[edit: I posted this while possibly not in the best frame of mind for calm and thoughtful writing, and that probably comes through. But I seriously would appreciate feedback about how to treat this sort of situation: whether to edit a post that has downvotes, what kinds of edits to titles are appropriate, what to do when a ghastly post nevertheless contains something worth answering, etc.—ideally from people with a range of viewpoints, if such a range exists.]

I joined the site a few days ago. I think my contributions have mostly been positive. (For some reason my first question got a ridiculous number of upvotes, but that's irrelevant really.) A few minutes ago this happened.

A question appeared asking for a formula or notation for the process of repeatedly adding the digits of a number—which is the traditional method known as casting out the nines for checking arithmetic. It calculates the remainder on dividing by 9. I mentioned this in a comment, as the questioner seemed unaware of it.

Unfortunately the questioner labelled this process as being a numerological one. The title was something like formula for numerology.

Now, I understand that here, people ask mathematical questions and get mathematical answers. The questioner's title didn't make it clear that there was any mathematical content at all, so I edited the title to include "|casting out the nines]" so people would know the actual content.

Within seconds of saving the suggested edit, the question had been put on hold (maybe reasonable as it was a pretty garbled question) but also, a comment appeared under mine telling me in no uncertain terms that my "attempt to edit the post" was "inappropriate" and that "casting out the nines" had "little to do with numerology".

That was the point of the suggested edit: to point out that the substance of the question wasn't really about nunerology and that there was a legitimate mathematical query in there.

I appreciate that the site is bombarded with ill-written questions, but is it really necessary to pounce on someone in this way? I barely had time even to save the edit. What's wrong with simply rejecting the edit and specifying a reason? That would have enabled me to know what I'd done wrong and avoid doing it again.

Mostly I've found the site a good place to learn and every so often to contribute since I joined, but now I'm thinking I really might be better off keeping away from here.

My reasoning in submitting the edit was that even if the question got deleted, it would at least be more accurately labelled in the meantime. I struggle to see how that is inappropriate.

Also I've seen things such as a question posted "41 seconds ago" which already had two downvotes, suggesting people are downvoting questions without even opening them. I can't say that seems particularly appropriate behaviour to me—not everyone is skilled in writing a suitable title, and we're encouraged to be kind to new users, so it's surely necessary to at least glance at the content. And maybe give the questioner time to realise they need to do a bit of editing.

Is this really a good way to treat newcomers (or anyone)? I've been trying hard to be considerate to those who don't know much maths and where I can, help them to know a bit more. Even if they express themselves with bizarre phrases like "numerology formula". If someone wants to know some maths, give them the maths!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I had hit my limit of reviewing 20 suggested edits today. When I saw your suggested edit, I felt it was inappropriate, because the asker gave no indication that that's what they were relying on. So I did not reject the edit, but alternatively replied to you/addressed you in a comment. If you'd have preferred no feedback, then don't be complaining here. Rarely are there posts here for "41 seconds having two downvotes". To counter that, there are poor question posted less than two minutes that have already received three answers, despite the fact that the post is actually ambiguous. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Dec 2 '18 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ So this isn't the right place for the question?Apologies for that—I'm still finding my way around (I had a struggle to find the meta site, in fact, as the link didn't seem to be displaying.) $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 2 '18 at 23:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The appropriate action to have taken would have been to have addressed the asker in a comment, suggesting "What you are doing reminds me of "casting out nines [link to Wikipedia]". Is that what you are referring to?" And then, depending on feedback from the asker, your assumption is verified, or it is not. Do not presume to know what an asker means and change their question accordingly, without first getting clarification from the asker. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Dec 2 '18 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ It is okay to ask here. There's no problem with that. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Dec 2 '18 at 23:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I get what you mean it the title—they'd be searching for "numrologyy" most likely. But I still feel that some consideration of how the tone of comments will be received is in order. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 2 '18 at 23:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why the drama? Once clarified, if appropriate to the site, any question put on hold may be reopened. $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 2 '18 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Old maybe I was too tired. All I can say is that I perceived the wording as quite hostile, whether it was intended that way or not. I simply trying to improve a post which desperately needed it. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ 41 seconds was the actual time displayed on the post—it stuck in my mind because it was so short, and I wondered whether it was a system malfunction. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ @amwhy Noted re checking with the asker ffirst. (I think I was anxious to give them a bit more chance of getting an answer, given that their title ad it stood seemed guaranteed to make people expect crackpottery rather than a question about maths). $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 1:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy, "If you'd have preferred no feedback, then don't be complaining here" is not really in line with the ethos of the site. The essence of the complaint seems to me to be that OP perceived the feedback to be hostile and not constructive, which goes against the code of conduct. In fact, I think the quoted sentence could be turned back against you: don't complain about receiving more detailed feedback on how your original comment was received than just an "Unkind" flag. (Note: I haven't seen the original comment, and so can't say how I would have perceived it). $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Dec 3 '18 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ Tim, I think it would be helpful to edit down this question and focus it specifically on the issue in the title. "What should I have done in this situation?" is a good meta question; the bringing in of side-issues like downvotes starts to feel a bit ranty and distracts from the core question. $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Dec 3 '18 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter Thanks for both for the suggestion and for accurately summarising my point. If you think editing disk is OK I might do it. (On many forums, deleting one's rants is considered to be rewriting history or hiding evidence of bad behaviour.) $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ Editing to vandalise a question is frowned upon, but editing to make your own question easier to understand and answer is encouraged. It's not really hiding anything because the earlier revisions are available to anyone who's interested enough to look for them. $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Dec 3 '18 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter I think the main reasons amWhy's comment on my edit came over badly were its terse wordeing (not bad in itself :conciseness is a good ideal) and the speed with which it appeared. I was expecting I'd simply check after 15 minutes or so whether my exit had been accepted, but the comment appeared instead. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 11:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Peter I think the wording was 'Your attempt, timtfj, to edit the title of this question by inserting 'casting out the nines' in brackets is inappropriate. Casting out the nines is far from numrology." I assumed I was being reprimanded for submitting suggested edits to a post with a negative score and outlandish subject, especially since the "on hold" message appeared at the same time as the comment. $\endgroup$ – timtfj Dec 3 '18 at 12:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .