Not signed in (Sign In)

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


    It annoys me when an OP either does not respond to an answer (or substantive comment) or gives a brief response after a week or so. How about adding to the faq page a short etiquette section that mentions that prompt follow up from the OP is expected? This should not be necessary, but I am afraid that it is.

    • CommentAuthorXet
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013
    On M.SE I've seen the opposite complaint. People who use the term "thankspam" for comments that give thanks but otherwise say nothing substantive.

    Then there's people that play by the Hardy/Littlewood rules.

    Anyway on various forums I've frequently made posts that noone replies to. I don't take this personally though.

    Xet: Bill's comment was not necessarily about non-substantive comments. If the OP's question was vague and someone commented asking for clarification, and the OP responds a week later, that is not very polite (not to mention, not helpful to their own cause of getting their question answered). Similarly, if the OP's question elicits several answers, and then the OP does not respond in any way, it makes it seem to the answerers that all of their effort into helping this person went to waste - what if the person never even came back to the site to look at the answers? Sure, the thread may be helpful to others, but still there is a significant psychological effect.


    I don't see "thankspam" as anything to worry about. I would simply interpret it as acknowledgment that an answer has been seen, and thanks very much for putting effort into it, but I'm not ready to respond with anything very intelligent, or your answer intimidates me and I need more time to mull it over, etc. It's certainly better than nothing.

    The "Hardy/Littlewood rules" (meaning, I guess, no one is assumed to be under any obligation to respond to, or even read communications!) originally applied to the two collaborators, and seem awfully high-minded and selfless even between two people who know each other well. Between those who don't, they seem hopelessly unworkable.


    The only users on MSE that I have ever seen who complain about these comments (and/or "Thank you" lines at the end of questions) are those who come from other sites on the SE network (SO is a prime example), where these comments are indeed discouraged.
    • CommentAuthorXet
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013
    I agree that it is nice to receive acknowledgement, and not nice when you don't. I was just pointing out that this etiquette isn't universally agreed upon. As Asaf says it is even discouraged in some circles. On the moderators even go around deleting comments that they think are not of any long-term benefit to the community, although how zealously they pursue this policy and whether it applies to thankspam I haven't investigated.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013

    The way I understood the original intent of this thread is that is is (mainly) about people first asking a question and then not following-up in a timely manner if comments/answers request clarfication or additional information. This is/can be quite annoying, also on purely practical grounds. And, in my opinion, asking a question creates the obligation to be responsive to (reasonable) comments immediately linked to the question (for a reasonable amount of time).

    • CommentAuthorXet
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013
    quid: What if someone does a Hofstadter?

    I'll bite, Xet: What is a Hofstadter?

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013

    I am not sure either what "does a Hofstadter" is supposed to mean precisely; the most plausible I can come up with is that this is what I'd call a Turing test. If this is so, then the answer is simply that I'd consider this as an abuse of this site.

    • CommentAuthorAngelo
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013
    I agree with Bill and quid (who, I see, is already back from his self-imposed exile). Writing a good answer is work, and not have it recognized at all is irritating. It's even worse when you ask for clarification, and the poster seems to have disappeared in a void.

    I would be all in favor of an etiquette section.

    > And, in my opinion, asking a question creates the obligation to be responsive to (reasonable) comments immediately linked to the question (for a reasonable amount of time). >

    Yes, that is my opinion, too.

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeApr 6th 2013
    @Bill: I usually do not worry much when the OP does not respond to comments or answers although it happens regularly. I think that every large community has certain percentage of "abnormal people". So one should expect some abnormality. I think that positive aspects of MO overweight occasional negative experience and I do not think that changing FAQ would change that: these people just do not read FAQ and there is no way to check whether the OP read and understood the FAQ or not. Of course we can require passing a "FAQ exam", similar to a driving test. But I am not sure other people would support it.
    • CommentAuthorAngelo
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2013 edited
    I agree that probably these people don't read the FAQ; but of course people who post homework questions don't read it either, and still it's good to have the no homework policy explicitly stated. In general the FAQ should faithfully reflect the way we expect users to behave (by "we" I mean, I suppose, moderators and high level users).

    This is particularly important if the expectations in other stackexchange sites are different.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2013

    To add two points to why it could be useful to make something related to this explcit:

    1. I wrote 'in a timely manner' however what this means/I mean with this can reasonably be interpreted in different ways; in particular, by somebody new and not familiar with the frequent quickness of MO. In my opinion, it would be good to check back on a question (at least) after: first 30min-1h, then 2h-3h, then 6h-12h; after that depending on how things develop (and of course the process could already stop earlier).

