# Why is Phys.SE so restrictive in the Q&A it is willing to accept?

There is already a Physics Overflow. Why then not being more lenient in the Q&A to be accepted in Phys.SE? Mathematics SE has 10 times as many questions. SO leads with +10M questions. Those other sites are thriving yet feel way more welcoming. In contrast, here there are way too many questions put on hold and closed or receiving way too many negative votes, and less activity is seen in discussing a question and its answers. When it comes to off-topic/rules questions, I'd say the goal in those other sites is more on limiting their number than eliminating them all together, which is what here seems to be the case. Up-voting is enough a system for rising the content level; "censoring" not so much, as there is no record left of the "wrong type" of Q&A.

Mind you, SO gives one that kind of reassurance that almost any question either has already been answered or one gets an answered pretty soon. Yes, you may get bad answers, but the good ones rise through the number of answers, not so much through the filtering.

This relates to the question by Anna V. Is the precautionary closing of immature questions so very necessary? I just saw it's from four years ago. What has been the change in the number of Q&A in PSE since then?

As an example of the overwhelming policing: This question had 3 answers and there was a couple of meaningful comments exchanged. No trolling I could see at least. Yet, 5 hours later it was "protected" to avoid spam, "me too" or "thanks"kind of answers. Feynman diagram for attractive forces You really get those answers that often that deserves this level of patrolling?

• Physics Overflow is not a Stack Exchange site and is in no way affiliated with Physics Stack Exchange. Nov 7 '15 at 14:36
• That was an advertisement. See meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/6388 for the others that are currently running or proposed. Nov 7 '15 at 14:40
• "here there are way too many questions put on hold and closed or receiving way too many negative votes" You seem to come here with some pre-conceived notions about what this site should or should not be doing. As you seem to be an unexperienced user on this site, I think you should perhaps rethink whether your opinions are really justified.
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:04
• @Danu "to find anything worth looking at" I understand you look for questions to answer. I'd also assume that MO would be too high a level, which would raise for you the question of finding something in between. That maybe a fair point. However, how to you look for those questions? I mean, after all, whether crap or smart, all questions first get posted and you get to see them anyways before someone filters them. If you search for older, good questions then here is where a better use of up-voting (not down-voting/on hold) could be useful. That said there is already a list of pending questions.
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 16:44
• Your last example is a red herring. Question protection is really a temporary measure and in most cases it is used for questions that make the Hot Network Questions sidebar; it is generally used for questions we consider valuable in some way and to keep them clean and with good answers. It has nothing to do with putting questions on hold or closure. Nov 8 '15 at 0:33
• @EmilioPisanty I just mentioned it as an example of the level of patrolling around. I haven't seen that before in SO, or MSE. It feels intimidating, not welcoming.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 13:00
• Yes, I don't understand 1) your "temporary measure" when I see it holding for over 1 yrs & 3months in physics.stackexchange.com/q/10932 or that 2) this physics.stackexchange.com/q/216898 is not flagged as a HW or 3) your apparent need to categorically state your opinion on the quality of my post -it simply adds to my last comments here.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 16:43
• In response to your second point in the above comment: That question is tagged as homework-and-exercises, because it is homework-like. This, however, does not mean that it is automatically off-topic and should be flagged by anyone. Your apparent unawareness of this fact once again underlines your ignorance of the basic rules that the community that drives this site agreed on.
– Danu
Nov 8 '15 at 17:45
• @Danu As I pointed to in my last post, the level of aggressiveness in comments here is surprising to me. Even more so in your case, as we chatted yesterday I you had a chance to see I'm honestly trying just that, to understand things. Constantly referring to "your [limitations]" is not a mature way of arguing. Worse, it doesn't help any mutual understanding. Finally, you should re-read my last post: yes, I don't understand...2), especially after the answers (including your comments) have been stressing how PSE is not, and its community does not like, a HW site.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 20:28
• Now, if anybody else is willing to add a constructive comment, without any cynical or ironic attitude or simply eager to state your opinion on my understanding of things here, she/he will be welcome. Otherwise, it'd be wise if you just ignore this whole post and let it die in the sea of all meta-comments. It's much elegant and mature a way to show me how wrong/off/ignorant my comments are.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 20:37
• @Danu whether it was off-topic or not wasn't the point. I insist, the (reasonable or not) fobia to HW posts shown on the answers here seemed not fit into the fact that post was still living around.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 20:39
• @Danu "I might be a bit... "concise" in my statements here, but there is no anger or aggression involved, I assure you. " I've spent quite some time in trying to smoothen my edges when it comes to online forums. The excuse of being concise I found it of little help.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 20:41
• @Danu I don't have to read it to understand from that fact and your last comments that some type of HW are accepted after all -despite the idea I previously got from the answers/comments here.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 20:42
• @MASL Note that if you don't @ping me I don't get notified. This has nine rubbish answers that are rightfully deleted, spread evenly over 2+ years; protection is well justified. Keep this in mind: there's often data that you can't see because we want a clean, useful site. This is now quite rightfully closed as homework - admittedly a sluggish close there. Nov 9 '15 at 17:26
• Final note on protection: if you see something that's protected and shouldn't, by all means flag it! Use a custom flag and a polite note saying ~ "Should this really still be protected? If so, I'd be interested in knowing why." - you'll either jog it out of protection or learn something about the site. In any case, protection is a very low barrier to participation on the site (1 answer upvote / 2 question upvotes / 5 edits) so it's really not that big a deal if something gets left protected for too long. Nov 9 '15 at 17:38

