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I have tried very hard to comply with the spirit of this forum but obviously still have not got the hang of it. I write a short comment and then am told it should be an answer.

I answer a question and it is down voted but no reason is given. Here is an example https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/307799/104696 which obviously flummoxed another contributor, @sammygerbil, to this forum. If nothing else I think that this is inconsiderate and possibly rude. It also does not help me to try and do better in the future.

However I wish to have guidance about this question and my answer. Having recently been told not to write answers as comments I wrote it as an answer. The reason why I wrote an answer is because I thought that I would be helping this student about a physics concept. In this case it is the idea of a non-uniform acceleration where the student thinks that one formula fits all situations. At the start of learning physics many students find this conceptually difficult.

I did not give an answer or any working I just told him/her how acceleration is defined. After writing the answer and before doing some gardening this afternoon I had an idea that there may be a contrary view when "-1" turned up but without a comment what was I supposed to do? I have absolutely no objection to the forum being overseen but I do wish to be helped to do the right thing and a comment with regard to a down vote would help a lot.

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicates: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/9451/50583, meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/1372/50583 and their linked questions. Votes are anonymous by design - if someone didn't leave a comment explaining their vote, there's nothing you can do about it. Please also note that every user with more than 125 reputation can downvote so this isn't really about the "forum being overseen" (also note that this is not a forum) $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jan 31 '17 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind I am sorry to have put the question in the wrong place and thank you for pointing that out. This might be a duplicate question in part but what I would like to know is where can I query a decision about putting a question on hold? $\endgroup$ – Farcher Jan 31 '17 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that giving short answers in form of comments is against the rules of the site. However writing only writing hints in form of an answer is sometimes not appreciated. See meta.stackexchange.com/q/4217 . And regarding the other point, even I feel that "silent" downvotes should not be allowed on Stack Exchange (rather an option to comment anonymously should be given in such cases. But that is another issue... $\endgroup$ – 2017 Jan 31 '17 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Also I think your answer to this (physics.stackexchange.com/q/308809) question was down-voted because you answered a homework question (you could have written that as a comment rather) . $\endgroup$ – 2017 Jan 31 '17 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ Both questions are downvoted and closed as being homework. Have you considered that these are not questions we want here so you shouldn't answer them? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 31 '17 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous Comments are not for short answers (although often used for that), see meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/8821/50583 and its linked questions. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jan 31 '17 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Farcher, if you want to dispute the "on hold" status, just cast a reopen vote (you should see a reopen in the same place where the edit button on posts is) and optionally leave a comment on the question explaining why you think it should be reopened. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jan 31 '17 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you all for taking the time to answer my queries. One of the many nice things about this forum is that the big players are passionate about making the forum a success. $\endgroup$ – Farcher Jan 31 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous (6 comments up) Giving short answers in the form of comments is against the rules of the site. I see ACuriousMind already said so but it's really worth emphasizing. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 31 '17 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. @Farcher it's not a forum ;-) $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 31 '17 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ The Stack Exchange sites are not forums (fora?). They are think tanks. $\endgroup$ – Peter Mortensen Jan 31 '17 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Farcher, this site is plagued by anonymous people who downvote good answers and upvote bad answers. The moderators and administrators don't want to admit that there's any kind of problem, even though a lot of expert posters are ex posters. It might hurt at first, but it doesn't kill you. It only makes you stronger. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Feb 4 '17 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDuffield Thanks for your advice. $\endgroup$ – Farcher Feb 4 '17 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Farcher: Do note that Duffy's complaint is based mostly on his experience posting non-mainstream answers; do take his advice with a dose of salt. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 4 '17 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Farcher It's been stated already by many users but it is worth reinforcing: This is really not a forum. $\endgroup$ – Marc.2377 Feb 6 '17 at 5:34
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I would interpret the downvotes on the answers to both of those questions as saying

don't answer this kind of homework questions

and I agree with that perspective. Providing answers to obvious do-my-work-for-me questions only encourages more of them, and they are a clear drag on the quality of the site. This is a gray area, but if I see a Q&A pair and think

this question is terrible, the OP is a freeloader, and the question harms the site, and in fact it's so bad that any answer to this question encourages similarly terrible questions, so your answer harms the site regardless of what's actually in it

then a downvote on the answer is pretty warranted. I think that that's the case for both of the questions you've linked.

