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Coming from other stack exchange sites, I have been a bit disturbed when I see so many vague questions like these (my personal reactions are included after the "<--"):

  • Basic QSO format <-- This question is very vague; it's hard to know how to respond because we don't know the circumstance(s) that confused the OP, and prompted him to ask
  • Which data mode and radio would provide the highest data rate for mobiles? <-- Is this a theoretical or practical question? Either way, we need more specifics about what the OP had in mind before we can give an answer. What is "enough range" for the OP? What is "fast enough"? etc...
  • How can I increase transmission distance? <-- What is the OP's baseline for comparison? What distance is he currently getting? How were these distances measured? Under what conditions? Using what radio / antenna setup?

What guidelines can we provide to help people who may not be familiar with Stack Exchange culture to integrate better into the community's expectations?

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I think some of those come from people who actually know the answer and are trying (with good intentions) to "seed" the site with questions.

I agree, however, that it'd be nice to see the overall question quality go up, even perhaps at the expense of slower growth in total number of questions. There are plenty of places one can go for basic answers to basic questions; let's make this SE site be about quality.

What you can do:

Add comments to questions that are too broad and/or missing context, asking clarifying questions an encouraging the poster to add the details to their question. Not only will it help that particular question, but others reading the site will see the comments and get a better idea of what is expected from those posting questions.

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I think there was some confusion here about the definition phase of the site on Area 51 and the private beta period. During the definition phase we ask questions that are representative of the types of questions we'd like to answer on the site; they aren't meant to be the actual questions that we begin with in the private beta period.

Some of these seem to be copies of, or based on the representative samples asked during the definition phase, and I think some folks just didn't realize how it worked. That's okay - these questions can be placed on hold to give us the opportunity to make them better questions, or ultimately closed and eventually deleted well before the public beta.

It's nice to see the community catching this so quickly; I'm sure we're not looking at the start of a quality problem, but perhaps just a bit of a fluke.

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  • $\begingroup$ Tim, thanks for the historical perspective... I'm a newcomer to the beta and did not think to look at the proposals. Going forward, I'll endeavor to check that angle and incorporate in any meta discussion. $\endgroup$ – Mike Pennington Oct 23 '13 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Note this bit from the private beta invitation email: “Ask difficult, specific questions — the kind of questions pros and experts ask each other, not the kind of questions novices ask pros, because a site full of pros and experts will attract everybody, but a site full of novices rapidly becomes boring. No easy questions, no survey questions, no polls, no intro-level/basic questions, no unanswerable hypothetical questions.” Assuming this is good advice, it seems like we have a problem. (I suspect it may be less problematic for amateur radio than some other communities, but...) $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Oct 23 '13 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinReid I'm pretty sure (well, a step beyond hoping) that this was a sort of localized phenomenon, but you're 100% correct that we need to keep diligent when it comes to favoring depth over breadth :) $\endgroup$ – Tim Post Oct 23 '13 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ That said - I think there's also an argument for having some beginner-level questions around, lest the site become intimidating... but I agree that the majority should be higher level at the start. $\endgroup$ – Amber Oct 23 '13 at 16:27
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May I politely suggest some general criteria for good questions... I'm sure other people could do a better job than I will, but this is my swing at answering...

Positive guidelines:

  • Explain why this question is relevant to you, the original poster. Preferably, help other readers understand why it's relevant to them as well.
  • Explain what problem you have, and the circumstances around the problem. Include relevant technical details like frequencies, radio, antenna, power measurements, etc...
  • Explain the solutions you have attempted so far
  • Highlight the exact question you have in the text
  • Take some cues from people who are more articulate than I am

Negative examples:

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In general, here's a few pointers to asking a great question.

  1. Be specific! Include as many details as you can to help others solve the problem. Country, band, mode, desired output, etc all are extremely helpful in many questions, for instance.
  2. Ask real questions that you either have, or have recently had. There should be a point to the question you are asking, one that will help you to benefit from said answer.
  3. Ideally there should be a right answer for your question, or at least, a small subset of right answers. You shouldn't ask a question that has a lot of right answers.
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