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I'm new to both Amateur Radio (licensed ~4 months) and the ham.stackexchange.com site. However I am well experienced on StackOverflow and understand the site format very well.

Of concern to me is that the majority (> 50%) of the questions being posted are NOT legitimate questions from someone wanting to learn something they don't know/understand. They are usually fabricated questions (by "core users") to elicit a desired answer (kind of like Jeopardy asking the question after you know the answer you want).

I think this may be in part due to a previous campaign for content: Please post questions!

While I understand there is a desire to produce "fresh content" and get this site to reach "critical mass" - the current content is a big turn off to a new hams like me as it lacks authenticity. (Note the comments on that meta post to avoid "seeding").

In many cases these questions will go against what I believe are standard practices on most of stackexchange. For example multiple compound questions, too broad or too vague, opinion based/subjective or worst unanswerable. I don't want to start stomping around as someone new here, but I feel like many of these questions should be flagged/closed (and I'm certainly confused how they get voted up?).

I saw this question when first posted: How can I know over what distance or at what speed I can communicate?

I don't think that is a good question at all and certainly not deserving of a long winded wikipedia post or the up-votes it did receive. This style of question would be closed very quickly on stackoverflow under almost all of the criteria above (compound question, too broad, too vague, unanswerable, subjective, etc.)

I also saw a series of leading questions like: Why are some electrical connectors silver plated?

I may be picking on a few recent posts - there is no targeting intended. But I do check the site daily and have found this to be an overall trend for a while.

We don't need to regurgitate the entire collective human knowledge concerning amateur radio just to "produce content". Especially if the questions are fabricated by experienced users. (This particular question was "seeding" I think, I don't think anyone would search in this fashion and there are many more reputable/authentic sources online for information on this).

I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that we stop fabricating questions, and work on actually helping new hams (like me). If the site is actually helpful, it will naturally succeed, if the site is not actually helpful it will die no matter how much content we fabricate/duplicate.

The plea to post questions can be taken too far. If the top 20 posts are a half-dozen fabricated questions from 3-4 core users, the site starts to "smell funny".

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First off, let me welcome you to both the site and to the hobby. I notice you have a fair bit of rep on Stack Overflow as well as are asking this on Meta, so I'm assuming you're familiar with how the Stack Exchange network works.

To begin with in answering, one of the questions you point at, How can I know over what distance or at what speed I can communicate?, about which you say:

I don't think that is a good question at all and certainly not deserving of a long winded wikipedia post or the up-votes it did receive. This style of question would be closed very quickly on stackoverflow under almost all of the criteria above (compound question, too broad, too vague, unanswerable, subjective, etc.)

That's a pretty bad example of a bad question actually, precisely because it has been closed, and was closed several hours before your post. Or, more accurately, the question has been put on hold for now, but I personally don't really see how it can be reworded in such a way that it'll be eligible for reopening. Yes, it has received a few upvotes, but unfortunately there's often a discrepancy between upvotes/downvotes, close votes/flags and topicality on any particular site, especially a site where a question may actually be on topic but at the same time a poor fit for the Stack Exchange format. There's nothing wrong with asking about radio propagation on the Amateur Radio Stack Exchange, but in my opinion that question is way too broad to be answerable on the site. The self-answer even pretty much admits as much, stating toward the end that the list of factors influencing the answer "goes on".

Also, vote down is a 125 rep privilege. You're at 208 currently, and downvoting questions doesn't even cost reputation the way it used to (although downvoting answers costs a tiny bit of rep). One of the questions you linked to have no downvotes at all, and the other has a single downvote. If you come across questions that you feel deserve a downvote, you should exercise that privilege. Lots of people prefer if a comment is left about why a question or answer is downvoted, but that is not required and post votes are completely anonymous; not even us diamond moderators can see who votes how for what.

On Stack Exchange, self-answers are explicitly allowed and even encouraged. Specifically:

To encourage people to [answer their own questions], there is a checkbox at the bottom of the page every time you ask a question. If you have more than 15 reputation and already know the answer, click the checkbox that says "Answer your own question" at the bottom of the Ask Question page. Type in your answer, then submit both question and answer together.

Also note that even accepted self-answers only float based on their votes; accepted self-answers do not float to the top the way accepted answers posted by others do.

Also, specifically for the second question that you link to, Why are some electrical connectors silver plated?, the highest-voted answer currently is not even the OP's own; the OP's own answer to that question has received no upvotes, indicating that the community does not feel it is a particularly good answer.

It is my opinion that a question (or for that matter answer) should be judged on its own merits, not on who posts it or whether a question is self-answered or not. If the question is useful and on-topic, then whether it is self-answered or whether it is posted by a newcomer or long-time user should be for all intents and purposes irrelevant. If the question is not useful or is off-topic, then that also shouldn't matter.

If you come across questions that you feel are not related to Amateur Radio, by all means please do use the "flag" feature to flag them for moderator attention (or using one of the more specific flag reasons if they apply), and we'll have a look at it.

