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I'm myself is not an old user but not a new user too. The Physics SE is a little different from other sites and even other Stackexchange sites, new users who come over here generally asks about a question which is not clear or incomplete for the others to understand and so what we do is we down vote that question and sometimes even leave a comment that would make them feel that this site doesn't allow healthy new participation. For example 5 to 6 days ago someone posted an image of the question of and wrote This question involves 10 unknowns so please help me (there was a line or two which I don't remember properly but it is immaterial over here) and the tag was ** Newtonian Mechanics** and then after sometime someone wrote in the comment with an edit of homework exercise tag
" We don't answer homework questions over here, please read the instructions of this site ".

I know why the user (I mean OP) got a little hurt by this and he wrote

"This is not a homework question I do a job, I'm relearning the physics and this was a question from a book which I have bought"

After some 30 minutes, I found that the question was closed. Don't you think we should have told him that you should go to Stackexchange Chats and in a problem-solving strategy room @JohnRennie is there to help you.

Similarly, some undergraduates after learning Relativity theory and Quantum Mechanics sometimes ask a what if question and gets severe comments and tremendous down votes, wouldn't it be better to upvote their question just once (1 upvote and that green color would make them happy) and then to teach them why those what if questions are usually condemned. Due to a downvote and some comments, few new users get violent and they start proving themselves by pointing out non-existing mistakes in other people's work, you can look over here for an instance.

Some new users even try to write answers (they have relevant information) but since they have never been to a forum where learned men reside they write it very badly and this generally earns them very harsh comments like "how that answers the question" , "I think you shouldn't attempt to write an answer unless you have some relevant info" .

I just wanted to write this, I want to know how you all feel about it.

EDIT:- @AaronStevens writes

These users here were leaving comments to help explain the down vote (if they did down vote) and how to improve the post.

I want to say why it’s necessary to downvote that answer? Just tell him why his/her answer doesn’t answers the question and his writing style is quite hard to comprehend by others. If he reacted positively to that then it would be better for him but his negative act could cost him a lot.

EDIT 2: From all the answers that I have received I can conclude that IGNORANCE OF LAW IS ONE’S OWN PROBLEM