For the same reason we weren't a homework help site before Physics Overflow was a thing: because we don't want to be that kind of site.

The user base of this site have debated the places that introductory exercises have in this site repeatedly since anna v's question that you link and the current policy is the outcome of those debates.

Some of the more prominent instances of that debate (in most-recent first order):

• "that kind of site" you mean like SO or MSE?
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 14:58
• I mean a site full of homework questions. You can judge for yourself if Stack Overflow or Mathematics have that property. Nov 7 '15 at 15:02
• What matters here is what you guys think, that's why I asked you. However, ultimately whether those two sites are HW sites or not is not so much relevant. SO is extremely useful just for shear amount of Q&A available.
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 15:08
• @MASL, Yes I do think Mathematics, for instance, suffers from an intolerable amount of homework questions. I find it painful to spend any time on non-pre-filtered parts of the site due to the "tons of crap" I have to "wade through" to find anything worth looking at.
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 15:56
• It is ironic that SO is so useful because it has the kinds of work-avoidance answers we do not want at this site. But it is different. When I look up something on SO, it is so I can get on with a software task. Looking up a homework answer avoids doing and learning from homework. I am in favor of helping people who tried and got stuck. But not doing problems for people. E.G. physics.stackexchange.com/q/218806/37364 Nov 16 '15 at 14:31

Personally I have seen naive but perfectly reasonable questions being downvoted. Presumably the mindset behind that is "Have a downvote dummy - anyone with a basic physics education can answer that".

On one hand Physics.SE seems snobbish, and on the other fairly useless to people like me who want to know specifics at the leading edge of research.

Why is PSE so restrictive in the Q&A it is willing to accept?

Like dmckee said, Physics Stack Exchange doesn't want to be a homework help site. Such questions tend to drown out the other stuff and turn the site into the sort of place where non-students don't want to post.

Why then not being more lenient in the Q&A to be accepted in PSE? Mathematics SE has 10 times as many questions. SO leads with +10M questions. Those other sites are thriving yet feel way more welcoming. In contrast, here there are way too many questions put on hold and closed or receiving way too many negative votes, and less activity is seen in discussing a question and its answers.

Quite apart from the homework thing, there are some separate issues here. IMHO there are some "naysayer trolls" who don't seem to contribute much at all. They just hang around sniping and doling out close votes and downvotes. I try to lean on guys like dmckee to do more about it, but it's not always easy to get the balance right, especially when you believe in free speech in science. Personally I don't think votes should be anonymous, and I don't think posters should be anonymous either. But it's not my call.

When it comes to off-topic/rules questions, I'd say the goal in those other sites is more on limiting their number than eliminating them all together, which is what here seems to be the case.

Maybe they should be politely relocated a Physics Homework-help Stack Exchange site or something.

Up-voting is enough a system for rising the content level; "censoring" not so much, as there is no record left of the "wrong type" of Q&A.

I don't think there's much censoring going on here. Unfortunately the question anna v referred to has been removed from Physics Stack Exchange for reasons of moderation. But there's not a lot that gets deleted. I've seen nastiness deleted, but not much physics getting deleted.