    2. Sometimes the issue arises that first a question is not clear and then it gets closed because of this, and in some cases somebody (other than OP) objects to this on the grounds it was closed too quickly (without giving enough time to OP to respond). So, some consensus how much time is 'enough' could also be helpful.

    Specifically, I have a vague recollection of a discussion (not sure I could find it though) where somebody in such a context put forward the idea one might ask the question just before leaving in the evening and then only have the next look at it in the morning. While one might abstractly consider this as a good way to proceed I consider it in general as rather ill-advised for MO. Half a day can be a long time on MO; even more so depending on how one's personal day fits with the 'rush hours' on MO.

    I do not suggest a formulation, but one might well give a postive spin to this in the way Zev Chonoles did, via mentioning that one can very reasonably expect to have some (first) feed-back on the question very quickly and therefore it is a good idea (also in questioner's interest) to check back on the question soon after having asked it.

    Regarding other aspects that seem present in the discussion along the lines of thanking for the work I have no particular opinion, in particular as regards mention of this in the FAQs.

    (Just one personal thing related to what Asaf Karagila said: a 'thank you' comment can be nice, a 'thanks in advance' in the question at the end seems not needed but unproblematic, yet impersonal greetings at the start of the question are (mildly) annoying, IMO, but I do not complain about it, just for the record and I might well be a small minority on this; yet it is not only that it is annoying I feel it already somehow sets the tone in a wrong way for writing an efficient question).

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2013

    For an example: This question seems completely incomprehensible and OP unresponsive since two days, except for asking another question which is also seems completely incomprehensible.

    Yet, it seems some still see "us" as not being helpful enough. It would now be nice to have some convenient way to point out that OP's behavior is not correct in the first place (if one thinks, as I do, that it is). [Even without the preceeding question one cannot do much with this question but close it, but as a second one it would seem this is completely clear.]


    @quid: These two questions are IMO in the "close immediately; delete ASAP" category.

    MO would be improved if questions from new users had to be approved by moderators. Too bad that this is not possible. But that is not the problem that I was addressing in this thread.


    @quid: The example of "bill dripps" is somewhat exceptional (as a glance at his user page makes immediately obvious). It seems very likely that the user is not prepared to respond to queries or engage in MO-level research; all we can realistically do I imagine is keep closing the questions. It's kind of sad, but I think that's the reality of it.

    On other matters: I do not support your recommended tiered system of OPs' checking back in (30 min., 2 hr., 6 hr., etc.). That kind of schedule might be reasonable for run-of-the-mill MO fanatics like you or me. But for others where MO is a very small sliver of one's daily life, the advice seems excessive. I think checking back within 24 hours should be a reasonable standard.

    But a warning somewhere that MO moves very fast (e.g., that questions that are unclear to other users can be and frequently are closed within hours or even minutes) seems very reasonable. Armed with this information, users can decide for themselves just how vigilant or fanatical they want to be. It should also be clear (I don't know if it already is) that a closure is not an automatic death sentence for a question: that questions/answers can always be edited, and petitioned for reopening. (But users should additionally know that it's frequently nontrivial to get a reopening.)

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2013

    @Bill Johnson: sorry, I did not want to "hijack" the thread I thought this was, among other things, what you had in mind.

    @Todd Trimble: First, for some fun, I nedd to stress that I am not a "fanatic" merely an "enthusiast" (check my badges) ;D

    Second, I am not completely sure why this user should be so exceptional. It seems to be not a trained mathematician, but we have some others (I'd say with sometimes 'mixed' contributions but not so bad either). If ever it is the displayed age, this is not so likley to be "real" (as it happens to coincide with the/a current default age).

    Third, yes, I agree one will not write something like three obligatory checks in the FAQs. But, if anything at all, something like Zev Chonoles or you said. Mainly, I wanted to convey somewhat precisely my approximation to a 'perfect world'. Yet, then, if I do not use MO frequently, I do not ask a question each day either. In particular, in my opinion what would really help a lot is to check back after a relatively short period of time. One could ask, read ones emails (or go to lunch, or teach a course, or drive home or to work, or any number of things), and then have another look. It is not as if so few people use the internet on a regular basis these days. By contrast I think it could really by an honest misconception (like, most likely it takes a some hours anybody takes notice at all, so no need to look after too short a time), and to clarify this could be helpful for everybody involved. I just looked (very) briefly through the FAQs and I did not see much mention of reopening, except indirectly in the description of the rep-levels (closing is discussed a bit, as not a big problem for the future if it happens and why it might happen, when describing what questions (not) to ask). I agree to elaborate on the option of reopening could be a good addition.


