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Today a brand new user to the SE community, asked a question about graph theory. This is the full text of their question

Let G be a bipartite graph with 2n vertices exactly one perfect matching. Show that |E(G)| ≤(n+1). 2 Show that this bound is best possible for all n ∈ N≥1.

Moments later, an established Math SE user responded with the following:

It appears that you are pasting your homework questions exactly, hoping to get someone here to provide you with the solution. If that is what you're doing, it is probably a violation of your school's academic integrity rules. If it's not what you are doing, you should explain in more detail what is actually going on and what kind of help you are looking for.

To recap: this was the new user's second post on the SE community, and because they clearly asked it without fully understanding the norms and cultural conventions of SE, they are being accused of violating academic integrity rules, downvoted into oblivion, and found their post summarily closed.

In the ensuing discussion, the new user wrote:

I'm not an University student just want to have knowledge

In other words, they were self-studying, got stuck, and then tried asking for help on a Q&A site.

So, what does it mean exactly to "be nice" to new contributors? I ask this because I see brand new users on the Math SE site who fail to properly dot all their i's and cross their t's encounter accusations, downvotes into oblivion, and (what I read as) hostility pretty much any time I passively browse the site.

I know that it's common for people to dump homework questions here with the expectation that others will do their work for them. But at the same time, it's probably more common that brand new users don't actually know the cultural norms of SE, don't know the ins and outs of the site, and find themselves genuinely confused to be met with accusations of academic integrity violations for asking a question in a Q&A community! It's no wonder that the vast majority of people I know don't consider Math SE to be a very inviting place to ask questions.

Anyway, it would seem that "be nice" should imply "assume good faith". What am I missing here?

With regard to the thread that some have suggested this is a duplicate of, I don't find them to be similar at all. This thread is specifically about new users, and in particular about assumptions of bad faith on the part of new users. The suggested thread does address some points about hostility to new users, but not really the point about bad faith. Further, it doesn't ask wheter assuming good faith should be part & parcel with "be nice".

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    The top-voted answer to What about the community is "toxic" to new users? addresses this question. Dec 7, 2020 at 6:40
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    "It's not my homework, I am asking for a friend ..." Dec 7, 2020 at 6:42
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    This question is also relevant. Dec 7, 2020 at 6:55
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    "Anyway, it would seem that "be nice" should imply "assume good faith"." - They're certainly related, but don't always go hand in hand. I can assume good faith in that someone is asking legitimately for help, but be not nice in telling them their question is written awfully. The problem is not necessarily in the assumption of cheating, but in the way that's communicated. Sounds like there's also an element of ESL at play, at least from the asker's end.
    – Mithical
    Dec 7, 2020 at 6:59
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    consider editing your post to clarify why you state that this was very first post. Because as far as I can tell they asked at least one question 9 hours prior to one referred here
    – gnat
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:04
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    link says "This question was voluntarily removed by its author". I don't know why they decided to delete, although close banner suggested to improve this question. I also don't quite understand why you believe that second question was posted without fully understanding the rules while it appears to be posted 7 hours after the first question was closed with a large prominent banner at the top referring Mathematics Stack Exchange guidelines
    – gnat
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:24
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    @Hugo You probably misunderstood my (hypothetical) cite. It's not about homework or not, and your critique regarding that comment on the OP's post you mentioned is legit (I am not so happy you're discussing and disclosing a concrete user here BTW). It should have been explained to them, that their question is too broad to be answered here, and what they should focus on. Down- and closevotres are about content quality, and / or lack of research, regardless if it's a homework or self-learning topic. There's nothing "toxic" about that. Dec 7, 2020 at 7:35
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    @Hugo "Can you direct me towards a page or discussion about your point on discussing a concrete user? " Eeerm, you pointed at their profile in the second word of your post?? Dec 7, 2020 at 7:40
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    @Hugo Well, best practices gudes and from my guts and common sense say don't. How was that OPs profile relevant here? Dec 7, 2020 at 7:50
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    This is solely about the culture of one specific site, and what the consider to be acceptable questions. Consider posting on the site specific meta instead.
    – Luuklag
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:56
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    @πάνταῥεῖ whilst copy-pasta comments are a network wide thing, I feel this has more to do with the high standard of questions Maths holds itself to, which is partly because of their (target) audience. These high standards make it that these sort of "textbook" questions are frowned upon, and hence met with these comments. Although the answers here are good as well.
    – Luuklag
    Dec 7, 2020 at 8:00
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    Whenever I see 'Let', 'Consider' or 'Explain' at the top of an SO question, I am already 99% sure that a no-effort homework dump will follow. Seems like Math is just as bad:( Dec 7, 2020 at 8:35
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    @πάντα ῥεῖ: Some get paid through Fiverr and post others' homework assignments on Stack Exchange sites (and in most cases post it unchanged, without converting it into the Q&A format). Dec 7, 2020 at 10:16
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    'IT IS REALLY URGENT' command to the slave drones, stackoverflow.com/q/65183356/758133 Dec 7, 2020 at 18:42
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    'Write a program...', complete with note from setter about the math library to use: 'stackoverflow.com/q/65182886/758133 Dec 7, 2020 at 18:59

2 Answers 2

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they are being accused of violating academic integrity rules

It takes a lot more to accuse someone. The specific quote here is:

It appears that you are pasting your homework questions exactly, hoping to get someone here to provide you with the solution. If that is what you're doing, it is probably a violation of your school's academic integrity rules.

That's not accusing anyone, it's just stating that it appears like a homework dump, and if there is homework being dumped on the site, it might be a violation of academic integrity rules. An accusation doesn't do if's and but's, an accusation would've been way more direct and straight to the point: "you're violating academic integrity rules by dumping your homework on the site".

