Forum: Are We Rude/Do We Expect Too Much From People Asking Questions On This Forum?
gravatar for Whetting
4.6 years ago by
Bethesda, MD
Whetting1.5k wrote:

Hi Biostars,

I am not a frequent contributor on this site, but I do enjoy using this site and reading people's perspectives. Like many of you, I also use stackoverflow regularly. On one of the stackoverflow websites, I came across this question link . Pierre suggested to ask the question on Biostars, but the OP replied with:

@Pierre : Thanks for recommending biostars but i donot feel comfortable posting on that site since the moderators are too rude and either downvote the question or close it.

I agree with expecting users to have done their homework, however, maybe we should be more constructive in our criticisms and avoid one-liners as comments?
Anyway, I am looking forward to your (constructive :) ) comments!

PS. I know that this is not really a question, but I was not sure which post type to choose, so feel free to move this post to a more appropriate location!

forum • 13k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.3 years ago by always_learning800 • written 4.6 years ago by Whetting1.5k

Such discussions can and should be held in public, forum is the right place for this. I think though that we need some more examples. Also, IMO Stackoverflow is much more strict when it comes to closing posts or down voting, we do not even have down votes any more.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k

I personally think that this one is a very good example: Should Fasta be capitalized?, including lmgtfy, mockery of the question, and closing of the question...

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by jobinv1.1k

Ooh, wow, that's really harsh. Especially since it really looks like the poster went to a lot of trouble with the original question - it's very polite, posts links to existing sources, etc. And I do think it's a relevant question for publications.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Jelena Aleksic890

From lurking, using, moderating, posting, answering and asking on this forum for a bit more than 3 years, I have to agree that some behaviours have not been up to par for their friendliness (including some of mine), but I believe that the question you refer to is more of a very rare exception than a good example and that globally this is a friendly place to post questions (at least as friendly as online forums I know about). Thanks to open and honest discussions about politeness on the forum, I feel that the tone has improved in the last months.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.5 years ago • written 4.5 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.6k
gravatar for Pierre Lindenbaum
4.6 years ago by
France/Nantes/Institut du Thorax - INSERM UMR1087
Pierre Lindenbaum103k wrote:

I'd like to see some 'badges' associated to the user account in order to have an idea of his skills:

  • I'm a biologist. Microsoft Excel is a wonderful tool , isn't it ?
  • I'm a biologist, I have an access to a linux.
  • I'm a comp. biol. student. I need an advice.
  • (...)
  • I'm Heng Li.

so we could adjust our level of tolerance. I would'nt give a to the people from the first category :-)

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by Pierre Lindenbaum103k

Upvoted for "I'm Heng Li" badge :).

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Pawel Szczesny3.2k

I agree with this notion in general, but I'm seriously chafing at the (in my opinion) still quite derogatory and insulting articulation above, Pierre. I'm also chafing at the one-dimensionality that such a badge labeling system implies.

Perhaps we should have several categories - *-seq skills/knowledge, biology skills/knowledge, computational skills knowledge, math skills/knowledge, etc.

ninjaedit: this is quite similar to the "skills tags" idea discussed in the comment above.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Isaac Joseph60

Interesting point!! I'm totally agree, maybe some kind of "skill tags" for each user should be wonderful. And what's more: as a user you select your "skill tags" but it's the people who make's you as an expert voting your comments and answers in terms of this community. Or maybe somehow like LinkedIn did with endorsements

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by daniel.soronellas330
gravatar for Jelena Aleksic
4.6 years ago by
Cambridge, UK
Jelena Aleksic890 wrote:

Hi all,

I sometimes find that broad questions are quite interesting (e.g. there was a general genome regulation one recently), but that they pretty quickly get shut down and redirected to a different forum, which I think is a shame. I also find that repeats of previous questions are sometimes helpful, as the original question does not always contain comprehensive or up to date answers. In these two contexts, I personally find the moderating a little heavy-handed at times. Other than that, I find the forum very friendly though!

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by Jelena Aleksic890
gravatar for Michael Dondrup
4.6 years ago by
Bergen, Norway
Michael Dondrup43k wrote:

I think we should all take up this comment with a reasonable portion of self-criticism. Everyone should be aware of the fact that internet based communication channels have shaped and are shaping the way we are communicating. Communication has become more direct, as an example in an email to an email list I might start of with a Hi all, Dear list, or something, end with Thank you very much, Kind regards, some say cheers, and after a while some don't use that, one wouldn't normally open such email with "Dear Sir or Madam", and close with "Yours very truly" as it is common for a letter. More so with chats. None of these communications are considered rude. However, communication on the internet has its rude corners, look at 4chan for an extreme example. I think we all can agree that we don't want to get drawn into that direction.

