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: As I think I've said quite consistantly over the time I've been here, I don't downvote answers lightly. I usually do that only when they are outright wrong, misleading, or very poorly written. People writing questions have a few more obligations as they are the ones coming here for a favor, so I have additional criteria for downvoting those. Most of my votes on questions are down and on answers are up. But, that is because we get a lot of crappy questions here compared to answers. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 12, 2013 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop It is funny to give a higher quality standard to the one who is lost looking for help instead of the expert giving guidance. You get much more rep on answers to reward you, I feel the quality requirement should match as even poorly worded advice will affect many more people then a poorly worded question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Feb 14, 2013 at 14:34

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