Drawback of answers written by some high reputation users

This is my personal view: some high reputation users don't write their answers in detail.

I think they should write their answers in detail so that average students will also understand it.

Some high reputation users are thinking that students are geniuses and that they can easily understand their short hints/answers. Sometimes I didn't get any responses when I commented on an answer even though they were active.

I think this should not be happening. I think they should try to write their answers in detail so that there's some hope that a weak/average student would be able to understand it too.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ I do not entirely agree how you frame this, but there is a valid point there. I think we should move to more readily useable answers in parallel to raising standards for questions. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    May 30, 2021 at 18:33
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ I agree many answers could be more helpful if they had more explanation (though it is hard to discuss this without specific examples). However, answerers should not be expected to respond comments on their questions, even if they are "active." They are not payed enough for that. $\endgroup$ May 30, 2021 at 19:29
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Some questions show little effort on the asker's part and so the answer is often a hint. There are at least two reasons for this: 1. with little context, it is hard to know what the problematic issue is; 2. if the question is simply a problem statement, it looks a lot like a homework question and the most someone wants to offer is a hint to hopefully prompt the asker to the correct line of thought. Of course, PSQ's are discouraged on this site to address this second issue. Adding context to the question also helps resolve the first issue. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    May 30, 2021 at 19:45
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ No one here is paid, @MikeEarnest, not even the mods; if mods had your attitude, this site would be a mess. If all one gives is a hint in what is meant to be an answer field, and an asker takes it and runs with it, and posts below ones answer to verify, BE NICE, and reply. They took time to type their question, listen to one's hint, use it to move forward, and they had the initiative to return, likely out of both gratitude, and verification, the very least one can do, is reply. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 30, 2021 at 20:24
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ By writing an answer in detail, the user deprives the questioner of the joy of working out the details on her own, and of all she may learn by doing so. $\endgroup$ May 30, 2021 at 23:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi jasmine , I had this issue for some time as well, but not restricted to high-rep users. I think we enter very judgemental territory, however, when we ask for long, detailed answers. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but I think if I wrote a question and then wrote : "I'd prefer a long, detailed answer to a hint, please" then I'm not sure it will be well-received. I wonder how one can ask for long, detailed answers in a manner so that the request is best received without opposition. @quid How would you frame a question where you want an answer to be "readily usable" against being e.g. a hint? $\endgroup$ May 31, 2021 at 4:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Having said that, it's about balance, like the answer by SimpliFire puts it : if a hint-only answer comes, the OP must recognize it's been given by an answerer that thinks they'll be able to finish it, so they must try at the least, and then get back. On the other hand, the answerer must realize that the OP may not be at the level they thought would be sufficient to comprehend and finish off from the hint, so they need to be ready to address that concern by replying to comments (as seen fit : if OP asks for a complete, detailed answer in a comment, the answerer has the right to reject). $\endgroup$ May 31, 2021 at 5:01
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ I'd like to stress a point: in many cases it's much more useful, pedagogically, to give a hint so that the OP can "see the light" (feel the "aha! moment") and find the complete answer by himself. Giving a full answer is unproductive. Now, the usefulness of the hint may be somewhat debatable, depending on the OP's level. It's not easy: give out too much and the question is basically answered, give too little and the hint is arcane at best. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2021 at 7:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1, I am all for detailed answers. I also don't like books which cut short on explanations (Rudin). However, it is the primary responsibility of asker to request more details from answerer if they find an existing answer difficult to understand. One typical way is by adding context in question regarding mathematical maturity of asker. In general an answerer may not really have an idea how much explanation might be sufficient. I have in many cases expanded my answers based on feedback in comments. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    May 31, 2021 at 9:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jasmine You are also a high rep. user (my opinion). The term 'high rep.' is vague, in reality. Anyways, if an answer is too much short for someone to be helpful, downvote, cast a flag and move on. $\endgroup$
    – user730361
    May 31, 2021 at 11:41
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I'll do what I feel like doing, @quid, thank you very much. And if I feel like giving a user the one piece of information that I expect she needs in order to work out the answer herself, then that's exactly what I'll do. I always encourage the user to write up what she works out, and to post it as an answer, so the site winds up with a detailed answer at the end of the day. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2021 at 13:10
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ "Answers should be ready to use." Ready to be cut-and-pasted into the user's homework assignment, without ever passing through the user's brain? I think that's a great way to give the site a horrid reputation among the mathematical community. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2021 at 13:16
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson "Ready to be cut-and-pasted into the user's homework assignment" maybe don't answer those questions in the first place. Poor answer to poor question is not the way to go. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    May 31, 2021 at 15:40
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson "I'll do what I feel like doing" you can do this within the rules of the site, only. If something does not qualify as an answer it can and will be deleted. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    May 31, 2021 at 15:51
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ May I add, yet another impression I received from Jasmine's question? I think there are some, relatively few, but nontheless, frequent answerers, who write frequent short answers that strike me as looking to impress other answerers, not so much to answer the OP. In such cases, they often call upon a sledge hammer way more powerful, and yet unknown to the asker; they are followed by some other users to whom clever answers are considered brilliance. I don't think this is a huge problem, but it certainly happens; so I want to validate my take on Jasmine's question. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 31, 2021 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


