How are newbie questions handled here? I have very basic experience making LED flashlights 5 years ago, but other than that, I've never taken an electronics class. I need to make an LED light that is not sold on the market for treatment of SAD so I might be making one shortly. (It will be similar to one on Youtube by "DIY Perks" but without water cooling.) This project sounds fun but everyone has to start at the beginning.

I already know I need parts to convert 120VAC to DC power to power a 50-100w LED. Plus maybe a lens, dimmer potentiometer, and frame.

I will naturally google what I can first before asking a question, but since I'm not even familiar with some terms, my Google results may be less than stellar, prompting a question here.

Will my questions simply get down voted simply because they are "too easy"?

Thanks! :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ When in doubt, pre-screen your question in our EE.SE chat. (Whether or not you'd get an answer, and/or you'd get laughed at is a separate matter. The rules are more relaxed there.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, simply don't ask about problems where you can find the solution all over the web, and if you didn't find anything solved your problem, this is the last place you want to come to with "here's what I've done regarding my problem" \$\endgroup\$
    – amrx
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 2:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lots of great answers. You'll do fine if you follow even some of what's posted. I'll just add my own test: "Can the question be solved with 1 concise answer?". Sometimes simply re-wording the question is all that is needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – st2000
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:40

4 Answers 4


The quality of a question, and therefore the votes it receives, has little to do with the technical level. It may appear that newbies get picked on, but that is only because they tend to barge in here without reading the rules and blurt out whatever is on their mind, expecting everyone else to know all about their problem already.


  1. Read the site rules and the guidelines for how to ask a question.

  2. Understand that this is not a typical internet forum. This is a Q&A site. That may sound the same but it's not. Until you really understand that, you'll probably ask crappy questions.

  3. Be direct, explain the problem, and ask what specifically you want to know about. If you just want general guidance, or your question is really "tell me all about ...", the go back to step 1.

  4. Don't do stupid stuff like starting with a greeting, ending with "Thanks for your help", etc. If you don't understand why, then go back to step 1.

  5. Write in good English. Sloppiness is not tolerated here. We deserve at least the same respect your teachers do. If you wouldn't hand it in as homework, it doesn't belong here either.

    We realize that some aren't fluent with English. Those that appear to be trying get some slack, but not a lot. In the end, this is a English-language site, and if you can't write English well enough you don't belong here.

    No matter how little you know about English, you can follow a few basic and universal rules, like capitalizing the first letter of each sentence and capitalizing the word "I". There is simply no excuse for getting this wrong, and it won't be tolerated.

    Don't even think of using text-speak.

  6. Stick around and monitor the question, especially in the first few hours. There are often things that are missing or unclear, and people will ask for clarification in the comments below the question. You must answer these clearly and directly.

    Never take the attitude that something asked about is unimportant. If you knew what was relevant and what not, you probably would have found the problem yourself.

  7. Provide additional information by adding it to the question, not hiding it in a comment. In the overall scheme of things, comments don't really matter. Think of them as construction lines or scaffolding used to build the question, not content on their own. Once the question is built, they can be, and sometimes are, deleted.

    It can be useful to reply to a request for more information with a comment indicating that the information was added to the question. This comment should be directed at the user that requested the information so that they get pinged. Otherwise, they may not ever realize you answered their question.

  8. When you get answers, upvote them if they address the question. That's the right way to say "thanks" around here. Remember that those writing answers are doing it as volunteers.

    If someone wrote a decent answer, but you want to ask something more related to that answer, upvote before asking. Otherwise you're saying "Your answer is no good, but gimme more info.". When someone does this to me where I felt I took some time to write a good answer, I think to myself "Screw this ingrate", and go on to someone else's question.

  9. Remember to accept the answer that helped you most, assuming any of them did. However, don't do this too quickly. You should wait at least a day. That way everyone gets one day/night cycle in whatever part of the world they are in.

    Those writing answers are volunteers with limited time to spend here. They therefore look to use their time in the most useful manner. Writing answers to questions that already have a accepted answer is generally seen as a waste of time. Personally, I usually don't even bother entering a question if I see the green box indicating accepted answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Wonderful list of practical tips for not getting downvoted to oblivion! Probably it should be integrated into (or linked to from) the help center. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:54

You've gotten some great answers, but I'll add one more subtlety. It's very possible to seesaw in the wrong direction from not doing enough research, which is to do too much research in the wrong direction by assuming you understand the correct approach to a problem when you don't.

To make up an example. Let's assume you're trying to find out if a door is closed or open, and for some reason, you'd like to do this with a magnet, and for some more deluded reason, you decide you need to build a huge electromagnet that needs 50 amps of current to work. Now, you post the question "what size wire do I need to carry 50 amps?"