In short, it's not an accusation of violating academic integrity. What it is, is someone helpfully pointing out that the questions appears as if it might be though, which explains why Math.SE is likely to close and downvote such questions.

Sometimes there just isn't a nicer way to say what must be said: That some sites don't take homework dumps because of issues with quality and academic integrity violations. This comment leaves open the possibility that someone interpreted the nature of the question wrong, in which case an edit can improve it, as it points out as well.

All in all... it probably says what needs to be said, in as nice a manner as possible. Which is exactly what is meant with 'be nice to new users'.

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    It appears as if you are ignoring the crux of my question in order to perpetuate a culture of gatekeeping in STEM. If that is what you are doing, it's unfortunate. If it's not, well, you might want to fix that. Notice that I'm not accusing anyone, since I'm just stating how things appear and include a conditional to cover myself. Do you see how flimsy that is?
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:15
  • My point is that an accusation is an accusation, regardless of whether it's framed in between "It appears" and some conditional logic. In my mind there's too much fixation on an asker's motivations -- if we're truly here because we want to contribute to building a great Q&A/FAQ site, then why police the motivations of askers, especially when we have no insight into their lives other than what they provide on their SE profiles and in their Q&As, or, in the case of a new user, literally nothing? Why not simply respond to a poorly asked question with a link about how to ask qs on SE and move on?
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:17
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    @Hugo I've already used my answer to refute this being an accusation. I'm not going to allow you to waste my time on that point further. You've had the same explanation on Math.SE. You can keep misinterpreting a statement just so you can accuse other of accusing, it's not something I want to waste endless amounts of time and comments on. Assuming bad faith everywhere will get you nowhere.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:22
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    The interpretation of this statement might be somewhat culturally dependent. If a Dutch person wanted to make an accusation, they'd be so direct and straight to the point. A British "accusation" would be much more indirect and hedgey. I don't know who's from where in the context of this question and commenter, but it's worth bearing in mind. Dec 7, 2020 at 7:42
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    @Randal'Thor fair point. Still, Hugo was ready to quote the 'assume good faith' at the people they disagree with... which shows an amazing ability to 'assume good faith' on their part :) The good faith interpretation here is that it's just an explanation.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:45
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    We're splitting hairs here. I don't think we should be making accusations or insinuations (or whatever you'd prefer to think of them as) of any kind towards newcomers, since by definition we don't know them. We can point them towards helpful resources about expections for question-asking on this site, and leave it at that. I don't see why the accusations/insinuations/whatever are even necessary because they're likely wrong anyway. Who benefits from them? Why does it make the site better for us to include them?
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:56
  • @Hugo One point of having explanations for close and down votes out in the open is that new users browsing questions will also see these explanations, and know what not to do. The other people benefiting from comments explaining why a question should be closed are the people reviewing close votes in the queue.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:59
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    But the fundamental issue isn't that the user might be violating academic integrity rules at their university -- it's that their question e.g. doesn't explain what they've attempted so far. It's entirely possible and within reason that the user in question was just self-studying (i.e. they weren't trying to cheat). So why not restrict our comments to what we know (the question was low quality) rather than suggest motives we really have no insight into? Note that these accusations/insinuations/whatever are public too, and associated to the user's account (which might use their real name).
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 8:04
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    @Hugo nice try. I repeat: I've already used my answer to refute this being an accusation. I'm not going to allow you to waste my time on that point further. You've had the same explanation on Math.SE. You can keep misinterpreting a statement just so you can accuse other of accusing, it's not something I want to waste endless amounts of time and comments on. Assuming bad faith everywhere will get you nowhere.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 7, 2020 at 8:06
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To some extent, we kind of expect a minimum level of effort from users

Let G be a bipartite graph with 2n vertices exactly one perfect matching. Show that |E(G)| ≤(n+1). 2 Show that this bound is best possible for all n ∈ N≥1.

is exactly how it would be worded in a textbook. What OP has attempted isn't shown

If it's not what you are doing, you should explain in more detail what is actually going on and what kind of help you are looking for.

Reflects that

It appears that you are pasting your homework questions exactly, hoping to get someone here to provide you with the solution. If that is what you're doing, it is probably a violation of your school's academic integrity rules.

Is very true, and something that, on the balance of probability, worth stating.

I'm not an University student just want to have knowledge – rahul 27 mins ago

Is nice but how is having a worked answer handed to them going to help, as compared to putting in that minimal effort in a question, showing where they are stuck, and being helped through where they are stuck? A good question helps the user learn more.

We need to be polite - but we also need to help folks help themselves by letting them know how they can better use the network. We help folks when we have material to work from, and help improve questions where there is room for improvement.

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  • Can we simply direct them to some guidance on SE's quality standards for question-asking without accusing them of not having academic integrity? Whether or not it's the case that this is a student trying to get strangers to do their homework, accusing them of such doesn't really help anyone. In the best case, that is what is happening, and the student will apply serious effort towards learning the material and understanding the question. In the worst case, that isn't what's happening and you've someone off who simply didn't know the norms of the site before posting
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:44
  • Regardless, it's no one's job but their institution's to police their academic integrity. It certainly isn't your job or mine, given that we literally know nothing about them.
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 7:45
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    @Hugo - It’s certainly a legitimate reason for the community to NOT answer homework questions. Asking for help from an unapproved source certainly was always mentioned as being not allowed in my college courses. The author can certainly edit their question and it will be automatically sent to the queue to be reopened. The question didn’t meet the minimum criteria for the community since that comment was submitted.
    – Ramhound
    Dec 7, 2020 at 12:34

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