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I'm a first year student in Computer Science and we all have big problems with math here. We study real analysis, elementary set theory, linear algebra and discrete math and we seek help wherever we can. I decided to give math.stackexchange.com a try, and this site saved my sorry butt numerous times already. I told my friends about it, but then I realised that perhaps inviting even more clueless students, who only ask questions and don't really contribute anything to this site, is not a good idea? I'm really, really grateful for the community of math stackexchange and I don't want to do something wrong to it.

Edit: to make it clear: I confess to being that kind of student. I ask only questions here and I can't provide any answers, even though I try. So that's why I assume my colleagues would act similarly, and I don't judge or blame them for that.

So, tl;dr: is inviting more students (who will only ask questions) to math stackexchange good etiquette?

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    $\begingroup$ I think it's fine, especially if in addition to "there's this great site", you'll say "and it works best if you use it this way..." $\endgroup$ – you can call me Al Jan 29 '14 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ Clueless students, OK. Students who only want us to do their homework for them, not so much. $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Jan 29 '14 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ It is a helpful site and it's free tutoring too. Not too many places offer that. I attempt everything for the homework and post on here so that people can view and guide me to the right direction. $\endgroup$ – usukidoll Jan 30 '14 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ Its a bit presumptuous of you to assume (1) that they will actually want to use it and (2) that they will only ask questions. Finally, I should point out the most hilarious part of this.... you have only asked questions (10) and provided no answers (well 1 but it was an opinion based answer much like this question... math.stackexchange.com/questions/648904/what-will-i-be-doing/…). I don't think anyone really minds your behaviour but its a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. $\endgroup$ – Squirtle Jan 30 '14 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Squirtle you misunderstood my point: I ask this question because I am exactly that kind of person, and I feel kinda bad about it. I just don't want to cause even more trouble by bringing more people like me to this site, that's all. I don't blame other students for being as clueless as I am. $\endgroup$ – Dunno Jan 30 '14 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ I've only been using this site a couple of weeks, have given answers where I could, have not yet asked any questions. My attitude is the same as it is with my face-to-face students: happy to help those who don't know what to do, not interested in helping those who don't want to work. As long as people show some evidence of having thought about their question, I have no problems. $\endgroup$ – David Jan 31 '14 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ “[...]who only ask questions and don't really contribute anything to this site” - Why do you think that if you ask good questions you are not contributing to the site? ;-) $\endgroup$ – pppqqq Feb 2 '14 at 16:31
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There's no issue with inviting your fellow students to the site. But please be sure to coordinate amongst you, so that no two students ask the same question (it has happened with a set theory course earlier this year).

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess that this kind of thing is quite unavoidable from the human side. Maybe with the integration of a google-like algorithm that automatically search the similarities between the topic you are writing and other similar ones, and suggesting it to the author, would give better results. $\endgroup$ – Leo Azevedo Feb 3 '14 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ @LeoAzevedo There is one (it's a list right below the "Title" field when you ask your question), but it's not always so good, so the times it does strike gold, one might ignore it only out of habit. $\endgroup$ – Arthur Feb 4 '14 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Leo: When it's a group of students in the same class, the least they can do is share the link of the questions amongst them each time one of them posts it. More often than not, today, there are Facebook/whatever based groups for that, so it's not even a hassle in this aspect. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 4 '14 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Arthur: I've found it useful several times, when I was about to ask an idle-curiosity question and found it was already here. I'd estimate that this list and the "related questions" in the sidebar give spot-on hits for at least half of the questions I would otherwise have asked. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Feb 9 '14 at 2:23
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Answer:question ratios are imbalanced on an individual level and always have been. People make their own free choice to spend the time answering your question(s) or not.

The only thing you can do wrong is to ask questions without searching first to see if it's already been answered.

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  • $\begingroup$ Precisely........ and there are people that answer thousands of questions and ask none. $\endgroup$ – Squirtle Jan 30 '14 at 20:22
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Another point which is worth pointing out (imho) is that you're a first year student. Most of us started (assumption) out with little knowledge.
As you progress in your studies you will be able to answer more questions - that holds true for pretty much everybody.
Therefore it is OK to refer others to this site, as long as - as has been pointed out already - you don't ask the same question multiple times and if you try to contribute answers.

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    $\begingroup$ There is no requirement than anyone try to contribute answers. Using the site purely for asking questions is a perfectly fine usage, as long as they are good questions. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Jan 31 '14 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Tobias, I agree with all in this answer. I don't think he is saying there is a requirement. Just a suggestion. I think a person should answer a(n) (unanswered) question if one knows how, and as he says, with time that capability increases. $\endgroup$ – JMCF125 Feb 10 '14 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Took me some time to get back to this. As JMCF125 rightly understood, I think that it is natural to try and "return a favor". $\endgroup$ – Nox Feb 10 '14 at 21:45
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I started off on Stack Overflow asking only questions, and it took a good year or two for me to start answering them. Now, I'm up above a 1:2 answer:question ratio and improving. Some of my answers were to old questions that had no good answer, and I was able to provide a great answer that quickly builds rep and thus proves that the old question was in need of an answer. See here for example.

You and your friends might place a small burden on the site today, but by filling up the site with good questions you are in fact helping others. And later you and your friends might start contributing answers as well, which the site will need as it grows.

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