# Meta: Why are folks on this site always so discouraging to question askers?

I come from the main StackOverflow, where I've largely self-taught myself how to code in modern languages by asking a bunch of questions. People are friendly, as we are all aware that natural language search still hasn't gotten to the point where the same questions, phrased in different words, is easily findable.

I just asked a question here, which was immediately downvoted with no comment. My question was asked thoroughly, with diagrams and link references. Maybe I made some mistakes in describing my method of approach - I'm not sure - could people comment instead of just downvote? Is my question just simply so badly phrased or obvious that it's clearly worth a -2 immediately?

This isn't the first instance here, where I feel either ostracized or even scared of posting a question!

Why are people so discouraging here?

• People are normally supposed to comment whenever they downvote (try it on a question, and stackexchange pops up with a suggestion "please write a comment to show where improvement can be made"). I haven't downvoted that question or this one, but from my point of view, I just think people haven't understood the question, or may be were put off (your question is okay, it's understandable). This question, however, is off topic and even likely to get closed. But that's okay, you have got your answer: people are not discouraging but occasional impatience can get the better of them. My apologies. – астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг Sep 19 '16 at 11:09
• I also came from the main stackoverflow and I have seen quite the contrary – polfosol Sep 19 '16 at 11:10
• I don't know. I for one have more sympathy for questions such as yours than to the thousands of do my homework-questions that are welcomed by scores of repwh¤#&s (oops, that word is now verboten), and accepted by most others as long as a modicum of context and/or effort is shown. – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 19 '16 at 11:58
• But I guess that the problem is that your question may not have a definite answer? Rather you seem to be asking for different approaches, and opinions may differ whether such questions are on-topic. They can be a bit fuzzy, but I think that with a clear motivation such as yours they should be accepted. – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 19 '16 at 12:01
• A lot of people around here are unhappy when presented with a vague question. They want tidy well-defined problems, preferable stated in rigorous mathematical jargon. Personally, I think that there are many cases where devising a rigorous framing of the problem is the most interesting step. But a lot of people seem unwilling to help with this part of the process. It's odd, actually, because a large part of mathematics research consists of properly formulating problems; solving them comes later. Having said all that, I still don't understand what you're looking for, though. – bubba Sep 19 '16 at 12:53
• @bubba: Questions on math.se are not supposed to be discussions where we slowly figure out what the question actually is. Discussions of this nature are better held on chat, or other web-sites which act more like traditional internet fora. Questions here should be in a ready-to-answer state when posted, and otherwise risk being closed as unclear and downvoted, too. Note that the tooltip for the downvote button on questions reads "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful" (emphasis added). – user642796 Sep 19 '16 at 17:59
• Why are folks on this site always so discouraging to question askers? This statement is incorrect. There are times when users are not so discouraging to question askers. – Joel Reyes Noche Sep 20 '16 at 1:35
• Ina, it's not just the math site - I've experienced similar on (too) many other SE sites. I've been watching this for some time now. Strangely, a newcomer's first post, even a well-thought-out one, will often get downvoted. (Making them feel unwelcome, IMO.) But what's more weird: the post that's a first or second on that particular site may come from someone who's obviously just arrived from other sites (all SE users who've been around more than a noob knows the 101 rep points means 'association bonus'.) And these posts seem to get DV'ed more often. (No, I have no data (yet) to back that.) – Howard Pautz Sep 20 '16 at 18:30

## 3 Answers

What does 'I am trying to determine "gestalt" curvature' mean exactly?

And what is 'classify closeness to each of the three "gestalt" "eigencurvatures".' By the way why three? Etc.

Rather than to use sophisticatedly sounding words, used in a not quite clear way, it could be better to describe what you want to do in simple and clear words. In my observation jargon used in idiosyncratic ways is a main trigger for a poor reception.

• Conceding the point about such jargon not helping the OP's cause. When the asker is uncertain about what they want to do (as seems to be the case here) it is surely better to use simple language. I do think that the sketches in the OP helped, but that is not necessarily relevant to your answer. – Jyrki Lahtonen Sep 19 '16 at 17:36

I've some sympathy (and have upvoted your question here and therre to cancel one of the downvotes) and a few comments.

You generalize from your experience to ask

Why are folks on this site always so discouraging to question askers?

