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I gave a correct answer at is it ever possible for a sequence of real-valued smooth, non-diffeomorphic functions in $\mathbb{R}$ to jump across a repulsive fixed-point? a few minutes ago. The OP then tried to change the conditions in comments; I objected.

I don't think we are required to answer the next case the OP thinks of, just because we answered the first. And I think it is rude of them to demand.

What do you think?

P. S. It will not surprise anyone that I have a similar problem with a postdoc half a world away; I have been considering whether to answer yesterday's email. I feel ill-used.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ In my personal opinion, the initial aggresive comment by you escalated things unnessecarily. This happens to me a lot, and I just ignore it. Needless to say, I hope you report the comment. Your response might have been needlessly harsh, but OP's was just flat-out rude and petulant. $\endgroup$ – The Count Feb 24 '17 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree with reporting inappropriate comments that were egged on by other inappropriate comments. And it can be argued that Will's comment was also rude ("spend some damn time on it") and petulant ("bother someone else"). $\endgroup$ – tilper Feb 25 '17 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ When I read the exchange of comments reproduced above, I regret once again to be too lazy to maintain a list of users whose questions I should ignore. (To get into the specifics of the situation, note that the first part of the OP's last comment "I never asked for your input" is factually false: they asked for everybody's input by posting a question and they asked for Will's input by posting comments on Will's answer. As for the rest of the same comment, it should have got them suspended.) $\endgroup$ – Did Feb 26 '17 at 7:55
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    $\begingroup$ Your second comment could have been phrased in a different way (maybe suggest a chat room, or just don't respond) that would have been less provocative. Then again, I am far from a saint in such matters :-). The OP's rectal response was clearly inappropriate. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Feb 26 '17 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @tilper While I certainly agree with the spirit of what you're saying, I think an apt metaphor here would be that Will egged crow's house, and crow blew-up Will's house. $\endgroup$ – The Count Feb 27 '17 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ @TheCount, I don't think that analogy is accurate at all but +1 because the thought of that scenario playing out for real (in general, not necessarily with the two people here) was hilarious. $\endgroup$ – tilper Feb 27 '17 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @tilper I was in a silly mood last night. I guess I mean Will was rightfully irritated and perhaps handled it poorly. crow just acted like, well, an ass. not exactly an equivalence. $\endgroup$ – The Count Feb 27 '17 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ Ignoring has been an effective solution to this problem. At least it has worked for me, with not a single case where I was spammed or something similar. $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Feb 27 '17 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ Successively less subtle warnings followed by blacklisting and systematic breaking down of subject if warnings are not heeded. Will only work if you are well connected ;) But hey you got 74k rep. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Feb 28 '17 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ I honestly cannot sympathize with will jagy. Regardless of who started what, will jagy started this entire escapade by posting an incomplete garbage answer that doesn't even follow the site guidelines. You absolutely have no grounds to complain about comments being placed on your answer when the answer doesn't even follow the site's rules and provide a clear and concise answer. All I see is a picture of a graph. I cannot understand the point of the answer and I cannot blame the asker for not understanding either. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Mar 1 '17 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Your comment seems to have less to do with the questioner's behavior and more to do with your dislike of will's answer. The answer was accepted and the screen cap shows that crow was thankful for the answer. The comments to which will refers to are not crow asking him to clarify his answer because the answer is poor, but different questions trying to get will to do more work for him, in which case he should just post new questions. Furthermore, regardless of the quality of the answer, repeated comments can be cloying and even feel harassing, which is why will responded that way. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Long Mar 2 '17 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ I do not think that it is rude of the poster to ask as long as they do not expect or demand an answer. They think that they are in a friendly voluntary conversation and before the "damn, you are bothering me"-post there was no indication that this was not so. $\endgroup$ – Phira Mar 2 '17 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinLong while i see both sides here (see my previous comments), surely you would agree that regardless of the pestering, will responded inappropriately? $\endgroup$ – The Count Mar 2 '17 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the original OP's initial request for clarification/extra explanation can't be condemned as such. Some users like engaging OPs in interaction through comments (sometimes to gauge their interest and enthusiasm)[1]. Although as some of the others have rightly said, the OP's final comment (although very cuss and disrespectful and indeed deserves condemnation) was instigated by your previous comment. He had no idea and no chance of knowing whether you were busy. $\endgroup$ – Shraddheya Shendre Mar 3 '17 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ @KevinLong The way I see it is that if one violated the rules of the site, they lose all right's to complain about the responses they receive. I mean other than if blatant vulgarity occurs. And I simply mean that the asker wouldn't have need to ask the questions (which if you notice are not new questions but rather questions of "why does this work") if the answer-er actually followed the sites rules and gave one iota of text. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Mar 3 '17 at 16:53
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No you are not required to follow up in comments.

At the same time I feel it is not unexpected and rather normal that an asker tries to engage somebody that answered in case something is open.

I feel it is strange to get upset about this, doubly so given the sketchy nature of your answer. If you do not want to further engage, say so clearly and neutrally (possibly even preemptively) or also just ignore. Your comment with "damn" seems out-of-line to me.

As is the asker's reply, of course. But, as far as I can see it was you that misbehaved first, and asker just reacted very poorly.

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    $\begingroup$ “sketchy” ⇒ ▲-vote! $\endgroup$ – PJTraill Feb 24 '17 at 10:00
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Buy, I guess none of you ever taught public high school or junior college. My week wasn't complete without someone threatening to go to the principal/head of department and threatening to have me fired.

And now I'm tutoring online and that is a story of its own -- people demand you do their homework now, immediately, and give them the correct answers so they can fill in their online homework. For as little as five bucks. The particular website I use does not encourage this but others do.

Back to the high school days, if anyone ever showed interest and asked a question that was unusually positive.Except yes when they wanted their homework done for them.

I would suggest practicing some neutral ways to say a definitive NO.

"Sorry, I don't have any more time, but you can work it out by yourself." "Just follow the model I used and work on it. You need the practice." "Sorry, have other calls, have to go now." "Try it now and talk to me later if you can't get it." "Give it a try on your own before bringing it in for help."

The young student who is trying hard to work ahead independently will not be hurt by this, and the lazy ones will go away without starting a flame war.

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    $\begingroup$ A ▲, especially for your example refusals. I felt my answer could have done with them, but did not get round to it. $\endgroup$ – PJTraill Feb 25 '17 at 11:22
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Perhaps there is an expectation that once an individual has reached the level of mathematics presented in that particular post, that there should be a corresponding level of maturity with respect to self-directed learning, not to mention an appropriate degree of deference to those who provide assistance.

Simply put, you might expect such behavior from a high school student, but not from someone studying graduate-level mathematics. It is difficult for me to believe that a student could manage to get that far and utterly fail to appreciate when they are receiving helpful feedback.

That said, the question being asked here is largely rhetorical: anyone with sufficient reputation on this site is well aware that there is never any obligation to answer or to comment. We all give our time freely and it is at our sole discretion that we choose to contribute. Personally, I feel I have only one real obligation on this site, and that is to do my best to not provide incorrect information. Civility is necessary as a matter of course, here as well as in our daily lives, but if we fail in our self-restraint from time to time, it is only part of being human. The community has methods to deal with that. But again, there is no obligation to post. There have been many occasions when I get follow-up questions to my answers, and I never respond, not because of anything the OP said or did, but simply because I have moved on or I'm too busy with other things.

The price of advice freely given is that you have to be content with what you get, even if it is nothing at all.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for "never any obligation." Frankly I felt all this talk about being "required" to follow up was very weird since use of this site is purely voluntary. People who have been here a while (or not) should know that we aren't required to answer, whether it's a follow-up or not... $\endgroup$ – tilper Feb 25 '17 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like sometimes things escalate unnecessarily on this site. Like @tilper says, people participate on this site voluntarily and follow-up questions in the comments don't strike me as something inherently bad, as long as it is used to clear up understanding and is closely relevant to the original question. Answering such comments is purely voluntary as well, so it can be ignored if one feels like not answering it. My experience on this site has been positive and it's such a great resource for independent study. $\endgroup$ – shredalert Feb 27 '17 at 11:05
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Quid’s answer is good, but perhaps there is more to say.

