Is it alright if I maintain a personal contact with a specific user? There is a user who I've found to be particularly meticulous in writing proofs. I am learning a couple of disciplines on my own and frequently am faced with the need to post (solution-verification), (proof-verification) questions. I have a contact with the specific user and is it alright if I send him a link each time I post something and ask him to check it out for me? I vow to aknowledge and give preference to answers by other users if they are better. What would be the site's policy on this situation?

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    $\begingroup$ Not being a social networking site, there is not an easy way to send messages to individuals. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to check your profile periodically for new posts, but I would not pester someone with constant requests about each post. $\endgroup$ – robjohn Mar 3 '14 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ If I was that user, I'd start ignoring you and your posts pretty soon. $\endgroup$ – user127096 Mar 3 '14 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @robjohn: Thanks. No I don't think I'm pestering the said user. I only bother him once or twice a week (maybe exaggerated about the frequency in my question). He has been very encouraging and enthusiastic as a matter of fact. Just wanted a clarification on the site's policy on such contacts. That's all. Thanks again.. $\endgroup$ – Ishfaaq Mar 3 '14 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @ Yeah I'll take care of my personal relationships on my own shall I? Just wanted the community's opinion on the site's policy. $\endgroup$ – Ishfaaq Mar 3 '14 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ What is a "situ"? $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mar 3 '14 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ As the "specific user", let me just say that I don't mind in the least, so long as you don't mind it taking me a long time to reply as life gets in the way. Indeed, I purposefully made my contact info available. I must also stress that often, others have much better answers than me. So while I appreciate your compliments, I don't really think I'm necessarily the best person to be asking (but, again, I don't mind in the least). All that said, thus far, I've only had 2 users contact me - if a larger number of people were contacting me regularly, then it could be a problem. $\endgroup$ – Jason DeVito Mar 3 '14 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ And 3 downvotes?? Wow!! Lowest score yet! $\endgroup$ – Ishfaaq Mar 3 '14 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Until seeing the answer by Jason, I thought this question was about whether it was ok to contact the user in question, which I found to be an odd question. Given that answer it seems that the question is really about whether it is acceptable that you have a "preferred" answerer (which explains the last remark in the question, which I did not understand at first). My guess is that the downvotes are due to similar interpretations as my first one. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 4 '14 at 8:03

I suppose that at this point, I should just write an answer.

On Feb 17th, I answered a question of Ishfaaq's, shortly thereafter received a very polite email from him asking if he could email me whenever he posted a question. I assented, and since then, he has emailed me asking for help on two other questions. This works out to him asking me about a question a week, a pace that I am comfortable with.

Of course, if the pace were to significantly increase, or if many other users were asking for a question a week, or if I got the impression I was doing someone's homework/take home test/ etc, then my attitude would change, but as I said in a comment above, I purposely have my contact info available in my profile.

Why do I do it? The same reason I've spent so much time on MSE - I enjoy helping people learn math. Sure, I ask the occasional question (12 on this site so far), but I much more enjoy answering questions (316). As Will Jagy mentions, proof verification is not my favorite kind of question, but I really appreciate the fact that Ishfaaq's questions (or, at least the ones he has emailed me about) have a lot of work shown - he is putting in more effort than many of our users, and I want to reward him.

Finally, I just want to note that this a personal post and is in no way intended to reflect or persuade the MSE community at large. It's simply how I've chosen to deal with emails. In general, I don't see any issue with a particular user attempting to contact another user via email, but I also don't see any issue with the other user ignoring the email completely.

  • $\begingroup$ Jason, what can I say? You sound like the nicest person ever… :) $\endgroup$ – Prism Mar 4 '14 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well I think an explanation from me too is due. I only thought of posting this question to make sure it was not a violation of general etiquette on MSE to have personal contacts with other users. I simply did not want to get into trouble for violating a regulation I didn't know about. And I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused hereby. I have only emailed you those questions which I think I've solved but am not convinced about and will stick to that status quo in the future. Like Prism said you Sir are very generous indeed. And I'm sorry again about all this. $\endgroup$ – Ishfaaq Mar 4 '14 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Ishfaaq: It's really not a problem at all ;-). Prism: I think my students would disagree! $\endgroup$ – Jason DeVito Mar 4 '14 at 14:44

There is no rule against contacting other users outside MSE. The only exception would be if someone harasses another user in relation to MSE activity, which I would consider in some cases to be legitimate grounds for a suspension.

But not everything that is not forbidden should be done. When a person answers questions on MSE, the person can decide which questions to answer and when. Asking in, say, an email can put some pressure on a user.

Personally, I would only contact another user outside MSE in exceptional circumstances or if I know the person outside MSE. In that case, standard real world manners apply.

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    $\begingroup$ Or if you arrive to the same city as the user and wanna meet for beer and some George Carlin reminiscing... ;-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 3 '14 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ It's just that proof writing is an art too. Just getting the right answer isn't always enough. A bit of coaching and criticism on the wording and presentation is something I have missed since high school. Like I said here, math.stackexchange.com/questions/679096/…, @Jason DeVito seems like someone who pays attention to that. And I am very grateful to him for offering to help. I'll tell you what. I shall keep the "calls for help" to a minimum. I only contacted him thrice (I believe) over the last month.. $\endgroup$ – Ishfaaq Mar 3 '14 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ I don't agree that MSE mods should have any concern with activities of users off the MSE site. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Mar 4 '14 at 14:30

I get a few legitimate requests a year from graduate students. If it is in my field I generally answer. If there are too many contacts from one person, I arrange contact with the faculty adviser; that happened recently. It turned out the adviser was alright with it, so I continue to guide; at the same time, I do not want to have much contact, and I refuse to step between student and adviser. (note that the spelling is usually advisor, like doctor. it's wrong, but it's usual. Advisory is a real word).

On the other hand, a week or two ago I got a question from someone who wanted me to rewrite an optimization problem roughly in the area of linear programming. From what I could see, I was picked because the question had the phrase "quadratic form" in it. He then sent a heavily edited pdf, where no question could any longer be discerned. Clearly some attempt to cheat, possibly a test, term project. I really disliked the whole experience.

In particular, I don't want to proofread work by others. I do that enough for published articles. I'm guessing Jason is polite, but I find it hard to imagine that he wants frequent contact for the purpose of checking your work. What does he get out of it?

EEDDIITT: have you asked him (Jason De Vito) about this?


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