If you have some question of your own that you cannot find an answer to on the site and which you feel would be on-topic, please do ask it! After all, that's what the site is for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the input. Just FYI, I did start writing my meta post the night before officially timestamped. The life of a new dad. :-) I didn't want to re-write my post just because the question was later put on hold. But I appreciate you took the time to write out your thoughts. $\endgroup$ – BenSwayne Feb 17 '14 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'd point out that in the case of silver plated connectors, the OP's answer now has equal upvotes, and had less because it was a newer. I'd also point out the OP would have accepted the other answer, had the author of that other answer been willing to edit his question to clarify errors that were illuminated in the comments. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 19 '14 at 19:55
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Since I asked those questions, I'll tell you why I asked them.

On the question of propagation, I asked that question because that question, with some incomplete or irrelevant details added, are very common here. There doesn't seem to be any interest in closing those questions (or any at all, really...) so I thought it would be better to have a canonical answer that wasn't colored with a bunch of false premises or irrelevant information. This way, at least the inevitable brief answers to other similar questions can link to a more complete explanation of why none of the answers are saying much of anything.

However, it seems that my question isn't as valid, because I left the irrelevant details out. Adam Davis asked essentially the same question, which didn't get closed. The answer to that question is exactly the same, but because it includes an irrelevant anecdote about how he has a VHF rig, and a list of mutually exclusive requirements, I guess it's not too broad. I can still imagine a whole book as an answer, but I guess the anecdote makes it more approachable, or something.

I asked Why are some electrical contacts gold plated? because in the span of just a few days, I saw people writing answers suggesting gold was a better conductor than copper, which simply isn't true. (There were some others, but I can't find them as they have been edited). There is a reason gold plating is used for connectors, but it's not because gold is a better conductor than copper. I thought it would be good to have some correct information out there. Why are some electrical connectors silver plated? was a natural outgrowth of that, because silver plating actually is used in (good) RF connectors.

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  • $\begingroup$ I totally understand your motivation. I think its great that you want to improve the knowledge base! I just think it was the wrong format for this kind of site. I don't think people will search about gold plated connectors with the style of question posted - it read more like a 'FAQ' than a natural/organic question from someone learning. This isn't to say its not valuable info - I just want to see this stuff come naturally from people rather than trying to pre-post a bunch of question-answers for what we think people might ask. $\endgroup$ – BenSwayne Feb 17 '14 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ @BenSwayne what's wrong with an FAQ? There's a "frequent" tab on the questions page. What do you think that is? Have you ever heard of the Socratic method? $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 18 '14 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ Phil, I think you've missed the point entirely. Feel free to re-read my post to try and gain a better understanding of what I was trying to communicate. You missed the whole underlying message about authenticity, and answering questions rather than generating questions for stuff you want to tell people. The frequent tab is for "frequently ASKED questions" not frequently generated jeopardy questions. If the question has indeed come up lots before, consider answering and voting up those previous questions, not generating a new "question to rule them all". Otherwise, don't generate it. $\endgroup$ – BenSwayne Feb 18 '14 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @BenSwayne I think you missed my point entirely. When those frequently asked questions are all crap, and include irrelevant information or anecdotes, and the answers are all overly simple, brief, or wrong, they don't make a good FAQ. Take a look at the frequent tab on electronics.SE: most of the questions there were asked by people who already knew the answer. Look on stackoverflow, and most of the frequent questions are community wiki. When there are enough people here to make good community wiki answers, that's great, but we aren't even close yet. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 18 '14 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ Phil, the point of all stackexchange sites allowing almost ANYONE (with min. rep) to edit any question or answer, comment to request the original poster improve the question, or when community is big enough have wiki answers is to exactly address all of what you just said. There is still no reason to generate new fake questions! Go back and improve bad questions/answers by editing, commenting, voting, etc as the stackexchange architecture is design for. This is all MANY TIMES more effective in helping the community and allows everyone to grow in the process. $\endgroup$ – BenSwayne Feb 18 '14 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @BenSwayne so, do you think I should go edit Adam's question and remove his anecdote? Should I go to the incomplete questions and just fabricate information to complete them? Edits are to improve answers, adding links, correcting language, clarifying and so on, not radically changing the meaning. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 18 '14 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Phil, sorry for taking some time to get back to you (I've been crazy busy at work lately). A (the) major difference between the two is that the question What bands and modes will give me voice at 3,000 miles? states a goal and asks how to achieve it, whereas your question asks for a list of factors that influences the outcome. That, to me, is almost a textbook example of the difference between a list question and a non-list question. It becomes even more so when even the self-answer admits that it doesn't give the complete list. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 21 '14 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling The only difference is that "voice at 3000 miles" presupposes that such a list could be completed. How is this better than asking it outright, and getting a clear "no" answer? If you think questions like this have value, what would you if I started asking "What bands and modes will give me voice at X miles?", for all X between 0 and the circumference of the earth? The answer to all of them is the same: propagation is unpredictable, just about anything will work with enough transmission power, and there's no such thing as a free lunch. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 21 '14 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I'd also point out that the question I asked, the one you closed, is the only one to mention Shannon's law, which is a really relevant concept that actually is some useful information. All the other questions have generated is variations on the theme, "you can't really predict..." When you strip away all the bad premises, and ask a question for what it really is, sometimes you get something useful, instead of four paragraphs on how the question is bad. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 21 '14 at 22:00

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