
 bob bundy
 Moderator
suggestion for the help page
Hi MIF,
I’ve been coming to this site for a few months now. I’m a retired teacher and I must be getting withdrawal symptoms because the section I’ve enjoyed the most is the help section. It seems to be very popular and mostly bobbym has solved the problems before I’ve even logged in!
Occasionally, I’ve been able to contribute too, and I really like doing so. But, and I think bobbym shares my views on this, it’s frustrating when posters aren’t helpful with what they ask.
Here’s some of the things that can be annoying.
A question is posted with no indication of what the poster wants. Do they just want an answer; or confirmation that their answer is correct; or a hint without the answer; or a full explanation of the topic crosslinked to MIF pages.
Then they don’t always put down the correct question. They make typos or miss bits out, so this leads to an impossible puzzle or one where the answer is way beyond the capability of the querant.
Then, after a solution is posted, sometimes ......... nothing. No reply, no request for further advice, no thanks. Has the poster died? or lost interest? or found another site that was more help? Sometimes we just never know.
So I’ve been wondering.
Would it be possible to add a big link at the top of the first help page labelled “CLICK HERE IF YOU ARE POSTING FOR THE FIRST TIME” that leads to a page with some advice to posters.
Here’s a first draft of what might go on that page.
(1) When you post a question, make it clear what help you want. Do you want just an answer; or a hint of how to get an answer; or more detailed help on a topic. DO NOT EXPECT OTHERS TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK FOR YOU!
(2) Tell us what level you are working at; this will help us to identify what sort of maths is appropriate , and at your level, when responding. It will help avoid replies that are too easy and obvious or too hard for you to understand.
(3) After you’ve made a post, read it through and check it says what you intended. Edit if necessary before we start solving the wrong problem!
(4) Please, oh yes PLEASE, come back and read the responses. Then make another post either asking for more clarification or thanking the people who have given up their time freely, to give you help.
Thanks for reading this far. What do you think? Obviously, I'm an optimist thinking it'll make much difference; it's probably an occupational habit. But you never know ......
Bob
Last edited by bob bundy (20101025 02:31:42)
You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Hi Bob and MIF;
If I did not agree with that... Maybe you and MIF could work on a page together in the help section, since you have already thought about it clearly. Design something eye catching that gets the message across. If I can help I will. I think it is a good idea to try to increase productivity.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
 MathsIsFun
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Let us edit it here, and I can post it when we like it. Here is my draft of Bob's draft:
We are happy to help! But we don't do your homework for you.
* When you post a question, make it clear what help you want. Do you want just an answer; or a hint of how to get an answer; or more detailed help on a topic.
* Tell us what level you are at. It will help avoid replies that are too easy or too hard for you to understand.
* After you’ve made a post, read it through and check it says what you intended. Edit if necessary before we start solving the wrong problem!
* Please, oh yes PLEASE, come back and read the responses. Then make another post either asking for more clarification or thanking the people who have given up their time freely.
"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  Leon M. Lederman
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Hmmm, it seems too civilized, too rational, too friendly. It lacks any hint of barbarism.
I have dreamt about this post while I was sleeping this morning so now I have some REM sleep thoughts about it, I even induced some delta waves so I am temporarily hooked up to that big transmitter in the sky.
We are happy to help! But we don't do your homework for you.
Maybe we could just post a picture of me with the caption,"This is your brain without homework!" Sort of scare them straight? You could change the quote to, "Yes, we do your homework here but by Jehovah you are going to learn some math!" Followed by, "MathsisFun when you do it!"
The biggest boost we could do for posters here is to get them to use latex. That would be heaven. Neat, followable, orderly work is the secret of math. Latex provides that.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
 MathsIsFun
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Yes Latex would be good, but a bit above many posters.
Is everyone happy with my version of the wording above?
"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  Leon M. Lederman
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Hi MIF;
It is okay with me.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
 Roraborealis
 Super Member
Re: suggestion for the help page
I know it already says it on the description of the board but maybe a reminder of putting the type of problem in the topic? I realise generally our helpers here are competent in all forms of maths. Some of us  such as me  however, can only do things up to ALevel or such. If we have a thread which just says 'PLEASE Help...' as the topic  we don't know which branch of maths it is  and it turns out to be some really really complicated stuff, we didn't know it wasn't worth looking at and can try helping someone else who is stuck.
School is practice for the future. Practice makes perfect. But  nobody's perfect, so why practice?
 MathsIsFun
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Good point Rora.
Maybe:
* Put a short description of your question in the title, so people know if they can help or not ("Please help me" is not a good description).
"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  Leon M. Lederman
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
I agree. It would be a great help to the other people. Maths, the problem is going to be to get anyone to read this. Most people do not read instructions.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
 MathsIsFun
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
bobbym wrote:... Most people do not read instructions.
True, so shorter the better. Maybe with bold for the important bits.
And a "tldr;" ("too long didn't read") at the bottom summing it all up.
tldr; Use a good title, say what help you want, come back and say thanks.
"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  Leon M. Lederman
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Hi MIF;
I am okay with it. It should help so go ahead.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
 MathsIsFun
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Posted the message. Thanks bob bundy!
And thanks bobby and rora for your input, too.
Let me know if you want anything altered.
"The physicists defer only to mathematicians, and the mathematicians defer only to God ..."  Leon M. Lederman
 bob bundy
 Moderator
Re: suggestion for the help page
hi MathsIsFun,
Sorry I have not come back on any of your earlier posts. I've been offline in France. Arrived in Paris today and a wi fi I can piggy back on.
All above mods very acceptable. Thanks for considering my suggestion. Let's review after a month or so.
Bob
You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei
 bobbym
 Administrator
Re: suggestion for the help page
Hi All;
Maybe it would be a good idea to have it show up as part of the rules page when you register. Along with the rules of conduct.
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them. I have the result, but I do not yet know how to get it. All physicists, and a good many quite respectable mathematicians are contemptuous about proof.