Could it be that you are by nature helpful, but find that repeatedly dragging you in deeper than you want to go? That you are quick to offer a little help, and that people mistake this to mean they can go on piling up the questions, while you feel this is an imposition or that they should show more independence? This seems a reasonable attitude, but one that may lead to unnecessary disappointment when you subsequently withdraw. If it is indeed so, it might help to look for a way of either preventing that disappointment signalling early on that your investment in the question will be limited or assuaging it by a friendly formulation when you have had enough.

All the same, there should be no need to dance on eggshells if you can keep the tone civilised; it is striking how suddenly the ill-feeling in the case in question escalated. No reaction on either side would have been better than the last two posts.

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    $\begingroup$ The cut-off doesn't even need to be noticeably friendly, so long as it isn't hostile. For example "I think you've reached the point that this is a new question, so I'll leave this one now." And alternatively one can just stop answering. $\endgroup$ – Joffan Feb 25 '17 at 1:05
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When this occurs on Stack Overflow, where I am more active than on Math.SE, I politely tell the OP to post a new question.

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You were never obligated to even answer the question, let alone answer followup questions. If you find that you don't want to answer more questions, just leave it to someone else to do it.

Now, keep in mind that the only reason that you should have answered her question is if you enjoy answering questions. Your behavior was inexcusable. You need to be mindful of your effect your words have on the student you are helping. If a professor had done something like this to me when I asked a question, I would have been sad for a long time, unnecessarily, trying to think of any possibility that I misinterpreted the reply the professor gave.

I emphatically hope that we don't add to the 10,000,000 rules that we already have here that people are not allowed to ask followup questions. Soon people won't be able to do anything without running into some sort of red tape. Of course one should think for a while before asking followup questions. But should the student fail to do this, you should not bring everything that is wrong with university teaching into mathstackexchange.

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Let me point out the elephant in the room:

Comments requesting clarification/expansion can be answered by any passerby.

And also, such comments can be posted by any passerby.

It's perfectly possible to come across an ancient answer on Stack Overflow which was missing one little detail or variant application, and to comment asking for that. Here's an example.

You aren't obligated to respond, of course.

But you are obligated to Be Nice.


  1. If the follow-up is just a tiny variation of the original question, it might be better off answered in comments (or an expanded, more general answer) than in a separate question.

    Ask yourself: if I gave a sufficiently detailed answer to this question, and if this follow-up in comments were posted as a separate question, would it be closed as a duplicate? (If so, it's a reasonable follow-up for comments.)

  2. If the follow-up is related but really a separate question, perhaps it's already been asked before. If so, you can just link to it from the comments.
  3. If the follow-up is a separate question but hasn't been asked before, suggest that the OP ask a new question.

If you don't want to answer the comment, don't. No one is forcing you to. Communicating is part of life—what other pay is there for contributing to Stack Exchange?—but you're free to totally ignore comments on your answers if you want to.

It IS possible to respond nicely without doing the work of answering. For example, you might have said:

@crow, that's a completely different question. Please review the site guidelines, and ask it as such.

If you really wanted to be a bit snarky, you could have blandly added that they should do more of their own research:

...if your research prior to asking doesn't lead you to find your own answer, which it probably will.

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    $\begingroup$ "But you are obligated to Be Nice." Wrong. You are obligated to be respectful. You are obligated to treat those here as you would expect to be treated by others. As a corollary, you are obligated to post only those comments that you would say directly to a person's face. This is different than being nice. Or Being Nice. Being respectful means letting a person know that what they are doing is not cool. Or right. Or going to lead to success. So, yeah, sometimes I am not nice. I am blunt. Which is far more respectful, of the OP, the site, and myself. I agree with the rest. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Feb 28 '17 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ @RonGordon, math.stackexchange.com/help/be-nice $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Feb 28 '17 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think will should've just said. "I cannot help you". Telling someone to ask a new question is rude. You're ordering someone to make a post whether they want to or not. Will can ask crow to not bother him with those questions but he has no authority to force him to post a question. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Mar 4 '17 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think telling someone to ask a new question is necessarily rude, if phrased well. It could be handled as simply as, "That's an interesting follow-up. Go ahead and ask it as a new question -- I'll take a look if I have time." $\endgroup$ – Neal Mar 8 '17 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Neal. And regarding your comment, @TheGreatDuck, violating the Q&A format of the site (by putting questions in comments) shows either ignorance of or disregard for the structure of the community. "...whether they want to or not"—you're free not to post, obviously, but you can't post a comment ignoring the guidelines of the site and then howl that you're being "ordered to make a post" when someone tells you that comments are not the place for new questions. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Mar 8 '17 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ It's an issue of wording that's all. I often see it phrased badly and it sounds like an order rather than an explanation of rules. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Mar 9 '17 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Wildcard: thanks for reminding me. That said, I agree with 2 and 3 completely, and 1 mostly. I understand that this is the Official take by the SE folks, but my experience is that is dignifying for all those involved if I tell someone to take it to a tutor. I have been called rude for that, but I feel this is best. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Aug 8 '17 at 15:05
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"squeezing for further information once an answer is given"