This question should actually be generalised to all answerers regardless of reputation.

In your post you mention the inconveniences from the asker's perspective. I will come back to this but I think it is fair to also consider the answerer's perspective:

  1. Has the asker provided enough context in their question? In particular, does it allow answerers knowledge of the asker's level or ability?

If there is insufficient context, such as a problem-statement question, it would be impossible to know the asker's ability and at which steps they do not understand or cannot proceed. Therefore, if you wish to ask a question, make sure to provide the motivation, your attempts and/or your level. Currently, Enforcement of Quality Standards aims to mitigate this issue.

  1. Answerers are volunteers. Do they have enough time to answer to further requests?

Users on this site may have more important commitments. Sometimes it may not be possible to provide further detail for a certain period of time. Since you say that those users were in fact active, I will now take the asker's perspective:

  1. Why are answerers giving such unhelpful answers?

If you find an answer too short to be helpful, you can leave a comment under their answer. If it is too unhelpful or low-quality, there is the option to downvote, and in extreme cases to flag as a low-quality answer. Repeated offenders will be given warnings and suspensions.

  1. Why are answerers unwilling to respond to my comments despite being active elsewhere?

Some users may simply choose not to respond as they may find the discussion boring or unproductive, and may be onto another question that is more appealing to them. I should stress that again, all answerers are volunteers and are under no obligations provided that they adhere to basic Stack Exchange guidelines. I believe that it would in fact be counterproductive to warn or suspend answerers solely on the basis of not responding to comments. This would be overmoderation.

  1. What can I do to resolve my queries?

There are several options. You can wait and hope to see if other users will answer your question in a more detailed manner. This can be aided through placing a bounty on your question and leaving this message to future answerers. This can also be aided by editing your post with considerable improvement to attract attention, but I must warn against excessive or superficial editing with the mere purpose of bumping a question. Lastly, you can post a separate question asking for a more detailed discussion of your previous question, but ensure that it is linked in your new post.

  • $\begingroup$ Please read my comment below the question, regarding hint answers. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 30, 2021 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I will reply tomorrow; I don't have any more time today. $\endgroup$
    – TheSimpliFire Mod
    May 30, 2021 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ no problem, @TheSimpliFire! I wasn't at all critical of your answer here; just in the case of "hints" written in answer fields. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 30, 2021 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I agree it is impolite/borderline rude not to respond to non-pestering comments from the OP about an answerer's hint. However, we do have a large user base on MSE, and unless this behaviour is rampant I don't believe we should enforce anything at the moment. Oftentimes answerers are very willing to help out and from experience/witness non-cooperation is comparatively rare (cf. number of PSQ answerers). In terms of hints as answers in general, I don't think there has been a clear consensus despite significant discussion on Meta over previous years. $\endgroup$
    – TheSimpliFire Mod
    May 31, 2021 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ TheSimplifire - I agree it is relatively rare, and that their are times when an answerer gives a hint, and immediately asks, "Okay, but I'm confused about what comes next?", and the answerer offers yet another hint, and the OP implores the answerer for yet more hints, and ultimately "Can you please write the entire solution, and I'll ....". It's happened to me, in the past. So no, it is not mandatory to keep offering "bones" to OPs. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 31, 2021 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ Correct! It is exactly why I mentioned "non-pestering". $\endgroup$
    – TheSimpliFire Mod
    May 31, 2021 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I think the OP was noting a pattern with only some answerers. I commented below the OP's post, toward the bottom, to reflect my understanding of the OP's post. They are not addressing, generally, all answers, nor pestering askers. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 31, 2021 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Even some new users do not write detailed answers; it seems that what counts as reasonable is not universal. Recent related post math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/33639/… $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2021 at 7:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .