# Unfriendly Community in Mathematics Stack Exchange

Mathematics Stack Exchange has a fundamentally unfriendly and unapproachable community. How could you change this culture?

Down votes are generally given to users that didn't understand a topic but may have asked a general and valid question that could be easily searchable from the web (but one that is not currently easily searchable)

Edit: Downvoting new user's questions - This is exactly what I refer to. In fact it appears my question (statement) is basically a subset of this question.

It is well known in my peer group (a top 20 programme in the world in Theoretical Physics and top 5 in the UK) that any questions that demonstrate a fundamental misgiving will be lambasted and it is very off-putting to students and new users.

Comparision to Stack Overflow In Stack Overflow, votes are given to well worded questions that haven't been previously asked, irrespective of the underlying misinterpretation of the subject matter.

Related

• As a side comment. Although this has a personal tone, I see this regularly when looking through questions on the site. I have never seen this to the same level on StackOverflow – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 0:07
• All this because of 1 downvote? The first revision of your question was pretty bleak. And even now I don't see what you are after; the Einstein convention is meant for indexed sums, not for sums like $\mathbf x+\mathbf v$. – user147263 Nov 4 '15 at 0:15
• Stack Overflow had, I believe, a much earlier transition away from the "accept absolutely everything no matter how bad" mindset. A much healthier one too, I presume. (I do not mean to imply your question is bad - just that, at least the last time I cared to pay attention MSE was still in the transition process... and still dealing with the fallout) – user14972 Nov 4 '15 at 0:17
• Are you sure you really meant to say unfriendly and approachable? – Joel Reyes Noche Nov 4 '15 at 0:20
• @hurkyl I would contest that. yes there must be a minimum standard but basic misgivings on a subject that is introduced right at the end of an undergraduate degree surely can't be considered bad. A perfect comparison with Stack Overflow: search python-theano many questions are on defining very basic structures. However, the library is an advanced library so questions on basic misunderstandings are not just downvoted for this reason. Furthermore, this is not about this one question else I would not have posted, this one question was the spur of an issue I have long had with the forum – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 0:22
• @Alexander: Like I said, I didn't mean to imply your question is bad; I don't really have an opinion. I mean to imply the vibrancy of the community is more likely a result of the fact that the site was allowed to degenerate so long and the rather bitter schism that ensued than anything else. And an explanation that, to the best of my knowledge, the community never had a chance to arrive at a good minimum standard since discussion always devolved to whether it should have standards at all. – user14972 Nov 4 '15 at 0:36
• "In Stack Overflow, votes are given to well worded questions that haven't been previously asked,[...]" Do you consider the original version of your question as "well-worded"? – quid Nov 4 '15 at 0:42
• I don't want this discussion to revolve solely around this one question as it is more general but yes I feel enough is implied. In fact I will actually remove it from my post and leave it in the revisions history as I don't want discussion to revolve solely around one question. @Hurkly Thanks for the feedback. I do agree with what you say and fundamentally Mathematics does need a bit more of an 'icy' front to deal with the typical What is X? homework questions the forum will get unlike Stack Overflow – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 0:45
• Down votes are generally given to users that didn't understand a topic but may have asked a general and valid question that could be easily searchable from the web - Do you mean a question that is asked often online, or a question that has an answer that is easily available online? – HDE 226868 Nov 4 '15 at 1:41
• @HDE226868 Neither. A question that could result in a instant answer for future students with the same questions. – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 2:27
• "In Stack Overflow, votes are given to well worded questions that haven't been previously asked...." At math stackexchange, there aren't any well-worded questions that haven't been previously asked. – Gerry Myerson Nov 4 '15 at 5:03
• "Ask not how the community can change for you, but how you can change for the community" – Winther Nov 4 '15 at 5:10
• @Winther that is certainly true. I just wanted to generate the discussion with a controversial title. I will almost certainly be looking at answering questions in my more moderate interpretation of voting once I start revising in my course. – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 5:20
• Thanks for linking to my meta question XD – BCLC Nov 7 '15 at 7:40
• I can understand where you are coming from though. I think that people here can often be way too critical. You just have to deal with it. – user253055 Nov 11 '15 at 5:27

You can't change how people vote on questions. The power to choose one's standards for voting is an individual's own prerogative. I don't think that this is something that needs changing, or should be changed. Stack Exchange is not a democracy, but voting lets people show their opinions on questions and answers (in addition to comments). Asking people to change their voting patterns is akin to asking people to change how they act on their ideas. It's not a good thing.

That said, I have two separate points to make.

1. Always read the voting arrow tooltip. The downvote button on a question says

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

If a question has an answer that is easily found via Google (or some other search engine, or random independent browsing on the Internet) then people might be justified in downvoting it. I sometimes downvote questions that I think show an obvious lack of research effort for this reason. Everyone votes in different ways, though, and interprets "research effort" differently.

That's my stance on why downvoting these sort of questions can be justified, in certain cases.

2. Mathematics Stack Exchange is not strongly against these sort of questions. This has been covered in What is your opinion on questions when the answer could have been easily found on google? and How to deal with just-google-it questions?. You wrote

It is well known in my peer group (a top 20 programme in the world in Theoretical Physics and top 5 in the UK) that any questions that demonstrate a fundamental misgiving will be lambasted and it is very off-putting to students and new users.

but I have to disagree. Quoting Milo Brandt's (relatively popular) answer to the second question,

If a question includes a precise statement of the question they wish answered, includes enough context for us to judge where the OP's misunderstandings may lie and what sort of facts may be obvious to them, and is actually about mathematics, then, excepting extraordinary cases (to which we have custom close reasons and moderators), it should stay.

That doesn't sounds too unfriendly to me. Besides, many other reasons for keeping these sort of questions open have been put forward, generally with a lot of support.

It seems to me that you simply encountered someone who supported Point 1. It happens.

While I won't talk about a question you asked that may have motivated this discussion, I'd like to point out that you've only had two downvotes on posts on Mathematics Stack Exchange so far (on 12 questions). I don't think you've had a particularly unfriendly response so far.

• I agree with what you say. I think it is just strange how vastly the tone of responses vary between Stack Overflow and Mathematics. Perhaps it is simply the tiresome nature of constantly tying to filter homework questions from genuine questions? Perhaps this is indicative of the Mathematics community in general? I suspect a combination of the two. I stand firmly by my statement though. I wanted to raise the point from an angle of an experienced Stack Exchange user and a student that if my course is representative of mathematics students - it is discouraging contribution. – Alexander McFarlane Nov 4 '15 at 2:34
• @AlexanderMcFarlane Could be. There are certainly a lot of homework questions on Mathematics. – HDE 226868 Nov 4 '15 at 2:39
• @HDE226868 I think Alexander McFarlane is basing his question on observations rather than personal experience – BCLC Nov 4 '15 at 19:37

I started to learn not to care about voting. I had a bad experience in Stackover flow as I know, I am not so good in Coding. Now with math I thought I would for sure do better and I wouldn't write a formula that is wrong. I will give all the explanations needed for the question to be understood.

Still I am getting negative votes, and when you get 1 negative vote in a day it will not be the only one. As if it is normal that one person have several accounts supporting his point of view.

Ignore voting, be positive, do your best asking the question and ignore negative people.