I have realized a not so uncommon behavior in the EE StackExchange where a person asking a question is generally responded to in a hostile, passive aggressive or bluntly aggressive manner. The person answering the question generally does try to convey an answer, but will append something like the following to the answer:

... Please educate yourself first before proceeding.

... What do you expect ???

... Perhaps it is you not understanding ? Then what do you not understand ?

... If you don't know what I'm talking about, then look it up and study it. It is basic electronics knowledge.

... If you're unwilling to spent that time and learn about it before asking silly questions then maybe electronics is not for you.

If you're not into electronics, fine, but then why are you here ? Go knitting or bake a cake. Electronics is not for everyone.

Taken out of context, I think these especially show a pattern of aggression, and I think some, including myself, detect this pattern while they are in context as well. Personally, I find this attitude to be quite damaging in an environment where the primary aim is to convey information and build a collective database.

Is this level of hostility acceptable to the general community?

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    \$\begingroup\$ EEs don't suffer fools gladly. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 3:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ EEs come here to chew bubble gum and condescend. Usually, they seem to be out of bubble gum. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ One liners aside, this is a serious question on my part. I am a fellow EE, and I am genuinely curious what is considered acceptable to the community. I realize that I am making some personal comments about my general views on the subject, as this is not a behavior I accept while working with fellow engineers in a professional environment, whatever their level of competence or education might be. I hope that I am not being offensive while doing that. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 11:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't recall seeing any of those comments so maybe you can link a few questions to give this question some spine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka - I remember seeing 3 of the comments the OP has posted. They all occurred in Comments. I tried a search, but apparently search doesn't return a match for comments. (Tried it on my own comments and came up with 0 matches. Perhaps moderator level has more search options. ( I do remember the last comment cited was made by a very well known member) \$\endgroup\$
    – Marla
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka I've annotated the ones I could find easily. The last two, I couldn't find, but at the time I'd referenced them from the same user's activity page in a timespan of a month. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 12:57

5 Answers 5


EDIT: To actually answer the question - I, personally, think a little bit of good-natured ribbing is ok. I really hate the "OMG, that's not even a proper MCU", or "You call that a circuit diagram - use this £10,000 software you fool" gatekeeping - people are into this stuff for all sorts of different reasons and at all sorts of different levels.

I'm quite new here and have noticed this a little bit myself. I've downvoted a couple of answers that weren't really answers and were a bit on the rude side.

It's difficult I think. I'm not an EE, I'm just trying to learn how to build fun gadgets and cool robots. I can completely understand that when you see the same poorly written questions or in some cases demands, over and over, it can be fatiguing generating the patience to write the whole "Welcome to Electronics Stack Exchange, please could you use actual words in your question" stuff. I try to where I can to pay back some of the help I have had.

I don't think rudeness is acceptable, however, it does have some small positive effects: I had a question recently about a problem with an LCD screen having lots of interference. I initially started writing a question here about it, but as I wrote it, I realised I hadn't really thought about it enough because I couldn't quite explain the problem properly. I knew that if I posted it as it was I'd get some downvotes, maybe a bit of 'banter' and my reputation would be diminished ever so slightly for that future Really Important Question I might have.

I did a little bit more research and realised that I probably needed a voltage regulator. Having never built a circuit like that, I started thinking about writing a question here for guidance, but instead I read the datasheet for a few, tried one of the suggested circuits there and solved the problem all on my own and felt much better about having done so.

If everyone here was ALWAYS perfectly polite and helpful to EVERYONE, I probably would have posted my question, solved my problem but come away without the little boost of confidence & knowledge I got from working it out myself.

Of course, 2 days later I posted a stupid question that was answered in plain english by the datasheet I linked to in the question, so it doesn't always work. :) (and actually the answer I got was perfectly polite!)

