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During my short "tenure" here on EE.SE I've tried to get some rep despite not really being especially experienced when it comes to electronics. But badly formulated and/or unclear problems get considerably less attention from the 100k+ rep gurus so I've been trying to "help" a few OPs with their problems (mostly, it turns out, of the XY-variety).

Time and time again OPs suprise me by leaving out crucial details about their problem - details that would help solving the problem and help avoid XY etc.

The tour states:

Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do.

Thus it's not just me - this is official policy. Yet OPs leave out crucial stuff such as where and how their circuit is supposed to be mounted, if their project is constrained by hardware from some supplier already bought/ordered and which state their project is in (which to me is crucial).

Now some OPs are probably kids pretending to be non-kids (no joke), others are probably just clueless when it comes to communication. But I have a suspicion growing, I believe some OPs are working on "inventions" they're trying to keep secret. Why else keep crucial stuff secret?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Invetions" may be true for one question per month, but the vast majority is trying to hide the fact that they really want us to answer their homework assignments. \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Mar 1 '17 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ A golden rile of Stack Exchange is that we always assume good intentions. \$\endgroup\$ – user133290 Mar 4 '17 at 4:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I, too, suspect that some people are trying to protect their invention (or intellectual property) . I am an inventor, and have not posted questions because I didn't know how to do so without giving away the invention. I also don't yet know how to contact those on this site that I respect that I think could help me to get to the next step with my inventions, and provide for my family. I am a 51 year old Senior Software Developer of 15 years fallen on hard times. \$\endgroup\$ – MicroservicesOnDDD Nov 27 '18 at 15:02
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As per Hanlon's razor

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity,

There are a number of xy problems and equally missing information. Why is the information missing? the OP probably didn't think it was significant to write it or they were too engrossed in the micro-problem the macro-consideration's were overlooked.

While rubber duck debugging is more a sofare consideration, the same is true in hardware https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging

Many programmers have had the experience of explaining a programming problem to someone else, possibly even to someone who knows nothing about programming, and then hitting upon the solution in the process of explaining the problem. In describing what the code is supposed to do and observing what it actually does, any incongruity between these two becomes apparent.[2] More generally, teaching a subject forces its evaluation from different perspectives and can provide a deeper understanding.[3] By using an inanimate object, the programmer can try to accomplish this without having to interrupt anyone else.

This is only true if you describe the problem concise and clear enough

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  • \$\begingroup\$ And can I add to the Razor: 1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, and 2. Never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by a state of confusion. I am a Software Developer, and am not stupid, but trying to learn Power Electronics, so am often confused, and therefore ask questions that SOUND stupid (or lazy, or ...). For an example, see electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/363881/… \$\endgroup\$ – MicroservicesOnDDD Nov 27 '18 at 15:04
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Your "question" reads more like a rant, but on the off chance you are really asking, I'll try to answer or at least comment.

But badly formulated and/or unclear problems get considerably less attention

Of course. In fact, you'll probably notice that most of them are accumulating close votes or have already been closed. That's how we handle bad questions on SE. One point of closing is so that the questions gets no attention at all.

This is deliberate. We don't want people coming here, posting crap, and then getting the desired result. If they do, they'll just be back doing the same thing again. Also, others will see that it works, and they'll be doing it too.

Unfortunately, there will always be a few misguided do-gooders that want to help the poor OP, or can't resist answering something simple to look smart or rack up a few quick rep points. Because of these people, we have to close questions. That prevents everyone from answering.

I've been trying to "help" a few OPs with their problems

Don't do that. Keep the bigger picture in mind. At first glance it may sound good to help any one person. However, in the bigger scheme of things it actually damages the site to help those that dumped crap on us. See above.

If you really want to help, vote to close the question as unclear. Also downvote if you think it is badly written. Then you can ask the OP for clarification in a comment or suggest ways to improve the question. If the question is improved before 5 close votes accumulate, then OK. Otherwise, the close process will proceed without delay.

It is important that the OP make any changes to a bad question. That way he doesn't get away with dumping crap and getting the desired result. Only if he has to go thru the trouble of fixing the mess himself does the cost/benefit tradeoff change to posting better questions in the first place.

