Not signed in (Sign In)

Vanilla 1.1.9 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.


    In a recent thread, Todd Trimble made the suggestion:

    Regarding the present discussion: a tweak I've dreamt about is one for people with a certain amount of rep, where they could click on a drop-down menu which would offer a choice of canned but politely worded responses to clearly off-topic questions or ineptly worded questions. For example, Joel Reyes Noche's suggested response could be on offer. (Maybe it's a silly idea, I don't know.)

    It's not a new suggestion but it is a good one. We have such a list on TeX-SX: The purpose of such a list is to make it as easy to be polite as it is to be rude (or perhaps "terse" is a better choice of word). For example, a common problem with new users on TeX-SX is that they post just a code snippet instead of a full document (this makes it harder for someone to investigate the cause of the problem as they have to reconstruct the preamble, often guessing the packages used from the commands in the snippet). It's easy to post a terse "Please post a MWE" but it can come across as a bit rude. It takes more time to post:

    [Welcome to!]( Please add a [minimal working example (MWE)] ( that illustrates your problem. It will be much easier for us to reproduce your situation and find out what the issue is when we see compilable code, starting with `\documentclass{...}` and ending with `\end{document}`.

    but thanks to the Text Building Blocks, it is possible to cut-and-paste the above into a comment with as little effort as to write "Please post a MWE".

    The point is not to enforce a level of politeness but to make it possible for those who want to be polite to be so, and to make it easier that the first comment left on a new question is a polite one - thus setting the tone for all of the others.

    I like to think that the presence of this list on TeX-SX helps make TeX-SX the friendliest StackExchange site on the network.

    As we're still on SE1.0, we don't have CW posts on our meta. So if this seems a good idea we'd need some way to make a list and post ideas. I'd suggest a sticky thread here where the first post was the blocks and it was regularly updated by whoever "owned" that post.

    The purpose of this discussion is to see if folks think this would be a good idea and (if so) to gather some suggestions for the initial blocks and (hopefully) a volunteer who will maintain the list.


    I think it's an excellent idea.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2012

    Likely, it is useful in practise. Abstractly, I somehow dislike the idea. (But then those that dislike the pasting, would still have a guide.)


    I think it'd be useful as long as they're maintained by trusted high rep users. Since it seems to have worked well for TeX-SX, is there any sign that it might not for MO?


    One thing to be clear on is that use of these is purely voluntary and so if you don't like the suggestions, don't use them. (So, in particular, the reputation of those that maintain them isn't all that relevant.)

    Here's a scenario where they come in handy to help folks see the point: Suppose I come across a post that might be okay if it needed some work, or perhaps isn't suitable for the site but my feeling is that the person asking would make a good contributor once they get the hang of the place. Then it would be good to leave a polite note explaining these things to effectively say "This post doesn't fit, but do try again" but in a much nicer way. Unfortunately, I'm short of time - or perhaps short of temper. So I don't post anything. Then someone else comes along who has no inclination to be polite or who, to put it bluntly, has a habit of posting brusque comments. They do have the time and so post something that causes offence and the whole thing escalates. Now, if I'd had the time to post something polite the second person might have thought, "Oh Andrew's already posted something so I won't bother.".

    So one reason that the list of text building blocks are there is to make it easy for those who are inclined to be polite to leave those polite comments even when time is short.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2012

    My 'issue' with this is that personally I find it rather impolite to paste pre-fabricated text. At the receiving end, exaggerating a bit, I somehow prefer a personalised insult to generic politeness. However, I am likely rather unusual at this so perhaps simply ignore this opinion.


    One thing to be clear on is that use of these is purely voluntary and so if you don't like the suggestions, don't use them. (So, in particular, the reputation of those that maintain them isn't all that relevant.)

    It should be voluntary, of course. I was thinking that the canned replies should be created/edited by users who do know MO very well and are trusted by many for the same reason you need to earn rep. points before you can edit others posts, create new tags, etc. But if it's working well for TeX-SX without a rep cap, it should be fine.


    Everyone who has expressed an opinion thinks that Andrew's idea is a good one. So far, no one has stepped forward to maintain the list of polite boilerplate responses (as proposed in the second to last paragraph of Andrew's original post). I'm willing to maintain such a list, though if someone else wants the job I will quite happily let them have it.

    Should be move ahead and start compiling the list? If so, who (besides me) is willing to maintain it?

    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeJan 7th 2013
    I recommend asking the moderators to put the list in an appropriate section of either the FAQ, and that very standard boilerplate be used, e.g.

    "This forum (MathOverflow) is not a good fit for this question for at least one of the reasons specified in the close list, specifically reason 6 (seems like homework). For more information about the reasons or about what to do to reask the question, please see the Reasons and Recourses link in the FAQ page."

    Although it won't be automated, the process will be mostly automated, and those who have honorable intents and behaviours may learn from it. Nothing to be done about the rest. The nice thing about this way is that site maintainers can maintain it, and (with the help of the moderators) almost anyone can improve upon it. Also the learning curve for using it will be quite shallow. I am willing to have someone send me (or search through) a list of my comments for examples.

    Gerhard "Solutions For Many, Not All" Paseman, 2013.01.07
    I like Gerhard's wording. Note that it is not the question that is not a good fit for the site, but the site that is not a good fit for the question. This is less likely to sound confrontational.

    I agree with Joel's comments, Gerhard's suggestion is very close to what I'd want to use.

    • CommentAuthorKaveh
    • CommentTimeJan 15th 2013

    You can find a few comment templates from cstheory here.