I am currently using Linear Algebra Done Right by Sheldon Axler to self-study linear algebra in my free time. I'm not a student, I work full-time. I posted a question asking for help on Chapter 3 Exercise 4. I spend almost 2 hours working on it and couldn't figure it out. The question was down-voted twice, and put on hold because "it isn't clear what you are asking".

I think people are upset because I just posted the question directly from the textbook without showing my own work or clarifying further. But the fact is I got an answer to this question, and the answer was extremely helpful in my self-study of this textbook. It's not like I am trying to take shortcuts, I am not even enrolled in a class. Is it unacceptable to ask for help on a problem from a textbook that I am completely baffled on?

  • $\begingroup$ Have you explicitly written down what the question is? $\endgroup$ – Fan Aug 30 '17 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ Your first version of the question was a bit unclear, because you didn't properly define $V$ and $F$ (as a comment pointed out). I would have voted to close as off-topic because it didn't indicate any of your own thoughts or efforts - you say you spent two hours on it, but didn't indicate any of your own background, related results you know, what you tried and what didn't work. "Completely baffled" doesn't mean that you can't at least post some thoughts about it. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 30 '17 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Also, question for context. $\endgroup$ – user296602 Aug 30 '17 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oh glad that you have received an answer. $\endgroup$ – Fan Aug 30 '17 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ "I think people are upset because..." It has become an automatic figure of speech to take for granted that of course, anybody downvoting anything must have been "upset" rather than, say, coolly evaluating the merits of the relevant posts, confronting them to their own conceptions, and finally, based on this careful and cautious analysis, making up their mind. It seems to me that this figure of speech says more about the preconceptions of its author than about reality. $\endgroup$ – Did Aug 30 '17 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe because you posted a poor question? $\endgroup$ – amWhy Aug 30 '17 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ Many, myself included, believe that math.stackexchange.com is not intended to be a solutions manual -- that "user post an exercise, internet solves the exercise" is not the intended use case of this site. And furthermore, many opine that this practice must be actively discouraged so that the site is not overrun with such. And this is precisely the sort of interaction the question you posted (appears) to seek. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Aug 30 '17 at 23:34

I think people are upset because I just posted the question directly from the textbook without showing my own work or clarifying further.

Yes, this is an important point. Please see How to ask a good question. for the importance of showing "context" for a question. It's very normal for questions that don't do this to get downvoted or closed.

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    $\begingroup$ In reflection, I should have just accepted the feedback without complaining. After all, what does positive feedback mean if negative feedback is not acceptable. Sorry for complaining. $\endgroup$ – Joe Sep 10 '17 at 7:38

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