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I recently asked a question that has been a disaster since the beginning, but I don't think I have learnt my lesson. What did I do wrong?

My question was about identifying an unlabelled component in a device I was repairing.

Preparation:

First, I checked that such questions were on-topic by looking for other examples. I found the tag and read the tag description:

Identify chips, connectors, cables, and other components, usually from photographs.

Perfect.

(This was before the recent meta question: Is it on-topic to ask "please identify this connector"? Early voting suggests that it is on-topic.)

Asking the question:

I included a picture and a description, and showed what I had already worked out and some steps I had taken. I did not request any recommendations, brands or suppliers. I asked for the item to be identified.

The included photograph was large and dominated over the text, so I used a standard technique - shrunk the image and allowed people to click to enlarge once they decided they were interested in downloading it.

Unfriendly feedback about picture sizes:

I received some unfriendly feedback for one of the site's top users, complaining about having to go to the effort to click on a link to see the image. The user didn't attempt to edit the question to improve it or politely make a suggestion, but just rudely sniped. (The fact that I don't need to name the person, but you know who I am talking about should be very telling.)

I explained my reasons, and reminded them of the Stack Exchange Code of Conduct, which they dismissed as being unnecessary to follow because it was poor advice.

I mentally dismissed their comments as trolling behaviour, wondered whether that was generally considered acceptable behaviour here and asked to hear only from people willing to follow the Code of Conduct. (That request still stands on this question.)

These comments were later deleted.

Receiving an answer

I received an answer from @ali-chen. It was hugely helpful and I am grateful. In particular, it introduced me to the short notation for batteries based on their dimensions. That was the information that allowed me to find what I needed - which didn't exactly match the example given. A supplier was given in the example, but I ignored that as they aren't local. It wasn't the important part.

I upvoted and accepted the answer.

This was the only part of this process that went right.

Claims of Off-topic

Some comments appeared explaining that asking for recommendations is off-topic.

I responded by reassuring that I wasn't asking for a recommendation of a brand or supplier, just help identifying the component.

These comments were all later deleted.

Question closed as Off-topic

The question was voted closed. The reason given was it was asking for a recommendation. (I don't recall the exact wording.)

Again, this isn't an opinion-based recommendation question. I understand why those are off-topic. It was an identification question.

I flagged it for moderator attention, explaining this.

Question migrated to Super User

The question was migrated by a mod to Super User. The justification for this is a mystery to me. I have a PCB in front of me, not a CLI.

Migrated rejected by Super User

Apparently the Super User mods agreed; they rejected the migration. Now the question is On Hold for being out of scope.

Summary

I am relatively naive about electronic engineering; I accept that my question may have been ignorant and low-level.

I am a relative newbie here; I accept that I may have broken some rules or not understood the community's mores, despite my specific efforts to avoid this.

I am also content that I got the information I needed, and I am thankful.

However, the whole experience was unpleasant and hostile - and worst of all, it hasn't been a learning experience. I can't see what I did wrong, so I can make sure the next question I ask doesn't make the same mistake and get the same treatment.

Is anyone willing to politely explain where I went wrong?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can only imagine who that troll was, but yeah, unkind and rude comments get thrown around everywhere, as well has rejections of the flags on those comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 29 '18 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby I think we all know who it was. \$\endgroup\$ – MCG Aug 30 '18 at 11:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ In all fairness, this is not really an identification question, since it is not about a component but a blue plastic blob with a wire attached to it. In theory it could be anything. Asking about a component would be to rip out the battery cells and count how many there are. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Aug 30 '18 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lundin: I am afraid I don't get your point. The blue plastic blob was a electronic component. I explained it was a battery. I gave dimensions and suspected voltages. What I didn't know was that there is a "short notation" for such batteries that seems to be secret knowledge because even Wikipedia hasn't heard of it [at least to my reading]. Ripping out individual cells wouldn't have helped anyone. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Aug 30 '18 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oddthinking To those working with electrical engineering, components are integrated circuits, diodes, resistors, transistors, connectors etc. Or battery cells. This is a battery pack, a collection of several battery cells, connectors, possibly some Li/Ion supervisor circuit, possibly a PTC or similar protection, possibly diodes for reverse polarity protection and so on. It is a whole product not a component. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Aug 30 '18 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lundin: So, by that definition, you would also reject this question? \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Aug 30 '18 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I would, but that's my personal opinion. Questions about "what is this electronic thingie" don't hold much value to anyone, unlike questions about "what is this component". \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Aug 30 '18 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whole module are still components. Electrical engineers work with modules all the time, for multiple reasons @lundin. It's unreasonable to expect every electrical engineer uses bare battery cells and recreate the wheel for every project instead of using off the shelf components like battery packs. If you want to use your logic, every IC should be broken down to transistor count. An IC is just a collection of parts after all. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 30 '18 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ My 2 cents: I like the way you asked the question. You got a useful answer. Everything else that happened is just noise and can be safely ignored. \$\endgroup\$ – Annie Aug 30 '18 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ As of now, your original question is open and has 6 apparent upvotes (8 up, 2 down). Apparently someone thinks your question was just fine. I do, too, by the way. Regardless, I just went and fixed it up in an attempt to make everyone happy :) I resized and embedded the picture, and changed the wording around a bit. I hope this experience won't stop you from future contributions! \$\endgroup\$ – bitsmack Aug 31 '18 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ This forum has a narrow tolerance to repair questions with a narrow interest, but can be made more attractive with some info on the unit make/model , dimensions and history of symptoms if it was working then failed and why. Then consider asking “what criteria should considered for searching for an equivalent or better part?” Look for similar questions using search 1st for clues on format from the votes. Although I see this question is very articulate and well written suitable for Meta answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Aug 31 '18 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lundin press fit components, idc connectors, plug in modules, friction/spring connections, battery packs, light pipes, zebra strips and LCDs are all things that aren't soldered but still handled and considered components by a assembly company, from the top of my head. And cars can be components, of like trailer or camper systems ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Sep 1 '18 at 1:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lundin Sorry, but you are only trying to nitpick, IMO. What is considered a component is often context-dependent. So for you a monolithic IC is an electronic component, whereas a (for example) buck converter module is not. Then, what about an RF hybrid module? Someone call those hybrid ICs. What about an oscillator module? It has roughly the external aspect of a quartz crystal, but it also contains an oscillator IC and its package is sealed. Where do you draw the line (without hyperbolic counterexamples like cars and the like)? ... \$\endgroup\$ – Lorenzo Donati Sep 11 '18 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lundin ... My point is simply that we should consider "component" any subsystem that requires substantial EE knowledge to integrate in an electronic design. We should exert common sense pursuing the bigger picture: having good EE Qs&As. And sometimes questions that aren't great attract great answers. Why? Because we have great users that can "read the mind" of the questioner and give a useful answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Lorenzo Donati Sep 11 '18 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lundin ... I mean: some people can understand the need of the asker and answer the question he should have asked, but he wasn't able to ask (my best professor at the uni had this astounding magic power, and I always appreciate when someone does the same). \$\endgroup\$ – Lorenzo Donati Sep 11 '18 at 19:32
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Some people here get angry if you include "where to buy" or "so I can buy one" in identification questions. Even though that's plainly implied in the very nature of the question.

Others get angry about repair questions, even though they are explicitly on topic if the poster has sufficient knowledge or repair know-how. Heavy handed moderation follows those, including unwarranted migrations. This is not a repair question, even if the underlying reason for the ID request is a repair. so it shouldn't be closed for that.

Maybe someone thinks it's too simple a question (tbh I think So, considering the details you added).

Truth is that even though you follow all the rules, it got closed and is unlikely to be reopened. Even more so now that the same mod has removed the reopen votes on your question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe it's somehow not a repair question, but how is it a design question? \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Aug 29 '18 at 22:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThePhoton Part identification is on topic and part of design. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 29 '18 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't say that part identification is part of design, but it's a big part of learning how to design - identifying what more experienced engineers use in practice. \$\endgroup\$ – pipe Aug 30 '18 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ So your answer to the question is: You did nothing wrong. Right? \$\endgroup\$ – Arsenal Aug 30 '18 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem with this question is the same as the problem with the problematic sort of repair questions: the asker did not investigate the issue by collecting and presenting detailed information about the mystery object to which engineering methods could be applied. Instead they posted a picture of some blue shrink wrap with a wire sticking out of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 2 '18 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton: I explained it was a rechargeable battery, the dimensions and the voltages. Not unexpectedly, that was all the information required. (What I didn't know was the short form notation for batteries that Wikipedia also doesn't seem to know about.) \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oddthinking if you read Lundin's comments you'll start to understand why dimensions and voltage are far from the only things which matter. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Sep 2 '18 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton that's basically towing the line of "if you don't know the answer, don't ask". \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Sep 5 '18 at 22:57
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You can learn a great deal on stackexchange. This is partly because the bulk of the higher ranked contributors have learned a great deal of theory, and partly because they have a great deal of experience applying that theory in jobs that are pretty demanding about not only meeting design goals, but ALSO meeting them on budget and on time. This leads to having a culture where a successful engineer will expect to get his own work done, and any help he provides to a coworker or a poster on stackexchange should respect his time is valuable. Or in other words, you can not only learn elements of electronic theory here, you can also learn how best to interact with the folks that will be supervising you in internships while in engineering school or in your first few jobs while you acquire your own experience. I am not an engineer, but I can assure you from my experience working as a technician in a support role to engineers, that half baked questions are usually not well received. The phrase "unfriendly feedback about picture sizes" suggests that while you realize this community may have answers to your questions, you may not be as aware of the engineering culture tending to be demanding that a question provide easy access to the information needed to answer it.

I personally feel that the newer guidelines that are asking folks to "be nice" to contributors are perhaps doing a disservice to the folks that are training to be engineers. Because when you finish your degree and get a job, you will surely be met with terse and "unfriendly" answers. So the value for learning theory remains, but the learning experience of communicating with colleagues gets watered down.

That said, if you want help identifying a part, I would recommend a using a camera that gives an enlarged picture of the part and possibly even a second picture with further zoom. If part numbers are visible in the picture; make sure that they are typed in the text of the question, and you mention what you found google searching on those numbers. In most cases, it will also be important to break out a caliper and give dimensional information on the part as well. When the question is presented in a fashion that the person reading it has all the information they are likely to need to help you without requesting more then it shows getting the answer is worth your time and effort. When you demonstrate getting an answer is worth your time and effort, then you will usually find that you get answers; often with more information than you requested. It is not uncommon that the person answering the question had to walk forty miles of bad road before and knows the answer to your immediate question, but useful alternatives as well. An engineer that I worked for insulted me for asking a half baked question, and a couple of days later on a well researched question, responded with an answer and bringing in one of his old college textbooks and xeroxing 25 pages of the relevant theory for me to read.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So engineers that are experienced are allowed to be rude because they have something to teach you? In my opinion, they don't have to. If they do, it just means they lack communication skills. \$\endgroup\$ – dim Sep 2 '18 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I made no statement of permission to be rude at all. But I did try to communicate that when I put effort into asking for help, even the folks who were inclined to be rude were very helpful to me. I also think that when someone behaves in a manner that can be called offensive; it is still my choice whether or not to take offense or just edit my question. \$\endgroup\$ – steverino Sep 2 '18 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer makes some assumptions about my experience levels that are inaccurate. I am quite familiar with dealing with belligerent people who feel they have a right to be rude or bullying just because they have experience, authority or an engineering degree. I don't like to bow to them, as you suggest, because that will embolden them to be ruder. It also means that we will (continue to) lose diversity in our organisations and industries from people who cannot tolerate this behaviour and see they cannot get support from us to stop it. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fortunately, the Stack Exchange organisation understands this, and hence has established a code of conduct and processes to guide people to follow it. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I am not an experienced Electronic Engineer, I am familiar with the need to provide easy access to the information needed to answer it. I am familiar with asking, answering and editing questions on SE. This is part of the reason the comments missed the mark (and the patronising follow-up comments about how I need to try to imagine what it is like to be a volunteer answering questions.) \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was aware of that the photo did not convey much information - it was still necessary and useful for context, but there wasn't much detail that could be discerned from it: the photo showed a featureless plastic-wrapped component. Underneath the plastic wrap was an unmarked metal plate. There was nothing to zoom in on. There were no part numbers. Had there been any, I would have been able to google them, and I probably never would had to come to Electronics.SE for help. I did provide dimensional information. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Instead, the only useful information was the dimensions, that I provided in the text. Had I used a full sized picture, that text would have been pushed off the screen. Further, most of the people who read a question are NOT going to answer it. By having a large picture, it takes longer for them to see that this isn't a question for them. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: There was sufficient information for an answer for anyone who had the insider knowledge that rectangular batteries are specified with a "short notation" - the very thing I was ignorant about, despite my Google searching. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand some people disagree aesthetically with my decision. That's not a big deal. Someone made an edit (in a brief window while the question was reopened) and I didn't dispute the edit. At its heart was a minor formatting issue: not a Close reason, not a sign of rudeness to readers, not a signal of a "half-baked" question and not an invitation for scorn. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Everything you say about engineers is true, but I would like it to be less true. We, as a profession, are not "reproducing" quickly enough. At my job, we have more positions open than will ever be filled, and I'm sure the rest of you have the same problem. If we keep gatekeeping, this problem only gets worse. I don't mean we should tolerate half-baked questions, but you can point out a problem with a question without turning it into a personal attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Annie Sep 4 '18 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ When I was starting in EE as a teenage girl, I remember being belittled by men my father's age (a small minority, thank goodness). Nothing was going to stop me from being an engineer, but it was damn hard sometimes. Noobies don't always ask good questions; that's just the way it is. When you already feel like you don't quite fit because of race/gender/whatever, being belittled can be the last straw. I'm grateful for the kindness I've met from the majority of people in my profession. It would have been a hellish life without it. \$\endgroup\$ – Annie Sep 4 '18 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Annie: I guarantee you if your employer offered 1 mil/year they'll have no problem filling those positions. \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Sep 6 '18 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @Annie; the rudeness is endemic, unnecessary, and puts off a lot of people. There's a contingent that wants to put off people so they won't be bothered. This is bad enough in the workplace but ridiculous on a volunteer help site. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Sep 6 '18 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @whatsisname, my industry will pay $1M/year as soon as y'all are willing to pay $8,000 for a smartphone. \$\endgroup\$ – Annie Sep 6 '18 at 16:18
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I explained the problem with that question, but you refused to listen. I probably voted to close as unclear originally, since the question as posted was, and still is, unclear.