Now, often when I am on the bus on the way to work, using an unstable mobile internet connection, I am trying to go through the early morning posts. I find a duplicate or badly written post. What I actually want to say is something about the lines:

Dear User, welcome to BioStar and thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I have got the impression that your question has been asked here before/ does not fully meet the quality standards of this site and that makes it very hard for people to understand or answer it. I regret I had to close it, but put a link to the correct answer. / Please try improve your question so we can help you better and keep the BioStar shining. Please do not take this personally, hope to see you again.

But, while the bus is approaching the next tunnel where my connection is surely going to break down (and there are a lot of tunnels in Norway), this will shorten to:

Possible duplicate of .... / Your question is hard to understand, please improve it.

Is it rude?

I assume we could all agree on:

  1. we should try to be more polite
  2. and less rude

This should include no more "Let me google that for you", "RTFM" (because not everyone seems to know that this refers to a FINE manual), links to "whathaveyoutried" (even though that post is very reasonable in general) , etc. I will try to post a gentle reminder to such comments.

There, are other things that I personally find rude as well, like the notorious "Im doing the bioinformatics cours, can u plz send teh codez". These, should be closed without any extra politeness because they don't deserve it, honestly I do not care if such people ever visit the site again, possibly they better don't. (Yes, chat-style typos I personally consider rude in the context of an academic environment). I sometimes find it also rude, to ask broad questions ("Can u pls explain me the field"), where a correct answer would require a lot of research, while the OP hasn't invested minimal time and consideration before posting.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k

+1 "Im doing the bioinformatics cours, can u plz send teh codez". Rudeness at its best.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by zx87543.8k
gravatar for Istvan Albert
4.6 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 75k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 75k wrote:

I think a lot depends on first impressions and it may happen that one person's first interaction with the site was negative and that in turn colored their view. One could have a post closed and downvoted on SE as well.

By and large people and contributors here are helpful and promote a positive environment.

Since this is an anecdotal example why not take that a step further and look at wether the question and answer posted there are really all that useful in lieu of moderation.

Is the OP better off for posting a generic question for which a generic and broad answer is already present in the Biopython documentation and could be found with trivial searching skills - I think not - both the question and the answer are so generic that end up providing minimal utility. Had the OP made an effort to write a code, people could have helped him/her in actually producing a high quality solution.

What I am trying to say here is that asking someone to improve a question primarily benefits them.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 75k
gravatar for skymningen
4.6 years ago by
skymningen330 wrote:

Even if you think lmgtfy, it can still be said in a polite way. Which is the main point, I guess.

If you can't point people to doing a little research, read the manual or all those things one can do before asking a question and additionally make some effort to formulate the question in a way it can be answered in a helpful way, this will not make the quality any better. Nor will it make new people less "afraid" of scary mods. Because then instead of the new people rather asking somewhere else, it would make the helpful people stop caring about BioStars.

Actually, I never had to ask a question on here yet, because all the time doing a little research helped. Still I like being around here, because many of the answers to those unasked questions I found here. If it is not possible to close a question, not possible to downvote, not possible to politely guide someone to check out other sources that provide perfectly fine answers, this site will end up spammed and you won't find the good answers to relevant questions any more.

And we are all grown ups, right? If someone is impolite to you, sigh, post a comment like "Thank you, I will try finding it on google. Please try to be polite to newcomers like me next time."

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by skymningen330
gravatar for Ben
4.6 years ago by
Edinburgh, UK
Ben1.9k wrote:

I think that some established users are too keen on closing questions and redirecting people elsewhere; aren't we all here to help people and share knowledge? What do you guys do when someone comes to your desk asking for some quick help with R, say it's not a bioinformatics question?

A recent example is Loading Package "Gplots" In R On Mac, where I don't think anyone was harsh but really there are many people here who have a solid grasp of R and could easily tell the user how to list the functions supplied with a package, maybe direct them to the manual and an intro to R document. Instead typos were pointed out, mistaken advice about versioning was given, and for some reason other users swung by uprating each comment. It seems a shame to be driving these people away, especially when a quick comment answer was all the was required. I don't follow the logic that the whole site will go into a wild non-bioinformatics frenzy and become the new the r-help mailing list if we answer the odd R question friendlily.

Another point is "bioinformatics" is inevitably interdisciplinary, if you direct every programming question to SO, stats questions to cross-validated and biology questions to (wherever one goes to ask those), we're not left with much. When we get into specifics of bioinformatics software, it's probably a better idea to read the literature and email the devs/newsgroup rather than asking for other users' best guesses.

Ultimately I think it would be nice to aim for the kind of atmosphere many of us have during our day jobs, which may include helping the odd wet-lab scientist with their plots.