What in the world?

What a snotty attitude! If you don't want to answer or engage further with someone who posts a qustion on the internet, then don't. You don't have to be so snotty about it. Let someone else answer the question more fully, and refrain from downvoting and backstabbing just to make yourself look good. I don't like the point-gaming, the bullying and domination by people with a large number of reputation points, or the "flair" concept. I find this site extremely hostile to newcomers. It's outrageous. I find angry colonels and generals from the Army to be friendlier and easier to deal with than these people with 10K+ rep dominating the math SE discussion.

I used to post in the quant section under another pseudonym. I gained some rep there, and then I became concerned and quietly withdrew from that site. I feel that I had some valid concerns about identity theft and how the answers that I posted would be used. All the same it was a much friendlier atmosphere than the math section.

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  • $\begingroup$ Normalt är det omöjligt att förutse om OP kommer att (för)följa med tilläggsfrågor. Det kan lätt hända att svararen tappar intresset att förklara alla detaljer - förr eller senare. Ta det lugnt och njut av sajten! $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 3 '17 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ Jo visst, har man tilläggsfrågor, så kan de ju skiljas ut till självständiga frågor på sajten, men det där är ingen orsak at så ivrigt nedrösta och stänga sådana frågor. $\endgroup$ – Annorlunda Mar 3 '17 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ I believe we have a new record for most umlauts in a comment section at meta.math. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Mar 3 '17 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ Förstås! Som en obotlig optimist förväntar jag att det blir bättre i framtiden. Kanske pga den här diskussionen? Vi får se! $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 3 '17 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson And not even between German speakers but between a Fin and a (presumably) Swede. Coincidentally, I have yet to learn if the Swedes even consider it an umlaut or if they just consider the whole thing as a separate letter (and I keep forgetting to ask them). $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 3 '17 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKildetoft if Wikipedia is to be trusted they don't. "In addition to the basic twenty-six letters, 'A'-'Z', the Swedish alphabet includes 'Å', 'Ä', and 'Ö' at the end. They are distinct letters in Swedish, and are sorted after 'Z' as shown above. Because they do not mark grammatical variation, as the umlaut can in German orthography, or separate syllables, as does the diaeresis, it is not strictly correct to call them umlauts, despite the lack of a better term in English. The umlauted 'ü' is recognised, but is only used in names of German origin, as well as the loanword müsli.[...]" $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 3 '17 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @TobiasKildetoft quid got it right! In Finnish dictionaries, phone books and such ÅÄÖ are sorted after Z (unlike in German). I am fairly sure we copied it from Swedish. The Finnish language doesn't really use Å at all, but it is still included in our alphabet, because many people and locations have Swedish names where it is needed. Another peculiarity of Finnish is that we equate V and W (for the purposes of alphabetizing names). I have been somewhat impressed by the fact that our local version of Microsoft Excel has been programmed to handle all this correctly. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 3 '17 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, about the comments above. Couldn't pass up an opportunity to practice my Swedish. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 3 '17 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen I knew about the sorting (which for some reason is slightly different from the Danish equivalent which goes ÆØÅ rather than ÅÄÖ), but I had not thought to link that to them being considered separate letters. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 3 '17 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ Please post in English as this is an English site. It makes it horribly difficult for anyone else to read your posts. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Mar 4 '17 at 18:03

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