Note that most of the time, there is no response to such comments. Waiting to close in that case just leaves the noise on the site longer.

Yet OPs leave out crucial stuff

Well, duh! Is this your first experience on the internet or something? Of course they do.

Those of us who haven't just emerged from living in a cave know that there are plenty of stupid and lazy people in this world. Some of them inevitably visit here. We can't fix that. What we can fix is how we respond to them. By insisting on a minimum quality level for question before help is given, the morons, ingrates, and sloths are discouraged.

Now some OPs are probably kids pretending to be non-kids (no joke), others are probably just clueless when it comes to communication

Probably true, although irrelevant. Bad questions are bad questions regardless of the reason, and must be expediently dispensed with as such.

But I have a suspicion growing, I believe some OPs are working on "inventions" they're trying to keep secret.

Maybe, but again, that's irrelevant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is quite a comprehensive answer, so let me summarise. You believe adjectives applicable to SE users are "rant, crap, misguided, crap, crap, mess, lazy, stupid, morons, ingrates, and sloths". You don't mean me though do you :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Uszak Mar 1 '17 at 23:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Paul: Not unless you post crap too. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 1 '17 at 23:35
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I agree with your statement only insofar that OP's leave out critical details and assume it does not matter.

I have been trying to educate users to write clear specs to define what the design must do with all important assumptions. This can be laborious in the real world, but essential in this newbie microscosm of Electronics and engineering.

A design must define the environment, all inputs and outputs and functions in every way necessary to explain the problem. Learning how to think is critical for design and how to define a problem , otherwise it is inadequate to improve questions.

However some of us have crystal balls and understand what they mean even when insufficient info is given.

I think the Hanlon's razor theorem is correct but a bit harsh. It is not that we are stupid, we just haven't gained the experience for attention to details until we reach Journeyman or Senior levels of experience.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree Hanlon in its quotable sense is harsh & that is why when I deal with my colleagues I mentally include: Ignorance, inexperience, arrogance as in essence its the same. \$\endgroup\$ – JonRB Mar 1 '17 at 17:02
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Time and time again OPs suprise me by leaving out crucial details about their problem - details that would help solving the problem and help avoid XY etc.

If you need clarification there is a box beneath the answers that you can comment with.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I know, and without it SE would not work. Some great feedback is given in comments and some questions are salvaged when the OP is willing and able to communicate. Perhaps the secrecy I'm sensing is in my head after all since no-one else seems to recognize it \$\endgroup\$ – user1890202 Mar 2 '17 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user: It might not be all in your head. After all, sometimes paranoid people are persecuted too. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 3 '17 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop I think this falls outside the definition of paranoia - but thanks anyway for your support ;) \$\endgroup\$ – user1890202 Mar 3 '17 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user1890202 you keep saying "secrecy" but you have failed to mention any singular example of this suspected secrecy. List some examples in your post. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Mar 3 '17 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry but I wasn't keen on pointing fingers. In this post the OP asked for a small PSU for his project - of course everyone instinctively thought that he should stick to "wallwarts" since none of his aversion towards them made any sense, that is until hours later he admits to me that he wants mount his project inside an "electric junction box" where a lightswitch would normally go. \$\endgroup\$ – user1890202 Mar 3 '17 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ So he did have a legit reason not to use a wallwart - had he stated this from the very beginning I'm sure he would have had better response from the community and his question might not have been closed (which @laptop2d among others voted for) \$\endgroup\$ – user1890202 Mar 3 '17 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user1890202 It got closed because it the OP was 1) asking for a product recommendation and 2) Didn't ask a question. Either one of those alone would get the question closed. At that point the user needs to go back to the help center, read on how to write a good question and edit their question to conform with SE policy. Or they could leave it closed so the rest of the community can stop wasting their time reading bad questions. BTW you should go to the help center and do some reading if you haven't done so already. \$\endgroup\$ – Voltage Spike Mar 3 '17 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not questioning it being closed, @laptop2d, it was the right thing to do. If anything the poster wasn't cooperating :( I'll of course do some more reading in the help center. \$\endgroup\$ – user1890202 Mar 3 '17 at 22:36

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