I gave a ton of contextual information in this question. Is that an effective question, or should I strive to be more editorial in the content of my questions. Seems like there's a delicate balance, but most of the time it seems to me people don't provide enough context, and it results in a bunch of comment-based question refinement and iteration.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Providing necessary information is important but being concise is good too. If a question is more than 1/2 a screen or 4 paragraphs or so, you need to carefully consider what information is really relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 25 '13 at 15:35

In your question, I don't think you added more information than was relevant to the question. On the other hand, the question is so long, I didn't really read the whole thing.

This other question for sure is giving too much information. A giant block of code with no relevance to the question being asked. And at the same time, that question provides too little information, since it doesn't even say what OS or platform is being asked about in a platform-specific programming question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a sad tendency I noticed on stack exchange: Many people will pay more attention to a "PLZ halp rite nao!!!!PLZ!!!THX" type questions than to a well written but a bit more complex question. \$\endgroup\$ – AndrejaKo Mar 25 '13 at 10:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rereading the question, I find it's much easier to follow on a big monitor than on my laptop at home, so there's something. On the other hand the request is pretty specific, which narrows down the potential pool of responders. As soon as I got to "I want to know how to implement the prescribed characteristics using Eagle CAD" I could stop reading, since I have never used Eagle. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Mar 25 '13 at 16:02

I've had similar experience on SuperUser and it looks like people just can't be bothered to read a somewhat more complex question. In such cases, I usually post a bounty and hope for the best, if I really need help or answer the question myself.

One thing that I always wanted to do but didn't have the courage is to post a crippled question on purpose. It will at least get the attention of "close-police" which in some cases may be better than no attention at all.

In the end it seems that all those guidelines for writing good questions which tell user to include as much relevant information as possible are wrong since they assume that the users who will want to answer the question will be as good users as the user who asked the question.

I guess that some people are just after quick rep and your complex question will have worse effort/upvote ratio than simpler and more popular questions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You would have a point is we were paid to answer qustions, but you seem to have forgotten we are all volunteers here. As such, we are perfectly allowed to decide for whatever reason we don't want to answer a question. That can include it's not "fun", not my area of interest, the guy's avatar clashes with the colors behind the monitor, or not feeling like reading 3 pages of question. It is totally wrong and rude to suggest evil motives for people who's only fault is not spending their free time on a particular thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 25 '13 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olin Lathrop Maybe I wasn't clear enough. In my opinion, people who decide what to do in their own free time can't be considered evil because of that. I mostly ranted about unfortunate truth. Maybe some research needs to be done on how to write "fun" questions, since such questions would attract more answers. \$\endgroup\$ – AndrejaKo Mar 25 '13 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop: No, it is not "totally wrong." Far from it. It has long been documented on Meta that easy questions (a) garner the most upvotes, and (b) are answered the fastest with (c) the most answers. You cannot argue that there isn't some aspect of gamification inherent to the system. That article I linked to was written by the co-founder of SO, by the way. Also, I don't think anyone here (with the exception of the newest of users) forgets that all contributions are volunteer work, so please stop hiding behind that defense. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Laplante Mar 25 '13 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Simple: My point is you don't need a defense, as there is nothing wrong with not answering something in the first place. I was reacting to how judgemental this answer is of people not answering some questions. That's just wrong, and rude. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 25 '13 at 17:05

No, for me anyway, that was not a effective question.

It looks like you provided lots of necessary information and your question looks well written, but I can't say for sure as I didn't read it. I remember seeing it originally, but the sheer size of it made it feel like too much work to read and understand, so I skipped it.

Maybe your question really needed all that detail, maybe it didn't, but I'll never know.

I'm not saying this is fair or that you did anything wrong necessarily. But remember, you asked for feedback, so I'm telling you what my reaction was.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Olin, I appreciate the feedback \$\endgroup\$ – vicatcu Mar 25 '13 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you upvote the question for being well written and detailed before you moved on? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 27 '13 at 4:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why all the downvotes? He's just telling us the facts. Remember a down vote means "This answer is not useful" (hover over the arrow to see for yourself). Olin's answer clearly is useful because he's telling us how a real user responds to a real question. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Mar 27 '13 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: No, I didn't vote on the question at all. I didn't really read it, so felt I didn't have enough knowledge of the question to properly judge it. I formed a impression of the question from a quick skim, mostly scolling. That was enough for me to decide to skip it, but not enough to feel informed enough to vote on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 27 '13 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I thought that would be the case, I would do the same. The issue being, now someone writes a really thorough question that definitely meets our requirements, thoroughly, but no one reads it because they made sure to give detail and it became long. It is funny, poor question and downvotes, okay question and upvotes, great question and no votes. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 27 '13 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rocketmagnet That is not what they mean on meta. On meta a downvote means, "I disagree" and an upvote means, "I agree". He is honest, I appreciate olin shares his opinion even if he knows it is not popular, but if someone disagrees they say so by downvoting. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 27 '13 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rocket: Some people have a hard time separating the message from the messenger, opinions from facts, and the correctness of facts from how much they like them. It is surprising to see so much of this on a engineering site. Imagine what it would be like on a art site! I think the downvotes are because some aren't happy with my reasoning, although whether they like the facts or not has no bearing on their correctness or relevance to the question asked. Not everyone is a logical thinker. Fortunately here in meta votes don't really matter, so it's mostly just amusing. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 27 '13 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: Actually, I think the excessive length made it not a great question. It is possible to dilute a message with too much detail, just like not enough detail is bad too, as we see so often. It's sortof like saying I need a 10.235 kOhm +-5% resistor. Part of good writing is to know what is relevant and what is not, and therefore distracting clutter. A OP may not always know what is relevant, so some excess info is better than too little, but there still has to be a reasonable ballance. You can't just dump everything you saw in the last week on us either. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 27 '13 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I dont consider this a seperating the messanger from the message issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 27 '13 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kortuk: I agree. This is a case of not separating correctness of facts from how much you dislike them. What I stated in this post was just facts, which is how I perceived the post in question. That was what was asked. Being facts, there is nothing to agree or disagree with, especially since nobody is in a position to say the facts are incorrect as there was nobody else in my head at the time (I think, anyway). You can disagree with my course of action, but that is not what the post is about or what was asked. I'm not bothered by the downvotes, but they don't make sense in this case. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 27 '13 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop, I disagree with "No, for me anyway, that was not a effective question." Hope that makes sense. I dont agree it was ineffective, but the fact it has very little attention shows although the meta community may disagree, you are clearly in the popular category here. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 28 '13 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: The point is that you can't disagree that for me it was a ineffective question. You can feel that for you it wasn't or that in general it shouldn't be, but unless you are in my head you can't say how I felt about it. Again, I find all this amusing, but there is a logical fallacy here. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 28 '13 at 12:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop That is where I think you may be misunderstanding the point of meta. I am not voting whether or not I believe you felt that way, I am voting how I feel. Right now 3 people(including you) feel this way. Right now 4 people disagree with that view of the question. We are voting on your opinion as to if we share it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 28 '13 at 13:45

Look, this is giving too much background: C coding design - function pointers?. Only the last three lines would've been enough as well. I've wasted people's time with providing a lot information that might have been relevant, but not necessary in order to answer the question.

There are two main issues with providing too much background information:

  • The question might get so long that some people don't read it, thus you'll get fewer response
  • The question might not seem useful to users with the same problem but a different background, which results in much duplicates

Now concrete on your question.

What you've done is provide a lot information about Eagle, and a lot information from the datasheet. Your question is about the usage of Eagle. This means...

  • Information about the datasheet is not necessary, unless it is used to explain what you want
  • Information about what you can do with Eagle is not necessary, unless it is to explain that that's not your problem

In my opinion, the information from the datasheet is useful to understand your question. I feel the same when it comes to the information you provided about Eagle.

But does a lot useful information make a question effective?

No, your question was a TLDR to many users, I think. At least is was for me, until I read this Meta question. There are a few ways to improve your post's readability:

  • Scale down the images, place them next to each other eventually (you did the latter once). Especially the images from Eagle could've been smaller, but those from the datasheet too.
  • Quote text from the datasheet instead of placing them in an image. This gives those texts a nice layout.
  • Add in headings. That's how this long post can be still effective.
  • Mention the question in the first paragraph. Users specialised in the topic will read further, others probably not but they wouldn't have something to add anyway. Of course, still mention the question in one of the last sentences as well, to avoid people shouting "NARQ!!!"

I lose the details when there are more than three and I don't yet know where the conversation/question is going. So I usually request people to give me the punch line first, when they're telling me about an event in their day or asking for help. It helps me to put the rest of what follows into context, or to ignore some it as irrelevant. Otherwise, I have to try to retain all of the details (which I don't do well), only to find out later which ones (typically, very few) mattered in context.

So Keelan's example question would be better framed for me if he'd put the final paragraph at the top, ahead of the details. I'd then know what he wanted and could read the rest choosing skim or read for detail as I needed to.


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