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I am new to Mathematica.SE. There are few things I have observed recently. I will try to lay them down with regard to this example.

  1. The question was not formatted. Another user spent considerable time to help with the formatting.
  2. The question was localised to the poster's needs.
  3. Even though the question was downvoted, we tried to help the user to resolve and debug one at a time.
  4. However, once the question was resolved (though we felt there were still fundamental issues), the user just vanished. Never cared to respond to our further comments or accept the answer.

What I feel about it:

  1. The user might have been very busy and may have a deadline as well. He/she might not have enough time to get back. I still hope the user gets back after few hours and end the discussion.
  2. We might not have been fully correct. We felt (are still sure) there are fundamental issues and we did point them out. However, there was no answer to that. If at all the user felt that the comment was not justified, shouldn't they have explained? It would have helped us understand as well.
  3. There have been similar discussions on SO. This brings negativity in the community. People get discouraged to answer the questions. Have a look at the answer posted by the user mystical (second most top voted answer) for this question on SO.
  4. I feel it is highly detrimental to the community. Mathematics SE is relatively new and it might just become a norm resulting in a downfall.

How can we help the new users to understand this and motivate them to complete the discussion? Are such phenomenon normal and accepted by the community in general---am I over-reacting?

  • sorry for nit-picking - you mean Mathematica.SE, right? – Yves Klett Dec 1 '15 at 8:06
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Let me answer for new/episodic users case:

The answer is, get used to it.

While from time to time the OP has an alibi for his absence, more often he/she simply doesn't care as soon as he/she get's an answer.

It annoys me very much but it is very common.

What can you do?

  • Ask kindly to clarify unclear parts of the topic. In case of "I don't care anymore" user, it may not be very effective though.

  • Move on and:

    • forget it.

    • When the user is absent for a longer period of time (can't define that :P) or was seen recently but still doesn't care:

      • Edit the answer and/or question so the topic is self contained, clear and useful.

      • Vote to close the topic as "too localized/unclear and abandoned" (my favorite unless there is an answer that I find really useful.)

  • May be I should have asked how to keep oneself motivated to answer questions! I think your answer sums it up nicely. Will accept if we don't get anymore interesting answers. – Marvin Nov 30 '15 at 15:02
  • @Saurav No need to hurry, the more that folks are comming to meta less frequently. So maybe someone else has something valid to say too. P.s. The best way to be motivated while being ignored is to take a small pause from SE :) – Kuba Nov 30 '15 at 15:04
13

I was the one who posted an answer to the question in question. However, it wasn't really an answer but a very long comment. I was trying to show the OP that the issues he thought were causing him trouble were only cosmetic and that his true problems were much deeper and of a mathematical rather tha of a Mathematica nature.

He wouldn't buy into my arguments, so I gave up and voted to close as too localized. Four others quickly followed my lead and the question was closed.

My answer was not accepted by the OP and nobody up-voted it. I'm OK with that. The answer didn't appeal to him. I think he was looking for someone to hand him a complete, fully correct re-coding on a silver platter. No up-votes were expected as the answer, such as it was, only had value for the OP.

If the OP has truly abandoned the question, I will simply delete my answer in a week or two. If he does re-appear and continue the discourse, I (and I hope others) will offer further advice. But the question will stay closed because it really is too localized.

You may wonder why I put so much effort into trying to work with a beginner on a question that I knew was almost certainly going to be closed. There is are a couple of reasons for that.

  1. I believe that everyone who asks for help on this site deserves to have their question considered, even if the end result is only to re-direct them somewhere else because they have mistaken ideas about what this site is about. This means that I think even simple beginner's question deserves an answer and not just dismissal as "simple error" or "easily found in the documentation". I don't mind the dismissal as long as they also go away with an answer.

  2. I have a lot of Mathematica experience but a rather weak math background. Over the years I have gotten rather good at debugging because I have made so many mistakes. This makes me suited to working with beginner's questions, even the messy ones, and less suited to working with the more sophisticated questions. One does what one can.

  • Upvoted your answer there just to falsify your theory here :) – Dr. belisarius Dec 4 '15 at 1:50
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This doesn't apply to the post you linked to, but it might apply in some cases:

I wanted to point out that unregistered users cannot upvote at all. They can only accept. Furthermore, in some cases things go wrong with the system and unregistered users lose access to the post immediately after submitting it (without doing anything like clearing cookies). This may explain some abandoned posts.

This has happened to me when posting anonymously using an unregistered account. (For those curious: there are some cases when posting questions anonymously is reasonable or even advised, think sites like Workplace.SE.)

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