I think where it really falls down is with the younger askers - I'm a teacher by trade and I can spot a question written by a kid a mile off and they often aren't the best quality. I hate seeing people pile in on these because I worry that that kid is going to be put off from their new interest and that's one fewer EE for the future. Not everyone learns the same lessons from the same experience I guess.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have assisted in university classes during my time as a research assistant, and sometimes can see the pedagogical benefit of "tough love." Students would be quite willing to abuse the help you were willing to give them, and consequentially, if you did give the help, you were hindering the learning process. This is a perspective I understand and I have applied it myself. However, the attitude in applying this method is of utmost importance, I believe, even more so if what you're aiming for is for the student to think and solve problems on his own. it's really easy to discourage or dishearten. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely, and it's much easier to get it right when you're looking at the person across the desk from you. The other thing is that even understanding all of this myself, I have to make a conscious effort not to take a downvote/snarky comment personally. I always try to err on the side of just being friendly and patient, or simply not answering at all. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "use this £10,000 software you fool" --- I can't recall ever seeing anyone make such a demand. We want schematics to be drawn in a logical way that makes the function clear. We don't want cartoons of circuit boards with no indication of what pin does what and no logical arrangement of the pins. But nobody cares if you draw your schematic it in MentorGraphics or Altium or Eagle or CircuitLab, or with pencil and paper. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I teach at uni undergrad and have noticed that the younger students need more "hand-holding" and "political-correctness" than ever. That said, sometimes they do need to go at it solo. Make a mistake. Blow up a 7805. Burn a finger. Pop a 741. So for those basic questions here, I just move on, or if they ask intelligently, give a hint and tell them to experiment. They need to get hands-on (and their own brain-on) at least through the DC basics to stand a fighting chance. I like to teach, but if they'll only settle for answers, then they aren't learning anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – rdtsc
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your second paragraph is an excellent idea. When you see a rude or demeaning reply, brutally DOWNVOTE it. Not everybody here is a Professional Engineer; some of us are just old hams from the age of spark gaps and galena. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 8:39

I thought about posting something similar to this just a few days ago. I'm a newcomer to EE.SE and also a youngling in the EE field (graduating in May.) I've only been a member for around a year but it seems the level of "catiness" has increased just in the time I've been active. I've asked some really stupid questions and been met with fairly hostile responses, and I can tell you that it is very off-putting to new folks.

Since I'm so new to the community, my input may not hold much weight however, I thought the viewpoint of a newcomer might be valuable. To answer the question, all I have to offer is this:

A certain level of prior knowledge and research is expected by the community members and that seems to be a reasonable level, however the responses to poorly formulated or poorly researched questions could use a second look. More than once have I read a comment and thought "wow, that guy's a jerk." Politeness goes a long way in cultivating an atmosphere conducive to the sharing of knowledge.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I've asked some really stupid questions and been met with fairly hostile responses" Well, duh! So don't ask stupid questions. Note that stupid is quite different from ignorant. "I can tell you that it is very off-putting" Good. Apparently you're getting the message. Making asking stupid questions unpleasant reduces stupid questions. If it happens once or twice, learn from it and get over it. If it happens a lot and you don't feel welcome, it's because those who consistently ask stupid question are in fact not welcome. Shape up or ship out. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olin Lathrop, fair enough. At least by opening this dialogue up, we know the sentiment of a section of the community. Thanks for your comment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I don't think anyone argues that any stupid questions are not welcome and should not be encouraged. What I believe the issue to be is HOW the responses are made, if they are hostile or not. Trying to make an answer off-putting doesn't necessarily imply that it should be condescending to the asker. A simple "guidelines" post that is consistent across the site urging the asker to change the questions content or format, preceding a close vote if the corrections are not made would make things cleaner, and the environment friendlier. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Also, nobody has to learn to appreciate bad behavior, even if it means well. \$\endgroup\$
    – deadude
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dead: That kind of hand holding just noises up the site. Those who won't or can't be bothered to write good questions need to be dispensed with as expediently as possible. The experience should be unpleasant when you post crap. After all, we get plenty of good questions here, so it's obviously possible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 14:29

I have noticed this pretty much every time I have asked a question here. As an Electrical Engineer you do see this mentality in real life in colleges and from many others in the professional world as well. They seem to take their own knowledge for granted and how hard it can be for some to figure out what they spent considerable time learning. Even as an experienced EE, it is impossible to have in-depth knowledge of everything. Many people specialize in various parts of electronics (software, micro, power systems, radio, controls, robotics, etc...) so they can come off as a newbie when trying to branch off and do something a little different. So it is sad to see this level of hostility that is constantly present.