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I really understand. Are you suggesting we up vote bad posts to make users feel better? That's something I definitely disagree with. I don't think working against our quality control measures is the solution; or if there's even much of a real problem. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to my answer, down votes on this post are not personal, but they do mean something different here than on the main site. All down votes here mean are that users do not agree with your opinion. They are not rude attacks on your post, and they don't necessarily reflect the quality of the post. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 28 '19 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac No, you misunderstood me. What I said is to upvote a question of it’s on topic and just I’ll-written and to teach them how to write correctly with the information that they possess. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight You specifically mention upvoting "what if" questions even though they are usually "condemned". Perhaps you should clear that up; because to me that sounds exactly like you're suggesting we upvote off topic questions. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight I think doing that would be overall detrimental to the site. The voting system is the main method of quality control here. We give negative feedback when it's appropriate, and positive feedback when it's appropriate. Upvoting posts that you think should be closed is giving conflicting feedback. It defeats the purpose of the site. The points exist to give people elation for positive participation; not just any participation, that would encourage more bad posts. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ Also, a comment like "Your imagination is very nice but please try reconsidering your imagination a little deeper" is completely useless to help improve posts. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight Why should the reputation of the person matter? The feedback mechanisms should be used to give positive or negative feedback on the content of the questions and answers. If you change your voting based on the reputation of the people you're voting for, it seems unlikely to help the site quality. I think it would be unhelpful to upvote bad posts just because I like the person posting. The same applies to upvoting bad posts just because the person has low rep. It's voting based on the person, not the content, and that ruins the feedback mechanism. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight That might be nice. It would be even more nice if everyone just posted good content that only deserved upvotes. If that day ever comes, maybe we can remove the feedback mechanism. Until it does though; it doesn’t seem very helpful for the site. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 28 '19 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight who says I don’t? All comment history is public, feel free to peruse mine and see what I’ve said on posts (though you will not see if I’ve DV’d it or not). DV will help ensure either the correction is made (so that I can undo the vote) or that other users are aware that the post contains bad content. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Nov 28 '19 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight The best way to learn how a community works is to observe it for a bit before diving right into it. That's true everywhere -- if there's a group of folks talking at a party, I'm not going to charge right in and start saying random things. I'd listen a bit, introduce myself, join their conversation where I can, rather than try to force them to talk about the topics I want to talk about right away. Same thing true online and here -- read questions, read answers, read comments. Read the help center. Go back and reread all of those things. Think about what you want to ask and how it fits $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ Which is why it's so important that votes (up and down) are given based on the content, and why questions that are off-topic are closed and not answered in comments. If you read a bunch of questions and see that everything gets + votes and even if closed you can still get an answer, then you won't get the right impression of how to use the site and be a contributing member. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ I think your "edit 2" still misses the point. At least for me, I'm not saying no one should help be users learn how to use the site. No one is saying that. We are saying that no one should take offense at the mechanisms of the site. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 29 '19 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight When my answers get down voted I don't feel offended. And I don't really follow your example. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 29 '19 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight I think you are still misunderstanding things here. I don't get offended because of what I discuss in my answer. Down votes aren't attacks. My lack of offense has nothing to do with apathy towards down votes. I still don't like them on my posts, and I want to fix any bad content I put up. But that doesn't mean I am offended. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 29 '19 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight When I started, I had some downvotes on my posts (just like I still get on some). I was never offended by the downvotes. I didn't like them, so I tried to understand why, looked around the site, and tried to improve my posts. That's fairly typical of online communities, especially places that are geared towards more serious questions and answers. We want people to be nice to each other; but that doesn't mean we ignore problems or just let the site become less and less serious. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 29 '19 at 19:14
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Welcome to Physics SE. I am sorry if you have felt like the site is not welcoming to new users, but I think your feelings come from some misunderstandings of how the site works and the intent of its mechanisms, rules, etc.

First, down votes are not personal. A down vote on a question means that a user thinks the question is poorly written, does not follow the site policies/guidelines, etc. A down vote on an answer means that a user thinks the answer is poorly written, not useful to there question it was posted on, does not follow the site policies/guidelines, etc. Up votes and down votes are a mechanism to make sure quality content is viewed and poor content is not viewed for the sake of all users on the site. Without down votes new users to the site might get the wrong impression of what is acceptable on Physics SE. So while down votes are "negative", they are not a violent attack. They are just indications that improvement is needed on the post.

Second, voting to close a question is not personal. This site, like all stack exchange sites (and really most sites on the internet) have guidelines as for what is/is not appropriate for that site. If something is on a site that should not be there, then it should be removed. I understand the desire to want to help all people with all questions, but there are other places on the internet/real life for that. As a loose summary, Physics SE is intended to be a Q&A site for primarily conceptual physics questions. It is not a discussion forum, not a homework help site, not a personal theory checking site, etc. So while closing important questions can be upsetting, it is not a violent action. They are just a way to make sure the site runs as intended, which is what anything on the internet/in real life does.

Third, these measures are not meant to alienate any users. Whenever a question is closed, the close banner explains why the question was closed and what the user needs to do to have a chance to reopen the question. Up votes give more reputation than down votes, so users who obtain down votes can easily "remove" this from their record by just posting good, quality content.

Of course, there are instances where a user is rude, or perhaps too extreme in their language. In this case the best thing to do is flag their comment or answer for a moderator to review. However, users using the mechanisms built into the site discussed above should not be taken in this way, as described above.


To address specific examples in your post:

and then after sometime someone wrote in the comment with an edit of homework exercise tag " We don't answer homework questions over here, please read the instructions of this site ".

First, the homework-and-exercises tag should be used on all questions that are asking about a homework-like exercise. It doesn't matter if the question was actually assigned as homework for a class or not. Second, the commenting user is exactly correct: this site is not intended to supply homework solutions, and the user asking the question should most definitely read the site guidelines to learn more. The comment you have quoted, while brief, is truthful and not rude at all.

After some 30 minutes, I found that the question was closed. Don't you think we should have told him that you should go to Stackexchange Chats and in a problem-solving strategy room @JohnRennie is there to help you.

This is a great suggestion, and hopefully one you tried to make. However, we sometimes don't advertise the chat rooms as they are not open to all users of the site. But certainly a comment like this is not required, and a lack of it does not mean we are being rude or alienating.

wouldn't it be better to upvote their question just once (1 upvote and that green color would make them happy) and then to teach them why those what if questions are usually condemned.

The point of the site is not to make everyone happy, as this is a subjective and impossible goal. An up vote on a poor question or answer indicates that it is ok to post poor questions and answers. As explained above, down votes are not personal attacks. If a new user takes offense to the mechanisms of the site, or starts lashing out because of it, then that is on them. We can't be worried about how a user will perceive and act upon a down vote.

Some new users even try to write answers (they have relevant information) but since they have never been to a forum where learned men reside they write it very badly and this generally earns them very harsh comments like "how that answers the question" , "I think you shouldn't attempt to write an answer unless you have some relevant info" .

This should actually make you happy here. Usually down votes occur without any comments explaining why the down vote was given. These users here were leaving comments to help explain the down vote (if they did down vote) and how to improve the post. The comments you have quoted are not harsh in my opinion, but as a said before, if you think they are then the best course of action is to flag them.

I want to say why it’s necessary to downvote that answer? Just tell him why his/her answer doesn’t answers the question and his writing style is quite hard to comprehend by others.

Up/down votes make sure good content is more visible and bad content is not. Once again, down votes are not personal, and one should not be worried about how other users will perceive and react to a down vote, as this is an impossible task. More in-depth rationale can be found in this answer.

As for why comments are not sufficient, sometimes users post questions/answers and then don't attend to them for a while. Also, comments are not guaranteed to make the user edit the post to be better. While down votes are not supposed to be a form of coersion, they do indicate to other users that are possibly less familiar with the site that there is an issue. This is much easier and makes more sense than assuming others will comb through comments.

EDIT 2: From all the answers that I have received I can conclude that IGNORANCE OF LAW IS ONE’S OWN PROBLEM.

No one is saying this. I'm not saying we shouldn't help new users learn about the site, suggest improvements to posts, etc. and just leave them to fend for themselves. You seem to still be in this mindset that down votes, closing questions, etc. are offensive and bad. This is not the case.


Something to keep in mind is that it is impossible to avoid offending someone at some point. Additionally, just because someone is offended by something does not mean that the offender is always at fault. I don't think the mechanisms that uphold the quality of the site should be compromised just because certain users will be offended by them or even lash out. In my personal interactions I don't want to offend others, but this is just an internet site devoted to certain types of physics Q&A. The point of this site is not to make sure everyone who uses it always feels happy no matter what.

