# Determining a way to regulate my physics.SE participation

I am turning to the community to determine a means by which I can limit my incessant desire to participate on this site.

Does anyone, especially one of the more active users (you know who you are), have any constructive suggestions?

• Yep, I asked myself and on Quora a related thing, but not yet much (for me) helpful feedback turned up so far ... So I am interested in answers to your question too, +1 – Dilaton Feb 19 '14 at 11:59
• Get addicted to a different .SE site? – Alfred Centauri Feb 20 '14 at 23:46
• @AlfredCentauri It's not nice to give me ideas like that :P – joshphysics Feb 21 '14 at 0:02
• The simple answer is "Play more video games" :) – Fattie Feb 26 '14 at 11:46
• @JoeBlow That's almost as mean as AlfredCentauri's comment! – joshphysics Feb 27 '14 at 5:06
• @joshphysics Watch TV Series and Movies for the whole afternoon + evening. :D – Alenanno Apr 4 '14 at 9:41

I think there are some unnecessarily cynical views in Nikolaj's answer and the comments to it. It's human nature to like approval from your peers, and upvotes are a proxy for approval - a virtual pat on the back if you will. Of course the flip side is that downvotes are really quite wounding - I hate being downvoted and won't downvote others without serious provocation.

Anyhow, if you find yourself addicted to this site it's because it's more enjoyable than your everyday life. The solution is to look at your everyday life and figure out how to improve it. In my case I'm semi retired and only work for a few hours in the mornings. The alternative to the Physics SE is doing the gardening or some DIY. I mean, come on, what would you do?

For the record I hate your answers because you invariably get in just before me (often when I've nearly finished typing up my answer) and then you rub salt into the wound by making your answer better. You should immediately quit the Physics SE and never come back :-)

• Well thanks for the sentiments; your last paragraph gave me a good laugh. I'll consider your last suggestion :) – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 21:26
• What do you mean my answer is cynical?? I wrote constructive suggestions. The Milgram experiment also works because of human nature, that's not reason say the behaviour is okay. – Nikolaj-K Feb 20 '14 at 8:39
• May be, if the site didn't have reputation, people wouldn't hurry to answer questions that they would otherwise consider boring. – MBN Feb 25 '14 at 10:34
• @MBN: I can't speak for anyone but myself, but the reason for putting what can be a lot of time and effort into answering a question is that it's rewarding to do so. This can be because to answer the question you have to learn about the physics involved (and learning is always fun) or because you think the OP is going to go away a better physicist (which gives you the nice warm feeling of having helped someone). If anyone is answering questions because, and only because, of the reputation points they seriously need to get out more. – John Rennie Feb 25 '14 at 12:07
• @JohnRennie: I was thinking about the borderline questions. Those that make one pause to decide whether he should put in the effort. Something that he considers very basic and easy to find elsewhere. Then reputation can tip the scales. Of course I cannot possibly know how people view the gain of points. For me it prevents me of writing some answers(not that I could answer many) or asking some questions. For you it probably has no effect whatsoever, with 70k points. – MBN Feb 25 '14 at 13:36
• @MBN I'd also like to add that for me, the points are a fun way to motivate me to answer questions in the clearest, most pedagogical way I can. I think this sort of competition is healthy and useful, and I know that it improves the quality of my answers. It also sometimes motivates me to answer sort of boring easy questions; I find constructing good pedagogy itself interesting and rewarding, so I view answering these questions as a way of sharpening my skills to some extent. – joshphysics Mar 11 '14 at 21:29
• We're getting a little off the subject, but I just love it when someone manages to take a question that might not be well expressed, often from a non-physicist or school child, and gives a clear and quantitative answer. By quantitative I mean an answer with equations and numerical examples. This happens reassuringly often and Josh is one of the prime offenders :-) – John Rennie Mar 12 '14 at 6:55

I have been retired from active research since 2001 and for me this site is a way not to forget my physics by enjoying the answers and answering where I can without using too many formulas. I have not learned how to use the codes for them.

