I have tried it once and I will try it again: Shouldn't we be a bit more welcoming to new askers/ posters?

Now what brings me back to this topic? Today I came back to the network and was greeted with a flag on a post. It was a homework question, which showed no effort. This is usually fine, if the close voters, commenters and editors show some compassion: Leave a little welcoming note and pointing to our homework policy. This did not happen in this case. The rest of the comments were not very kind either, up to the point where I would consider them a little scary.

Without going much further into detail, I would like to remind you, that this community can only grow and flourish if everyone is willing to show some compassion. This includes, but is not limited to, choosing the right words. New users, especially these seeking homework advice have often many other things to worry about, maybe they are even desperate at the time. They might not take the time to read the policies or they come from different places with different rules.* While we want to keep the quality of the questions and answers high on the network, we cannot expect that a new user reads all of the help pages before asking a question. I pretty much would expect a new user to make mistakes. If we are willing to offer kind words and a guideline, then a new user might be much more understanding and willing to comply with our policies. And this way we end up with less cleaning up.

I have seen one word circulating around here with a kind of scary concentration: dump. I never liked that word for posts like this, because it makes me think about actual dumps and these are not nice places to be. It also has this very negative connotation that homework is garbage. We all did homework at one point and we all were more or less successful doing it. I am pretty sure that some of my homework - and most likely the failed attempts - were peacefully rotting away somewhere on a dump, but this is not the point of this post. I therefore would like to ask you to avoid calling a question a dump.

Be nice. Be understanding. Be welcoming.

Thank you for your kind attention.

* We all know Yahoo ruined Q&A for everybody.

  • $\begingroup$ I've not called any homework question dump; I just.... just used the word junk; sorry :p $\endgroup$
    – user5764
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ I'm upvoting this dump to give you a dumpy feeling. ;) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ Given that you can't flag unless you have 15 rep, a new user couldn't resist the hostility they face (except for when someone already good within the community is willing to support them). $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2023 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Proscionexium please elaborate. I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Perhaps you can do this with an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2023 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ I mean I am just wondering why a new contributor is not allowed to flag anywhere but just their own posts? Even if they mishandle the flag tool, prominent members can take a quick look and reject it anyways. Why is 15 rep a must to flag everywhere? Just curious to know. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2023 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Proscionexium While this is certainly worthwhile discussing, it doesn't belong in this conversation here. But the short answer is spam. Also handling flags, at least most of them, is done by elected moderators (like me), and not be the community. And often they are not quickly dismissed or actionable. On a small site like this, it won't matter much, but on larger ones it will. Ping me in Chemistry Chat if you want to talk. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2023 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


I really love the sentiments of this meta post and bow down to how nice people on chem.SE — at least in comparison to other science SEs — are. I myself might be the culprit of some of the snarky comments. I don't want to justify them; I accept my mistake. I'm just saying there are other things here that make those snarky comments happen, rather than just the attitude of the commentator.

Here's a cool traffic graph for chem.SE for the past 90 days, measured by Quantcast™:

Chem.SE traffic from 2015/7/12 to 2015/10/12

There are other factors at play, like the schools' reopening, but they can never raise that bar to 3 times as much in three months. People are finding out about chem.SE, and they're coming. Brace yourselves.

There's always a decline in the median quality of the questions which comes with more traffic. I can count a few reasons off the top of my head:

  • Forums. People are still in trouble differentiating between chem.SE and conventional forums. For example, adding a "this was my problem too. Someone got a solution?" is typical in forums, but outright discouraged in SE sites. We even have an official template comment for when people do this and remove those answers immediately.
  • Lack of education. Many new users think hah, there's this chemistry site they say is good. Lemme see how well they answer my questions and then we get "calculate the enthalpy change for teh rxn of[(((2*3)=4)21)(43)([1/76])76)]]<some unfathomable symbols here> MOLES OF OCTANE"
  • Lack of interest. Most, if not all, pioneers are exceptionally devoted to what they're doing, while the people that follow their path might not be as much. Same goes for chem.SE's timeline and people. Don't get me wrong; we still get lots of love from newer users (@Mithoron, @Ivan and @Orthocresol, to name a few) but a new user is more likely to be someone who's not going to sleep tonight because of their homework rather than someone like @Klaus.

What I'm trying to get at here is that some of the regulars like me may have gotten a bit sour or grumpy about the flow of the low-quality questions. I mean, for God's sake take a look at the amount of close review tasks!

$\hspace{32ex}$I now know why I hate October.

So, thanks for a reminder, and I'm truly sorry if I've hurt anyone with any of my comments, but this is why I'm getting a bit moody, if I have.


I mentally kept coming back to this, and I finally figured out why: in American English (my flavor of it, at least), dump is often used as a nominalized form of the verb dump out; that is, it refers to the pile of stuff formed after one dumps a thing out.

So, if I were to refer to something as a 'HW dump', this is the sense I would mean, not that of a literal refuse collection pile.

That said, if garbage pile is the first meaning that will come to mind for most around the world, your admonition not to use the term is well advised.


Tough comments is a bad practice. But silent downvotes are worse. A good question with one minus has a slim chance to recover but a good chance to get couple more minuses (I didn't quite understand what he is asking, but since someone else downvoted it I should downvote as well). A question with three minuses is dangerous to answer. "Reputed users" think "if a question is -3, then it is bad; answers to bad questions are for sure bad. I will downvote the answer without reading it just in case". Now this question is going to be closed. New user opens a notepad, rephrases it, tries to post it and gets "You need to calm down, wait for a day".

All the humiliation instruments were brought from StackOverflow. Some "reputed users" brought their reputation from StackOverflow. Their reputation wasn't enough to rule SO, but here they can. Well, power corrupts.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What you call humiliation tools are what made Stack Overflow the most successful programming Q/A in the world. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a vivid example. 2 comments, 6 downvotes. Are you afraid to comment? $\endgroup$
    – sixtytrees
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MAFIA36790, great example. The question there is good and fits SE.chemistry. It got downvotes. It wasn't upvoted. This one was answered by bon, but majority of these questions will be deleted. $\endgroup$
    – sixtytrees
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ I really do fail to see how this relates in anyway to my original post. It is about being kind. What you try to convey with this answer is that users are trying to humiliate other (newer) user. This accusation is not only very rude, it is also based on no factual evidence whatsoever. Your post is therefore not a "vivid example" for what you try to convey, but rather an example, that posts that are close to violating the be nice directive will be downvoted, no comment necessary. I appreciate any insight from new users, but please try to propose it in a kinder way. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ I’m not even on SO, but I make good use of my downvotes here. For bad questions and wrong/bad answers. I typically don’t immediately vote on meh questions. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 22:34

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