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  • $\begingroup$ Personal attacts is not the subject I know the educated people over here wouldn’t like to do that. Why we cannot be a little softer? The way you have explained me the reason for a down vote in comments why people (even you 😊) don’t do that in physics SE? Don’t you think tests weren’t enough for red negative marks to cause bad feelings? $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight The method of communication has something to do with how "soft" we can be -- comments can only be 500 characters, while a detailed response like this answer takes a couple full screens to display. And like your red marks example, in a class with 100 students, there isn't time or space to leave completely detailed responses to why something is wrong on a test and red marks are the most efficient way to go. The short-but-accurate statements aren't a problem -- the receiver should ask follow up questions if needed rather than lashing out or feeling bad and leaving. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 I’m completely agree with you. But the problem is the man never gets to know why he is being downvoted and after sometime when he tries to asks a question SE writes “OOPS!” . Whenever a question is closed or on hold a vague reason is given because I know it’s not possible to make so much categories but the reason many a times doesn’t fall in the stated reason of the closed questions. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Knight There's this thing that happens all the time when we write journal articles and get reviews back from the anonymous reviewers... pretty much all the time, without fail, we will get a comment from a reviewer that is something like "You didn't explain X at all" even though we have an entire section dedicated to topic X. And also without fail, we get mad and complain the reviewer can't read and is useless. But ultimately, if somebody takes our paper and says we didn't explain something, it means we need to be more precise and clear in our paper. Maybe it's as simple as adding a line break $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it needs more details to become clear. But whatever the fix, it isn't that the reviewer doesn't know how to read. We need to work to make things more clear for everybody. ---- The same thing applies here. A question is put on hold for some vague reason. The asker gets mad and says it isn't that thing. But really, they should be going back to their question to try and understand why people thought it was that thing. They should take the chance to look at their question, and other people's questions, and work to make theirs better. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 First of all I’m feeling very proud that I’m talking to someone who writes Scientific papers. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight There isn't a way to require those down voting to explain why. And close banners must be general to cover many cases. Ideally if a question is closed a specific, detailed reason as to what is wrong and how to fix it exactly would be great. But this is impossible. That's why users are referred to the help center, examples of good and bad questions, etc. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 28 '19 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 Okaye, now I’m getting why this platform is very similar to real world. Yeah, that’s what really happens in real world but in real world their motivation is to push you down but here it is to put you up (only unstated). Thank you for mentioning that. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight Not sure what you mean by "in real world their motivation is to push you down" -- in all the examples of "negative feedback" we've given, it is given by people who are entirely focused on making your work better. A professor grading your tests? Wants you to learn and do better! A reviewer reading your paper? They want your paper to be correct and impactful. A Physics.SE user downvoting a question? They want the best content easy to find. A question put on hold? Users want questions that are clear and useful answered. All of it is to lift up people and content, not smack them down. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Nov 28 '19 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 I hope that I shall be able to keep that positive feeling for everyone when I will publish my scientific papers one day. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 28 '19 at 14:06
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There is a lot of incorrect expectations by new users of this site. This is not a social network to discuss random physics, so "what if", non-mainstream and otherwise overly speculative questions are discouraged, along with homework-style questions.

The style has evolved to this out of the necessity of avoiding pollution. Unfortunately, too many junior users are impatient: asking a good question is difficult, and they will not put in the time to read about the site and the guidelines, sometimes don't even bother to typeset the questions, much less bother to search the site for duplicates or near-duplicates from which they could continue.

As an educator, you can imagine how I would feel if I were to find that questions I assigned to my class are simply farmed out to be solved by "cloud people". It may be that your question is not strictly speaking a homework question, but the reader of the question cannot know this, and experience has shown that in general more harm than good is done overall by answering those types of questions. Exceptions occur and abound, sometimes for legitimate sometimes from less legitimate reasons.

I'm sorry but I'm one of those with a tendency to crack down on homework-style questions. The reason this site is interesting is because of interesting, well researched, well written questions and answers. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that one reason you keep visiting this site is precisely because of the quality of the questions and answer. This is only possible because there is constant quality control by the community. Speaking for myself, when searching for information on a particular topic I don't want to have to plow through pages of variations on pulley questions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I respect your views and I’m grateful to you for keeping this site as it was intended. But I think it’s also your responsibility to pass this culture to others. $\endgroup$ – user240696 Nov 29 '19 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Knight I do the best I can. See this question and my response: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11342/… $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Nov 30 '19 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ What is this if not frustration from downvotes? @JMac ? $\endgroup$ – user240696 Dec 18 '19 at 17:15

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