In this meta question, rhermans showed our current 'How to Ask' sidebar and commented: Current tips seems insufficient.

I must admit that the sidebar had become invisible to me. Now that I have been made aware of it again, I could not agree more. In fact, I'd go a lot further and say I think it would totally confuse me were I a first-time user of Mathematica.SE. I would very much like to see us improve upon it.

The sidebar closely follows the 'How to Ask' sidebar of StackOverflow.SE. I worry that means its content is largely dictated by stack exchange.com, meaning that we have little or no control over it. Is that the case?

Just so you don't have bring up another page to see the current sidebar.



This is in response to J.M.'s comments.

  • I was afraid no-local-control would be the case. My main gripe concerning the current tips is that they are too concise to convey much of what a new-comer needs to know.

  • I have posted my sidebar revisions as a community wiki answer as you have suggested.

Edit by J. M.:

As a heads-up: the highest voted proposal by next Tuesday (May 30) will be the one I'll submit to SE staff for inclusion in our sidebar.

  • AFAICT, mods do not have the ability to edit that sidebar. If y'all have any suggestions on what should be in there (concise yet informative, if you please), post 'em here. – J. M.'s torpor Feb 23 '16 at 6:01
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    Why not put your proposed sidebar text as a (CW?) answer, so that it can be voted on, or maybe even edited, as seen fit. – J. M.'s torpor Feb 23 '16 at 12:07
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    Good news: SE is willing to edit the "How to Ask" sidebar text, once we've agreed on what we want in it. So, vote for the ones you like, or propose your own in an answer. – J. M.'s torpor May 18 '17 at 20:43
  • @rhermans, that's why I'm trying to give plenty of time for people to look before I ping the SE guys, as well as making an announcement over at chat. I think your current answer can stand. – J. M.'s torpor May 26 '17 at 16:14
  • There are two answers with 7 points. Extend the period? – rhermans May 31 '17 at 7:32
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    I think extending the period for another week would be a good idea. – m_goldberg May 31 '17 at 15:10
  • I think time is up. The result is a clear majority (8 points vs 6, 3 and 1) for the answer by MichaelE2. There has not been any activity by @J.M. since May 26. I hope everything is fine. – rhermans Jun 6 '17 at 16:57
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    When I put the first question as a comment, the user always gets it. I think "about Mathematica" is easily mistranslated or misread as "about Mathematics," since mathematica is Latin for mathematics. Nonetheless... – Michael E2 May 18 '17 at 14:17
  • ...my tendency is to ignore all sidebars when I visit a site. Eventually I might notice them, if I seem to be failing at getting the site to work for me. I don't see why having all the answers there is going to cure such careless behavior. And as a teacher who has observed the behavior of undergraduates for many years, I feel I am not alone. – Michael E2 May 18 '17 at 14:18
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    These appear to shorter, snappier versions of four of my points. Definitely an improvement. Much more likely to be read than my tl;dr list. – m_goldberg May 18 '17 at 14:57
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    @rhermans As my previous comment might suggest, I have weak faith in instructions to begin with, and their efficacy varies inversely with their length, imo. I think the points in your answer are common, important issues; indeed, they're my pet peeves, and I could include more ("Keep in mind people are volunteering to help you -- make it easy for them!"). But I'm inclined to think they're not helpful in the sidebar. Perhaps the link called "asking help" could be highlighted/emphasized: "If in doubt, read asking help." It helps to have such rules written down as a reference for those who err. – Michael E2 May 18 '17 at 19:33
  • @rhermans I'm not sure. Probably need to ask a moderator. – Michael E2 May 18 '17 at 19:49
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    I could see something like this as another bullet point: "If in doubt, see the full How to Ask and On Topic pages." – Michael E2 May 18 '17 at 19:54
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    @rhermans See if that works... – Michael E2 May 31 '17 at 18:34
  • Be on-topic, only questions about Wolfram Mathematica programming.
  • Be diligent, before asking search the site and Mathematica documentation.
  • Be specific, include working code and data in formatted form, ask distinct answerable questions, give brief context.
  • Don’t move the goalpost, stick to your original question. If you need more, then ask another question.
  • Keep the site useful, make your question relevant for other readers, edit to correct mistakes when you can.

It would look like this:

Mathematica graphics

  • I have edited the answer to unlock the votes and make the text briefer. – rhermans May 26 '17 at 16:24
  • The amount of questions that are off-topic because they should be in meta is too small compared to the huge number of questions of people failing to be diligent and specific. Therefore, I'm intentionally leaving the "ask it on meta" out. – rhermans May 26 '17 at 16:33
  • Only questions about Wolfram Research Inc.'s Mathematica software belong on this website.

  • Please take the time to look in the Mathematica documentation before asking here.

  • This is not a discussion forum. Do not post general, open-ended, or wide-ranging questions.

  • We will not do your homework nor your work place assignment. We will give help on particular points of difficulty. Be as specific as you can.

  • Do not leave out important details from your question. Do not include unnecessary ones. Keep in mind that people reading your question don't know anything about your Mathematica work that you don't tell them.

  • If your question is about how to use this website, ask your question on Meta.Mathematica, not this site.

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    @rhermans. Done. – m_goldberg May 31 '17 at 20:21

I used Michael E2's answer with a small change (to make two links distinct):

Updated How to Ask

Please let me know if there are any typos or other problems.

  • "up" and "it" got interchanged in the second sentence; thus "Look it up in Mathematica's documentation center." – J. M.'s torpor Sep 7 '17 at 17:59
  • @J.M.: Fixed. Thanks! – Jon Ericson Sep 7 '17 at 18:01

How to Ask

Is your question about Wolfram Mathematica?

We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.

Provide details. Share your research. A minimum working example increases the likelihood of good responses

If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.

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    Except for the change of Mathematica to Wolfram Mathematica, I do not believe that the current text needs any alterations. People are not going to read a wall of text, so it's more important to keep it short and simple than to list every possible criticism. In fact, preemptively bringing up criticism creates a bad atmosphere. – C. E. May 26 '17 at 15:05
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    Except, perhaps, 'A minimum working example increases the likelihood of good responses' – user1066 May 30 '17 at 14:35
  • @tomd Yes, I'll put that in there as well. That's a good idea. – C. E. May 30 '17 at 15:16

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