19
$\begingroup$

I would like to bring to our attention the following situation. If you take a look in his question tab, you will see that he only come here, demanding the answer of his questions, without any attempt (at least visible) to learn something.

The linked question is just the result of us accepting his behavior (it also contain rude comments), I mean, just post your question here and we give you an answer.

So the question is: are people really learning something from it? Is it really instructive to post a answer, without asking some background from the author?

Remark: Here you can find another situation.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think that to understand the behavior of a user, looking through both questions and comments history is usually a good indicator. Why so serious, he asked. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 4 '14 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila, this comment does not seem to provide an answer, for his "demanding answers behavior" (or should I take it not so serious?). $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 4 '14 at 13:49
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You are trying to analyze the behavior of a user, whether or not they are here to learn or not. We can't really do that. But we can find evidence that a particular user is misbehaving, or thinks that this website is hosted by 4chan, rather than by SE Inc., which to me signals a greater problem than "doesn't want to learn". (Although I am sure that the two have some sort of positive correlation.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 4 '14 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ Yes @AsafKaragila, you are right. $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 4 '14 at 13:54
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ I, for one, have become discouraged because of questioner behavior and now rarely post answers. From here on out, I'm only going to answer interesting and well-researched questions that are not prone to be homework. As I think more about it, my conscience cannot bear the thought of doing other people's graded homework questions for them. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Sep 5 '14 at 2:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Sometimes I think the nature of problems asked has changed from a focus on understanding to 'do my work for me'. In the context of, say, stackoverflow, this makes sense (delving into the arcana of someone else's code to move beyond a stumble is perfectly appropriate), but in the MSE context, this approach is unsatisfying. Sometimes I wonder if questions should require some 'acceptance' by higher-rep users before answers accumulate rep. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Sep 6 '14 at 5:46
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ @copper.hat: Most (very) high rep users are those who answer all questions indiscriminately, including "do my homework" question, pretty much by design of the website. So I don't think your idea would work all that well. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Sep 6 '14 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ The initial behaviour was indeed objectionable. There are signs of improvement, so in this case OP seems to have begun to learn. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Sep 8 '14 at 3:50
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I just reviewed the user's most recent questions, yet I do not see any sign of substantial improvement (unless you count no longer including "Thank you, AMA nigerian prince, i shall give u 1 trillion money in my currency!" in their questions). I don't think that OP has begun to learn at all. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Sep 10 '14 at 15:10
13
$\begingroup$

Are they really learning something? Hard to tell, but they do not seem willing to learn to ask better questions; the quality of user's contributions seems to be in decline from the already-low initial level.

The site has automatic question blocks, which are meant for users with consistently low quality of posts. Well before a user is blocked outright, they will be warned with the message shown here.

But the effectiveness of the blocks depends on the willingness of users to downvote low quality questions as they see them. At present, downvotes are rare compared to the number of low quality questions, which renders the blocking feature less effective than it could be.

