# Why are electronics SE questions getting down-voted so often?

Users who aren't Elec. gurus seem to be asking legitimate questions to which they don't know the answer and they may even possibly going about it the wrong way.

Other SE site users guide the misguided user in the right direction and provide answers that future curious persons can read about. I've noticed on this site to be very heavy handed with the down-votes.

Why?

It may be related to this question as well, but the answers don't explain the negativity.

Update: March 25, 2013

It was suggested that this question is based on no fact and a knee-jerk reaction. So I've compiled the data below with links to the queries comparing EE with similar and popular SE sites. It should now be clear that Electronics.SE has doubled its efforts in down-voting lately.

mathematics

Super User

Stack Overflow

prorgammers

Electrical Engineering

Server Fault

• Compared to sites like SO, you're right, the quality standard is higher on this site. I don't always agree with it, but it's what the community wants (at least, what the more vocal parts want.) – Chris Laplante Mar 11 '13 at 20:09
• Can you give some example questions? I'm not quite sure I got the right idea. E.g., do you mean something like this? – user17592 Mar 11 '13 at 20:10
• Downvotes are usually not for the content of a question, but the way it is asked. It's OK to be ignorant, but never OK to be stupid. Questions that assume we know whatever obscure model they are talking about, don't provide a schematic, use the language so badly as to be incomprehensible, use too many abbreviations, and use the wrong units are all deserving of downvotes, and it seems that's what gets the downvotes. Sloppiness has no place here. Note that this is totally different from not knowing the subject. This is what we are here for. – Olin Lathrop Mar 11 '13 at 21:56
• @CamilStaps No, that one can easily be answered by google or wikipedia. However, these are PEOPLE asking questions, the professional thing to do is to put a short comment pointing to wiki/google/etc or no action at all. The down-vote does not provide enough corrective action feedback for the user. Take a look at the newest questions page, and the sum of all votes on that page is -3! I'm not sure if this guy's question deserves 4 down-votes. – MandoMando Mar 11 '13 at 22:16
• @OlinLathrop 'stupid' is in the eye of the beholder. However, if 'Sloppiness has no place here.' then I think we are being sloppy communicating to the [new] users about how to improve their questions. Let alone rude. – MandoMando Mar 11 '13 at 22:28
• Agreed, we as a community seem to struggle quite a bit with consistently attaching useful comments to downvotes. I try to nudge people into improving their question before downvoting, but I'm frankly not active enough to be able to lead by example. – Joe Baker Mar 12 '13 at 0:02
• It's been discussed before, I know. I would propose to only be able to downvote if you leave a comment (or upvote a previous comment). At least that way the questioner has a clue about why and others reading the question can leave their opinion on the downvoter's motivation. – jippie Mar 13 '13 at 16:25
• Some of the questions are really crappy. Like the FPGA health effects question. I mean come on. – Gustavo Litovsky Mar 19 '13 at 15:57
• Would you mind pulling the data for programmers also? I have heard they can be persnickety. Sorry, I have never used that tool, i will take the time to learn it soon. – Kortuk Mar 25 '13 at 23:04
• @Kortuk done. persnickety verified. – MandoMando Mar 26 '13 at 0:28
• I see you added some real data, but it's not clear what exactly you are measuring. Percentage of what compared to what? Are you comparing total downvotes for the whole site? I'd think percentage of questions that end up negative would be a more relevant figure. – Olin Lathrop Mar 26 '13 at 12:49
• @OlinLathrop It seems to be number of question upvotes/downvote and the percentage is on the left. You are correct, I need mandomando to verify. – Kortuk Mar 26 '13 at 14:22
• I'm a newbie in EE and on the EE.SE site. As a newcomer, being downvoted felt like I was not welcome on the site. But pretty soon I realized I was just being educated. I think downvotes hurt a lot and that's what makes them so educational. With help of the zealous folks on this site, I think I'm learning how to ask intelligent questions. I now think twice (or more times) before asking a question, and before I do, I try and do my homework so I'm not stoned. The learning curve is steep, and a bit frustrating, but it works. Well, at least with me. If something works, I don't try to fix it. – Ricardo Dec 5 '13 at 17:42
• … How are downvotes "rude"? – bjb568 Nov 7 '14 at 4:49
• Let me know if anyone is planning an alternative SE. Maybe "hardware hacking" or something? Not sure what a proper title would be. Point is, the other SE's are an amazing pool of knowledge with impact outside just answering the question. You can google stuff and chances are you'll not only find the answer but also a better way to ask the question. EE.SE is very very different from how i experience and contribute to other SE's. – user65665 Dec 16 '15 at 13:59