I would advise you to start reading in depth one of your subjects in your graduate studies. Try to focus your attention on problems that are hard, worry them like a dog with a bone. I believe then you will find that most of the questions arising on this board will seem irrelevant to your interest and you will reduce your participation, which I do enjoy.

• Thanks for the thoughts Anna. – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 21:26
• As Anna correctly points out, once your own research picks up steam, your free time will shrink and your participation will go down. Long term, you will notice a cyclical pattern where you come to sites like this one when your research-focus is at a low (being stuck or thinking about something new etc.) and don't when you are busy. – suresh Mar 1 '14 at 23:50

Well you could always join reddit ;-)

(reddit's /r/askscience is actually another very good place for experts to share their scientific knowledge)

Seriously though, there are some techniques out there to limit your internet browsing, usually involving some program that will block access to designated websites outside of a preconfigured period of time. I've never used them myself, because if I did, I would waste more time figuring out creative ways to get around the block than I would have on the site it was blocking, but if you don't suffer from that problem you could try this method. Alternatively, if you want to completely shut yourself off from this site for an extended period, you could edit your computer's HOSTS file to point physics.stackexchange.com to 127.0.0.1. Again, it's easily worked around, but I guess that works for some people.

An alternative, as Nikolaj suggested, is to get your account suspended. I think there's a precedent for this but I'm not sure what the relevant policies are. You don't have to do something bad on the site that would actually deserve a suspension (and we'd rather you didn't), just ask a moderator in chat or something and we'll look into it.

Another option, which sounds like (and mostly is) a joke but actually has something to it if you think about it, is to become a moderator. Moderators do a lot more janitorial work - editing, reviewing, closing and reopening posts, and other things which can be handled in 10-second chunks - and a lot less asking and answering, so although it doesn't directly force you to spend less time on the site, it does alter how you'd be spending your time here, making it a lot easier to pop in for just a minute or two between your real-life obligations. Plus, you will get thoroughly sick of handling flags after a while. Of course, this would require demonstrating the need for a new moderator election and then winning that election, so it's not straightforward.

In the end, though, it has to come down to your own willpower. As we've learned from handling trolls and spammers, there is no foolproof way to keep someone off the site if they really want to participate.

• Reddit!? Never David. Actually, I know nothing about reddit. Thanks for the suggestions. After giving it some thought, I think I'm going to try only answering somewhat more advanced questions for a while. – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 21:30
• I vaguely recall the SE team being rather cross with the mods from some site (Mathematica?) abusing suspension powers like this. And to be honest it does come off as a bit unprofessional - it makes suspensions seem even more arbitrary than some claim they are. – user10851 Feb 28 '14 at 4:01

Since this has been brought up a few times, here's the available info on requesting a temporary suspension of one's account to help with site overuse issues.

The earliest I can remember is a comment of Shog9's:

I have seen more than one person request a suspension voluntarily due to realizing they were unable to balance their time on the site with other responsibilities... – Shog9♦ Dec 6 '12 at 17:36

though he quickly would "generally suggest other ways of temporarily revoking your own access".

This has come up a few times, from what I can tell, in MSO, and particularly Can an account be self-suspended and "Ban myself" button in user profiles. The useful-looking How do you escape an addiction to Stack Overflow? has been closed for some reason. It has definitely happened occasionally but it is my impression that the SE team is in general not particularly in favour of this. In this site, it would come down to whether our mod team think it's the most appropriate course of action.

Note also that like most other artificial devices to stop your participation - chrome nanny, userscripts, host file modifications - it is easy to circumvent by setting up a new account. It does have the advantage that your reputation is and privileges are locked away from you, but if you've managed to sidestep the ban then all you've accomplished as a whole is to make your experience of the site more miserable and more guilt-ridden than before.

To be clear, I don't think this is really the way to go. I don't agree with Nikolaj's tone, but if you find you can't stop coming here, you should see it, at least for the sake of self-analysis, as an addiction, and learn to come to grips with it that way. Find out what triggers you, personally, to come here instead of working on your research, and change those triggers. Or simply drive them down to an acceptable level.

