According to Delete votes and you!:

Closed posts are all "candidates for deletion" but generally only irrecoverably off topic/poor questions without useful information in answers should be deleted.

I don't know how to determine what "generally" is. Is it just consensus among the community?

To be concrete: I'm new to the Workplace site, and I asked this question, which is a wall of text and apparently too vague.

I have been told before:

I can tell from your choice of sentence structure that you love words. You love using them, you love putting them together to form sentences. These are all good things. What would improve your language is learning how to say things more succicintly. Or, as Picard once told Data, "Don't Babble."

While I can easily see that he has a valid point (apart from slight arrogance, I envy his writing style), I don't know how I should improve this.

Anyway, since I would still like good inputs like pap's, but I see that other people don't like my question, I'm left to ask:

When should I delete the question?

I mean, this is a community: while askers are trying to get help, they're also responsible for contributing to the Q&A site, so it should all fit under the consensus of the community, right?

2 Answers 2


First - I'll say that I vote to close when I am fairly sure that I can't edit a question to the point of useful-asnwer generation without either obliterating or massively changing the original question's intent. That leads to two typical cases:

1- the intent is unclear - the question is so poorly written, or it is so obscured by other text that I really can't find it.

2 - the intent runs directly counter to our FAQ - so if I edit it to fit our mission, I will generate a question that doesn't serve the poster's obvious purpose.

Your question has a bit of both.

First tip - clarity in asking

When @jmort253 says to "Edit it down to a paragraph or two", he means to spend approximately 1 paragraph telling us why you are asking and what hasn't worked in the past. Reading your backstory, for example, I'm left with the thought that it's both unique to you and that there's nothing there that will help me give you advice to fix the problem. This can get pretty tricky in The Workplace - a programmer's history of past actions and results can often set the scene very clearly for next steps in problem solving. In The Workplace, the list of trials and failures can read more like a personal soap opera that has little relevance to moving forward. I'm afraid this one of those cases.

Similarly - your motivations are your motivations. They are nice enough, but it'll be hard to give you an answer that is specific enough to help you while being generic enough to be part of an site that other people will find useful. It leads me down the path (as the reader) of thinking you want help finding a job, not help understanding theories of motivation.

Lastly - sticking questions in the middle of the post is almost universally hard for readers. Figure that people will scan the post quickly and they will expect the most important information to be at the beginning or the end. If they have to read the entire post (in depth) to find what you are asking, they will start getting frustrated.

Second tip - find the general question

In this case, I'd suggest putting yourself in the place of a person with a wildly different background and work history and seeing if there's a common question you would both get value from.

Given that you found use in pap's comment might be a clue - his link relates to theories on motivation in the workplace. So another question on how to connect theories of motivation to job searching, or how to employ common motivation strategies to becoming "self-managing" might be another.

You're in a tricky area - not everyone is motivated by the same thing. There is a wide variety of motivation theories, and they don't apply equally to all scenarios. Also most theories take into the account that each person is different, but most offer a way to figure out a general type of person and ponder how that type might be motivated. From there they all break down... so saying "how can I, specifically, be motivated?" is a lot like asking for specific career advice - to answer it for the entire community, there'd have to be a unique answer for each individual. And to try to generalize the need to be motivated may be impossible - because the very thing that motivates you may de-motivate someone else.

So particularly in this area, a big, highly personal, backstory will lead people down the path of thinking you want particular career building advice. If you're looking for bigger picture models, or a process for matching motivation to personality or maybe even typical corporate approaches in a given field to how they expect to motivate employees - that might go over better, but to be honest, this IS a rough area.

There's also the vague possibility that you may be asking for more out of your field than it can provide - the list of motivational things you mention don't immediately align to many Computer Science jobs - I'm not saying it's impossible, but your listing is incredibly people-driven while the majority of the work for people in computer science is fact/problem/puzzle driven - I'm not saying extroverts can't work in this field (that would be hypocritical of me!) but that having 3 out of 4 of your motivational factors be people-dependant, and then the 4th being very unstructured forms of creativity--- it sounds initially like a tough match where you may well consider a career counselor instead of this site as your best path to a solution.

  • I don't know where to begin. Really informative answer. Thank you so much for this. I didn't realize it when I posted it, but now it's easy to see it's a near-impossible subject to ask a generally applicable question for. I'll definitely be using this answer as a reference when I'm stuck on how I should be asking my question, across more stack-exchange sites even.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:03
  • About my specific situation, I think I was just frustrated for a day and had to get some stuff off my chest. I don't personally need to get answers on it anymore. Do you think I should just delete the question then (as you said yourself, I too doubt that many people will find value in my specific question)?
    – Aske B.
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:05
  • You could. I agree that it's gone off track so might as well clean up... Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 19:02

Ideally, you should edit your post and improve it to make it fit the guidelines. Deletion is sort of an action to be taken on content that is just a lost cause, where all hope of the question ever meeting the standards is nonexistent.

Fortunately, in the question you linked, you have a lot of raw material to work with. Just think about the most important points people will need to know to answer your question, and edit it down to a paragraph or two. No life stories! :)

You might even be able to flag your post for reopening and turn those downvotes into upvotes. I've seen it happen. Good luck!

  • What do you mean by "Edit it down to a paragraph of two"? It sounds to me like a reference to something native English speakers learn in school. Could you elaborate? Also, how can I know what not to include - I don't know how good people are at understanding the question if I remove almost all of it: I just see it as an insight into my thought pattern. And could you please point out to me what examples of "raw material" I have to work with, so I can pick those out? Also, I need to keep in mind that the answer should still answer the question, since it's upvoted.
    – Aske B.
    Commented Sep 8, 2012 at 10:02

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