I think other answers are reading too much into the site title.

The word engineering is there as the result of a compromise, and it isn't meant to absolutely define the site. Kortuk reviews the reasons for the name here.

To quote the FAQ:

This site is for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts. We ask and answer questions about electrical and electronics engineering topics, which include electronics, physical computing, and those working with microcontrollers, Arduinos and embedded systems.

We need to be aware and accept that not every student or enthusiast is going to know all of the conventions of our field, or be interested in following all the discipline needed when doing design work professionally.

There are a lot of guys out there in the bridge-building business (and even some US state legislatures) who would say we shouldn't call our discipline "engineering" if we don't have a PE license. Would it make any sense to say we won't accept any questions or answers from US users if they don't have a PE?

• Yeah, when I first joined the community I knew pretty much nothing. I'm sure I would facepalm if I went back and looked at some of my earlier questions. I agree with most of the points people are making in this question, but there is a certain degree of patience which should be a requirement to use the site. Obviously that's impossible to enforce but people would be well served to keep that in mind while using this site, as when going through life in general. This is not to say I'm some kind of expert now, but I am a positively contributing member of the community despite starting from 0. – NickHalden Mar 13 '13 at 18:04
• I agree , you don't deserve to give credible answers unless you have a PE license but may offer suggestions. But the frequency of down-votes has more to do with the administrators management style and policy – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Nov 16 '20 at 19:27
• EE.SE is the toughest EE board I've ever seen1. The customs are Spartan/Darwinian, to which I fully subscribe.
• EE.SE is also the cleanest.
• EE.SE is very knowledgeable, especially if we adjust for the relatively small number of users.
• EE.SE has the largest proportion of users who operate under real first and last name, which generally attests to the credibility and effort.

This is where I go after the days of to-no-avail research.

At the moment, EE.SE is unique among other SE boards. It's the only fully released (non-beta, that is) board dedicated to some branch of engineering (non-software, that is).

EE is arguably a tougher discipline than other SE sections. Projects require components and often specialized equipment. Errors can be costly in terms of money, time and effort. It is no wonder why the standards are high.

update [Nov 2014]
1 Programmers.SE is another tough one. Equally tough or slightly tougher. My kind of board.

• these are indeed wonderful facts. Are you saying that they explain or justify the overuse of downvoting? – MandoMando Mar 12 '13 at 12:10
• EE.SE is also the only SE site with engineering in the title. I think that explains most of the culture. – Phil Frost Mar 12 '13 at 12:32
• Huh, so software is engineering too? I thought all they did was write code. You learn something new every day! – Olin Lathrop Mar 12 '13 at 13:39
• "EE is arguably a tougher discipline than other SE sections." I am an EE, so I cant disagree, but every discipline often feels that way. For others, @OlinLathrop is clearly joking and I am not accepting the flag that his post is rude. If that light of a joke offends you you may want to unplug your modem. This is Meta, it is meant to be a bit more broad and more often with jokes. No harm is meant. – Kortuk Mar 13 '13 at 15:28
• @OlinLathrop I thought writing software was a synonym for Google&Paste. – jippie Mar 13 '13 at 16:17
• @PhilFrost, There was a big debate about the title before my time on the site. The word "engineering" is in the title as a compromise. The word "design" wasn't usable because of trademark of the print magazine Electronics Design. "Engineering" was used to reduce off-topic questions about consumer electronics, but wasn't meant to restrict the site to professional users. – The Photon Mar 13 '13 at 17:21
• @Kortuk +1 for " [...] you may want to unplug your modem". I'll put this to a good use. – Nick Alexeev Mar 13 '13 at 23:34

To answer the question I think it's possibly the attitude of the community, for example a comment I saw that reads:

We speak English here, not whatever dialect of Gibberish you are using.


