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I am newer to the EE.SE community, and frustrated by interactions with my recent question. I'd like to get a better sense of expected downvoting criteria here.

A trivial question - Fine - But given my limited academic knowledge of circuits, when my answers differ from textbook solutions, I assume that I'm misunderstanding key concepts.

I explicitly detail my solution and state the correct solution, but my schematic contained a single error. The given answer, provided shortly after posting, references only the (incorrect) schematic, despite all calculations to the contrary. So, I quickly edited the schematic to redress the discrepancy; I couldn't use the earlier revision because it contained the mismatch.

Perhaps an oversight, but as the given answer made no use of the (incorrect) value in answering my stated question, I did not immediately notify its OP of my edit. Shortly thereafter, another user called his attention to the mismatched schematic and calculations - the OP downvoted and left a perturbed comment that I should make clear the schematic was edited. I did - I'm grateful for the help but frustrated that I was not given any benefit of doubt.

In my opinion, I've made every good faith effort to salvage my post. The answer's OP did not downvote until, it seems, they were "embarrassed" by the edit. They had every chance to address the discrepancy (made visible by all calculations, the correct solution, and comments). To me, they cast their vote on pride, not content. Even after I noted the edit, they have not changed their vote or the single digit in their answer that reflects the edit (though I still don't believe it answers the question).

Moving forward, how can I improve my post?

Is downvoting for a corrected error really warranted? I realize users have voting discretion (and I respect that) but it seems the downvote was cast for reasons other than content. Is that justified here? I'm interested to hear the communities consensus.

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Get over it. I didn't see your question before, but I think I understand what happened. You asked a question, and Andy took part of his free time to answer it. Then you changed the question, invalidating his answer. I'd be pissed off too. Then someone downvoted your question. You can't know who, but if it was Andy I can understand the frustration that motivated it.

Again, get over it. It's just one downvote on one question. If you're more careful in the future, that tiny loss of rep will be inconsequential.

Keep Answerers in Mind

Those answering your questions are all volunteers. Nobody is obligated to read your question, let alone answer it. Basically, when asking here, you are asking everyone for a favor. Several things follow from this:

  1. Don't jerk people around. If you made a substantive error that invalidates existing answers, you owe it to the answerers to let them know. Note how Andy refers to what you did as a "sly edit", and WhatRough called it "very sneaky".

    Not following this rule was your main offense.

  2. Present clearly. This means circuits should be explained with schematics, not a bunch of hand waving text. Schematics also need to be neat and clear, logically laid out, include component designators, etc. Yours is neat and well laid out, but lacks component designators.

    The schematic is king. I often look at the title and the first sentence or two to find out what is being asked, then answer the question (if it's interesting enough and the schematic easy enough to follow). From experience I've found that reading the text is usually a waste of time. Way too many askers go on about some silly pet theory of theirs that ultimately has nothing to do with the real question. The point of this is that the schematic must stand on its own. You can't for example, label a resistor as 10 kΩ then say in the text it's really 5 kΩ and expect people to catch that.

  3. Proofread what you wrote before posting. The occasional error is understandable, but blatant stuff like not capitalizing the first word of sentences or the word "I" is unforgivable. When I see the first letter of a question being lower case, I often just downvote without even reading the rest.

    Your question was OK in this regard, but I mention it because too many aren't.

  4. Avoid even the hint of sloppiness. Engineering requires attention to detail. Exhibiting sloppiness is showing that you don't take your problem and engineering in general seriously. That means that helping you will be a waste of time. If a question generally looks sloppy, I again often just downvote without looking at it in detail.

  5. In general, the level or care and neatness should be at minimum what you would apply to homework you hand in. You wouldn't hand in a schematic drawn on a napkin with coffee stains on it, so it doesn't belong here either. Your professors are getting paid to read your homework, but nobody here is getting paid to read your question. If anything, that means questions here require more care and neatness.

  6. Sloppiness and violation of the communication norms here are insults to those you seek a favor from. Think about it. Sloppy English, lack of capitalization, hand waving descriptions, and poorly drawn schematics all say "My time to do this right isn't worth your irritation to read it.", from which follows "I'm more important than you are." That's a really dumb thing to say to people you are asking for a favor.

Your specific question

I never saw the original pre-edit version, so here is my thought process approaching this question for the first time (version 4 according to the edit history):

The first thing I see is the schematic. It looks neat and understandable, but no component designators. Argh. That's going to make it cumbersome to talk about. Scales tipped a little towards not answering this question.

Looking at schematic more closely. Classic non-inverting amplifier with attenuator in front of it. Seems clear enough, but why attenuate if you're going to amplify afterwards? Oh well, maybe that's in the text (which I haven't read yet at this point). Now looking at the values. Gain is 8. Input attenuator is 1/4. Overall gain of 2. Odd, but seems clear enough. The resistances are within reasonable range, no obvious issue here.

Wait, is that really 12 V on the negative supply and 8 V on the positive!? What the...? Whatever he's asking can't be answered properly. Should I leave a snide comment for this moron or just move on? Too many other comments and answer already. A comment wouldn't get enough visibility, and someone else has surely pointed this out already anyway. Screw this. Moving on to something more worthwhile...