Mind you, SO gives one that kind of reassurance that almost any question either has already been answered or one gets an answered pretty soon. Yes, you may get bad answers, but the good ones rise through the number of answers, not so much through the filtering.

Hmmmn. I'd say one of the problems here is that questions have been answered really badly, and the guy who gave the bad answer is very quick to claim that some other question is a duplicate that's already been answered.

This relates to the question by Anna V. Is the precautionary closing of immature questions so very necessary?

I'd say not. I share anna v's view on this.

I just saw it's from four years ago. What has been the change in the number of Q&A in PSE since then?

I don't know, I've only been around for about 7 months. But I've noticed that there are some professional physicists who don't post here any more. Maybe because of the homework, maybe because of the naysayers. I don't know.

• There is more to it than just being or not a HW site. Besides, people don't necessarily see those questions: Either one googles around for an answer and gets a hit within SE or comes to this site and either has a "new" question or provides an answer. I think up-voting questions is a method that has way more potential than what it is use for so far. It could help as well with "soft"-filtering of HW, without the need to ban them altogether. Bottom line here is focusing on the positive.
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 15:52
• Wrt bad answers, I think statistics (plus up-voting) would come to our rescue. You may get bad & misleading answers, but the good ones will rise if you have enough of them and the up-voting is use more. Anything below $0$ isn't really any meaningful value; contrary to the positive scale, where more is indeed more interesting.
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 15:57
• Case in point: who the hell and why would give your answer a down-vote??
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 15:59
• @MASL I gave his answer a downvote, because it expresses an opinion that I do not agree with. Note that up/downvotes on meta-sites carry completely different meaning from those on main sites: They are just to express agreement/disagreement, here: There is no implicit appeal to some kind of objective (in)correctness involved.
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:02
• Correction to my earlier comment, in response to John's post: "IMHO there are some "naysayer trolls" who don't seem to contribute much at all. They just hang around sniping and doling out close votes and downvotes". Can you name anyone else (with a reasonably high level of investment/activity in this site), except yourself, who is being "targeted" by these so-called "trolls"?
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:06
• As a help, to get started, maybe take a look at this little bit of statistics. Sort the list on the bottom by, for instance, average score. Note that you are one of the worst-scoring users on this list, and that it is a long way up before anyone with more than 100 posts shows up. Those that do show up rather soon (still, average scores 2-5 times higher) are mostly users that have a reputation for holding controversial views that most on the site don't agree with (sound familiar?).
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:10
• ...of course, you're welcome to ignore these statistics or attach any interpretation that you prefer (but so am I!).
– Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:13
• @Danu I'm neither doing one nor the other. Just wondering what your point is, if you have one. Specially so when I see this "you are one of the worst-scoring users".
– MASL
Nov 7 '15 at 16:21
• – Danu
Nov 7 '15 at 16:22
• @MASL : I think you've perhaps seen a taste of the problem here. See this meta question re downvoting. I think Chris Mueller's comment is about right. Nov 7 '15 at 17:08
• NB: there have been multiple failed attempts at getting a Physics HW site on area51.se, they always seem to run into the same issue: no one actually wants to contribute. Nov 7 '15 at 19:14
• I think Chris Mueller's comment is about right Curiously, I think usr's comment is even more apt than Chris's. Nov 7 '15 at 19:59
• There is a latent conception that 1)there is a truth out there of what is a bad Q/A and defending it is sine qua non for the quality of this site; 2) there is a fear that not doing it will lead this site to a useless collection of Q&A; 3) "we are grown ups, they should suck it up and learn"; 4) there is no learning without penalizing. As examples that for me reflect such attitudes: usr is not giving any arguments, but his pitch attracts votes; ACuriousMind describes an extremely simplistic idea of the dynamics of people in forums and how to preserve a general goal, and he gets many votes.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 13:45
• A scoring system that includes all negative integers is nonsense. Everybody would like to rise above 0. There is no significance in the difference between -1 and -2, or -1 and -39, in the same way as 1.567 is meaningless if the error is say 0.1. Finally, downvotes are simply cryptic, meaning, there is no explanation for them, that could 1) help understand why it may indeed be not a good enough Q&A and 2) lead to useful discussion on it that would rest in this site for others to see and follow. The latter point, however, is a problem of all SE sites, afaik, not just PSE.
– MASL
Nov 8 '15 at 13:53