As if everyone on the internet speaks English as a first language.

It could also be that there's no penalty for downvoting questions, only answers. So, if I don't like a particular question, I can downvote it without penalty to my reputation. That being said, if the question is salvageable, it should be edited or commented for clarification for current and future users of the site, as is the SE spirit.

I don't think this question or this one is necessarily bad, questions like that are asked on SuperUser, and in particular to this site's faq I believe falls under the category of:

However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK.


and also

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.


I will agree that the latter of those two questions should be edited for a better fit on the site, but I wouldn't say they it would be far from this question with a little help.

I completely get when people ask bad questions where it's impossible to understand what they want, but (in reference to questions similar to my first two example questions) there are some questions where the answer should include at least a basic explanation of principles involved, whether the user asked for them or not, as that is part of what makes a good answer (another is actually answering the question). For example, If it's

2)can't be determined at all,

then that's what 1)comments are for and 2)should be included in the answer(s). In my profession I frequently run into people who 'think' they know what they want, as I'm sure happens in many technical fields. This site is no different, if someone wants to know something, they may really want to know something else or the theory behind that something as well. Even if they don't, including the theory/background can make the question better on the site long term.

My answer is not in reference to obviously terrible questions like this, but questions in the grey area, which I believe is what the OP is referring to.

Would anyone disagree that questions asked on this site should fit the following format (for EE and not programming of course)?

Bottom line is, some people coming to the site don't know much about EE or the site, but need help, and as members of a community we should help them when able.

• People coming here may not know much about EE, but there is no excuse for not knowing about the site. Part of the job of coming to this site or any other on the internet is to first get acquinted by reading the rules and looking around a bit. You don't get slack for that just because you're too lazy, in a hurry, or can't be bothered. There is no excuse. – Olin Lathrop Mar 15 '13 at 12:46
• @OlinLathrop I agree, you should learn the rules of the game before you play so to speak. In addition, shouldn't we point them in the direction of this information though? – MDMoore313 Mar 15 '13 at 12:50
• No, that just adds noise to the site. We want a site with a bunch of well asked questions and great answers. The annoying drivel of having to baby someone along the process (not the subject matter) is noise that detracts from the good content and makes the site look uninviting. The internet and forums and the like have been around long enough that we shouldn't be wasting our time and noising up our site with obvious internet usage stuff. Cull out the dead wood and move on. 1000 great Q+A is better than 2000 plus 200 cases of internet diapering and burping. – Olin Lathrop Mar 15 '13 at 15:16
• Olin is fatally mistaken there, because people who can meet his standard in their questions are quite likely to be those who can find their own answers in primary materials, and thus don't actually need the site as a resource. The whole point of these sites is that those who know help those who do not yet. On an active site, you do get a lot of trivial questions, but the high rep users needn't bother with them - they are asked and answered by newer users gaining experience and reputation. – Chris Stratton Mar 16 '13 at 0:16
• Trying to excise uninteresting topics is fundamentally a loosing battle - either you keep your world small and limited and obscure, or you accept that there will be parts of it you find un-intersting, or even actively dislike. If there were room in the system for a more public friendly site in addition to this one that attitude might be tolerable, but as is, claiming the electronics topic area and then running it exclusively is really not acceptable social behavior. – Chris Stratton Mar 16 '13 at 0:19
• @ChrisStratton there are two sides. I agree with more then 90% of what you say. I am not sure what you mean by, "claiming the electronics topic area and then running it exclusively is really not acceptable social behavior." but otherwise it seems good. Olin does just have a very low point for low quality questions, which he can have, no matter how wrong you and I find it, but there is some point where you have to block the influx of crap, but we do always need to be nice doing it. – Kortuk Mar 21 '13 at 14:35
• Unfortunately, the stack exchange system does not support agreeing to disagree, in that it does not permit having multiple sites covering the same topic at different degrees of exclusivity. Hence, when a topic area is claimed by the establishment of a site, there's a responsibility to run that site in a way that serves the entire public, rather than tailor it to the personal preferences of a small minority of potential users. This is not Olin's clubhouse - it's the only general electronics site permitted in the SE system, and as a result must be run as such. Olin can learn to filter. – Chris Stratton Mar 21 '13 at 14:44
• @MDMoore313 Another explanation: Most of the EEs I know (personally), are arrogant, demonstrating overly-inflated self-importance. There are exceptions, of course, but from my own observation most EEs think of themselves as smarter than the rest. The big question now is why? Is electrical engineering really more difficult than other areas of expertise? (I don't think so :-)))) – Eternal Learner Mar 24 '13 at 21:06
• @EternalLearner Maybe that can be a question for the professional SE site. I have seen that type of attitude working in Academia, not with Engineers but with MDs. – MDMoore313 Mar 25 '13 at 0:07

Simply because some questions show absolutely no effort. I am actually one of the ones that tries to give people time to correct their question, to let them give more information, but there are many questions that are ridiculous that want people to "Do all my work for me".

As was pointed before, Engineering is a tough subject that only a very small percentage of the population works in. So, because electronics is generally attractive to the masses, we get many questions that are not constructive.

Still, I would like to have a way for posts to be given time to edit and improve in the system. If it doesn't improve, then we close them.

"Does FPGA cause health issues", need I say more?

• Here is another one: electronics.stackexchange.com/q/61512/4512. They guy doesn't seem to have looked much at the datasheet, and can't even formulate a straight question. This the poster child for "RTFM" being the right answer. Yes, I downvoted it due to laziness and sloppy asking. I also wrote a answer, but didn't put much effort into something that will likely be closed soon. I haven't voted to close yet, but if this mess isn't fixed or clarified soon, I will. – Olin Lathrop Mar 19 '13 at 18:04
• @OlinLathrop: And that's the way it should be. – Gustavo Litovsky Mar 19 '13 at 18:57

I will admit that I have only been on EE.SE for a short period of time, but I have noticed that people are extremely quick to down-vote before giving the original poster or a responder an opportunity to clarify his/her question or answer. In my humble opinion, down-voting a responder before giving him/her an opportunity to expand upon his/her answer is akin to biting the hand that feeds you. Sooner or later, knowledgeable, but time-pressed EE.SE members will stop posting.

Another thing that I have noticed is that a lot of original posters want to be spoon fed. There's a huge difference between giving a man/woman a fish and teaching a man/woman to fish. Part of becoming a competent design engineer in any discipline is learning how to conduct research, which is part of the engineering apprenticeship process (real-world engineering is mostly learned on the job). Back when I started my career, electrical engineers and computer scientists who chose to work in embedded system design where thrown into the engineering pool feet first (computer engineering did not exist as a standalone discipline at that point in time). Older embedded systems practitioners would point us in the right direction, but they would not do our work.

Finally, I have noticed that several people have accumulated points by reposting erroneous or incomplete information. No one benefits from this type of information exchange. This practice only serves to propagate ignorance.

• You can't fix attitude. Diapering and burping someone thru the process of eventually getting to a comprehensible question just noises up the site. It is simpler, quicker, and leaves a far better site by just discarding those that can't be bothered. The few that do actually learn something from the process and change can come back, but most won't change, so tarring and feathering is the most effective way to deal with them. The only ones we lose are those we don't want anyway. Otherwise we lose other people due to noisy and low quality site. – Olin Lathrop Mar 22 '13 at 22:27
• Unfortunately, wanting to be spoon fed is not just limited to EE.SE. Its becoming more common in high school and university over the last few years. I wonder if it has something to do with being used to instant answers thanks to the internet. – geometrikal Mar 27 '13 at 13:21

en·gi·neer·ing [en-juh-neer-ing]
noun
1. the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, as physics or chemistry, as in the construction of engines, bridges, buildings, mines, ships, and chemical plants.

Unfortunately, it's all to common that people ignore what engineering means, and think that "electrical engineering" is synonymous with "electronics". The logical rigour and attention to detail, the desire to understand the underlying pure science, is what makes engineering work. Downvotes are cast not because people are ignorant, but because they aren't asking about engineering: they are merely asking about electronics.

I can see how this could be viewed as "negativity", but it could also be viewed as a healthy regulation which serves to keep this community about engineering, and differentiated from the internet community as a whole, where most people are not engineers.

It's possible to have questions which demonstrate ignorance and yet are good questions. What differentiates them from ignorant questions which are bad questions is that they are well-asked and aimed at understanding the electronics, and not at a higher-level goal which is an application of electronics, not an engineering of electronics.

What makes the 2nd question bad is that it shows no attempt to understand what electricity does or how to use it. There is a problem (shock hazard) and the question seeks a solution without understanding the mechanisms of the hazard. It's as if a bridge engineer wants to know how to keep his bridge from falling down when he doesn't even understand why they fall down. This isn't engineering; it's just using. Had the question been "How does electricity shock people?" it probably would have been better received.

At the end of the day, I appreciate a forum that excludes people not interested in this level of understanding. There are scores of places on the internet where I can go to participate in a community with an average understanding of electronics. When I want an engineer's understanding of electronics, I come here.

I should also say I take delight in seeing people who obviously desire an engineer's understanding, but simply don't have it. If the question also demonstrates a basic competency for using Google, a respect of other people's time, and a scientific curiosity, I always upvote and answer if I can, even if the question shows ignorance.

To answer the question of why questions here are downvoted so often (relative to other SE sites), I'd attribute it to three reasons:

1. this is a technical community. (which is valuable!)
2. a higher proportion of the internet has basic competency in software engineering than electrical engineering.
3. electronics are a big part of the layperson's life, so it's not uncommon for laypeople to wander here.
• +10 if I could. – Olin Lathrop Mar 12 '13 at 13:38
• Could you please provide an example of a question that is "about electronics" but not "about engineering"? – sharptooth Mar 12 '13 at 14:56
• @sharptooth I suspect an example isn't immediately obvious to you because you don't agree with my point, and citing examples won't be productive. Like most things, engineeringness is measured in degrees and not binary truth. Even "Why won't my vacuum cleaner work?" could be electrical engineering, to some degree. My point is simply that the standard here is that questions have a high degree of engineeringness, and while that standard necessarily excludes most people, that is in itself valuable for people who want such a thing, because it isn't found elsewhere. – Phil Frost Mar 12 '13 at 15:54
• Okaayyy, then could you please provide two examples where one would be more like 80% engineering and the other would be more like 5% engineering? – sharptooth Mar 13 '13 at 6:25
• Engineers arguing about % engineeringness, this is probably one of my favorite arguments ever. – Kortuk Mar 13 '13 at 15:29
• -1 for essentially saying to Sharptooth that he can't see it because he disagrees with you, and discussing it with him is unproductive. Also, I prefer the term "Engineeringosity" over "Engineeringness". – user3624 Mar 13 '13 at 16:29
• Remember, we only have the word "engineering" in the site title because "Electronics Design" was already taken by a print magazine. The word doesn't define the site. It's just the best they could come up with when they needed a site title. – The Photon Mar 13 '13 at 17:14
• @ThePh: Of course the name defines the site. We are about electrical engineering. However, how is that really different from "electronics design"? Electrical engineering is about designing electronics. Having "engineering" in the name also puts people on notice that we treat things rigorously with proper methods and precision. Put another way, we're not about "plug dis into dat and if it don't blow up it must be right". – Olin Lathrop Mar 13 '13 at 18:22
• @OlinLathrop, "Stack overflow" covers more than just stack overflows. Electrical engineering can cover more than just "engineeringy" engineering questions. – The Photon Mar 13 '13 at 18:43
• -1 for assuming that you can't change sharptooth's opinion by citing evidence. If you can't (or won't) defend your opinion with a rational argument, how do you intend to do so? I too would like to see such an example. More specifically, one that is not explicitly off topic already (consumer electronics questions from end users that want to jam the wrong power brick into their laptop, etc are already off topic and should be closed as such). What questions would you consider worthy of a downvote based on their topic but not a close vote? – Joe Baker Mar 14 '13 at 2:51
• @sharptooth I don't mean to be obtuse; I just don't want to waste time arguing a point to someone who simply disagrees. I'm sure there are people here who think we should be more accommodating to laypeople, and that's not an invalid argument, it's just not my opinion. I apologize if my comments suggested otherwise, and I hope my position is now more clear that I've expanded the answer. – Phil Frost Mar 14 '13 at 12:08
• Em... You can't say I'm someone who disagrees because I can't disagree until I understand the idea, that's what I'm trying to say. – sharptooth Mar 14 '13 at 12:11
• @sharptooth: Good electronics.stackexchange.com/q/60927/4512, Bad electronics.stackexchange.com/q/60923/4512. – Olin Lathrop Mar 14 '13 at 14:37
• Perhaps the question is not to ask, "why are EE.SE questions downvoted so often" but rather, "why are there so many bad questions on EE.SE?" – Phil Frost Mar 15 '13 at 11:47
• @PhilFrost +1 Why there are so many sub-standard questions on EE.SE? Because the standards are high. Why are the standards high? Because EE errors can be costly. – Nick Alexeev Mar 15 '13 at 16:33

Now that we have some real although superficial data, we can actually talk about what it means.

I think what it means is that EE.SE and SE as a whole is maturing. We no longer have the rather small self-selected group of users that really care about the site or have decent subject knowledge. The great unwashed masses have started to realize we exist, realize there is good subject matter content here, and are starting to come here for whatever questions pop into their heads. These people care less about the site. We are just a means to a end, which is a quick answer to some question without being bothered by all that "understanding" stuff.

Note that the percentage of downvotes on questions is roughly in line with how much the average unwashed thinks they know anything about the subject matter or encounter problems in their daily lives that they think falls within the subject domain. Very few people think they are mathemeticians or know much about math, except those that actually do. To the unwashed, the mathematics site sounds like it's for experts and they don't dare ask what 22/7 is because they figure they will get laughed out of town.

At the other extreme we have computer administration. Lots of people fancy themselves knowing something about this, or have to do it and run into problems and have to ask someone. We are near the computer admin end because many of those that bump into 'tricity stuff don't know the difference between electrical engineering, consumer electronics, and what a electrician does.

The popularity of arduinos is also a reason. There is now a large pool of people that know little about electronics but bump up against it whether they like it or not. These people usually don't want to learn (that's why arduino appealed to them in the first place), just want a answer, often to a question they don't understand and therefore can't properly ask. Of course such questions get downvoted here, as they should. These people don't belong here, but they don't know that and probably don't care when they do know it.

So what's the answer? We continue to be vigillant. Don't be afraid to downvote bad questions. I think this trend is only starting, so we'll probably have to downvote even more in the future. If we don't insist on good quality questions that show a little research, are presented properly (we should get about the same care and neatness as a homework assignment), are understandable, contain the necessary information, and above all, exhibit interest in the subject matter beyond just a simple immediate answer, then we will be overrun by the uwashed hordes.

There is a natural progression from success to mediocracy, which then leads to drivel and eventually dissollusion. The only way to head off the transformation is to keep the standards up. The flood is coming. Shields up!

• +1, no matter what everybody else says. I watched this exact phenomena destroy the Live Audio Board. There's only a handful of the original people that know what they're talking about, and it's become mostly boring drivel and shopping questions since the nail was put in the coffin in 2009. The beauty of the SE format is the ability to downvote the garbage and maintain a high S/N ratio, and that is what I intend to continue doing. – Matt Young Mar 27 '13 at 4:32