It would be a shame to watch you go, though!

• Thanks Emilio! That's really useful. I have no current plans to go this far because for the time being, my strategy of sticking to answering somewhat more advanced questions is working. I appreciate the input. – joshphysics Feb 24 '14 at 20:29

Depending on the extend to which you want to remove yourself, you could either get yourself banned or make going online a reward. I mean just look up self-help sites on online addiction in general, sure they'll cover the basic strategies.

• The thing is, that it is part of the concept/strategies of the SE model to be addictive... I think there are certain features, such as for example the reputation based privilege system which gives you more power and influence the more you participate, that make the issue of a potential addiction to SE sites more dangerous than a "conventional" online addiction. – Dilaton Feb 19 '14 at 11:54
• @Dilaton: It took about 2 years for me to find out that people are actually answering question to get rep here. I'm a 4chan user and in that spirit I really notice the disadvantages of the system. E.g. when you answer a question and some high level user gives a 2 sentence answer, often no other answers follow. When you're a high rep user yourself you start to identify with your profile and become afraid to look stupid or ask stupid questions. I regularly put 500 rep bounties on random threads just to spare me - it works, I do ask lots of questions! – Nikolaj-K Feb 19 '14 at 12:18
• Yes, quite some time back I liked learning from asking dumb questions and answering to test what I have understood, doing physics with nice wise people, etc a lot ... And I also had the illusion that when having >3k rep I could help getting good questions reopend and keep the crap out (making Physics SE a better place for physicists). But as I hinted at here the disadvantages of the system have now fully kicked in. IMHO too many people are judging questions even if they know not enough to understand them, which made me stop asking here. – Dilaton Feb 19 '14 at 12:57
• @Dilaton even though I am new, I am seeing what you are saying here... at the risk of being told to shutup, or worse - lectured, I am finding that the 'homework' tag is not the only one that is unpopular and derided - atmospheric physics seems to be in the same unpopular boat. Additionally, I was all keen, willing to research, even for topics outside of my expertise area and naively thought the same would be true for others... – user36538 Feb 21 '14 at 13:26

Other commitments in your life will be sufficient to regulate your participation on this site; you just have to ensure that you're not ignoring other opportunities that can help you live your life more fully the way you want to:

Is my participation optimized for the sort of life I could live?

For example, if I was passionate about research and hoping to go into teaching later on, I'd be using the site to:

• look at every question and answer here, to get a good idea about how people think about typical problems
• Practice my latex and writing skills, to make writing a research paper easier.
• wade through the trivia that may unearth an item of knowledge that might help me or a colleague later on
• look at the activity of the talented users here, so I may learn something.

On the other hand, me coming on to the site becomes a problem if it undermines the sort of life I can lead, such as:

• logging on every five minutes out of fear that I might not answer a question before everyone else.
• re-reading the same questions and answers over again, without improving them in some way

Everyone love this site. Some might ask more questions, some might answer more questions, some might do both, they enjoy doing these. This make them to visit the site often, me too.

It is not a bad thing to visit the site often, it will help you develop your reasoning, your ability to question in a clear way, answer the questions in a better way, in the sense confining the large matter to a shorter paragraph, to make one not to loss the significance in the bulk and every other things.

Generally, it will harm your performance in the exams, your participation in the SE will confine you to use your limited time to learn only some concepts, but you would had learned them in depth. The question papers contain only those questions, which are not in depth, but the questions which are easy. But, as one wouldn't had learnt all the concepts because of his non-economical use of time, he drops from his standards.

If you are going in depth about physics asking questions and answering which are unanswered (rather answering/asking easy questions), it is worth spending time here, as I can assure that you are going to be our next Noble prize winner:) It makes you proud that you are different from others.

Its worth spending time to focus on your course and also participate here, both have some advantages and disadvantages.

The one thing you could do is that you could visit this site only once in a day for 45 minutes (if you could utilize this long time), or visit this site thrice, each of 15 minutes period. I have tried the latter, but I desire to spend more and I go on. So I would suggest you to follow the former.