8
$\begingroup$

I have a question regarding the following question that was made:
Probability of going into an absorbing state

It has been marked off topic by several people. Looking at the suggested help page, the definition of an 'off topic' post is the following:

This question does not appear to be about math within the scope defined by the community. What's on- and off-topic is not always intuitive, so it may be necessary to reword the question to fit this site's scope after reviewing the community guidelines.

I don't see where the person asking the question went wrong. He defined his problem, and he even showed some (although arguably sloppy) work towards a solution.

I would also like to mention that I have provided an answer to this problem. I assure you that my interest in bringing this post to attention is to gain some understand on the implicit culture of how questions are dealt with here. Not in the hopes of unlocking it for potential points.

Is there some unspoken rule of thumb I'm missing in this situation?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The real reason is "This question is missing context or other details", which is listed under the "Off Topic" heading for technical reasons (that's the only place where sites can have customised close reasons). I haven't yet looked whether I would agree or disagree with the "lacks context" close reason. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Fischer Feb 12 '15 at 23:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ james, The hold has no effect on your points. People may vote on your post, up or down, if they choose. Meanwhile, if a wonderful idea about it comes to mind, you may edit your answer to include that; the edit will put the whole thing at the top of the "active" sort of the questions and probably garner more attention. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Feb 12 '15 at 23:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The question was closed for lacking context. Most likely, this is because the OP didn't really do anything to work towards a solution besides post "I'm supposed to use these equations: [list]." However, I would contend that providing the equations they should use does show context, even though it doesn't show work. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Feb 13 '15 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ If this is supposed to be about that particular question you linked, you should add (specific-question) tag. If that question is used merely just an example and you want to ask about this issue in general, then that tag should not be added. (From the way the question is phrased, I assumed it is the latter.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Feb 13 '15 at 7:10
0
$\begingroup$

It is extraordinarily rude to mark a question as "off topic" and say that it "does not appear to be about math" when it is obvious that it's about math and the actual concern that is a reason to close it is something else entirely: that it is phrased in a way suitable for assigning homework, and that should not be done here.

Suppose someone posts a question that says this:

I have been trying to figure out how to use the pigeonhole principle to show that the decimal expansion of a rational number must ultimately start repeating and continue to repeat. If the rational numbers are the objects to be placed in pigeonholes, then what are the pigeonholes? Must I show that there are only finitely many pigeonholes? How do I tell how many.

That is a good question. Now suppose someone posts this:

Use the pigeonhole principle to prove that the decimal expansion of a rational number must terminate or repeat.

That is inappropriately phrased. It arouses reasonable suspicions that the person who posted it doesn't actually have a question in mind, but is merely copying from a homework assignment without understanding any of it. Between the two extremes of these to questions (using the word "question" loosely to include the second example) there are gradations. If someone things a posting is too close to the form of the second example, it would be appropriate to vote to close it on the grounds that "This question is missing context or other details", but what math.stackexchange.com actually does in that situation is that it posts a notice that begins by saying it is "off topic" and "does not appear to be about math". That is rude. And that is what is done.

Notice in the interest of honesty: The user known as "Lord_Farin" perceives "apoplexy" in this posting. That is an error. He also says I am blaming users. That is false. A question was asked above and I answered it.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You say 'it posts a notice that begins by saying it is "off topic" and "does not appear to be about math". That is rude. And that is what is done.' This is not was is usually done. Never does it say it does not appear to be about math. Normally it says in such cases: $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 16:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "put on hold as off-topic by [some, sometime ago] This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason: "This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level." – [somebody] If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question." $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 16:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ And even if it does not then it says: "This question is not about mathematics, within the scope defined in the help center." There is a very clear qualification of mathematics. It is made quite clear that what is opined is that this question does not fulfil the criteria imposed in help center. Not more not less. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 16:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @quid : I think the position you're taking here is entirely nonsense. You're splitting fine hairs and ignoring the principal fact. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 24 '15 at 17:47
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The principal fact is that homework dumps are off-topic on Mathematics. There is nothing extraordinary about that. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Feb 24 '15 at 17:48
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @FamousBlueRaincoat : The principal fact is that instead of telling people the actual reason for closures and votes to close the notice writes imbecilic nonsense about the question not being about math, and being off topic. What should be done is simply that they should be told that it is inappropriate to post questions phrased in language suitable for assigning homework, but rather one should post something demonstrating that one has thought about the question enough to understand it and preferably also to say what difficulties one has encountered with it. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 24 '15 at 17:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy the costum specific off-topic that is typically used does not say anything at all that it is "not about math." What is claimed in OP, and repeated in your post, is either a rare exception where the catch-all off-topic was chosen for some reason or is simply false. Please just check some of the recently closed question. Fine, it says "off-topic" yet I think "off-topic" is widely used and known jargon for something that is not suitable (as opposed to it asserting "this is not about the topic of the site, i.e., not about mathematics") $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 18:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Michael I really suggest you direct your apoplexy to the SE team, who decided to put the custom reason under off-topic in the first place. It's of zero use to blame users for working within the bounds the SE team has set, namely that custom close reasons must be under "off-topic". Meta.SE might be the way to go; there are quite a lot of questions asked there already. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 24 '15 at 19:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To be very precise, let me add that what is claimed in OP, is true in a literal sense in that if one clicks the link one then does find that text somewhere down the page. However first one is told the no context thing on the very question and then it is stressed that the scope is sometimes not intuitive, which in my mind makes sufficiently clear that "off-topic" is relative to some specific conception of allowed questions (the mentioned scope), and not relative to some general notion of Mathematics as that would be intuitive. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 19:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin : I have not blamed users. A question was asked here and I answered it. Nor is any "apoplexy" involved. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 24 '15 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @quid : I regard something I see every day as in a real sense typical. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 24 '15 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael I'm sorry if I misunderstood you. I read the first sentence of your answer as directed to the close-voters. Also, I perceived apoplexy in the use of the phrases "extraordinarily rude" and "imbecilic nonsense". Possibly my assessment of the strength of "apoplexy" as a word is wrong -- I'm not a native speaker; please let me know if that is the case. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Feb 24 '15 at 21:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy to me it seems absolutely necessary to measure things in a relative way when talking about typical. All kinds of things happen everyday. Anyway, perhaps you could provide some examples. I just tried to find some. Within the most recent 50 questions that were put on hold, there were just 2 with the reason you seem to complain about namely math.stackexchange.com/questions/1163073/… and math.stackexchange.com/questions/1162989 at least the second seems quite clearly "not math" and the first is maybe math. $\endgroup$ – quid Feb 24 '15 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin : I was indeed being judgmental, but I was not writing out of anger. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 24 '15 at 21:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am still waiting for examples. You should have come across a plenty just in the time that passed. I repeat and make explicit my request to provide examples or to modify your claim. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 3 '15 at 15:41

You must log in to answer this question.

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