I'm very annoyed right now.

Over the past two days, I've been developing this very specific, very detailed question. It includes a problem statement (the question itself), and my progress towards solving this problem (a much longer section, which marks exactly where I've gotten stuck). I've included all of my work, leaving out no assumptions.

Today, two high-rep users (as in, high enough to close my question) got angry at me because I was editing my question a lot (that is, I was working on a solution, and updating the question to reflect the progress of my work). I'll note that math.stackexchange places no limits on the amount of edits a user can make. I defended my edits as reflecting my progress on the question. The other users didn't accept my defense. That's fine. I don't really care about that.

Next thing I know, these two users (and a few more, who have been silent) have put my question on hold as unclear:

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking.

I have no idea how my question could be any more detailed or specific than it already is. Furthermore, no one has given me any criticism with regard to clarity. The only criticism I've received has been about the number of edits I've made, which, again should have nothing to do with how this specific question is evaluated with regard to clarity.

A deep irony of the fact that my question is now on hold is that, in order to get it open again, I need to edit it even more.



The high-rep users' complaints about my editing frequency have been wiped from the comments section of the question linked-to above.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I think that your question is unnecessarily excessively detailed. One who wishes to answer has to read the entire wall of text to just figure out what you're asking. $\endgroup$ – G-man Oct 20 '15 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ I have added (specific-question) tag, see the tag-info. If the linked question serves only as an example and you want to discuss a more general issue, please, remove this tag. (But in such case you should also make this clear enough in your post.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 20 '15 at 6:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @G-man that's just not true. why does someone who wants to answer the question have to read all my work? presumably they will end up having to do the work i did (at which point following along with what i did will be helpful). but certainly there's no requirement to read the "my work" section. $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 6:49
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ IMHO this is a problem with "requiring" askers to prostrate themselves to demonstrate all the work they've already done. It should be remembered by all that "context" is not a synonym for "what have you tried?" (And note this interesting discussion on meta.se.) $\endgroup$ – user642796 Oct 20 '15 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer yeah, fair enough. to be honest, i was using this question as somewhat of an experiment: i was using math.se the way i would use github, as a way to "publicly develop" the process of getting from math question to math solution. personally i think this idea is worth exploring some more, but apparently it is very unpopular with certain "question-queue patrollers." $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ @dbliss I have a feeling that our exchange above is more about the way your question is phrased rather than the issue at hand. Long exchanges in comments main distract other users from the discussed topic. So I suggest that we either drop it (and agree to disagree) or that we continue this in chat. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 20 '15 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ While it its technically true that the software places no constraints on repeated editing, it is still considered bad form. Too often it is an attempt to hog the scarce frontpage real estate. After edit number 10 the software generates an automatic flag titled Too many owner edits. When summoned to such a scene I usually give my sermon on why many edits are frowned upon. And as a gospel I point the editor to the sandbox that should be used every time a large number of edits can be foreseen. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 20 '15 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen ah, i did not know about the sandbox. thanks. that's helpful. but is too many edits an acceptable reason for closing a question? (i honestly don't know the answer.) $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ Mind you, it does look like you, as a new user, were not aware of the reasons for this sentiment against excessive editing. It is not always easy for the moderator handling such a flag to determine whether an explanation is needed, or whether we should conclude that the edit spree is over and can safely be ignored. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 20 '15 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen the edit spree is indeed over. $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 7:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Note that writing out all the details is not the same as making the post clear. For example, we just don't need to know how you solve for $V(t)$, you can just start directly at the first equation in step 1 and ask something like "how to solve for $T$ for this ugly expression"? $\endgroup$ – user99914 Oct 20 '15 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnMa i feel like i'm starting to repeat myself a bit, but yeah, i didn't put that stuff in in order to be clear. i posted the question (the "problem statement") -- which is quite clear -- and then started working on it -- literally, all my work was done in the edit box. i was experimenting with "open math" in the spirit of "open computing" on github. but i see now that this causes more confusion than anything else. (and it invites accusations of "bumping" to try to get to the top of the queue, which, really, i don't care about.) $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnMa i could have removed low-level details as i successfully solved for certain variables, but i wanted to keep them around until the problem as a whole had been solved. in the future (to the extent that i want to continue to deal with the headache that is SE) i'll go back to doing all my work in a notebook, and then posting (summarized, essential) stuff once it's complete. $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 8:20

I can't say for certain that this would result in the re-opening of your question (I am not really comfortable judging how clear it is), but I personally feel that there are a couple of changes to your question which would improve it.

  1. Noting that the question has been given the tag, indicating what the connection to neural networks is. In general, some indication of how this question arose may help ground users when trying to solve it.
  2. Culling the vast majority of your effort. Leaving some broad strokes outlines of what you attempted (and either why they don't work, or what difficulties you arrived at in following these attempts) may be helpful. But currently the effort part of your question feels like unnecessary noise.

The multitude of edits (currently there are 40 revisions) may have left users feeling that your question was a bit of a moving target (which is where the lack of clarity may have come from). In looking at the revision history, most of the edits have been to indicate your personal progress. I don't feel that these updates improve your question in any real way. If your efforts do lead to a solution (and the question is reopened) you may then add this as an answer.

As an aside, I removed the comments from the question. I deemed them to be, at best, non-constructive and so did away with them.

  • $\begingroup$ i think this is a fair assessment through and through. what i did was post the question (the "problem statement"), to get it out there for people to see, and then i started seriously working on it. i updated the question with my work, with the perspective that keeping it up-to-date with my progress would help bring anyone who came along up to speed as quickly as possible. but i can see how the rapid edits would be confusing and give people the opposite impression -- that they should avoid the question until all the edits had been finished. $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ i made the edits you recommended, but that just reminded me of another reason i kept those details in there: if it is the case that i made a typo while working through those rearrangements, it is now impossible for a visitor to my question to tell. in order to know how i messed up, they really do need to work through everything on their own (which it's almost a guarantee no one will do -- the hoops i've jumped through to gain acceptance from people who have no interest in working on this problem anyway . . .). $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 8:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @dbliss It's possible that one might have to go through the hoops that you have gone through, but it's also possible that a expert in these things (not me, in other words) can go through them much more efficiently, or at least see the path of least resistance. I do think that technical questions such as yours are often less likely to find an answer here because a greater investment must be made in finding a solution. A concise, but precise, question is then more important in these cases. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Oct 20 '15 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ yeah, i think you have a good perspective on this. and i agree. i've been using math.se as a public storage place for my progress in my work, but it's become too much of a pain having to deal with high-rep users who don't like what i'm posting, and i never get any thoughtful input on the math from other people. so i'm going to stop posting here and start putting these questions and answers on my own personal website. $\endgroup$ – dbliss Oct 20 '15 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Would the sandbox have been useful to you? $\endgroup$ – steven gregory Nov 15 '15 at 5:13

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