So I posted my first question here on the math stack exchange here:

Choosing functions so $p'(r) = g(r) \cdot (1- \frac{p(r)}{k(r)})$ is solvable

And I am wondering how I should vote on the answer, or if I should accept it.

On the one hand the answer is incomplete. It provided a vague and cryptic hint. The individual was somewhat helpful in the comments, but still cryptic and not really providing a clear or useful answer.

On the other hand the hint was enough for me to search and with feedback from the comments ultimately find the correct answer. So the person, mostly through back and forth in the comments, did help me.

The reason I am reluctant to upvote the answer, or accept it, and perhaps considering even downvoting it, is that it seemed to be minimal effort and not helpful to other readers. If anyone came to the question hoping to learn they wouldnt get far with the answer presented. In fact its so overly cryptic it doesnt seem worthy of stackexchange, even if it did lead to an answer. Which suggests a downvote is more in order.

On top of that perhaps it would be appropriate to provide the correct answer myself, in full, and then accept that since at least there will be a complete answer availible to someone that wont be as cryptic.

PS I did upvote his comments though as they were ultimately more helpful.


The user who wrote the answer I was asking about was enraged by this post and removed his answer out of spite (see the comment on this question). So the answer I reference in this post is no longer visible, sorry for that.

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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend simply posting your own, complete answer, beginning with something like "Following up on the suggestion in Gerry Myerson's answer...." $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2021 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson As I stated, your help was very much appreciate (which is why i upvoted your comments). I was trying to figure out if I should upvote based on helpfulness or how helpful think the question would be to the community as a reference. At no point did I say or do anything to suggest I was either ungrateful or that you did anything wrong, so I don't understand the response. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see the issue with it if it is enough to help you, and your question looks hard to answer fully. You seem to be familliar with other SE sites; perhaps it should be said that "hint" type answers are somewhat allowed on math.SE (well, its complicated...) It seems the hint(s) worked, and may work for others in the future; that you were forced to be in the driver's seat is arguably good in the painful way that going to the gym is good. I already know what Gerry said, but putting first-order linear differential equation solution into google seems to give me some useful starting points. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is rather good for a short answer. Given the length of and details in your question, I would not have finished reading, and therefore not posted an answer. Despite this, Gerry managed a few rather useful sentences. I agree with Barry's suggestion. Comments on SE are generally 'ephmereal' but less so on math.SE, as e.g. there is code-rot but not math-rot. If you think the comments were helpful enough, another solution could have been to suggest adding the info in the comments to the answer. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the reaction of Gerry, I would personally reserve DVs for wrong / not-even-wrong answers. Suggesting to DV comes off as a little ungrateful, but it's good that you are caring about the bigger picture; usually new users are very happy to have gotten their answer :) $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ @CalvinKhor Sure, but as I stated I didnt DV, I was asking if I should, or what the considerations should be in decided my vote.. So his reaction seems quite off the rails for simply asking was is proper considering I stated that I had not actually DV'ed. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest to upvote the answer if it was useful to you without worrying about other users. Other users are free to upvote, downvote, ask for clarification or ask a new question based on whether it was useful to them or not. $\endgroup$
    – Momo
    Jul 9, 2021 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ @momo thanks. I probably would have though the user saw this post, got offended and deleted his answer.. oh well good to know for the future. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ He is probably seeing it as ungratefulness or downright malice that you are talking about downvoting his answer after he gave you a hint and took the time to answer all your questions in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – Momo
    Jul 9, 2021 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Momo Clearly. I dont have time for that sort of childishness honestly. I asked what would be proper etiquette and what would be the appropriate response. Nothing more. I made it clear and stated several times in the question i appreciated his help. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ JeffreyPhillipsFreeman - In this post you described his work as "somewhat helpful, ... minimal effort, ... so overly cryptic it doesnt seem worthy of stackexchange". Add to that the fact that working with someone to get them to find the answer is usually more work than just posting the answer, I'm not at all surprised by GerryMyerson's response. Despite your protestation in the comments, "not worthy" does sound like he did something wrong, and "minimal effort" doesn't come across as particularly grateful. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Jul 9, 2021 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC Thats fair, though my comments were accurate. his answer was literally just a rearrangement of the original equation with no explanation or any hints as to where or what to do with it. It very much was minimal effort. However as I pointed out he put more effort in the comments (not the answer) which is the part I was greatful for and upvoted. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ I know you didn’t dv, but the threat of a dv is not without its emotional baggage. Just like how asking if I should do Bad Thing to your Loved Ones is not a question I expect to be taken well. Ok, there’s levels to it, this analogy is extreme. But he didn’t turn up at your house with an axe, he deleted his answer. Such suggestions also sound like the questioner knows more about how to answer/teach than the answerer/teacher (and he is retired so has plenty experience teaching). I know it’s not how you meant it to sound, but people can’t help reading too much between the lines at times. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @CalvinKhor I dunno, seeing someone ask if a DV is appropriate or not, and taking that as a threat and getting upset about it seems like an extreme and childish reaction to me. Especially when done respectfully. As for his expiernce teaching, not all teachers are good teachers, moreover thats exactly why it was rude in my eyes. I am a grown ass adult I am more than capable of reading up on a subject, learning, and doing practice problems on my own, but I cant do that if a "teacher" is intentionally talking in riddles. It was condescending and patronizing and not a good reference answer $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ "It provided a vague and cryptic hint." Mathematicians are generally lousy at writing hints for exercises, in that they often make one of the following two mistakes: (1) They give a sketch of a solution and call it a "hint" rather than a "sketch" (Walter Rudin did that a lot), or (2) they provide a hint that they expect the student to understand and fail to realize that the student's lack of understanding of the particular point that the hint relies on was precisely the occasion for the student's difficulty. $\qquad$ $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2021 at 19:51

4 Answers 4


While I'm not the most active on this site, my experience on other SE sites would suggest a simple piece of advice: upvote answers that are helpful, and downvote answers that are harmful. You get a lot of latitude to decide what "helpful" (or "harmful") means, but an answer that points you in the right direction enough that you can find your way to the solution did help you, so I would consider it a good candidate for upvoting.

Similarly for accepting: you should accept the answer that best helped you find your way to the solution. If it didn't actually show you the full solution, that doesn't mean you shouldn't accept it. The original intent of acceptance was simply a standard way for the question author to say "this worked for me".

If I may add a personal opinion: in many cases, an answer that points you in the right direction rather than giving everything away could actually be more helpful than an answer that just shows you the whole solution, because you will have learned something meaningful by having to do the work of following the answer's hint. In an educational context (e.g. homework/self-study problems), the learning is the real point. If an answer shows a full solution, then you might find your way to the end of the problem without actually learning anything, which means it was very little help in the long run.

  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful answer, thank you. While the user deleted their answer in anger of finding this post I atleast now have a better idea for future posts. Side note, my criticism was less about him not giving the complete and final answer as it was about not being clear as to the help to get there. If he had said "You need to get it in this form XXX and then use an integration factor to simplify it and you should have a good idea of where to go", and perhaps provided a link to an explanation of IF, and maybe clarify it is linear ODE then id see that as a good answer too. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 13:18

In my opinion, you should be quicker to upvote than to accept. You can undo an upvote and you can undo an accept, but, speaking only for myself, I'm more willing to see an upvote reversal kindly than an accept reversal.

Upvote just means you think the answer is good. Accept means that you think it's the best answer. And some people on here seem to take accept as meaning "don't even bother trying to answer this question." Sometimes the best answer might come from someone who just wasn't quick enough to post it first.

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    $\begingroup$ You can only undo an upvote in the first five minutes after voting, unless the answer is edited. Anyway, I take upvote reversals much more seriously than accept reversals precisely because the threshold for upvotes is lower, it signals that your answer isn't even good. For me it happens mostly when it turns out that the answer contains a subtle but serious error. On the other hand, accept reversal means it isn't the most helpful answer anymore, which is perfectly fine since the asker alone knows their wants and needs. Also, perhaps the asker decides to incentivize further answers. $\endgroup$ Jul 20, 2021 at 20:22

First of all I am answering this question with the best of my knowledge. This answer fully includes my opinion. Now let us take this question of mine Finding length of diagonal in parallelogram given two sides and other diagonal . I had posted this question and received multiple answers. When such situation arises remember you should choose the answer that has helped you the most. In this question I asked how to find length but also what was wrong in attachment. I did receive numerous solutions in answers however I accepted the one and only answer which told what was wrong in the attachment along with the solution. So the thing over here is that other solutions were totally very wonderful however they didn't some part of my question. However I gave the other two answers an upvote as they had given me new wonderful approaches to solve the question.

So what do you want to conclude?

I want to conclude that you should upvote all the answers which are correct and are really wonderful or useful. Remember the definition I gave is different for all. Regarding accepting an answer I would say is that you should choose the answer that has helped you answer you question the most. It is not necessary you accept the best answer of the answers you receive. You should even accept the answer, if it helps the most, even if it is a hint or not a full solution.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks good answer (upvoted).. after hearing the responses here so far I would tend to agree with this. If the question werent deleted by the author I would have upvoted it. Sadly he was enraged by me asking this question here and deleted his answer in spite. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffreyPhillipsFreeman Thanks for the compliment. Don't worry you would have million more question and answer for upvoting $\endgroup$
    – user876009
    Jul 9, 2021 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, but as my first expiernce on this SE it is a sour expiernce to say the least. I already got a bad vibe from the way he was answering (being intentionally cryptic). Felt very patronizing. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffreyPhillipsFreeman You hopefully have many more experiences to go. Please feel free to contact people who have helped you here with their permission. I sincerely hope you will have great experiences on this site to look back from, as I do. Let us also remember that the answerer has their own sentiments and we have our own, so we've got to stop looking at each other very harshly, because we come from different backgrounds. I'm happy that this question was asked since it led to constructive discussion, and I hope others benefit from what's happened here. $\endgroup$ Jul 14, 2021 at 1:30

The almost opposite situation happened to me recently:

What to do when an answer I'm about to accept disappears? - Android Enthusiasts Meta Stack Exchange

Someone posted a simple link-only answer to my question, and it was appropriately deleted shortly after.

The irony is that it is the only answer I received, and it did provide a solution to my problem, one that I had upvoted and was about to accept.

Had I not caught it during the brief time is was there, I wouldn't have even known that there was a solution.

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    $\begingroup$ thanks, upvoted. In this case the answer was deleted by the poster as he was raging about this post i made asking how to vote, which just seems childish. The irony is after hearing the feedback I probably would have upvoted it and then suggested he complete his answer for me to accept it. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2021 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ You are the one coming off as childish here. $\endgroup$
    – terrace
    Jul 16, 2021 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ @terrace You are welcome to that opinion. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2021 at 17:57

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