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for reminding me to upvote more perfectly valid mathematical questions to help them avoid the grim question reaper. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 6 '14 at 19:27
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Depending only on downvotes is difficult. Most people, on the contrary, up vote such questions, even if they are just doing their homework. Recently I saw someone even answering a question in the comment, after it get closed! $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 6 '14 at 19:30
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Tomás Alas, some questions are closed so quickly that one cannot finish writing an answer, so there is no choice but to post it as a comment. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 6 '14 at 19:40
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Tomás I agree: downvotes by themselves do not suffice in present. Which is why I keep my one-click close bookmarklet handy, and use it dozens of times a day. Still, the low number of downvotes exacerbates the problem. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 6 '14 at 19:53
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque, but it had a motive to be closed. Answer it in the comments and you are just inviting more questions of the same type. And note here, that in the related case, it was a full answer, not even a hint... $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 6 '14 at 19:56
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: If you are unhappy that a question was closed and want to answer it, I think you should vote to reopen it, and post your answer when it's reopened. It's impossible that answering a question is so urgent that you need to bypass this process. Saying that "there is no choice" but answering in the comments is simply dishonest. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Sep 7 '14 at 9:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi The truth cannot possibly be dishonest. Since you don't know the context or the OP's decision process, you shouldn't make possibly unfounded assumptions and nonconstructive remarks based on such. That's not a healthy way to have a discussion on meta. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 7 '14 at 15:00
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: I just showed you that it's not the truth that there is no other choice. My remark is constructive in the sense that I offer an alternative to answering the closed question in the comments. So really, I'm puzzled by what you decided to answer to me. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Sep 7 '14 at 15:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Najib The choices/possibilities depends highly on the context. There is a large spectrum of opinion on these matters and you remark is based only on one viewpoint. In any case, jumping into the middle of a discussion and calling someone "dishonest" when you do not understand the context is rarely going to be constructive. If you don't understand a comment then ask for clarification. Strive to keep meta friendly so that everyone will be comfortable contributing. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 7 '14 at 15:36
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: Then please explain what the context could have been such that giving a full answer in the comments after it has been closed was the best course of action. And I did not call you dishonest, I called what you said dishonest -- a pretty big difference, and I didn't intend to offend anyone. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Sep 7 '14 at 15:58
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque, by one hand, you come here with the educator flag, willing to help anyone who asks here. On the other hand, by answering every question that appears here and also, by approving this behavior in another users, you forget that, more important than aquire the answer to a problem, is to learn how to get that answer. If you open the question tab of the users linked in the question, you will see that there is something wrong. Now, instead of making comments with sarcasm, why don't you give us your opinion about my question? $\endgroup$ – Tomás Sep 7 '14 at 18:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tomás I don't know why you make those false assumptions about my personal opinions. fyi: I often mention diverse community opinions (including minority opinions, and opinions I disagree with) because I think that it is essential that everyone understand these diverse views if we are to have any hope of reaching the best compromises on contentious policy decisions. Otherwise the accelerating brain drain will continue unabated. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 7 '14 at 19:03
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I hereby request that you clarify what part of your comments above is an attempt to convey understanding, and what exactly you are trying to convey understanding of. Or if my presumption is wrong, to clarify that your comments were not an attempt to convey understanding. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Sep 8 '14 at 15:36
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ I see that some still users still have the wool pulled over their eyes and pretend to ignore that what would be perfectly good mathematical questions can also be flagrant attempts to crowdsource homework -- which actually diminishes the character of the "perfectly good mathematical question" because we don't live a vacuum and can't ignore the fact that this site is the best resource for having someone else do your math homework ever invented. $\endgroup$ – Emily Sep 8 '14 at 20:27
5
$\begingroup$

Several other sites, I've posted on (physicsForums.com, it's been a long time, I don't remember the other one or two) have a policy of specifically not posting direct answers especially if it appears to be a homework problem. The expectation is to point the learner in the right direction with generous hints. As a tutor myself, many students learn far more this way. Good teaching adjusts the method (direct answer, Socratic method, solve a similar problem, discussion of theory, tweaking the students attempt, etc) to the student's current knowledge & several other factors. This is quite difficult here because of the nature of the internet, public forum but even more because of the specific, "Don't ask clarifying questions" policy.

However, I will frequently ask leading questions, attempt to ascertain what the learner has tried, etc. http://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4366821&postcount=7

I personally think a policy similar to PhysicForums' policy below, would go a long way towards helping the question title. As a newcomer to stackExchange, I had planned on not changing the culture yet. What do ya'll think would be a good compromise for these forums? Is it important enough to warrant a new expectation?

Show us that you've thought about the problem. The forum rules require that you show an attempt at solving the problem on your own. Obviously, one reason we want to see your work is because we prefer to help those who are genuinely trying and interested in learning. What's more important is that we need to see what you've tried so we know how to help you. For your attempt, you can offer a partial solution to the problem, but you don't always have to. What we're really interested in is seeing what you're thinking so we can identify and clear up any misconceptions or points of confusion.

$\endgroup$
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ The issue of homework was discussed even at the time that this site was first proposed, years ago. The main difficulty is that it is very hard for many people to not answer questions that they know the answer to, especially when the site design encourages it. So even very badly asked questions often get answered quickly. Despite participating in several conversations, it is not clear to me what solution might actually work to address this. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Sep 5 '14 at 10:37
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Stack Exchange sites are, by design and intent, an opposite of a forum. One of basic SE principles is to suppress discussion, which includes back-and-forth exchanges like here. (It takes until message #13 for someone to ask: what are the axioms?) I'd hope SE is not going this way; after all, there are lots of similarly structured fora out there, running some kind of PHPBB. There is just one SE network. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 5 '14 at 11:24
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the because this is the way tutoring needs to be done, -1 because StackExchange is not a good fit for tutoring. So, net 0. ;) $\endgroup$ – apnorton Sep 6 '14 at 16:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @anorton Not only tutoring. The SE platform is a very poor fit for a general-level math site. Many experienced teachers who managed to coexist on other general-level math sites have had a much more difficult time doing so here - due primarily to the many deficiencies in the design of the platform. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 6 '14 at 19:51
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ @Bill: The SE platform is a very poor fit for homework help and such. The only evidence I see for it being a poor fit for a general-level math site is that the on-topic posts (e.g. about understanding mathematical concepts) have been overwhelmed by off-topic "here's my homework" posts (even to the point of there being a vocal minority claiming that's on-topic). I don't believe MSE would be the mess it was today if gardening was part of the early MSE culture instead of the all-inclusive attitude that originally prevailed. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Sep 8 '14 at 13:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl As usual, we'll have ot agree to disagree on that topic. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 8 '14 at 13:41
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ "Not designed how I would like" and "deficiencies in design" are two completely different things. $\endgroup$ – Emily Sep 9 '14 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Arkamis In general. But in this case they happen to be equivalent. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Feb 5 '15 at 21:31
0
$\begingroup$

I would like to point out that these problematic users tend to be parasites: they ask (usually homework-related) questions in large volume, and answer few. The real issue here is that their relationship with StackExchange is all about taking from the community, rather than giving back to it.

I propose that some quantitative measure of contribution to the community should be installed, and that this should give rise to some limit of questions that can be asked. I think any such measurement should involve the number of questions this user has answered. Specifically, I think the number of accepted answers is really a key indicator of contribution. I suggest that a user should have at least one accepted answer for every fifteen or twenty questions they ask.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Asking questions is not just "taking". Questions are contributions, too, and a user who posts good questions regularly is a valuable member, regardless of how many answers they post. Although it's true there is a positive correlation between answering activity and writing good questions... Concerning your proposal: Jeff Atwood suggested just such a thing but it hasn't materialized. Many view it as distraction from question quality. That said, I've got a bookmarklet that shows such stats. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 7 '14 at 6:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Thursday Sure, questions are contributions, too. However, they are contributions of a different sort, and only really meaningful under certain conditions --- there is a reason why we are upset with members who only ask, and not with members who only answer. The people who only ask do so probably because they're not really interested in mathematics, so they "crowdsource" their homework. I don't think that sort of uninterested attitude lends itself very well to contributing to a mathematical community. $\endgroup$ – Newb Sep 7 '14 at 6:57
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Be aware that there are about 41,800 users who have posted a single question and no answers, compared to about 3,900 users who have posted at least 15 questions (irrespective of the number of answers). (source: this SEDE query) $\endgroup$ – user642796 Sep 7 '14 at 7:39
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ Asking good questions is "contributing," but asking poor questions is "taking," IMHO. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Sep 7 '14 at 12:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .