So far I have asked three questions on the Software Engineering Stack Exchange site.

Two questions ended with a -1 score, one with a +1 score. (The very first question I asked there even spawned a thread here on meta; it also taught me a lot about how listening to advice makes things worse, and that the people on Software Engineering can't afford to "coddle them all" - and especially not newbies who got bad advice.)

As I read about someone that got a question ban for have two (out of five total) negatively rated question I worry:

Am I on the cusp of being question banned myself? What is wrong with my approach that I seem to be unable to ask good questions - what am I doing wrong?

I have tried to give back in the form of answers (which seem to have been well received), but what if those are having issues too, and the people upvoting or accepting my answer just don't see that they are low quality answers?

What can I do to improve my posts?

  • 1
    I'm relatively new to the site myself, but I'm under the impression that your worries are premature. People will downvote for different reasons, but later on, other people will upvote - so, it will take some time for a some sort of a consensus to form (regarding the quality/relevance/interestingness of the question). E.g., I saw your "testing inheritance hierarchies" question earlier, and thought it was interesting (I wanted to write an answer, but got caught up in other things). At the moment, the question is not <0, and there are a couple of answers there, so it can't be that bad, right? Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 14:38
  • Thanks you for your kind words. The "testing inheritance hierarchies" question did turn around from negative to positive (though this might be just from the additional exposure it got from being linked by this question). Still, I must assume that I did something wrong initially, as it was downvoted several times - all voters giving no comment nor hint on why they felt the question was "bad" or how I would be able to improve it... I can understand not leaving a comment if the "problem" with the question has already been clearly stated by others, but if there is no hint on what is wrong...
    – CharonX
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 9:04
  • @FilipMilovanović: why not make an answer from your comment? Sounds like a good one.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 15:22
  • 1
    CharonX, IMHO your "testing classes in inheritance hierarchies" is perfectly on-topic for this site. The only thing I noticed is, the example looks a little bit contrived and artificial to me, and hiding non-virtual functions in a derived class is IMHO often a code smell. Some people here in this community are very trigger-happy with the downvote button, but we cannot educate them to leave at least a minimal comment why they downvoted a question.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


The de facto standards of this site are both inscrutable and mercurial. You should strive to make the best questions you can, and try to follow any specific non-contradictory advice, but realize much of the negative moderation on this site says more about the voter than the question. You are spoiling their vision of a site full of perfect questions. In my experience, the only people who understand a problem adequately to ask a perfect question already know the answer.

  • First, know what you want. This is an all-too-obvious step that’s often overlooked. Often it’s not always clear to you (or others) what it is, exactly, that you’re in need of. The more clarity you can have about what you want, the better. Take the time to learn, figure out, or discover exactly what you want. Once you know what you want ($1M in funding, a date with a lady, a new bookshelf, a corner grocery store), it’s easier to ask for it.

  • Ground yourself in why you’re doing what you’re doing. Start from the heart center: before I ask others to join or respond, I check in with myself, asking with my heart and mind and body, making sure this is what I want and that it resonates with who I am and what I stand for.

  • Be direct, clear, and specific about what you want. Make it ridiculously clear what you’re asking for. Be direct about what you want, who it’s from, and when you need it, and what a desired outcome looks like. The more specific and direct you can be, the better.

  • Define the problem. What are you trying to solve?

    • Specify what it is, exactly, that you want. What materials, processes, steps, pieces, or people are involved to solve it? Is this made abundantly clear—and easier to read than an IKEA assembly manual?

    • Outline how much time, energy, money, or commitment you think it will take. Be clear about what the person will have to do to fulfill the request. If it’s a sale, specify when, where, and how they can get what you’re asking them to buy. There’s nothing like deciding you want something and realizing that the person who invited you didn’t put a “buy here” button on their website. Be direct. Put the ask up front and early, and again in the close of the message.


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