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I find the comments made by a moderator here to be rude and sarcastic. Though what the OP asks might not make complete sense and needs to rephrase his question in a better way, I believe that it does not warrant such sarcastic and unwelcoming remarks (The OP is a first time poster).

It is better to keep quiet or post comments in a gentler tone or to briefly explain to the OP, what Galois theory is about and how it is related to the solution of polynomial equations.

Comments such as these only do more harm and discourage those who are interested in learning.

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    $\begingroup$ +1: I think that particular poster reacted badly to a comment perhaps intended as a joke, but I imagine that many posters might leave feeling dejected after receiving harsh, sarcastic comments of the kind often left for people unfamiliar with the site - especially when they come from people representing the community. $\endgroup$ – Ronald May 12 '12 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, the OP reacted badly to another person that made no comment that can be construed as sarcastic in any way. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 12 '12 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ the OP does not come across well, that's agreed. $\endgroup$ – Ronald May 12 '12 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker The OP reacted both to Mariano's comment and others comment. The OP has removed his reply comment to Mariano. The main message I wanted to bring up is that it is important to post comments or answers in a gentler tone. I have nothing against Mariano in particular. :) $\endgroup$ – user17762 May 12 '12 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ Did OP remove the offensive comment, or was it removed by a moderator? I bring this up because I flagged the comment for moderator attention. It was very rude. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 12 '12 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ So OP wrote something even worse than what he wrote to Martin?!?!? $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '12 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael It is essential to be aware of the timeline. The OP is a new MSE member. His question is his first MSE activity. M's comment, 8 minutes later, is the first response to his question. It is the OP's first feedback from the MSE community. Clearly the OP was offended by this (and later) comments. By the time Martin's answer appeared 1.5 hrs later the situation had already degraded significantly. Alas, analogous unwelcoming responses to new members occur much too frequently. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ I vote not to close this question. The existing 2 votes to close (as nonconstructive and off-topic) are quite puzzling. Unwelcoming responses to new users are a longstanding problem here. Discussion of such should be encouraged. Pushing the problem under a rug is no way to solve it. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ ...if need be, maybe somebody could post the entire comment thread and look carefully before the appropriate fingers are pointed? $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 13 '12 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: I agree with you that this issue is not at all off-topic. I could, however, see why one might vote to close it as not constructive—I'd argue that discussing the issue in general rather than in specific instances would be more constructive—but I didn't vote to close it and I would vote to reopen it if it were closed. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm terribly annoyed by the votes to close on this question.. $\endgroup$ – user2468 May 13 '12 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this question because I disagree that the comment was rude and I disagree that the burden is on the regulars to avoid anything that might be viewed as rude just so to keep a new poster who thinks nothing of attacking and threatening someone who answered their question and did not post the comment accused of rudeness. But I am very, very surprised at the close-votes. It is well-known that there are different opinions on this issue and meta is exactly designed for discussion of this kind of differences. $\endgroup$ – Phira May 13 '12 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ I should probably point out, much like Mariano answered below, that politeness is a very vague idea. Different countries see different things as polite. I recall someone who was "touching the feet" in order to express gratitude and politeness while others were annoyed by that. It goes to the other end, I don't see Mariano's comment as impolite or rude. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 13 '12 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ Please see my prior comment regarding the timeline. It is crucial to understand the timeline in order to attempt to understand how the events unfolded. Some remarks here seem to be based on misunderstandings about what actually transpired. This is but one of many recurring problems sparked by unwelcoming behavior towards new users. It would be more constructve to attempt to solve these problem in general, rather focusing on specifics of this instance (such as attempts to assign blame). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ I voted to close this question. First off, it's not even a question, just the OP's statement/opinion that he finds these comments rude and offensive. But as Mariano has said he was not being rude, nor could he even fathom how his comments were rude, this question is no longer relevant, and should be closed. Even interpreting this in the general sense, "should we be rude and offensive to new posters", the answer is an obvious "no, don't be rude to anyone", and that's covered in the FAQ. I have no idea why this question is so popular. $\endgroup$ – user641 May 19 '12 at 7:22
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I think this issue cuts both ways.

I do not want to address this specific situation, but rather a generalization of it.

I think we should all strive to keep our communication as gentle and professional as possible. That does not mean there is no place for lighthearted remarks or attempts at humor, but we have to be cognizant of the medium of communication as well.

The FAQ already addresses this, but here are some additional thoughts on the matter.

