I gave hints for this question, https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/839401/limit-of-arg-mins/839962#839962 and explicitly told the op they were hints not an answer. I am not expecting to get the bounty. The op writes in the comment: "I actually need a full and clean answer."

My common-sense tells me to ignore but on the other hand I saw homework questions that were flagged/put on hold/closed because the op did not bother to say (as in this question) what he or she had tried. The only difference I see here is the math level is higher than your usual homework question. Any suggestions?

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    $\begingroup$ I usually delete my answers or comments if this happens. My experience is that there is no way to convince someone trying to hand in your answer, word for word, that they are doing something wrong. If I leave it there or tell the person what i think of them, it stays in my mind, bothers me. So, I mostly delete things. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ As far as level, there are people who are crowdsourcing a master's thesis or an undergraduate senior thesis. I have had such people write to me, wishing I would publish an article with them. Tiresome. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ you will get half the bounty anyway according to math.stackexchange.com/help/bounty (i wanted to help you by upvoting your answer but you allready have enough upvotes :) but complaining here about the way the op worked is a good idea, I do prefer answers that only give hints above answers that give answrs (I know giving good hints is more diffcult than just giving answers) $\endgroup$
    – Willemien
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ A small number of times, I have written in a comment that if OP continues to have difficulty, and pings me in $x$ days, I will add to the answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Willemien As I said, I dont want the bounty so following some suggestions by Will Jaggy here I deleted my answer $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ The op writes in the comment: "I actually need a full and clean answer." - Kindly point the OP to this link. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ I don't approve of deleting valuable mathematical content. If you are fed up with OP and do not wish to spoonfeed, then by all means ignore OP, but please don't deprive the rest of us of the fruits of your labors. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry: It's not there if people don't find it. "Hey, I couldn't find anyone asking my question about argmins on MSE." "Did you check through all of the closed posts with a score of -5 or less?" "... What?!?!" $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ If the model of MSE usage is that we expect users to search through the trash heap to find things of value, then the model is broken and needs to be fixed or scrapped entirely. If you truly believe some content is valuable, then craft an appropriate question to host it, rather than leaving it mixed in among the trash and insisting we leave the trash littered around the showroom. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ And remember... if everything is valuable, then nothing is valuable. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ I sometimes tell them that a complete answer would be great and encourage them to write one themselves. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl, I typed $$\rm site:math.stackexchange.com\ argmin$$ into Google, and the question that started this discussion turned up on the first page of hits, the 6th item. No need to check through "closed posts with a score of $-5$ or less," or anything of the kind. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ On a related note: it ticks me off when someone is posting an elaborate answer to a question that at best deserved a couple of lines. Do not feed the help trolls! $\endgroup$
    – PA6OTA
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ The "couple of lines" being a close banner under the post. :) On the other hand, a question worth answering is worth answering well. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ For the future: there is a middle path that allows both to disengage instantly and to preserve the content. Which is, to undelete a week or more after the deletion, when the dust firmly settled. I review my recently deleted answers (on the answer tab) about once a month, and undelete things that seem, in retrospect, worth keeping. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Technical point: you cannot vote to close a question with an active bounty (not even during the "grace period"). Otherwise, any combination of

  • ignoring any pings from the user
  • deleting your answer and comments (which prevents pings)
  • downvoting
  • voting to close

is appropriate in such a case.

The key word is help vampire. I quote one part of the article, which I think fits the site well.

Signs of Help Vampire Infestation

The chief indicator of a Help Vampire problem is the lack of helpfulness—the community may still appear to be bustling and lively, but if on closer inspection the conversation is all towards the shallow end of the pool, with moderately difficult questions going unanswered, then a Help Vampire infestation is likely.

Help Vampires are virtual bedouins. They move into a community—as soon as they sense its vibrancy and intelligence. Often they leave (“give up,” in their eyes) when they have exhausted all the resources, leaving the community itself drained and adrift.

This gypsy-like behavior incurs a secondary effect which further cripples the community, and persists even after the Help Vampire problem has passed. Often the “best and brightest,” sensing the outflux of decent conversation, retreat into Walled Garden communities which the Help Vampire can rarely penetrate. In this way the individuals are sheltered from the painful effects of Help Vampire attacks, but they also make themselves inaccessible to non-Help Vampire users as well. This effect can be the last straw that leaves the community devoid of experts and utterly without hope.

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    $\begingroup$ We should break the help garlic, help crosses (are these red?), and the help stakes and silver help bullets! $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ tried voting to close, it said there is an open bounty, evidently the "grace period" is part of that. $\endgroup$
    – Will Jagy
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ I've always wondered: does this mean we call people who answer terrible help vampire questions Blood Banks? $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ @mixedmath There is a less charitable term (which I do not use myself). $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ What if someone offers a bounty on a question that e.g. is offending minorities or racism, will it still remain for a week then? $\endgroup$
    – emcor
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @emcor: Moderators can undo a bounty if needed, and delete the question. In an urgent case, community managers can step in and do even stranger things (I have seen them remove a single revision which contained a pornographic photo). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ Internally I've been calling the group of members who have this symbiotic relation with the help vampires answering machines. Possibly more polite than the alternatives, but I'm not quite happy with the term either. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ @emcor: Users with enough reputation can edit all posts, and in such a case somebody would probably act. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ @This is much healthier: "Gypsy"? "Bedouin"? Sounds like language that would be more suitable in 1930s Berlin or Fin de siècle Paris. Surely you could make your point without resorting to crude ethnic stereotypes? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ @user_of_math It's a quote. From a popular article that is linked to on an official how-to-ask page. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:10

Frankly, I think the community benefits enormously from pissing these kinds of people off so that they never come back. That is, we should actually endeavour to leave a sour taste.

My recommendation: Delete your answer and downvote.

Sure, it deprives the community of a few answers, but I think that is a small price to pay. If your answer is so amazing that you can't bear the thought of deleting it, consider starting a mathematics blog and posting it there. The odds are that the OP won't ever find it, and that if they do, it will be too late to be of any use.

Caveat: Only with extreme cases like this, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ In such cases, you can also undelete the answer at a later time if the question hasn't disappeared in between. Usually, such behavior comes with a timeline for handing in complete solutions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Given how often I saw rants and people asking about question bans on Meta.SO and Meta.SE, I'd say that we've pissed quite a few of them off. I'd like to hope that there's a chance in reforming them, but if they're actually beyond help, they can't leave fast enough. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ @DennisMeng, there's undoubtedly people that we've pissed of that we should not have. However, no one who writes "I actually need a full and clean answer" falls into this category. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ Or scare them off with your avatar. That is positively frightening! On a different note, I like the Rachel McAnallen quote on your user page: very true. Also I think people miss how much capacity for mathematical thought is gained in kindergarten level and early primary play: I think one of my definitions of mathematics is as the science that describes relationships between things, processes and categories within the World, and if you look at a small child playing, this is exactly what they are learning pretty much whenever they're not forming social bonds. Where is that goblin from BTW. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 10:23

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