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Please see the Addendum which discusses whether this query was poorly written.


I request that the following Help Center article be re-written to more explicitly clarify when a mathSE query should be down-voted:

"Privilege: vote down - Indicate when questions and answers are not useful"

AKA : Mathematics Stack Exchange : Help center : Privileges : vote down

The article's link is:

https://math.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/vote-down

Although my primary concern is no-effort-expended posts, because of how often these posts occur, I think that the re-write should include any query where a downvote is currently deemed appropriate.

Excerpting near the start of the article:

When should I vote down?

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

Excerpting near the end of the article:

What are the alternatives to downvoting?

The upvote privilege comes first because that's what you should focus on: pushing great content to the top. Downvoting should be reserved for extreme cases. It's not meant as a substitute for communication and editing.

Instead of voting down:

If the post is spammy or offensive, flag it.

If the question is duplicate or off-topic, flag it for moderator attention.

If something is wrong, please leave a comment or edit the post to correct it.

As I read this article, it is unclear what the appropriate first response should be to a no-effort-expended post: downvoting or communication. Since I have had high-spirited comment/discussions with other mathSE reviewers, with each of us citing a different portion of this (same) Help Center article, the situation seems inefficient.

From what I have observed, it is very common practice among some mathSE reviewers to quickly and efficiently downvote a no-effort-expended post. This allows the downvoter to ignore such considerations as

  • Whether the poster is new

  • Whether the poster will have a negative emotional reaction to the downvote beyond the effect on the poster's rep

  • Whether anyone else has already given a comment explaining how the query needs to be improved

  • Whether the poster (who is often new) has had a chance (once it was explained to them) to edit their query to improve it, thereby avoiding the negative emotional impact of the downvote

It is also very common practice among other mathSE reviewers to respond to a no-effort posting with such comments as "what have you tried", "what is the background of the problem", or "...please see https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9959/how-to-ask-a-good-question".

This allows the commenter to ignore such considerations as

  • If the query is never downvoted, how much more difficult is it for the query to be deleted. Note that the question of closing the query is excluded here because my understanding (which may be in error) is that a query can be just as easily closed without ever having been downvoted.

  • How important is it that the process of deleting a query be facilitated.

  • Whether the communication attempt will fail to meaningfully improve the query upwards of 90% of the time. If this percentage is accurate, this raises the question of whether mathSE reviewers should make the effort.

  • If an initial response of communication is preferred, but it is decided that eventual downvoting is appropriate, does this mean that a downvoter is to be forced to take the trouble to bookmark the query, and then return to the query at a later time to downvote it.

  • If so, how long should the downvoter wait?

Under normal circumstances, it could be argued that it is better to leave these subjective decisions to the common sense of each (experienced) mathSE reviewer. With no-effort-expended posts occuring so frequently, with wide (subjective) disagreement over the appropriate response to these posts, and with disagreeing mathSE reviewers both quoting the same Help Center article, I think that this situation deserves attention.

If the article can be revamped to address all of the issues mentioned above, then any disagreement among mathSE reviewers over the appropriate response to a no-effort-expended post can be quickly and efficiently resolved - simply by citing the (revamped) Help Center article.

One alternative is to have the Help Center article cite a meta-query similar to how the "https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9959/how-to-ask-a-good-question" article is cited. I would argue against this approach, because it leaves room for disagreeing interpretations. If the (revamped) Help Center article explicitly anticipates and authoritatively resolves disagreements, then inefficient disagreement among mathSE reviewers is avoided.

I recognize that this revamping may be troublesome. For one thing, it seems to require that a general concensus be reached on the issues raised in this meta-query. It occurs to me, that by listing the issues, I have facilitated their discussion in this query.

This means that this query actually has two parts:

  • Facilitate discussion among all mathSE reviewers to reach a concensus on the pertinent issues

  • Have responsible mathSE reviewers who are in authority (presumably moderators) evaluate the responses, reach a conclusion about the will of the majority, and then incorporate that will into the Help Center article.

I don't see any way of short-circuiting this process.


Addendum

It occurs to me that this meta-query was slanted which made it more difficult to perceive the point of the query. As such, the query was poorly written.

A large part of the point of this meta-query is that with respect to the specific issue of new users giving no-effort-posts, there are two points of view:

  1. The main goal should be to quickly remove the question.

  2. It is more important to practice diplomatic communication.

These two points of view are polar opposites of each other and are both reasonable. The whole point of this meta-query is to resolve this polarity.


Addendum-1

I think that it is worthwhile to edit this query so that it directly includes other people's ideas that have already been expressed in the comments.

I don't understand what your conundrum is about. SE in general does not prescribe precise actions that all users must follow in each and every instance: it allows for varied, but appropriate, responses. That's not a contradiction; it's complementary.

At the very least, downvotes should always be explained in the comments, including the downvotes to this question.

Downvotes need not be explained (would you require that upvotes be explained?). This conversation has been done to death on meta.math. You're not bringing anything new to the table here,

Upvotes on poor questions have a negative emotional impact on me. Downvotes don't have a negative emotional impact on me. The emotional reaction to a transfer of internet points is really entirely up to the person. Just as whether a user chooses to downvote or not, and to explain that downvote or not.

Your question would also be improved by providing examples where there might be disagreement about downvotes being 'justified' (if they should be justified at all) on the basis of the articles you cite, about downvoting and about how to ask a good question. As the problem mostly concerns new users, as you indicate, it would also be good to take into account the many pointers a new user gets before being able to ask a question.