Note that this all happened before any of your text was read, which means it was never read.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate your time and candor - my future posts will reflect this critique, notably, the importance of schematics and prompt notice of edits. That said, I take issue with several points. \$\endgroup\$ – OnStrike Oct 14 '16 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify: It appears you were selective in the comments you cited - Andyaka stated, "the down vote I gave you." Reputation aside, my understanding is that downvotes should indicate content, not emotion. By that standard, any vote is justified (ie. if frustration/emotion is a valid motive). \$\endgroup\$ – OnStrike Oct 14 '16 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Second, it seems there is a (silent) undercurrent of presumed incompetence (ie. "this moron"), without closer inspection. In fact, your objection was my driving question - "12 V on the negative and 8 V on the positive!?", the exact schematic from my textbook. If feasable, I didnt understand its implications. \$\endgroup\$ – OnStrike Oct 14 '16 at 22:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Lastly, I do understand that edits can ruin answers and waste time of those offering help. In that light, I messed up. I am grateful for the contribution Andyaka volunteered but I do think it's a little disingenuous for him to claim foul play when he really hasn't addressed the question. To me, Andyaka's answer hints that he too didnt read the text. He identified the gain and typical tolerance, neither of which are requested, ignoring all else. An answer should mirror the respect and attention to detail expected of questions - here, you refer to them more as scraps thrown to beggars. \$\endgroup\$ – OnStrike Oct 15 '16 at 1:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Second, it seems there is a (silent) undercurrent of presumed incompetence (ie. "this moron"), without closer inspection. There is nothing silent about it. You are always on trial here, especially someone new without a track record. You have to assume everything you post is used to judge you. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Oct 16 '16 at 20:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ "he too didnt read the text" Possibly not. Probably most people didn't. People are going to decide after the first sentence whether the rest is likely to be worth their free time to read. If you don't grab them with the salient point of the question by then, then you may have lost the opportunity permanently. Basically, you blew your one opportunity to make a good first impression. You didn't, so now you don't get a second impression. That's how the world works, and especially how volunteers work. Again, it's you who is on trial here, not us. The volunteers make the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Oct 16 '16 at 20:06
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Moving forward, how can I improve my post?

You can't. Your post as it stands is perfectly fine. This user may have overreacted, but I could easily have reacted in the same way and I definitely understand the frustration. I'll try to explain why.

The Schematic is King

As an electrical engineer (well, wannabe electrical engineer in my case), the schematic is the most important reference when analyzing a circuit. "A picture is worth a thousand words". Doubly so for electrical engineers. It is the final result of a lengthy design process. For a programmer, the source code is the truth. It doesn't matter what you think the program does, it does exactly what's written in the source code.

It simply can't compete with a confusing wall-of-text where a user tries to describe his circuit. "I connected the battery to the resistor and then to the LED.". What the heck does that mean? A description without a schematic will be closed as Unclear what you're asking.

My "flowchart" for parsing a question goes something like this:

  1. Read the title.
  2. Read the first half of the first sentence.
  3. Look at the schematic.
  4. Read the rest of the question.

Note that I read and parse the schematic before I even start reading the rest of the question. This becomes the "truth", the reference.

Now, if the circuit is obviously incorrect, the first step is to verify that the user copied it correctly. There's really no point even continuing to read the question - the most important thing is to get a correct illustration so that everyone can discuss the same thing. The user may have built something else entirely. If it is "correct", then the answer will focus on why it will never work.

If the circuit is not obviously incorrect, but the question seems to contradict the circuit, the schematic wins. The answer will focus on how the diagram should be interpreted.

In summary

When someone posts a schematic and some text and equations, I assume the schematic to be correct and any discrepancies will be errors in the equations.

This is why it is so annoying when someone comes along and changes the schematic. For me, this makes me think something along the lines of What else did he miss?. The schematic is supposed to be the truth, and any mistake will cause everyone to waste their time.

In your particular question, one might for example start to question if you got the supply voltages right. You simply come across as sloppy. This is a consequence of the schematic being so important. Had you made a mistake when transcribing the equations, I don't think there would have been such a fuss.

What you can learn from this is that the schematic is "sacred", if you make a mistake you will waste a lot of people's time, some which may lose faith in you, and mark your question as "unclear" because they no longer trust that you have interpreted the original question correctly. Unfair? Maybe.

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You weren't downvoted for fixing the error, but for failing to notify Andy that his answer is obsoleted by your edit. This is a big deal, because now Andy's answer looks completely incorrect. I was in Andy's shoes, and have seen my answers downvoted because they were no longer in line with edited questions.

If you care enough about the bad rep you get, you should care just as much about the bad rep other people could get because of your edits.

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You simply pissed off one specific user. Indeed, it's not really the content of the post, but rather the sequence of events that led to the downvote. I don't know whether it is really justified or not, but I'm pretty sure that, had it affected another user, it may not have led to this. It isn't a rule the whole EE community obeys to. You've just been unlucky for this downvoting. But you got lucky to have an answer.

And regarding your question, I haven't looked at the details, but I've seen far worse posts. Don't let this discourage you from participating.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the response. +1, but Id like to leave the question open for others to weigh in. I hope its infrequent and Ill try to act accordingly in future posts, though difficult given the rapid time interval between posts. \$\endgroup\$ – OnStrike Oct 13 '16 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anayway, there would be no reason to close this meta question, even if you had a satisfying answer. Anyone must be able to answer anytime. And there will indeed probably be other answers (that may say the opposite I'm saying). \$\endgroup\$ – dim Oct 14 '16 at 7:36

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