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by Ben1.9k

Bad example, the question you cite was mainly closed by me because it couldn't be answered by us. If a user makes such many obvious mistakes he or she doesn't allow us to give a correct answer. This is nothing personal, but has to be mentioned somehow. The user also claimed it worked for him, which obviously is a mistake or confusion or whatever because such function does not exist.

I believe, it is not wrong to redirect in case the question can be better answered by someone else.

What I really wanted to write, but didn't was: please apply the same level of care and seriousness to asking your question as you are expecting for an answer.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k

I actually replied to him at the time (later deleted seeing the ♦ pile-on and closing) and the user sent a polite PM thanking me, which is probably why this particular example sticks in my mind, rather than being one which was particularly bad.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Ben1.9k

But why then did you delete your answer? In a community like this there might be a lot of opinions, and sometimes mods are wrong, if you don't stand up for your opinion, it is not heard. Also, closing means, no more answers can be added, not all answers must be deleted!

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k

Presumably the idea of you guys closing things is to (for whatever reason) prevent anyone from answering and the recent vote swung heavily in favour of that continuing, so if that's the prevailing consensus then who am I to argue.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Ben1.9k

We have discussed the pros and cons of closing, indeed. If you have followed that debate you will have access to all arguments and I am not going to repeat them here. One of the arguments is to allow for discussion if a question is to be reopened or not. But all that is different between us is a virtual number of almost irrelevant virtual points besides the names. However if you give up your position so lightly there is nothing from my side to argue for.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k

My first related comment was 6 months ago on the google group (link), and have been somewhat involved in the discussion/voting since, so I wouldn't say I'm just a drive-by commentator. I realise that "who am I to argue" maybe sounded snarky, but I genuinely mean if no one else sees a problem then I accept that that's the community's position.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Ben1.9k

I think I have a decent reputation of being helpful on this site, so I didn't suggest closing that question lightly. In addition to being off-topic, I think the example you cite was a lazy question — a completely lazy question — that was easily answerable with a web engine search. I think there is some value in filtering low-quality and off-topic questions, in that it clears out chaff and pushes better questions to the front of the page.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Alex Reynolds22k

I think I agree with your broad points, but I disagree about your specific example of that thread.

The poster asked a question that (in my opinion) could be completely solved by quickly Googling something like "R Error: could not find function". That would lead to many helpful pages like this or this. The fact that they didn't do that, and never returned to the post to update or improve their question, to me supports the original decision to close the topic.

I feel like that example falls into the questions like "How do I open a .gz file" or "What does samtools: command not found" mean. It is possible for most users here to answer, but it typically indicates the poster has not done the minimal amount of work to solve their problem and instead depends on others to do all their work for them. If we consult the helpful "Ten Simple Rules for Getting Help from Online Scientific Communities" paper, I'd say it broke rule 6, and maybe rule 4.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by matted6.6k

Also, you could have advocated in favor of a closed question and still can.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k
gravatar for Manu Prestat
4.6 years ago by
Manu Prestat3.8k
Marseille, France
Manu Prestat3.8k wrote:

Hi, I don't agree, first it has not been possible to downvote for a while (I know this is still in discussion, I personally don't find it constructive). Second, I find it pretty tolerant compared to SE. I remember that my first SE post was completely edited and rewritten by 2 people in less than 5 min because I spent too much words saying "hello", "thank you"...etc: on SE, politeness must not dilute concision. This is not the case here where one can see a lot of friendly comments. The main rule for asking a question here is to let people know that you really thought and searched about it by yourself.

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by Manu Prestat3.8k
gravatar for KCC
4.6 years ago by
Cambridge, MA
KCC3.8k wrote:

I. I think badges for self-identification, as some have mentioned, are a fantastic idea. It lets people know the information they need to know in a standard way which can be quickly communicated.

II. I think polite form answers are a good idea. It would be nice if a moderator could just put a standard answer "Sorry, it appears your question is off-topic for our site" and embedded in the message is a link to a longer more detailed explanation and how to address this problem. There could be other standard comments for closed questions. I can think of many:

a. "Language. Sorry, your question is not written in clear enough English for the average user to understand what you are saying. We would very much like to help you answer your question. Please re-submit after some editing."

b. "Too Terse. For some questions, answers need background on what you yourself have tried. Please revise."

c. "Duplicated Answer. [link to duplicate]"

Isn't there a way to have it so a moderator can just click a button and have these pop up? Perhaps, we can crowd source the language for the form answers? That way it's less work for the moderators and less personal

III. I think some users just need to get over the this issue of other people being 'lazy' for not Googling things or whatever else they think people should do before asking questions. I don't think part of the mission of the Biostars should be teaching random people who choose to use the site not to be lazy. First of all, it won't work because we have extremely limited control over the attitudes of other people on the internet. Second, there will always be new 'lazy' first time users. I think the label of 'laziness' confuses issues more than it helps. It avoids the real issues like that the question is not good enough quality for the site (for whatever reason), or the question is off topic or overly specific. Such questions should be closed for objective reasons, rather than subjective interpretations about whether the user should have tried harder etc.