Just to be clear; the question in your comment above is a perfect example of a question asked with complete disregard for all pointers for asking a good question. It does not encourage me (or others, clearly) to do anything other than remove the question from the site as quickly as possible. The edit has improved it, though.

Edit
Question being referred to above is Can someone help with this question?.

It's good to know that is the issue you are trying to address; the point of your question was not entirely clear to me.

Edit
Issue being referred to, is from the Addendum section:
"...The whole point of this meta-query is to resolve this polarity."

As for the issue, I don't agree with your characterisation. There is a line, somewhere, between poor questions that I will try to improve, and those that I won't. It depends on how much it needs to improve to meet the standards of MSE, and how much effort that will take. Past that line, the most viable option for improvement (of the site) is to simply downvote and vote to close.Recall that upon closing, the user gets a rough indication of the reason for closure, and an opportunity to reopen after improving. So this is still a (low-effort) mode of communication towards the OP.

Finally, many users are also bothered by the lack of reciprocity in the communication; the (original) question you linked clearly shows far less effort than even some of the comments under it. Many users have expressed, understandably, that they have strong negative feelings towards (new) users that clearly put in far less effort than they are asking of others. (As you may be able to tell, these discussions have been held here before, more than once, at length)

Of course different users will draw this line in different places. I'm not sure there is any point in trying to dictate to users, who volunteer their time here, that they should invest more energy in engaging more actively with low-quality content.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand what your conundrum is about. SE in general does not prescribe precise actions that all users must follow in each and every instance: it allows for varied, but appropriate, responses. That's not a contradiction; it's complementary. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Oct 17 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy My initial reason for this query was because I thought that there was widespread disagreement about how no-effort-expended posts should be handled (e.g. what priority should be given to not triggering a negative emotional reaction in a new poster). I thought that reaching an agreement about the issues would be welcomed, regardless of what that agreement is. Judging by the downvotes that have been given to this meta-query, it seems that most users do not support the idea of re-writing the Help Center article. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 17 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I have also noticed that some queries are being simultaneously downvoted (re no work shown) and answered because the OP included a sentence indicating that an exploration idea had been considered. This strikes me as theatre of the absurd. However, it occurs to me that the main purpose of mathSE is not to entertain me. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 17 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ At the very least, downvotes should always be explained in the comments, including the downvotes to this question. $\endgroup$ – Randall Oct 18 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Randall Currently, the rule that you are advocating, which I fully support, is in widespread violation on mathSE. Does this mean that you think that this meta-query may have a positive effect? Does this mean that you are going to upvote this meta-query? Say it isn't so...say it isn't so. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 18 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ Downvotes need not be explained (would you require that upvotes be explained?). This conversation has been done to death on meta.math. You're not bringing anything new to the table here, -1. $\endgroup$ – KReiser Oct 18 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ @KReiser Upvotes don't have a negative emotional impact on the recipient. Also, upvoted queries don't require that the poster take a specific action. The opposite is true for downvotes. Besides the psychology, how is the (new ?) poster supposed to know what is going on? Is wasn't my intent to bring anything new... I subjectively see a problem that needs to be fixed and I am trying to fix it. How was I to know that I was on a fool's errand, if it is a fool's errand? $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 18 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thanks for the assist. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 18 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @user2661923 Upvotes on poor questions have a negative emotional impact on me. Downvotes don't have a negative emotional impact on me. The emotional reaction to a transfer of internet points is really entirely up to the person. Just as whether a user chooses to downvote or not, and to explain that downvote or not. $\endgroup$ – Servaes Oct 18 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Servaes "Upvotes on poor questions have a negative emotional impact on me." I wasn't aware that anyone was advocating that the Help Center article should be modified to indicate that poor questions should be upvoted. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 18 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ I recently encountered a rapid (< 14 minutes) anonymous downvote that subsequently inadvertantly indicated disparity in viewpoints - suggesting that the Help Center article needs clarity : (" It's not our job to explain. The information provided in the close dialogue box is more than enough for the OP to improve their question.") math.stackexchange.com/questions/3870375/…. $\endgroup$ – user2661923 Oct 18 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ Your question would also be improved by providing examples where there might be disagreement about downvotes being 'justified' (if they should be justified at all) on the basis of the articles you cite, about downvoting and about how to ask a good question. As the problem mostly concerns new users, as you indicate, it would also be good to take into account the many pointers a new user gets before being able to ask a question. $\endgroup$ – Servaes Oct 18 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ As for the issue, I don't agree with your characterisation. There is a line, somewhere, between poor questions that I will try to improve, and those that I won't. It depends on how much it needs to improve to meet the standards of MSE, and how much effort that will take. Past that line, the most viable option for improvement (of the site) is to simply downvote and vote to close.Recall that upon closing, the user gets a rough indication of the reason for closure, and an opportunity to reopen after improving. So this is still a (low-effort) mode of communication towards the OP. $\endgroup$ – Servaes Oct 18 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Of course different users will draw this line in different places. I'm not sure there is any point in trying to dictate to users, who volunteer their time here, that they should invest more energy in engaging more actively with low-quality content. $\endgroup$ – Servaes Oct 18 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ Finally, many users are also bothered by the lack of reciprocity in the communication; the (original) question you linked clearly shows far less effort than even some of the comments under it. Many users have expressed, understandably, that they have strong negative feelings towards (new) users that clearly put in far less effort than they are asking of others. (As you may be able to tell, these discussions have been held here before, more than once, at length) $\endgroup$ – Servaes Oct 18 at 19:50