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Obviously, I'm new here. Regardless, this site operates much differently from any of the other SE sites I've contributed to. There seems to be a clear definition of scope for questions on this site listed here:

https://electronics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

This site is for electronics and electric***al*** 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 feel the best Electronics Design questions have a schematic, links to pertinent datasheets or some source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific electronics design problem
  • the theory and simulation of electromagnetic forces
  • a communication scheme the writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications

and it is not about …

  • a shopping or buying recommendation
  • consumer electronics such as media players, cell phones or smart phones, except when designing these products or modifying their electronics for other uses
  • Programming software for a PC

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

A reading of that document (with emphasis on the bolded parts) seems to suggest that it's okay for people with relatively little knowledge to ask general questions about how electronics and EE works including some of the underlying theory, aka not simply about pulling numbers off a datasheet (which was suggested as the appropriate type of question to me in a recent comment).

However, I've observed questions that the community considers simple closed because it's unclear what's being asked. And I've observed more general theoretical questions closed because people couldn't figure out which numbers to pull off of which datasheet in order to fill the asker's request. That seems a bit odd to me as people are generally in the business of asking questions to learn, not just know (you know, the old fish adage).

Anyway. I have no problem what the community here decides should be their preferred approach. I simply think the accompanying site documents should reflect the desires to avoid confusion. If simple questions about theory are not desired, don't promote them in the on-topic document.


Here are a few questions which I am confused why they are on hold:

Why are capacitor sizes rarely expressed in nanofarads?

While there is probably not an answer to the above question. In my opinion it is interesting nonetheless and related to EE. Who knows, someone might actually know a reason or it might be discovered that the OP is operating on a false assumption (perhaps nanofarads are often used and OP just doesn't know it).

https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/95765/what-is-the-price-of-one-electron-today

Voted as off topic but should probably be classified as too broad or something else. However, maybe you can understand my confusion if you disagree and thing the question should be classified as off topic (as is clear the people who voted to close do).

Detect string plucking in electric bass guitar?

This is an example of a question that I could answer after taking one electronics course and generally being and enthusiast, but I'd have no idea how if I was coming from a different background (say and entirely CS background and this was my first forte into Arduinos). It seems super trivial, but I believe that is the point of a question.


W5V0 (and other concerned parties), I'm not trying to rant or troll. I'm trying to help cleanup confusion I've (and others I've seen) experienced. I'm trying to help the community here reflect what the community here actually wants. If you don't agree, simply downvote this suggestion, but please don't accuse me of ranting for no reason.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "people with relatively little knowledge" isn't the same as "too lazy to research before posting", just saying. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Anindo Ghosh Jan 8 '14 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is rather pointless without specific examples. Without them the obvious answer is that your view of why a question was closed and what the community as a whole thought about is are incorrect. This is exactly the kind of general hand waving that I would vote to close as unclear what is being asked and downvote due to being poorly asked on the main site. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jan 8 '14 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think @AnindoGhosh goes to the heart of your discontent when he points out that EE.SE is not a general discussion forum. Your question about the price of an electron was not a question about electromagnetic theory, it was psuedo-economics question that really had little relation to anything in the real world. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Hass Jan 10 '14 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeHass that's fair. \$\endgroup\$ – David Cowden Jan 10 '14 at 21:43
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Simple questions are fine. A great example is What exactly is Voltage?.

What is not fine is a poorly asked question. Unfortunately we have a lot of those. This site can be accessed from anywhere in the world, so some people that can't write English well enough to not be annoying do so anyway. Then there are those that can write sufficiently good English but don't bother, those that write text-speek ("plz can u sho me how 2 ..."), and those that can't or don't bother to properly collect their thoughts before blurting out a question.

You say you have seen "questions that the community considers simple closed because it's unclear what's being asked". This is itself a poorly thought out premise. First, you can't know what the community thinks without a properly controlled poll, which I'm sure you didn't do. Second, you say yourself that these question are closed because it is unclear what is being asked.

The only conclusion is therefore that you wish unclear questions to remain open. I totally reject that notion. There is no excuse for poorly asked questions. Note that this has nothing to do with the level of the technical content of the question. It's not our job to diaper and burp those that can't or won't ask understandable questions, and not our business why they can't or won't. We must do the best to shed the noise from the site as expediently as possible, which is to close the question.

Many of the poorly asked questions also have low technical content. There is therefore a correlation between low technical content and likelyhood a question is closed. It seems you are mistaking this correlation with cause and effect, which is of course false logic.

It is difficult to answer your question more fully without specific examples. Show us specific cases where you think a question was wrongly closed so we can discuss the reasons and how they relate to site policy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair point. I will grab some of the examples I've seen recently. \$\endgroup\$ – David Cowden Jan 8 '14 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I should add I'm pulling from discussion with people via comments, past meta posts, and relatively few cases I saw. However, I am mostly operating off my impression based on my first 44 hours reading stuff here. It is entirely likely that I have experienced behavior that is not standard. But from reading past meta posts, I projected it to be normal. That may have been a mistake. \$\endgroup\$ – David Cowden Jan 8 '14 at 23:30
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"OP" as used below refers to Original Posters of questions on the main EE.SE site, not the OP of this Meta question.

On this point:

students, and enthusiasts.

Searching through the questions on the site shows hundreds of student / enthusiast grade questions that have been appreciated and answered - That's one of my personal favorite categories of question, as my answer history will show, and many other regulars really enjoy helping beginners out.

However, some types of student / beginner question justifiably meet with intolerance on this site, and many other SE sites as well, going by my experience across a dozen-odd other SE sites that I read regularly:

  • The "gimme-teh-codes" question, i.e. some really vague problem statement, or often not even that, merely a general desire, followed by a request (sometimes a demand) to "give me the schematic / source code / solution". Not even a bit of reading to understand the conceptual blocks of what they want built. I vote to close those questions, and will continue to do so.
  • The copy-pasted homework question, very often without even an attempt to solve the problem before posting with specific queries. Those get closed due "Insufficient effort demonstrated by OP", and this is so across SE sites barring a few. Yup, they get my close vote, and if it were an option, I would recommend reporting the post to the respective teachers. If anything, there are probably more homework questions answered here than on most other SE sites, so long as OP's efforts and stumbling blocks are clearly demonstrated.
  • The pie-in-the-sky problem statement, typically one which even a cursory web search will prove as being either impractical, or way beyond a beginner's ken. Now, I don't always vote to close those, but it is evident why they might rapidly earn close-votes
  • Walls of text that could be easily clarified by at least a hand-drawn block diagram, not necessarily schematics, if only the OP would put in the effort.

Being a beginner, a student or an enthusiast is no excuse for not doing some basic research on the web before posting a question. I believe the SE sites are quite clear about not being a substitute for basic research or an internet search. This isn't EE.SE specific, and if that is the insinuation, I would suggest some time spent critically analyzing the top 20 most active SE sites.


Regarding this:

the theory and simulation of electromagnetic forces

Yes, one does see some close-votes on such questions where the reasoning for closing isn't clear (at least to me), but there are also many such fundamental EM questions which have received excellent answers, in some cases multiple viewpoints as well.

In this case, there seems to be a mix: Some questions illustrate underlying effort and put forward a pertinent and viable problem statement, and yet they get closed. Perhaps some of our more active members don't see the merit of the question, or do not see the level of the question being one where the OP would be able to benefit from a reasonably to-the-point answer.

(Another SE pattern here: None of the SE sites that I know of, tolerate "write me a tutorial or a book" type of questions)

Other questions deserve closing, some for the same reasons as listed in the previous bullet points, and some others because they simply are ludicrous in their premise (perpetual energy, perpetual motion, or logical fallacies even a 6th grader would laugh at). I vote to close those, every single time.


I think it needs to be understood that the EE.SE and other SE sites are not open discussion forums, are not friendly to speculative guesswork answers (some SE sites excluded), are not Wiki sites, and are not tutorial or textbook-substitute sites. Most of the victims of close votes that I come across, go against these tenets.

Agreed, some closed questions may deserve better, but that's the price for any collaboratively managed medium: It takes but a few to demolish something.


Final point: The reason for closing as shown below a question does not reflect all the reasons a close-vote may have been applied - only the most common reason selected. In some cases, I may have voted to close with a custom reason that "OP needs to change their medication", while others may have taken the click-economic option of "too broad" or "unclear what you're asking". End result, question is closed without clear explanation of why.

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