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Questions about audits have been asked many times before however mine is regarding this specific case.

enter image description here

The answer was one blob of LaTeX with no explanation and I thought that it would be better suited as a comment. So I proceeded and ticked "Not an answer" as there was no explanation. But then it turned out it was an Audit.

Now I understand there is an area of MSE where questions and answers do not "follow" the same convention as other areas eg. questions may be brief and and answers may give the result only however for MSE as a whole this does not hold.

Did I do anything wrong?

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    $\begingroup$ It was a reasonable judgment call. I have "not passed" three audits in the past few months, and each time would on second or third thought give precisely the same answer. The truly annoying thing is being asked to click on "I understand." But if one understands that as meaning "I understand that machines can be stupid," it gets easier. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Sep 25 '14 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ Here is link to the review audit in question. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 25 '14 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/11723/4583 $\endgroup$ – Ayman Hourieh Sep 25 '14 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Examples of poor review audits $\endgroup$ – MJD Sep 26 '14 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ The scolding text is hilarious. To get the vibe exactly right, though, the "I understand" button should have its text changed to "I understand. My struggle is finished. I love Big Brother". $\endgroup$ – user64687 Oct 1 '14 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ I stopped looking at the review queue a while ago, thanks to these stupid audits. $\endgroup$ – Martin Argerami Oct 2 '14 at 3:30
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No, you did not do anything wrong. You reviewed the contents of the post, thought it was not suitable as an answer, and clicked according to what you thought of it. This is the desired behavior of reviewers.


It happens that the post was an answer to a very difficult integral, where giving a closed form with no explanation is still a major contribution. One can test the correctness of answer numerically beyond a reasonable doubt, and knowing the form of the answer helps in finding a way to its eventual proof.

(Historical example: according to John Stillwell, Mathematics and its History, "after hearing that the sum [of $\sum 1/n^2$] is $\pi^2/6$, Johann Bernoulli himself discovered a proof, which turned out to be the same as Euler's".)

As I wrote in Review FAQ

if you are reviewing carefully, an occasional failed audit is of no real consequence and should not discourage you from reviewing.


I add an explanation from higher up:

Stop, look and listen

the primary purpose of audits is education not punishment. It's easy to make mistakes, especially after you've been doing a fairly monotonous task for a good while - sometimes, it's helpful to have a sanity check. I fail audits occasionally myself, and always take it as a sign that I've perhaps gotten in too much of a hurry and am in danger of becoming careless; the audit (and countdown timer that goes with it) is a welcome reminder to look up and take a breath before going any further.

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    $\begingroup$ I wonder though how difficult would be to calculate the integral numerically and then make up some random (complicated) formula that agrees with the numeric integral. I know that Cleo is great and all (and mostly, happens to be right) but in general it is not too hard to "troll" this way $\endgroup$ – Ant Oct 3 '14 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, this OP's peculiar (but systematic) style of answer caused a kind of brouhaha some time ago. The assertion that "giving a closed form with no explanation is still a major contribution" (in the OP's case, adding no explanation even when some are asked for) seemed at least debatable then. $\endgroup$ – Did Oct 5 '14 at 21:56
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Although I still think that review audits are more harmful than helpful and really need to go away (they continue to be the reason why I don't review at all), I do disagree with your decision here. I have always understood "not an answer" to mean "does not attempt to be an answer", and that a bad, incomplete, or even totally wrong answer is still an answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ben Millwood. What about giving 25 as the answer to a really long combinatorics problem? $\endgroup$ – Ali Caglayan Sep 27 '14 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ I would downvote such an answer, but it would still be an answer. $\endgroup$ – Ben Millwood Sep 27 '14 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on how the question is posed. If the question is: "how to find the number of combinations...", then "25" is not an answer, since it does not attempt to answer "how?" $\endgroup$ – user147263 Sep 27 '14 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Math.SE has its own standards and guidelines, but Atwood's Dictum, that deletion is for "embarassingly bad" Answers, comes to mind. In this case the cryptic Answer was in keeping with a pattern of posts without explanation by the Responder. While criticism can be made, I would not agree with deleting this Answer. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Oct 1 '14 at 11:40

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