    @quid: I didn't know there was such a thing as a "default age". I'm always impressed by how much you know about MO; where does this information come from?

    Nevertheless, it's my impression that this user is exceptional to a degree that it wouldn't make any difference even if he tried to respond to comments under his question. I'm almost certain he's in the wrong place (so that his particular non-responses are not really cases in point -- the questions arguably belong in the to-be-deleted-soon category anyway).

    Thanks for clarifying your other points.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 7th 2013

    @Todd Trimble: Thanks. On the one hand, once I noticed a different user that had a relatively high display age (then 90 or 91) , but which in that case is virtually certainly not true (from other info given and a math.SE account with same name but different and more likely age). On the other hand, I once noticed this, or something related to this, the thread I link is what I now refound related to this when searching, So the oldest possible this would not quite work out to 92 now, but that other user is also displayed 92 at the moment. In any case 1920 seems like some kind of default, which can give 92 at the moment. So this is slightly vague but thus I am quite unconvinced of the reality of 92. But perhaps let us leave the age aside, some people did/do very good mathematics beyond that age. Also I agree that there are several other reasons to be quite sceptical. But now let me stop, not to take the thread further of track.


    At, it says that

    • Birthday must be after 1920/01/01

    @quid: it's obviously a side topic, but some quick googling suggests said user is being on the level with regard to his age. That's all I'll have to say on this, except that I agree with you, it's quite wonderful how sharp people can be even in advanced old age. An example from my personal experience is Saunders Mac Lane, who was still giving talks in his 90's, and mentally quite alert.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 8th 2013

    @Todd Trimble: Thank you for the info. But leaving this particular user aside, and to return closer to the starting point of the discussion and to make clearer why I even considered the two questions relevant: my issue is not so much with the questions but with the reaction of part of the (core) community, specifically with this comment: 'I am touched by the "not much more time" in your profile, and regret that we cannot be more constructive/helpful here.' What is this supposed to mean? In particular, in a case where two constructive and helpful comments on an earlier question got ignored. [And, the preceeding ones on this question are not unconstructive either (the first is perhaps a bit playful, but also contains clearly the constructive point of recalling that not every question is a yes/no question).] I find the comment I quote very annoying and depeding on how one reads it it is close to offensive.

    So, I wished it was written somewhere that if a user is unresponsive on one question, they cannot expect much consideration on later questions. As Angelo said the FAQs also (abstractly) document what is and is not considered as appropriate behavior. If this existed I could simply point there and be done with the comment. Now, this is impossible and this is inconvenient.


    I commented on one thread

    "It is considered impolite by many users, including myself, to ask a question on MO and then vanish for days."

    It would be nicer, though, just to refer to the faq page.


    @quid: I saw that comment, and had a very different reaction. First, that the commenter perceives on some level that here is one of life's little tragedies (someone who is "dying" to make a contribution to mathematics, but probably can't and it's really far too late for him to even try, even though he will "die" trying), and this makes commenter a little sad. Second, that commenter recognizes the futility of even trying to be of help in such a situation ("so we regret to inform you we are unable to be of assistance", etc.). I don't think the comment was at all a "diss" on earlier comments that meant to be helpful but were ignored -- in all likelihood commenter was aware of earlier efforts to help, but is also aware that such efforts were ignored for the very plain reason that OP had no (and probably could not have any) idea how to make use of them.

    I actually think commenter was trying to be as kind as possible to OP, and would probably be shocked to learn that the comment was felt to be offensive in any way. In fact, I really believe that commenter was obliquely expressing more or less what you said in the second paragraph -- that OP should not expect any further assistance, given that he does not (or is unable to, whatever the situation may be) make use of well-meant efforts to help.

    Anyway, this is a long drawn-out discussion of an isolated incident. I agree it would be a lot simpler though just to be able to point to a clause in FAQ.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeApr 8th 2013

    @Todd Trimble: Thank you for your positive interpretation.But I have a very hard time to see why anybody then would write "constructive/helpful" instead of, say, just "helpful". Yet then it is perhaps not impossible either. So let us say, I believe your nice interpretation, and so we could (from my point of view) end the discussion on this specific incident.


    I agree completely with Todd: I read that comment as emphathetic, a bit wistful, and above all else, kind.