17
$\begingroup$

It seems that a certain user is in the habit of posting questions (often homework) by cutting and pasting images instead of taking the time to write it out explicitly in MathJax. With more than three years on this site, you would think that the user would know better, but they keep doing it and people are happy to provide answers every time, with no incentive for them to improve.

How would you suggest to make them start doing the right thing? Or should we not care?

$\endgroup$
13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi Patrick, this is a good observation. I would say that you should probably remove the link to the user's profile, to prevent this question from influencing their reputation too much. About the issue itself : we should inform this user, where possible, to MathJax in what can be done so : but the truth is, this user is not as dependent upon their images (uniformly over questions : I believe a couple of questions have an issue) as to cause worry for me, personally. A comment I would leave would be probably be along the lines of "make sure only supplementary content is presented in images". $\endgroup$ Oct 21 at 7:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @TeresaLisbon When the images reproduce typed text from a book, it's not as bad. But sometimes in this case the images are of handwritten content, which can make it harder to read (not to mention we cannot search for such contents). $\endgroup$
    – PatrickR
    Oct 21 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ I agree @PatrickR, furthermore I noticed that barring some questions, the handwritten content often contains significant parts of the problem. It would be good to inform said user. Thanks for removing the user's link. I sincerely hope the user can improve their questions. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 at 11:59
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Teresa "I sincerely hope the user can improve their questions." And what is going to motivate them to do that? Your silent hoping isn't going to change anything, nor is it going to address this problem. Most comments, and the answer given here, minimize the issue. This is not a newbie asker, folks. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 21 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Jyrki No one here, in any comments, is suggesting a downvoting campaign. Instead, what do you suggest. Saying x, and y, or z won't work doesn't advise anyone about how to handle such cases. Or, do you think "we should not care"? I'm quite sure you remember a longtime answerer on this site who refused to use mathjax, after years of being here. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 21 at 22:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PatrickR Thanks for posting this question. It matters. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 21 at 22:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy Well, it seems all this discussion had a positive outcome with the certain user. He agrees with what we are suggesting. See the comments in math.stackexchange.com/questions/4282173. $\endgroup$
    – PatrickR
    Oct 22 at 0:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Awesome, @PatrickR! I'm glad I was part of that discussion!! $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 23 at 15:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Teresa Precisely: I suggested the user needed to be made aware. Better sooner than later, but later works if the user gets an "aha" moment, awesome. You just misrepresented my point. :: big sigh :: My point was that intervening editors haven't forced the issue, nor encouraged informing the user about the use of pictures. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 23 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I did not know what to make of "this is not a newbie asker, folks" What I thought it meant was that this was long-term behaviour that was not going to go away with just a mere talking to, which seems to have been the case. I still don't know what it means, because whether the user is a newbie or not, the first suggestion would have been to talk to the user anyway. I said "I don't care" because after reading about 15 different posts I came to the conclusion that this user provides context even outside images, which should make any convincer's task easier. I mellowed in comment 2. $\endgroup$ Oct 23 at 16:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It seems I have also been misunderstanding you, @amWhy - I do not see or recall (the times I did check back on this post/some posts on main) you making a suggestion for the OP, and I find this at odds with "all of the above have already occurred with the OP." Of course, it seems that you are responding to a now-deleted comment, so perhaps what you guys have left undeleted is making me more confused. $\endgroup$ Oct 24 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @CalvinKhor because I had only came across the posts after.... other users edited their questions for them. But with attention drawn to this particular post, I paid more attention. I guess I seem to have been misunderstanding you; I don't seem to recall any instances in which you posted any similar answer to many other questions like this one, to anyone else. But I applaud your partial newfound wisdom! $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 29 at 21:47
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Sorry @amWhy, I also don't understand this comment. $\endgroup$ Oct 30 at 1:56
16
$\begingroup$
  1. Be polite

and some of the following

  1. Point the user to a relevant meta post: e.g. Why image cannot be used for explaining my maths problem?
  2. Suggest learning Mathjax: Short and helpful advice on using MathJax on the site ..., MathJax basic tutorial and quick reference
  3. Offer alternative to manual labour: What tools can be used to extract MathJax/LaTeX from scanned input?
  4. Lead by example: edit one or two posts for them to see how it should be done (if you can stomach it, of course)

If the user is not cooperative, or you are losing patience, disengage and consider raising a low-quality or moderator flag (certainly, I would think, for long term repeat behavior, though a mod should correct me if they do not want such flags ever.)

$\endgroup$
9
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Good advice for new users; but you fail to address this pattern of a user here more than three years, even supposing a year away from the site. I have no doubt that all of the above have already occurred with the OP this asker is referring to. This answer is great wrt suggesting how to approach new users or newerish users, but not sufficient for the case in this question. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 21 at 16:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy that is addressed in the part of the post that says “If the user is not cooperative” $\endgroup$ Oct 21 at 19:18
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ 5. People have been "editing posts for them" for a long time, @Calvin, only to enable that user to continue posting images. I stand by my earlier comment. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 21 at 19:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I suspect you meant to @ Ekadh instead? I might have more to say if I try to think, but it seems the story here has a good ending, so we can leave it at that. (Also the formatting was intentional, so I hope you don't mind the rollback) $\endgroup$ Oct 22 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, @Calvin, I referenced you because your "list" is very much lacking, not the least of which, lacking on (5) what I mentioned in my comment to you, and many other points. But I agree with your start; better than nothing at all, as I said from the start, "good advice for new users." Unfortunately, Patrick is hardly a new user, and he raised a very good question. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Oct 29 at 21:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy my only point is that there is no need to "stand by your earlier comment" and ping me, if I did not call it into question. Further, the issue raised is not about Patrick. Instead it is an issue raised by Patrick, about another user whose "new user" status is relevant. If you think it is lacking, I'd love for some constructive criticism and/or for you to clearly lay out some other options. I posted this Answer with no hesitation only because the OP specifically asked "How would you suggest". Hence, these are only my suggestions, and not meant to be authoritative in any way. $\endgroup$ Oct 30 at 1:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @amWhy or actually, am I really misunderstanding you, and you are now suggesting that the way we treat new users should differ based on whether we ourselves are new users? $\endgroup$ Oct 30 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ Please don't distort my words, as you've also done in comments below the question. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    yesterday
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy I can tell you with a clear conscience that I have not willfully distorted anything; I'm just confused. If you want to clarify, great, but otherwise, as I said earlier, we can leave it at that. $\endgroup$ yesterday
-8
$\begingroup$

