I have written a lot of questions and responses both as user 128932 and user 201044 in math, chemistry, biology, philosophy, etc. I have suggested a fair amount of really good ideas and have received a lot of responses that were kind of discouraging. A few notably encouraging remarks but mostly challenges.

I was wondering if any user had written some ideas that were considered so useful or potentially useful that some group from the real world , outside the stack exchange sites , actually used the ideas in some productive ways? And if so maybe the user benefited from this?

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    Yes, this happened on Stack Overflow Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 6:29
  • What happened? Is it rare?
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 6:31
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    If you want to be able to see the number of people you've helped (independant of voting), you may be interested in We're working on a new stat to help convey the reach of your posts here Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 13:42
  • My main question is if any user has written such a great 'set' of ideas that someone or some group contacted the user and told they want to take the users ideas (with the user's cooperation) and develop it for some actual real world application that might solve important real world problems and help people in general , not just within the s.e. sites. If this has happened how often? I have written many ideas I believe could help in real world situations but such ideas have generally been ignored.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 7:09
  • Are theses s.e. sites mainly about exchanging opinions and various facts and NOT necessarily about trying to find new or radical ideas to possibly develop them into practical real world solutions to important problems?
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 7:13
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    For the benefit of those who don't want to examine OP's contributions to math.se, I will say that they have not been as extensive or useful as one might infer from this post.
    – user259867
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 19:24
  • @- Fundamental ;Do you mean not many users have posted an idea on one of these sites which was successfully 'picked up' by some group or organization and developed into a useful solution to some real world problem?
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 4:51
  • Why is this closed. I thought this site was supposed to be helpful. I'm clearly asking if there have been any users that have proposed an idea that some 'outside' reader or group has developed into a real solution to some important problem?
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 17:34
  • I actually can put up with the negativity IF THERE WAS A FAINT HOPE some of my ideas could be used to help people in the REAL world.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 17:39
  • @201044 if you are looking for a way to quantify how many people your answers may have help, you may find We're working on a new stat to help convey the reach of your posts here interesting. Stack Exchange is working on a metric to do just that. It is only available on MSE at this point in time, but it appears that the plan would be to roll it out to the entire network when they are satisfied that it is reasonably accurate. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 13:35
  • 201044 - can you articulate what you would expect to see when someone is helped by SE? Every day I see people who it helps - developing code, becoming more productive, understanding music etc. So I think the only challenge here is the disconnect between what you expect and what SE provides - and until you can describe your expectations, we have no idea what you are talking about
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 9:52
  • As I said , it would be nice if some user or 'outside' person or group indicated one of my ideas I have tried to promote was so interesting they were going to use it to solve some problem in REAL life and give me real evidence of this and not just some abstract badge or symbol of appreciation. And if NONE of my ideas are worth developing for real life situations maybe some diplomatic advice on how to improve my ideas would be helpful( unless they're all trash , according to other people). (I have been promoting a lot of ideas on these exchanges and mainly get discouraging responses.)
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 3:42
  • That makes no sense. If you provide an answer that helps someone else, they say thanks (either through an upvote or an acceptance) - that's how SE is set up. SE is not for what I think you are talking about (still very unclear though)...If you think your ideas are good enough, set up an SE Careers page - and if others are interested enough you may be offered a job.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 10:56
  • Why is it unclear? 'SE is not set up for what I think you are talking about..' ,you are right ; I can not get idea-development help from question and answer websites run by a panel of experts. Especially if I'm not an expert. I won't comment on this anymore.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 5:31

1 Answer 1


Stack Exchange was built on a central philosophy of making information super easy to find. In a world of forums, it can be extremely difficult to actually find what's being asked, and worse, what the answer is.

Because of that, we try to avoid "polluting" the question-answer stream with tons of comments like "this really helped me!" or "thanks!"

That lack of comments should never be confused with thinking you aren't helping people. Chances are, you are.

People solve real-world problems every day here on the Stack Exchange network, and the way appreciation is shown is through up-votes (and to an arguably lesser degree, accepting answers). When a user sees a post that really helps them, they'll often up-vote it. That, as I'm sure you know, gives the poster some reputation points (five for a question, ten for an answer) to say "you did really well with this."

It can be hard to quantify these sorts of responses when reading through posts, simply because comments can be a lot more obvious. In other words, we'll likely pay a lot more attention to five comments than five up-votes, just because they take up for space on the page and give us more to read. Since comments like "thanks!" and "+1" are discouraged, many comments can, after a while, begin to look critical.

But that shouldn't be taken to mean that people aren't appreciative. Even those critical folks (commenters and voters alike) are just trying to keep the site as close to ideal as they can, so that it can--you guessed it--help that many more people.

I've taken something of a detour from your actual question, the answer to which is along the same lines. The best way to show appreciation is through votes, so you don't see a lot of blog or meta posts here that say "this really helped me!" just because they don't really teach anyone anything. There are definitely a few out there, and I know Infinite Recursion was nice enough to link to one in a comment above, but I hope you don't take the relatively small quantity of such posts to heart, or to mean that people don't get real-world help.

There were 21 million up-votes in 2014, which roughly corresponds to 21 million times someone found a post helpful or useful. That's not too bad.

  • I know this sounds depressing ( and it is) but I have never gotten the slightest indication that just part of one of my ideas ever would be considered as useful in the real world by anyone , whether a use5 or an 'outsider'. I would like to help in many real world situations but you can understand why I feel my ideas are getting nowhere. Many of the responses I have gotten , the challenges, make me also feel I'm getting nowhere. I'm glad if your sites are working for others.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 6:56
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    @201044 Yeah. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. There's no shame in that. I didn't talk about you specifically in my answer, but looking now, I see your top three sites: [earthscience] (where you've got two questions, +8 and +7), [biology] (three questions: +5, +3, +1), and [philosophy]. You have a few more zero-score ones on Philosophy, but that could easily just be because they're pretty new (only an hour old right now). Ultimately, it looks like your posts are pretty well-received all around. I'm curious of which "challenges" you're talking about, but I don't want to put you on the spot. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:03
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    As far as helping people in real-world situations, I'd welcome you over to the other side: answer some stuff! I know it can seem daunting at first (believe me, I know), but you can get the hang of it pretty quickly. Questions are great, and people can learn from them for sure, but it's often less direct. If you can answer a question that someone else has (and I'll just about promise you can), that's where you really get to feel like you're making a difference. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:04
  • What I call challenges are non-inspiring responses that try to indicate were I'm wrong in some important point and NOT in a helpful sounding way. I have received a lot of this also as user 128932. (A LOT more as user 128932) So I would NEVER try to answer any question except in Math. I ONLY have confidence in my math ability. And I can put up with any discouraging atmosphere ( even if depressing) because I have a 'hope' one of my ideas might help people.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:18
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    @201044 That makes sense. Some users aren't as nice as they could be, which is unfortunate for sure, but if you can build up an awesome profile on Math, go for it! I hope you don't give up on other sites, but sometimes it's good to start off with one, just to get yourself really situated with the workings of the site and what it means to make awesome answers. Other users will calm down with time. But that said, don't overlook what they're saying. Some users are critical, but they're not always wrong. If they are wrong, ignore them! If they aren't, learn from it! Those aren't bad options. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:43
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    @201044 - also, consider that most people will be vocal about the wrong/bad/not according to their view point, but will not feel the need to voice themselves when things are right/good/as they see it. That is - people who agree stay silent - it is those who don't that you hear (and who are like the tip of the iceberg - the 10% you do see).
    – Oded
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 9:26
  • "we'll likely pay a lot more attention to five comments than five up-votes" yet people wails about 1 deserved downvote.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 19:03
  • If it is rare for a user to have their ideas picked up by some outside reader or group and developed into a real world solution that WHAT IS THE POINT OF THESE STACK EXCHANGE SITES?
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 17:37
  • If it is rare for a user's idea to be picked up by an outside reader or group and developed into a useful idea that can help people then all these stack exchange sites are ONLY for the recording of questions and their responses and any relevant opinions. If this is true it doesn't really matter what anybody asks or how anybody responds. Personally if none of my ideas I write about in theses sites are EVER used in the real world then all I can do is try to pick up info. scattered here and there amongst all the somewhat discouraging responses.
    – 201044
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 6:46
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    @201044 I wish I could help you, but I really don't know where you're getting the idea that it's rare to help outside people. Well before I even knew about the Stack Exchange network, I was clicking on Stack Overflow links in search results, when working on real-world problems. Sometimes on sites I moderate I'll post a fictitious question just to stir up some thought, but even in those cases, the questions and answers can help future readers, whether in exactly the same situation or a similar one. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:37
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    According to Quantcast, an independent site that measures Stack Exchange's visitors, there were around 37 million visits from 24 million people to Stack Overflow in the last 31 days. Considering Stack Overflow has around 4 million registered users, it's clear to me that those aren't all internal users poking around for their own fun. I could tell similar stories about most other Stack Exchange sites. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:42
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    Yes, I strongly believe that that's far from rare. I'm more than implying it, in fact. It seems that you're raising two points here: 1. people here aren't very supportive. 2. posts here don't help people in the real world. I'd love to work with you to understand my point on these, but it's important that we separate them apart. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:45
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    @201044 It's like I've already said, though--the best evidence of those situations are up-votes. I can tell you that in the last month, there were 970,554 up-votes and accepted answers on Stack Overflow alone, which very roughly translates to a million people who elected to show their appreciation, but there are a ton of others who didn't, or even couldn't (voting up is a privilege, so it's only for people with active accounts, a small percentage of visitors) express themselves in that way. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:56
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    And yes, I've seen your discouragement from the very beginning, I assure you. And I don't blame you for it at all, as I've said. I'd just like to help you realize that the silent majority are the ones being helped, and are the ones who express their appreciation at most through up-votes, if anything. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:58
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    Not every answer will be used in every real situation, that's true. The only way you're going to find a direct link between real-world problems and questions here is by asking people. I can personally tell you that I've gotten a ton of real-world problems solved by asking and reading questions on a number of these sites. But I suspect my own experiences won't convince you either. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 8:24

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