Well, what will happen is you'll get some answers, and then someone will ask "why do you need wire to carry 50 amps?". Then you'll get some more directed answers before someone asks "why do you need a huge electromagnet?". Then you'll get some comments to the point that you don't need an electromagnet that big, and eventually someone may say "Why don't you use a switch or an optical interruptor?" and eventually you'll get the solution to your problem.

To avoid this, tell people the REAL problem you're trying to solve up front. It's fine to say "this is the approach I've landed at and this is my obstacle to that approach", but now everyone knows the problem you're trying to solve right away. You'll get some insightful answers as to why your approach is right or wrong, and you'll get to peek into the design processes of some fine engineers with tons of experience who are happy to share with you. If you post "what size wire do I need to carry 50 Amps?", you'll see grumps rising to the surface.

The easiest way to train yourself to avoid this situation is a design interview tool called the "5 Why's". Just keep asking yourself "why" until the nugget of your problem rises to the top.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "to do too much research in the wrong direction by assuming you understand the correct approach to a problem when you don't." That was sort of what I was getting at. Since I don't know the correct terms for parts my Google searches are likely to be less productive. Hence my reason for asking "simplistic" questions here. The answer being all over the internet is irrelevant in this case if I don't know what question to ask. Hence my question here in Meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bulrush
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 11:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree. This is sometimes referred to as "the XY problem". A similar symptom is when newbies sometimes feel they must absolutely suggest complex solutions with highly technical words in their questions to be taken seriously, leading to posts extremely difficult to analyze. Whereas just posting a question stating, with simple words, but clearly, the needs and the situation would be much more likely to be positively received. Questions don't have to be complex. They must just be clear (and on-topic). And actually, a lot of highly-upvoted questions are not that complex. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed dim and Scott - For anyone interested, here is a useful Meta Stack Exchange discussion about the XY problem including suggestions how to recognise it, how to avoid it, and why those people answering questions don't like it etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 23:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is also a whole domain (xyproblem.info) devoted to that! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:57

I have modest scores on SO and RPi, and have been posting and reading on SE sites for a few years. I asked my first question on EE this morning, and I'd have to say it was a fairly aggressive and unwelcoming experience. Not many of the references I added to the question were read, and the intent of the question was bypassed in favour of 'you have no idea what you're doing, get gone'.

I've close-voted and negatively commented on my fair share of posts, but when I do I consider it beneficial for the site to point out the issues in the hope that the asker might try again at some point. I don't feel particularly inclined to try again here.

Tread carefully.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Looking up your question on EE.SE, I think it's quite appropriate. The response was definitely a bit jump-on-you for what the question was about. While there are definitely cases here where the question-asker needs to do more work, your question was well-posed and demonstrated an understanding+research of the situation, particularly considering your answer on rPi.SE. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 20:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ It was certainly a pretty busy 15 minutes. I'm pleased the score pulled itself into the green, I got a practical answer, and I've had some feedback from other users along the lines of your comment (thanks!). If I didn't already have some experience on other SE sites it would have been a hell of a first day - tough crowd! \$\endgroup\$
    – goobering
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Briefest and clearest answer. Agree absolutely with last statement "tread carefully". Though "anybody can ask question" , not "any" question could be asked. the questions should meet a standard. However, it is also true, sometimes comments or answers done in a very-much aggressive way. \$\endgroup\$
    – user107801
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 17:23

Sometimes I am wondering myself how I can tolerate so much noob questions...

No, seriously.. Certainly not because they are "too easy" those questions are downvoted, but because they are not well researched. Hover over the downvote button, and it will say:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

This does not only mean the topic you ask about itself. Before asking any kind of question, you should read the help center about what is ontopic and what is offtopic. If unsure, there is the chat.

Remember that the sites goal is to collect knowledge in the Q&A format, and not to help people fulfill their deadlines, so take your time to do a good question.

I have written a few more words about it in this stackoverflow question: How to ask a good question when I'm not sure what I'm looking for? which is kinda similar and should contain good info for you.

In short: show your research effort. Tell us what you looked for, and when you don't know the search term. Sometimes it might even be useful to instead of asking for the solution, to tell that you look for it, but ask for the proper terms instead. Present us the information you have in a good concise way. Leave out the fluff. We are not interested that you are building a toy for your niece, show the schematics, that is what counts. If unsure, better add a bit more information. If yet unsure, ask what more information is necessary. Do not just accept that it is necessary, understand why it is necessary. Also do not start at learning to fly, learn to walk first.

And learn from mistakes. Once you get downvoted, don't take it personally and run away because everyone hates you. Figure out why it was downvoted. Find out what you could have done better. Improve the question based on feedback (if it is possible). Don't worry if it still has some downvotes after that.

Also look at other questions. Try to understand why questions are downvoted and avoid making the same mistake.

Nobody is useless, they can always serve as a bad example.


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