No, I'm not going to click on anything to get essential information to the question. Links are OK for reference information, like a datasheet, but not for a picture that is essential to the question. Your question was basically "What is this?", but "this" was placed elsewhere.

Stop and actually think about what it is like to be a volunteer here trying to answer your question. "Tell me what this is, but you'll have to go fetch it first" is downright rude. Not gonna happen. We'll vote to close for the nearest handy reason and move on.

Your reason for posting that ridiculous thumbnail instead of a proper picture does not make any sense. You said something about the picture "dominating" the text. Huh? What? This site allows pictures up to 640 pixels wide. A properly focused and trimmed picture at that size would have been perfectly fine. If that "dominates" the text that says "What is this", so what? What does that even mean anyway? Look around, and you'll see that's how its done.

Saying that we could click on the picture to see a larger version if we wanted to was also borderline insulting because clearly we needed to.

When you go out of your way to make things difficult for volunteers you are seeking a favor from, they aren't going to react the way you want. I voted to close because the question by itself (without clicking on anything) was unclear, but also because I felt you didn't deserve any answer. Questions like that shouldn't succeed. I didn't downvote until later, when you argued about my perception of your question instead of fixing it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You will forgive me for ignoring you. I don't see you as a member of the Stack Exchange community if you won't agree to the Code of Conduct. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Aug 30 '18 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ You downvoted and close vote to attack the user, per your own words? \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 30 '18 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like he downvoted and voted to close because there were problems with the question, to me (... and I HAVE raised flags on comments under the new NOT NICE RULES, to have them declined, but the comments seem to disappear anyway. Thinking of a meta discussion) \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Aug 30 '18 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oddthinking I don't see a problem with Olins action, he is acting as a single user and is free to vote as he wants. The worst offense that has happened to the question is that a diamond mod has taken upon himself to kill your question and prevent people from reopening it. I have no clue what's going on there. There's a meta question about his actions now. \$\endgroup\$ – pipe Aug 30 '18 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Odd: If you want others to be nice to you, you have to be nice to them. Abusing the volunteers, then running and hiding behind the be nice policy doesn't work. People are still going to be people, whether someone writes a "policy" or not. I did you the favor of explaining why I voted to close, and what you could do about it. I then later did you the favor of explaining why I downvoted, and what to fix for me to undo it. Consider that this took some volunteer effort. If you're going to be rude in response, then you'll end up with anonymous down and close votes in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Aug 30 '18 at 20:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passe: As you really should be able to understand, the close vote was because the question was unclear with the thumbnail image. As with all close votes, it was also to prevent a bad question from getting the desired result. Think about it. If we didn't have misguided do-gooders that would answer bad questions anyway, we wouldn't need the close mechanism. I didn't downvote right away. I gave him a chance to fix it first. I gave up when he got snippy instead of fixing the problem. I would still remove the downvote if the OP (not a bystander) were to fix the question, and then ping me. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Aug 30 '18 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ An "unclear" question is one where you have to guess the intent of the questioner and thus cannot provide a good answer. A dislike for the format of the question doesn't make it unclear. Those who do not object to the format are not misguided do-gooders. \$\endgroup\$ – Annie Aug 30 '18 at 21:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I find a lot of posts from you on meta are saying something along the lines of "what you did was disrespectful/rude/insulting/... because I had to click one time too many to get to the core of your question"... Well, this really isn't what disrespectful means. Maybe you mean "unwise" or "annoying", but "disrespectful" suggests a willingness to hurt intentionally, which clearly is not the case. I respect you a lot, but I'm amazed to see how you can get offended by questions that don't totally conform to your personal standards. \$\endgroup\$ – dim Aug 31 '18 at 11:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dim that was well said. I am sure a lot of people will agree with you. We respect Olin and his knowledge but quite often the reasons for things being 'rude/insulting' etc are a bit ridiculous. Almost like the engineering version of a so called 'snowflake'. Anything they don't agree with offends them! Lol \$\endgroup\$ – MCG Sep 5 '18 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ If clicking the mouse once is excessive effort for you, then I suggest, for your own health, that you leave the site and do not come back until you regain some strength. \$\endgroup\$ – hobbs Sep 11 '18 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @hob: Really? It was made quite clear it's about respect for the volunteers, not the effort. Also clicking on unknown links of questionable heritage is not a good idea. When I'm spending my free time, I get to make the rules of what other need to do for it to get spent the way they want. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Sep 11 '18 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really. Making in issue of something so trivial demolishes any pretense that you are attempting to act in good faith. And the bit about "unknown links of questionable heritage" is either deliberate obfuscation, or else you have failed, in 7+ years, to notice the host used for every image uploaded to StackExchange. \$\endgroup\$ – hobbs Sep 11 '18 at 17:41
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My question was about identifying an unlabelled component in a device [an old portable hard-drive] I was repairing.

Repair questions are off-topic on EE.SE.

Repair question about a hard drive could be, potentially, on-topic for SuperUser. That was the rationale for migrating it. SuperUsers deemed it otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Repair questions are not off topic, and this was not a repair question. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 30 '18 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Passe Even though you've seen this close reason hundreds of times, I'll quote it here for you: "Questions on the repair of consumer electronics, appliances, or other devices must involve specific troubleshooting steps and demonstrate a good understanding of the underlying design of the device being repaired. See also: Is asking on how to fix a faulty circuit on topic?" \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Aug 30 '18 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ even though you ignored the second part of the close reason hundred of times, or that this isn't a repair question. Doesn't mention repair nor is OP asking "how do I fix this?". \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Aug 30 '18 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ A question about identifying a battery pack is clearly off topic for SU. \$\endgroup\$ – mbrig Aug 31 '18 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mbrig The question is about finding a replacement part to repair a hard drive. Hard drives and computer repairs aren't off-topic for SU. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Aug 31 '18 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am upvoting this answer because it was the one that most directly explained why it was closed. Upon reading it, I dug into a lot of old meta posts about the repair issue - I see it is controversial. I can appreciate that "My hard-drive doesn't work. What's wrong with it?" questions are going to be painful, but when I look at the listed downsides of repair questions, I don't think my question exhibited them. I hope, over time, the issue of what makes a repair question problematic can be thrashed out, so bad questions can be closed and the better ones saved. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddthinking Sep 2 '18 at 18:12

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