How to handle the following sequence of events which just happened to me here:

The tl;dr is a cranky OP who can't get to the point, or post reproducible testcase, but wastes our time writing plentiful complaints in multiple comments. Without posting reproducible testcase.

  1. OP posts vague question about reading mangled CSV, without any test code whatsoever.
  2. Me + one other person answer to the best of our ability. In my answer I ask the OP to post the offending snippet of CSV if he wants code.
  3. Nothing. Time passes.
  4. OP complains in multiple comments I haven't solved his issue. Without posting any test code.
  5. I again post a comment, in boldface, asking OP to post the csv if he wants code
  6. OP posts test data. I reverify my solution works.
  7. OP complains my solution didn't work. Not a constructive way to behave. No specifics.
  8. Turns out OP's 'test data' did not reproduce their issue. No apology. No 'oops'. No thanks. Nothing.
  9. My solution gets downvoted. It's not my fault the OP can't get to the point within half an hour - as in: post three simple lines of CSV file that actually reproduce their issue. Amazing. They can certainly write complaint comments, but they can't post a 6-line testcase. Mindblowing.
  10. After 36 minutes, OP finally posts reproducible test case (29 mins + 7 mins server lag).
  11. I'm about to redo the code based on that, give them the benefit of the doubt. But:
  12. OP complains again in comments (rude, unconstructive, inconsiderate).
  13. OP scolds me (in comment) for claiming my solution was the solution - although it was correct per the data that they had posted up to then. It read OP's CSV testcase correctly - the other answer didn't read the CSV file.
  14. Someone flags my comments for deletion.
  15. More downvotes.
  16. I point out (in a comment) to OP how this sort of behavior is disrespectful and inconsiderate of my time, so I'm disinclined to take 99 bites of the cherry at OP's question.
  17. No apology, no 'thanks anyway'. More flagging, comments disappear, more downvotes.
  18. Just a truckload of bad behavior, with attitude.
  19. I'm leaving my original answer up (correct, per OP's original testcase). Not wasting any more time on these people. I don't care if I set the SO record for downvotes (you never know, it's category).
  20. All of the comments have disappeared, leaving mine looking foolish and missing all context.
  21. So, what actionable things did I/we learn? To mercilessly vote-to-close instead of giving users the benefit of the doubt? To play downvote wars like nine-year-olds? I don't see that there's any consequence to users behaving like this. Seriously inquiring of you all...? Is there a 'timewasting and inconsiderate' flag? If not, do we need one?

Question: un-quote an R string?

  • 3
    Right now, your answer is a mess... all those EDITs; complaining about the OP; asking for real data. If you remove the unrelated content and consolidate everything into a linear/logical answer, maybe you can revert the downvote trend. – brasofilo Apr 3 '14 at 5:41
  • No, the answer is the composition of response to the OP's train-of-thought (and I use that phrase in the loosest sense), combined with the necessary tl;dr for attention-deficit downvoters. Coherent In, Coherent Out. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 5:44
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    InCoherent, OutCoherent ;) – brasofilo Apr 3 '14 at 5:50
  • The OP broke the Cardinal Rule at SO: be nice. You should stop responding immediately, it never gets nicer after that. – Uphill Luge Apr 3 '14 at 8:55
  • Would our 2 downvoters please articulate something specific? This question is an on-topic clarification of etiquette and how(-not-)to-handle badly-behaved posters. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 20:00
  1. OP posts vague question - Vote to close

End of story.

Ok, but let's say it goes farther, there are rude comments. Flag them as offensive. If there is a war, add an "other" moderator flag. Never comment that you flagged, that OP was rude, etc. That won't solve anything, and will likely cause more rude comments.

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about the downvotes.

  • No, it's not the end of story. I'm pretty tolerant with users to claim to know what they're doing, to give them several chances to clarify. r in particular is like that. And it's not just about the comments. It's about the whole timewasting & donwvoting aggravation, and utter lack of apology. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 4:25
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    @smci A vague question is unanswerable, so it should be closed. That's what closing is for. – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 4:26
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    "Unclear what you're asking: Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question." – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 4:27
  • No. Many r questions are vague. I have been on the other side of the fence, as an R newbie, so I'm quite patient. Now I'm no longer a newbie, trying to give back to the community. A question is only unanswerable if the OP repeatedly refuses/fails to clarify. But it's the whole attitude here that blows my mind, and the fact that he doesn't get grief for it, but I do. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 4:28
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    @smci If somebody doesn't want their question answered, don't answer it. What's really mind-blowing here is that you tried to be helpful to somebody like that. If you wouldn't like to close it, at least downvote it! – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 4:29
  • He complained repeatedly he wanted his question answered. He has 6K rep, please skim his profile then tell me how you'd handle him? – smci Apr 3 '14 at 4:30
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    Um… 21,270 rep? Anyway, why does his reputation matter? If he is complaining, flag as not constructive. – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 4:32
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    Generally, if something is bad: Comment. If that doesn't work, Edit. If that doesn't work, Downvote. If that doesn't work, Close. If that doesn't work, VLQ. If it's offensive, flag as offensive. Comments: Reply. If that doesn't work, flag it. – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 4:34
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    ^^ Because if senior SO users are pissheads, we might as well quit and go elsewhere. If the guy has higher rep, I give him the benefit of the doubt that he a) has a valid issue b) can clarify his question c) get to the point d) post reproducible code e) quit complaining and f) upvote relevant answers. But here we score 0/6. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 4:37
  • ^^ I did comment, edit the question title, and retag it. Offensive and VLQ don't apply. I did everything you suggest. It is the whole violation of etiquette: timewasting behavior, nonstop litany of complaint comments (without testcase) that sets me up to be downvoted that are offensive, not one or two words/phrases. I did reply to his comments, constructively, repeatedly asking for a proper testcase. – smci Apr 3 '14 at 4:39
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    "Because if senior SO users are pissheads, we might as well quit and go elsewhere" Maybe he was having a bad day. Commenting/Editing was good. Now you need to not reply to the comments and flag them. Don't repeatedly do anything - ask once. If he doesn't give a test case, too bad. You are not obligated to answer every question you see. – bjb568 Apr 3 '14 at 5:10
  • I don't see what exact category you flag (non-offensive) comments for? Some special flag "User is sprinkling bits of question across comments to individual answerers?" Because that's the more insidious issue, and I don't see SO has capability to handle it. – smci Apr 4 '14 at 21:22
  • @smci If the question is incomplete and you can improve it, than do. If you can get the information from comments, hooray! If the comments are now just noise (i.e. you already edited the posts so they aren't needed), flag them. If there are a bunch, specail-flag the question. – bjb568 Apr 4 '14 at 22:23
  • I'm not asking you all what to do now after-the-fact, because nothing remaining can be done. I'm asking you all what you say I should have done, at the time. One again, the issue was an OP who states and modifies their testcase in little pieces of comment scattered everywhere. The question could only have been improved by the OP, because only the OP knew what the hell was their issue - yet wouldn't post a testcase. So: how to handle that sort of OP? I already tried to special-flag it and nothing happened (should I have left up the individual comments to help show context?) – smci Apr 4 '14 at 23:06
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    Do not answer questions that don't deserve an answer. It's a waste of time to try to answer because of exactly what you described. Just stop, and do something more productive. Surely there is somebody else who needs help. Trying to help OP in this case is counterproductive. – bjb568 Apr 5 '14 at 5:34

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