I noticed that the answer to this question was down-voted and there was a comment scolding the answerer for providing a complete answer(which was also incorrect) to a question that could have used a little more effort.

As a new user, is the behavior of punishing/calling out the answerer for answering a lacking question something that we/I should be following?

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    $\begingroup$ Are we reading the same comment? Because I can't see any of the strong words you use happening -- "scolding", "punishing". The comment is phrased as politely as possible, and yes, we should not spoonfeed answers to homework questions so this site doesn't come off as a problem solving service. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ: Please see my comments at chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/97527/…. I'm very disappointed for people downvoting my good helpful answers for no reason. As teacher, it is very discouraging. This happens more than once so I felt I was targeting. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2018 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Mathew well, I hope you can come to chat so we can discuss it freely. It'd get messy in the comments under this question. The topic has marginal relevance. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MathewMahindaratne I also posted on Meta that if we're really going to penalize answerers for answering questions where the user hasn't tried to solve it first, then that should be included in the pop-up that appears when you start typing an answer: "Avoid answering homework-type questions where the user has not first attempted to solve it themselves" or something similar, since that pop-up contains a list of other guidelines to follow. This suggestion was downvoted into the negative double digits, so is unlikely to be implemented. $\endgroup$
    – Bennett
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


Let's ignore any definitions of "strong language" for now, such as scolding, but I'll repost the comment here for permanence:

Please notice that this site has the policy that questions should show some own efforts. Therefore, please do not encourage users who did not show these efforts by answering them (until they did).

I can see that downvotes are a sort of punishment, if you were to take voting personally (which you shouldn't), but you are correct to point out that they are part of a trend that I will try to explain.

We've had varying levels of turmoil over the past few years regarding "homework" questions, which is referring primarily to copying and pasting the homework/exam/etc. question verbatim into the Chem.SE question box (or taking a screenshot that may or may not be rotated properly...) and expecting an answer. These questions are almost always a bad fit for our site, because answers generally don't provide useful knowledge for anyone other than the asker, so they shouldn't belong in a collective database. We could debate about the definition of "storing all the knowledge of chemistry", but this would lead to the proliferation of many nearly identical questions that don't add much once you have more than a few.

The problem is that we have many, and the way we "get rid" of them usually is to close them, usually via the homework reason:

Homework questions must demonstrate some effort to understand the underlying concepts. For help asking a good homework question, see: How do I ask homework questions on Chemistry Stack Exchange?

However, these questions can still stick around, depending on how many votes they have, if there are answers, and so on. Enter the Roomba, which is active on all Stack Exchange sites. One way to trigger the automatic Roomba deletion of a question (rather than having a moderator do it) is to downvote it and any answers it has. In this particular case, one of the answers is simply incorrect, and is being downvoted for that reason. Historically, we don't like answering these kinds of questions, though official verbiage about this is no longer present. The other answer is a casualty of the opinion that this question should be deleted, so it must be downvoted in order to activate the Roomba.

Whether or not you agree with this, the second answer being downvoted is most likely collateral damage. This behavior is becoming increasingly common.

  • $\begingroup$ If you would like to see when the Roomba would be activated for each individual question, rather than reference that main meta page, you can install the Roomba Forecaster browser userscript. $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2018 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ Until recently the homework policy did write “Watch out for answers that provide a full solution. Downvote, comment, flag.” $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2018 at 6:59

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