I wonder about the "always". The downvotes I see are mostly for easy questions that show no work.

The particular question you link to would be better - less likely to be downvoted, more likely to get a useful answer - if you provided more context. What use do you hope to make when you can determine the "gestalt curvature"? Can you show us an example? If you told us we could perhaps come up with a more formal definition of that admittedly vague notion (this is @quid 's point too).

That said, the comment suggestion to look at $|x|^{\alpha}$ for different values of $\alpha$ may actually help you.

• It would be nice if people upvoted questions for reasons like "shows research effort; it is useful and clear" rather than for reasons like "I don't want other people to be able to convey an opinion I don't like". – user14972 Sep 19 '16 at 14:57
• @Hurkyl I mostly agree with you. I do sometimes upvote for interesting questions even when the OP hasn't researched them well (I think these are), not just to cancel downvotes. I do sometimes comment about lots of downvotes with no comments when just a few would do. – Ethan Bolker Sep 19 '16 at 17:20
• Upvoting a question "to cancel one of the downvotes" is not how the system is supposed to work. I find odd to see regularly this practice boasted about and even presented as a proof of human decency. – Did Sep 21 '16 at 6:21
• -1 for "cancel downvotes" – user223391 Mar 14 '17 at 21:58

I second the OP. I just recently asked a question on the MathOverflow page. Someone kindly referred me here indicating that my question (which was upvoted) was more suited to this site. I post here and immediately get downvoted.

This isn't the first time either. I have asked multiple questions that I've felt were appropriate, and a couple that were unclear or not appropriate for the site, but notice that people are VERY quick to downvote, and very unlikely to upvote.

Just look at the user list. There are thousands of users with no reputation or even negative reputation on this site, but only a handful of users with reputation over 100. Its not difficult to get to 100 reputation on any other site, but on this one some of the top users (either consciously or subconsciously) keep everyone else down.

I would be interested in seeing if there are stats of positive vs negative votes per user to determine if it's an issue with a handful of people, or a more systemic issue.

But the OP is right, its at a point where I feel like any question I post is just another opportunity for someone to intentionally lower my reputation for no legitimate reason. This is, of course, irrational but its the impression provided by the culture of this particular site.

• Is the downvoting due to the observation being to preachy, or off topic? – mkinson Mar 9 '17 at 20:03
• I don't think it is possible to get an actual negative reputaton on a StackExchange site (it cannot go below $1$), though it is possible for reputation to drop over the course of a week/month/year. Perhaps that is what you were looking at? – hardmath Mar 9 '17 at 22:39
• @hardmath I just hovered over the number and it's even more depressing. It's how many reputation were given to the user this month.. – mkinson Mar 10 '17 at 0:00
• Yes, I think you are saying that they lost reputation this month. Sometimes reputation points are lost, not through downvoting, but through removal of users and the deletion of any upvotes they cast. I think you need to give the Community a bit longer to understand how policies work here. – hardmath Mar 10 '17 at 0:04
• I was going to say that there were far more downvotes in the past 24 hours than upvotes but I originally checked at 2pm. Checking again now at 7pm I see a lot more upvoted entries, which is encouraging. – mkinson Mar 10 '17 at 0:17
• Downvotes on meta usually indicate disagreement with the position the post takes; since there's no reputation at play here, we use it as an informal polling mechanism. – Eric Stucky Mar 13 '17 at 4:57
• @EricStucky I was referring to the non-meta Mathematics page. I'm usually on during the day (Eastern USA time) and I see a lot of negativity during that timeframe. However, looking at previous days it appears that more users respond at the end of my day and tend to be a little more favorable then. Even so, to me it seems that "easy" questions get voted down very quickly and I suspect its because the serious users are all very advanced. This page is supposed to be for ALL ranges of experience though, and so a change in why questions are put on hold is necessary. – mkinson Mar 13 '17 at 11:46
• Why is this one downvoted so much? – ina Mar 29 '18 at 19:31
• Just as an update, I've been here over a year now and my statements are still very valid and very true for the Mathematics page. If your question isn't advanced math, it is immediately down voted. The upper echelon Math elites want only theoretical or PhD level math questions here. If you want help understanding high school math concepts, good luck. – mkinson Mar 30 '18 at 11:36