You see a very similar thing in the Linux world with neck beards, but since many are pushing open source and trying to build a community, you typically see a better balance with software.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, granite can be quite hard. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @radix07 chill .People have said that EE SE is hostile .I hope that I have not been hostile .If you go to The Workplace SE you will see that things are much worse.As your rep increases you should see less hostile behaviour . \$\endgroup\$
    – Autistic
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 2:20

The easiest thing to do is to fix the problem on your end and not worry about aggressive comments, just ignore the comments and work with the people that are trying to help. There are multiple people on this site and odds are someone will answer your question. Its the internet, your not going to please everyone.

One thing that is not acceptable is to write bad questions, questions shouldn't require further clarification and should be specific. The biggest problem with someone that is new to electronics that posts questions is posting bad questions.

Everyone here needs to be able to communicate and think about what they are writing, and communicate effectively. I have spent tens of minutes writing questions, I think them through and make sure all relevant information is present. Sometimes in this process I realize its a dumb question and I don't post it. A good question generates good answers even if it is a simple question.

Think about what its like on the other end of the spectrum, your a professional EE with expertise, and you want to volunteer your time and help some people out. You go through the question list and see a bunch of questions that:

1) The person took about 5 seconds to write, expecting you to read their mind.

2) Are duplicates and the person could have answered their own question if they would have taken the time to do some research before posting.

3) Homework questions with users that expect an answer but have no intention of solving them on their own, they want someone else to do the work for them.

4) Questions that want to look at their design, don't provide any details of that design (like schematics or PCB layer pictures).

These types of questions are all a waste of time. I could go on and on, it's frustrating. Write good questions. Bad questions will be closed.

SE's policy is be nice, if you see especially bad behavior, then flag the comment. Do your part, learn how the site works, and communicate effectively. Spend some time in the help center and make sure the questions you write are on topic.


As others have suggested, to some extent this problem may go away by writing 'better' questions.

But that doesn't solve the problem of the general attitude / hostility you're seeing from the people answering these questions.

I've seen this on some other SE sites, usually by a specific set of users, and when I run into it, I generally either post a comment addressing the issue where it is, asking for the user to edit because it seems rude, or flag it as rude / abusive.

In cases like this, I'd also recommend flagging. Especially if you see something that's more offensive than constructive.

From the Help Center:

When should I flag?

If anything happens on our site that makes you feel uncomfortable or that, in your opinion, clearly does not belong here, please flag it and bring it to our attention!

Really, these people are just trying to help. And there's also a large set of cultural differences - what may be offensive to some people might be normal conversation to others - so in my own experience, I just try to flesh things out either by communicating - if this person realizes they're offending people this way, they may actually stop - or by flagging, which may eventually make that person realize they've done something offensive anyway.

Just like you noted in your original question here, that after receiving this kind of negative feedback from the community about the level of personal research you did on your questions, you ended up doing a lot more individual research and were able to solve problems on your own as a result, SE members that receive feedback that they're doing something offensive or rude to others unconsciously will likely think about this in future posts and may self-correct.

Also, if enough people flag things that really are abusive, you'll see the following effects:

What happens when I flag something as spam or abusive?

The spam and abusive flags are designed to automatically eliminate truly disruptive posts through the collaboration of the community.

3 flags -- post is banished from the front page.

6 flags -- post is locked, deleted, and the owner loses 100 reputation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You're addressing the wrong thing. The problem is crap that gets posted, not people reacting to the crap. It's like complaining that felons in prisons are treated unfairly because they have to live in a 10x10 foot box, but ignoring the fact that it's their fault they are in this situation in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 11:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ 'The problem' - There's more than one problem, and both can / should be addressed. Same as in your prison example, actually - the fact that you've landed yourself in prison doesn't automatically take away any rights you have, so abusive treatment in prisons is also a problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – schizoid04
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I mean, I suppose you and I have some fairly different political opinions there, so I'll drop that; but what I'm trying to get at is there's multiple options for dealing with this. I definitely agree that crap getting posted is a priority that needs to be dealt with, on ANY SE site. I'm sure it's a worse problem on technical SE sites like this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – schizoid04
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lot of people think hostility is 'hey don't do that, thats not how you write a question, or I'll VTC' , or 'hey your question stinks, change it' when its actually how the site runs \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 17:01

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