EDIT: I was worried my post would be construed as not supporting closing questions. Actually, I am vastly in favor of closing bad questions. Hopefully standardized warnings about why a question is about to be closed would make that process even more rapid. From my reading of the philosophy behind the stackexchange system, maintaining high signal to noise ratio is important. Every question that's never going to get answered due to lack of quality is a waste of space. Every question that is diffuse or nonsensical is another question one has to search through before one can get to the good questions with the awesome answers, that elevate and educate the reader.

So, more closings, faster closings, but less personal and more polite closings.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by KCC3.8k

Questions are not closed for laziness (at least, not by me). We point out that users are expected to provide some evidence of having tried to solve the problem themselves and ask for it. If they do not provide evidence, well then the question is closed. I think this is perfectly reasonable. The aim is not to re-educate individuals, but to demonstrate to all visitors what we consider to be acceptable standards in this community.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Neilfws47k

However you name it, "laziness" or else, I would want to see some evidence of an "effort". It is rude to expect others to do your work when you didn't spend 1 minute at least thinking about the question you are about to ask. No effort = Close it. One more point, there must be a way of checking, but how often new users who ask one bad formulated question come back say next day or next week, if some find "closing question" offensive, it will be minority.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by zx87543.8k

Although, wouldn't it be better to give them the hint to reformulate the question or do some research that enables them to answer it themselves first? This way there is a chance this question helps somebody else later on. Just closing it does not help the original person asking it, nor anybody else. And it might scare some people off.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by skymningen330

Also there's no _obligation_ for you or anyone to involve themselves in a question, if someone thinks a post is rude or not worth their time to answer, they are free to not do so. Closing that question, though, makes the same decision for all other posters and viewers (including hits for years to come).

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Ben1.9k

I can assure you that I do not close questions lightly, and fortunately recently, I almost never had to close any question. However, the discussion of pro and cons closing has been held earlier, with the outcome not to change the rules of the game. I do not see any point in discussing this again. So closing is part of the game's ruleset, and it is left to people with high reputation, because that is believed to reflect overall experience (although that can be debated), reliability, and trustworthiness. You can advocate for any question we close, there should be an extra category for closed questions to evaluate.

ADD REPLYlink modified 4.6 years ago • written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k
gravatar for Richard Smith
4.6 years ago by
Richard Smith340
Cambridge, UK
Richard Smith340 wrote:

I'm 'new' after not having been to the site for some time. One of the first questions I looked at was answered with a 'Let me google that for you' link which made me think twice about getting involved. I've also seen a few answers to off-topic or commonly asked questions that seem a bit brusque, this is definitely the minority and probably completely understandable if you spend a lot of time here but if that's the first thing you see it can be off-putting.

I understand it's important to keep focus and maintain quality but there's a difficult balance between not tolerating lazy questions and being as welcoming as possible.

ADD COMMENTlink written 4.6 years ago by Richard Smith340

I agree lmgtfy is rude, it should be avoided.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.6 years ago by Michael Dondrup43k
gravatar for always_learning
4.3 years ago by
Doha, Qatar
always_learning800 wrote:

I am here on this site since last few months but I must say that guys around are quite friendly !! And when they suggest me something almost every time it worked !! :) Thanks every one !!

ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.3 years ago • written 4.3 years ago by always_learning800

Hi syednajeebashraf. Your last sentence sounds like it suggests that the member of the original post leave the biostar community. Would you care rephrasing it if this is not what you mean?

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.6k

I don't think he meant that the member of the original post should leave this community. I think he meant something like no body will answer lazy questions.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Sudeep1.5k

I agree, but it still sounds strange to say "And finally Leave this community".

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.6k

IMHO it should be read like "And finally, leave this community even your tuition teacher will not answer the lazy questions"

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Sudeep1.5k

Done :) :) Yes It was not what you understand earlier !! :P

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by always_learning800

I don't see how you modified it. Should you remove the last confusing sentence?

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Eric Normandeau9.6k

It is more conductive to remind people that asking good questions helps them directly by getting better answers and that people here are very helpful - no need to send them away

the main problem with expressing any negative sentiment like "finally leave" is that overshadows whatever positive sentiment is expressed in the rest of the statement.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 75k

Don't worry !! I am not sending any one !! :) :)

ADD REPLYlink written 4.3 years ago by always_learning800
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