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    $\begingroup$ Until a question is closed, it is a matter of opinion whether it is acceptable or not. What is obvious to you may not be so to others. If you think the answer is so harmful for the site, why don't you flag it for deletion? Down-voting only punishes the poster, it does not protect the site. ... You chose to see the question as asking "Do my homework for me". @Farcher and I chose to see it as asking how the collision in one frame of reference can be interpreted in another. This might be obvious to graduates, but it can be perplexing to a novice. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Feb 2 '17 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ However, I agree with you about the probable reason for the simultaneous down-votes for @Farcher's answer and mine. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Feb 2 '17 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil Note that I did not downvote any of those answers. But the point stands: if you're answering questions that are that harmful, any downvotes are well-deserved, and they do serve to protect the site by discouraging behaviours that harm it. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 2 '17 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ Then you are punishing users for not holding the same views as you, which is a form of censorship. If the user is acting in breach of site policy, the action should be reported to the moderators, not down-voted. The Help Centre explains that the purpose of voting up a question or answer is to signal to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Feb 2 '17 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil Take it easy on the "censorship" claims: you are vastly overestimating the amount of "harm" done by a downvote. You have opinions, other people disagree with them, we all move on. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 2 '17 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil Voting against people whose opinion you disagree with is usually called "democracy". $\endgroup$ – Mark Mitchison Feb 3 '17 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkMitchison : The Help Centre describes the purpose of the voting system as being to indicate your assessment of the quality of the question/answer, not the behaviour of the person who posted. This is not an election - unlike the election of moderators, where your assessment of character and behaviour is the subject of the vote. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Feb 3 '17 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil Indeed, and I sympathise with your viewpoint. Personally I wouldn't downvote in this way. But I object very strongly to your claim that people voting against your opinion is "censorship" (which is when a handful of people genuinely suppress your ability to express your opinion). That's not the kind of statement that leads to a constructive discussion in this kind of setting. Hence my utterly facetious comment. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mitchison Feb 3 '17 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil It's also important to note that the voting behaviour I described is not an assesment of the character or behaviour of the person who posted; it is strictly an assessment of whether the post itself helps make the site better or not. Put another way: don't take downvotes personally. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 3 '17 at 15:26
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I've had downvotes to some of my questions and answers before probably with no comment and I didn't have an issue with it. There are other ways to learn how to write a good question or answer. If you write a question with a terrible body, it will be recognized by a bot as being terrible and block you from posting it in the first place until you fix up the body.

It's probably better to write something as a comment if it doesn't properly answer the question and as an answer if it properly answers the question. It's better to think of a proper answer and write it as a comment than to write an answer that doesn't properly answer the question as a comment but the reason why people are encouraged to write an answer as an answer is probably because when they think of a proper answer, they're able to do something even better than writing an answer as a comment which is writing it as an answer.

There's probably a reason comments have a 500 character limit. We have no need for something longer than 500 characters that doesn't properly answer the question. If you have an answer longer than 500 characters but it doesn't properly answer the question, I don't think it's a good idea to write it as an answer because you can't write it as a comment.

As Emilio Pisanty said in their answer, one issue with some questions is that it's the homework question of the person who asked it. I don't think those question should be blocked. If they were blocked, so would those that weren't homework questions but looked like homework questions be. Homework is worth very small fraction of the total marks and for some courses, no marks and entirely to help students study for a test so people get get a much higher mark in a course than they deserve from asking those questions. In some cases, it might help them learn how to answer that type of question and they'll get a higher mark on a test and deserve it because they answered a question on the test properly with no help during the test because they asked that Stack Exchange question earlier.

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  • $\begingroup$ Note that the issue of not doing homework problems on this site is not just because it helps someone with a grade (which would be academic cheating, by definition). You can scan all the homework questions and find more reasons. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 13 '17 at 11:26

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