In my opinion, posting a problem via a picture (like one's own handwriting) is a perfect legitimate way to post a question. Not everybody has the time to learn MathJax, and handwriting is faster than formula-typesetting. So what.? Freedom of expression is important. If someone doesn't like a question with a pic: ignore it, but do not impose your righteousness on others. If someone has time: typeset the question as a friendly service, and make it machine-searchable. If you don't have the time, ignore it at your leisure. I feel offended by all the comments that try to enforce control, and rules. In particular, "low-quality" flag, or "moderator-flag". This is unnecessary harassment, and in my opinion only serves the needs of people who have rules to adhere, and enforce, but maybe no questions.

$\endgroup$
12
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Questions posed via pictures are unsearchable and not accessible for users who employ a screen reader or other visual aids - for these reasons and others, they are discouraged network-wide. "Ignore that" is not a good answer to this question, -1. $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Nov 2 at 5:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Using images instead of text, or even LaTeX, blocks accessibility for many users, for a variety of reasons, and reduces the usability of the site, as they can't be searched by later users (which defeats the entire purpose of the site). Why would you selfishly insist on both preventing other people from using the site and from the site being able to achieve its purpose? $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Nov 2 at 5:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The suggestion for flagging is so that either other community members can check if it is indeed low-quality (for the LQ flag), or for the mod to decide, and also so that a fight doesn't break out. My hope is that if it is 'unnecessary harassment', the involvement of other people in the process will help balance things out $\endgroup$ Nov 3 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ @KReiser: OK: typed text is obviously much better. The searchability problem, & screen reading problem will be solved via AI handwriting-recognition etc soon. For coming generations, this will make no difference. In my opinion, (& we differ), it is much more important that people can and are encouraged to pose properly directed questions rather than meet a certain beauty or technical standard. Letting people the freedom to ask (even if a screen reader cant process it), and you the freedom to ignore, if you are so captivated by bad formatting, is an excellent compromise which serves everybody. $\endgroup$
    – LMSchmitt
    Nov 3 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij: I do not selfishly insist on anything. I resent your wording. - With proper keywords, or a proper Title, the topic seems still searchable and findable. That is independent of the admitted slight annoyance that a formula or a more precise formulation than a Title is represented as a pic. Posting a problem in a bad way is not preventing anybody to use the site as if that problem were never posted at all. Think about that. Same for the functioning of the site. -- Associated problems will be solved via AI handwriting-recognition etc soon. Later users will benefit even from bad postings. $\endgroup$
    – LMSchmitt
    Nov 3 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij It's funny that you cite "blocks accessibility" in your support of blocking accessibility. One of the former grad students at my university has almost no fine motor skills. He can't participate in MSE because he can't type and the bigotry against disabled people that is prevalent across all SE prevents him from posting the only way he could: Cutting and pasting from electronic forms. $\endgroup$
    – B. Goddard
    Nov 3 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ People with screen readers, poor eyesight, and the terrible handwriting often used are far bigger blockers to accessibility than the small number of people who should be provided interaction support on their side of the matter. Your student is deaf-mute as well? Why not use a speech-to-text module? Sounds like you're trying to have the site do all the work instead of seeking to give them tools for themselves @B.Goddard $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Nov 3 at 19:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Associated problems will be solved via AI handwriting-recognition etc soon." - you are not talking about Stack Exchange, this kind of development is years if not decades away for them. We can't even get key tools required for much larger tasks and more vital work than turning lazy pictures into text. @LMSchmitt $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Nov 3 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij The site doesn't have to do any work. They just have to leave him alone. As I said, SE is a bigoted clique. If you're not just like the clique, then you get trashed in Meta and ostracized. $\endgroup$
    – B. Goddard
    Nov 3 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ That's not how moderation and quality standards work, and you know it. Every post here is the site's and the community's responsibility. Saying "just leave it" is defeating the purpose of the site. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Nov 3 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij See how you assume to speak for the community? Maybe the community should take into account that there are legitimate users that aren't up to your snooty standards. Maybe the community should be more concerned with helping people today than worried about what some non-existent future person might want. I've had some great conversations with people who stutter, people who have bad grammar, people who have no social skills. If you're too perfect and good to associate with them, then it's your loss. $\endgroup$
    – B. Goddard
    Nov 3 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ I'll simply direct you to every Help Centre, FAQ, and staff Meta post, and leave it at that. Rejecting reality won't make it better. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Nov 3 at 20:20

You must log in to answer this question.

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