  1. Civility and respect should be the norm. We have users of all ages, occupations, and levels of mathematical sophistication. Many come here to learn, others to teach, and a few are here for a bit of both. There is no reason we should treat people any differently than we would in a face-to-face conversation, or, with even more care (see below). If I'm ever wondering if I should make a particular comment or remark, I try to think whether I'd be willing to say it in the same way to a colleague that had come in and asked it in my office. We obviously won't always get this right, but I feel we should try.
  2. Commenters deserve the benefit of the doubt. None of the usual audiovisual cues in human communication are attached to the comments we make. Even for those that try hard at it, it is, thus, extremely difficult to get the tone of comments perfect at times. This is particularly true here since there is also a 600 character limit, which biases everyone towards shorter and more direct communication. As mathematicians, we're also more keen on precision and correctness, leading some comments to appear too direct or even rude. That's rarely the intent, and we should keep that fact in mind.

    If you think something sounds rude or sarcastic try to step back and see the comment in the best light possible. If you can see a way in which it could have been said in a neutral tone, that's likely how it was intended and at the very least should be the default interpretation over another one in which you would take offense.
  3. Social correction is important. This is a community and with any community come norms and standards. We expect a certain kind of behavior out of both new users and old. If someone is behaving in a disruptive way, I feel it is the duty of the community to step in and let a user know that they've stepped out of bounds. A moderator sometimes has the appearance of more authority and so users are likely to be more responsive to them. That said, as front-line representatives of the community, moderators, in particular, should strive to always be as tactful and professional as possible.
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    $\begingroup$ +1 esp. for analyzing the matter in the abstract, and for striving to understand the issues from all points of view. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ +1: But, I disagree with the point about social correction. I think the emphasis on this is too great, especially as it is applied to first time users - typical first comments received by users are rather unwelcoming. Users should be "socially corrected" via the great experience they get from using the site in an appropriate way. At least, they should get one free chance to get it wrong without being told off. $\endgroup$ – Ronald May 13 '12 at 7:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Ronald: Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I need to consider how to reword that point so that it doesn't come across quite as you've interpreted it. I was trying to address disruptive (abusive) behavior and the need for all of us to be constructive in our communication in an effort to create a more constructive community. I agree that the general treatment of newly arrived users, in particular, can be a bit too coarse at times. But oftentimes in technical communities with lots of very smart people, it can happen that too little is done, either to avoid bruised egos or some other reason. $\endgroup$ – cardinal May 13 '12 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ +1 I think it is worth pointing out that there are also fairly common standards of civility that are not compatible with M.SE functioning well. In some communities, it is considered rude to point out that someone is plain wrong. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '12 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ "If I'm ever wondering if I should make a particular comment or remark, I try to think whether I'd be willing to say it in the same way to a colleague that had come in and asked it in my office." I don't think this is a particularly useful test, actually. A colleague is someone you at least slightly know, and who is on a similar mathematical level to yourself. It would probably be more helpful to think about how one might respond to a student who asked a question by email. $\endgroup$ – Tara B May 13 '12 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker: Thank you for your comment. I agree that civility can vary a bit by community. I also agree that on math.SE we should not hesitate to point out where flaws exist. I merely claim that pointing out that something is wrong can be done in a civil manner; to soften the blow a bit, I often find it helpful to suggest to the other person that they think about a carefully chosen (counter)example. $\endgroup$ – cardinal May 13 '12 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @TaraB: Thanks for your remark. I agree your test is also often a reasonable one. I chose the colleague example precisely to emphasize a (roughly) symmetric on-going relationship. A teacher-student relationship is inherently asymmetrical where you as the teacher are assuming some level of authority over the student and that relationship is often transient. I think a better subconscious state of mind with which to approach our interaction is as colleagues that we expect to continually be interacting with. We often do not have a great idea of who is on the other side of the screen. $\endgroup$ – cardinal May 13 '12 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Not to mince words: Having lived in both Asia and America for several years, I advise you to be very circumspect in your speech and demeanor with regard to strangers (i.e., people you are not thoroughly familiar and comfortable with) as what you may consider an off-the-cuff, light criticism or even joke or inquiry may be taken as a calculated, face-losing, throw-down-the-gauntlet insult. I agree with cardinal, but unfortunately being civil requires a certain savoir-faire that often comes only after painful experience (if at all), and, hey, if you like a good stimulating confrontation .... $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland May 14 '12 at 9:32
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Mariano did not attack the OP in any way. He was merely pointing out that it is naive to think a mathematical theory will do whatever you imagine it to do. He adressed the sinner, not the sin. In case Mariano actually drove away OP, that would be a very good outcome. I don't think we need anyone here who posts things like this (emphasis is mine):

I just bought a book about Galois Theory and another about Abstract Algebra from Amazon. I'll prove it to you that it is possible to solve polynomials with any degree, also, I'll use Carlyle diagrams and tables to make it easy to you to follow. Professionals don't behave in this way with someone who just join a site. Your name and details is saved. Need time to read both books but I will do it. I like to unmask people like you. No more time to lose in this thread for now.

Just my 2c.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 People who threaten someone who gave an answer they don't like should not be welcome here at all. $\endgroup$ – Phira May 13 '12 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ certainly, but one wonders if the OP's behavior was influenced by some perceived slight. This of course does not condone any such behavior, but we teach good etiquette most of all by demonstrating it, especially if we are moderators or experienced users. (and even if, as in this case, the OP seems a bit.. eccentric) $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ I confess that I am quite shocked that an answer saying that it would be a "very good outcome" if a moderator "actually drove away the OP" by his initial unwelcoming comment has vote tally +16/-6. If that is the outcome that you desire, then do not be surprised when MSE eventually dies after not only new members, but many current members, are driven away by such unfriendly behavior and, what's worse, attempts to condone such. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: There is also a cost of having people here that plan on taking revenge on people that expose their ignorance. Apparently, we see the trade-off in a different way. And in no way did I suggest that OP might have been driven away by an "unwelcoming comment", because I did not see the comment that way. If the comments were actually mean, things would be very different. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '12 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael I strongly disagree that the OP's question was "ignorant" (and even if it was, replies jokingly emphasizing such naivete are certainly impolite and unwelcoming). As I stressed elsewhere, the OP's question is one that naturally occurs to many students reading popular expositions briefly mentioning Galois theory. I have encountered many analogous questions in general-level math forums. I wish it were possible to sacrifice rep for multiple downvotes. For, if it were, I'd glady sacrifice 1000 rep to downvote this answer 1000 times. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I meant "ignorance" in the sense of not knowing or understanding something specific, not as a general categorization of a human being. I'm not a native speaker, so this may be poor wording. I do think that the question was perfectly fine and legitimate. Where I disagree with you is that I think Mariano's comment was perfectly fine too. But I do agree that one shouldn't make impolite comments, especially to first time posters, and especially as a moderator. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '12 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Try to think back to the days when you were a very young student. Do you remember the time you first raised your hand in class to pose a question? Do you remember the butterflies in your stomach? How would you have felt if the teacher made fun of your question by comparing it to using math to making coffee or using bulldozers to sort names? Would you ask many questions after that? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Maybe I'm getting the timing wrong, but it seems that rchwieb gave a very friendly answer in the comments, that was quickly dismissed in a very unfriendly way for not standing up to OPs standards, which were afterwards pointed out to be not very reasonable. And I think many people ask at M.SE because it is less intimidating than their teachers. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 13 '12 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael It appears that perhaps you do have the timeline wrong. R's comment came 10 minutes after M's initial comment. And I see nothing at all "unfriendly" or "dismissive" in the OP's comment replying to R's comment. Only much later do the comments get unruly. And by then it appears that some comments have been deleted. In any case, finger pointing is not constructive. We need to address the issues generally, in the abstract, if we are going to have any hope to solve them. I see nothing at all unreasonable in the OP's question. Alas, I cannot say the same for the replies. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 13 '12 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ This is an answer which can only be thought of in retrospect. Before the OP posted his `farewell' comment, for all we knew he could just have been a very confused and slightly frustrated student. Rudeness is not excused by receiving greater rudeness in return... $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 16 '12 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729: There are two issues adressed in the answer: First, I dont think Marianos comment was rude or sarcastic. Second, if OP reacted to it by leaving, that would be a good outcome. That was a pure value judgement. Of course, if Mariano's comment would siply make anyone leave, the comment would have been very problematic. But I think it is plausible to think there is a connection between someone getting offended for no reason and someone becoming agressive towards others. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 16 '12 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker: I hold no opinion on the rudeness of Mariano's comment. However, my feeling is that the entire thread is hostile towards the OP. This hostility is not excused by the fact that the OP turned out to be (as Bill put it) "...eccentric". $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 16 '12 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ My wife likes to say mathematicians are "eccentric"(I translated the word she used in Chinese into English - may not be an exact translation). $\endgroup$ – scaaahu May 17 '12 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ @scaaahu: Close enough, I'm sure. $\endgroup$ – cardinal May 18 '12 at 3:22
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I have to confess not finding absolutely nothing rude or sarcastic in what I wrote...

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    $\begingroup$ The OP took offense to what you wrote and in fact replied back to you in one of his comments (which he has deleted now). Anyway, I have nothing against you. I just wanted to bring to notice that people (especially new-comers) might find such things rude. $\endgroup$ – user17762 May 12 '12 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ The question "Why exactly do you expect group theory to be of help in solving quadratic equations?" could be neutral or sarcastic, depending on inflection—imagine the inflection that would go with replacing "Why exactly" with "Why on earth" or "For what ridiculous reason" or some such, but applied to your wording. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Inflection can turn «hello» into a sarcastic remark. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 13 '12 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez: While that's true, I don't think I saw "hello" in the comments and I have a harder time reading "hello" in a sarcastic tone. I was attempting to highlight how one might (mis)read the indicated comment as being sarcastic, since you said that you found nothing rude or sarcastic in it. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ What you did see in the comment was a question asking the OP where he had gotten the idea that group theory should be useful in solving quadratic equations. Two comments above, I was attempting to highlight the fact that one can misread anything (and from looking at how the comments from the OP on that question and on the extant answer went on, a lot seems to have been misread) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 13 '12 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac: It would be hard enough to justify taking offense without the coffee joke. With it, one has to be looking for offense to see Mariano’s comment as rude or sarcastic. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 13 '12 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott: I actually think it would have been harder to misread it without the joke, but regardless, my only point was that it is plausible to misread it. While I wouldn't expect most people to misread it, I disagree that one has to be looking for offense to have misread it. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 6:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac: It’s believable that someone would misread it, but I don’t consider the misreading a plausible one. Such a misreading says more about the reader than about the comment, I think. I try hard not to give offense in comments, and I probably wouldn’t have made that one, at least in just that form, but I emphatically don’t consider it rude or sarcastic. Communication involves two parties, and some of the onus is on the reader. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 13 '12 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott: I'm looking at it in this light (and, to be clear, I'm not at all saying that anything anyone might have read into the comment was the intended meaning of the comment): someone clearly did read it as being rude or sarcastic and I can see how a reasonable person might read it as being sarcastic (even though I wouldn't read it that way), therefore I have trouble with people saying that it is not possible/rational to read it that way (though it is quite possible that I'm misreading what's being said). $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez: Actually, what I saw in the comment was not "asking the OP where he had gotten the idea that..."—that would have been "Where did you get the idea that..." or "Where did you read or hear that..." What I saw was "Why exactly would you expect...", which has a different connotation to it, more along the lines of internal mental process than reference/sourcing. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac: And I find it very hard to see how a reasonable person could do so. It’s that simple. The world is full of unreasonable people, however, so I’m not astonished to find someone doing so. And with that I think that I’ve said all that I have to say on the subject. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott May 13 '12 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ I believe the burden of participation weighs a bit heavier on moderators. When there is a chance your comment could be viewed as sarcasm or criticism (that is, it is pointing out an error, problem, or inaccuracy), try to err on the side of "Just the facts, ma'am." $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood May 13 '12 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac, when I ask someone why he expects something to be true for the purposes of explaining away such a confusion, it is equally useful to get a «because I read this in such and such book» answer as a «I have reached this conclusion by following such and such lines of internal mental process» answer. I find it more useful organize an explanation based on the expectations, whatever they may be, of the asker than on «just the facts»—sadly, it tends to be a lot more work, and it requires a certain disposition from the one asking the question. $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 13 '12 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ @MarianoSuárez-Alvarez: I absolutely understand why you were asking the question and I do not believe that you intended any sarcasm in your comment. I interpret your answer here to mean that you still don't see how anyone could interpret your comment as being sarcastic and that's that part with which I take issue. However, I think I'm at the same point as Brian—I've said all I have to say on this subject. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 13 '12 at 18:54
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If I may speak vaguely and without reference to any specific incident: I have the sense that "Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know." should be in my copy/paste buffer while I read math.stackexchange.com. I wish that weren't the case.

Reading FAQ topics including etiquette, howtoask, dontask, and bounty, I still imagine that there's room to address the following interrelated concerns better:

  • An "original poster" (OP) is wasting the community's time!
  • How might I respond gracefully to a question that is badly posed?
  • How might I pose my question better?
  • This comment's (or answer's) sophistication is condescending!
  • This comment (or answer) is flippant toward the OP!
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