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Suggestion Direction of PF

  1. Oct 25, 2009 #1
    I don't like the direction PF has gone. It's not the same place I first joined in 03. It's very nontechnical and feels like it's been over-run by students who don't bother doing the very basic studying or reading on their own.

    All the people are gone too: mathwonk, daniel, clausius, krab, ...list goes on.

    Perhaps we should rename the forums "Homework Help Zone"?

    Friends I have from PF back when it started up share my feelings.

    I don't offer a solution, just pointing out what I see. I also notice my motivation to post here is going down. :(

    Someone smarter than me needs to think about a way to get PF back on track and bring in some expertise that’s no longer here anymore. I don't see much of anything of value at all in the engineering forums, or any new faces that do actual engineering work. Just cranks that want to build pet projects.

    Anyways, it's late. Goodbye.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2009 #2


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    This may not make a huge difference, but maybe it's worth changing the title from 'Physics Help and Math Help' to something that doesn't make it sound like it's simply for homework? This is what shows up in google, and it may prevent more knowledgable people from clicking on the link.
  4. Oct 26, 2009 #3


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    In 6 years your idea about what is technical and what is not surely have changed. I am not saying there were no evolution, I am not that long here, but I am sure you and your point of vew have changed since 2003.
  5. Oct 26, 2009 #4


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    I don't think you stop by the EE forum much, Cyrus. It's humming along quite nicely, thank you. :approve:
  6. Oct 26, 2009 #5
    That's true, but also the ratio of students to expects has shifted in the wrong direction. That's why PF used to be so good. The problem is that I have not seen any new members (experts) joining PF for, say, engineering. Not one - in years. Which means any experts that pass by dont deem PF worth their time joining.
  7. Oct 26, 2009 #6


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    Again, not true in EE, Cyrus. We've had some new folks join in the past couple of years, and they have proven to be very knowledgable and helpful. Guess you're mainly addressing ME?
  8. Oct 26, 2009 #7
    True, I don't do EE work, so I never venture into that part of the forum. AE and ME, is regress for the last several years.
  9. Oct 26, 2009 #8


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    I kind of agree with Cyrus' observation. I think a lot of it is that the people visiting for help in the HW forums have grown greatly out of proportion of new people visiting for professional interest, and those who are professionals in the field (I'd include grad students and post-docs in that category), seem to spend a lot more time answering homework questions, or very simple questions that could be answered by a quick glance at a textbook, and those questions don't develop into a discussion at all because they are done once they get a straightforward answer. The rest of the professionals are busy moderating such a large forum.

    Though, berkeman, how many are "some" that have joined EE? And over the past "couple" years? What about in the past year or past 6 months? And how many have stayed and actively contribute to new discussions other than helping with homework questions? I do think we get plenty of altruistic people who like helping with homework, but at some point, we need more higher level discussions to provide something back to those who are doing so much helping.

    I know I often have felt the same way about the biology and med sci forum. When most of the questions get answered with a standard textbook answer, or "you need to see a doctor," that doesn't leave much interest to visit often.
  10. Oct 26, 2009 #9


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    Well me for one try to take part in the EE forum but most of my time is spent learning from the Physics sections. I bet there a lot of members that browse and learn without posting.
  11. Oct 26, 2009 #10


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    I think that the frequency of quality, professional posts (i.e. posts per day) has remained the same, or gone up, over the years. I also think that the frequency of silly-kid posts has gone up over the years, so that it now encompasses a larger fraction of the total posts made each day.

    We have taken steps to prevent the site from becoming solely a homework-help forum:

    1) LaTeX was intended to attract a professional audience who needs its sophistication to express high-level mathematical statements.

    2) The homework help forum was split off from all of the discussion forums, so that people can choose whether or not to participate.

    3) The three-question "show us where you're stuck" format was put in place to prevent drive-by / desperate / silly questions, as well as to discourage others from feeding such trolls.

    If we desire to increase the fraction of professional activity (and I'm not sure that we do), we only have two choices: increase the number of professionals or decrease the number of homework-help seekers.

    It would be unfair to actively try to turn away homework-help seekers, so we're left with only the first option.

    Greg had the brilliant idea of encouraging people to post PF fliers around university campuses, which may end up having a large effect.

    Perhaps we can take a page from the creationist/atheist debates elsewhere on the internet by sponsoring public debates, between the experts we already have on board, on the many open topics in science. A separate peanut gallery thread would be created for each such debate. They might provide a way to focus our expert talent, and elevate it above the day-to-day chatter.

    I might also consider a Control Panel setting to literally hide the homework help forums, so that members who just don't want to participate in them can remove them from their searches and New Posts listings.

    - Warren
  12. Oct 26, 2009 #11


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    You may have a good point there. Something along the lines of "discussion and help", instead of just saying "help". And maybe adding "Physics, math, and technical", or something to that effect, to encourage people in the engineering and "other sciences" to come join.

    Without checking, I can immediately name vk6kro and negitron, who both joined in the past spring or early summer, and have contributed a lot to non-HW EE discussions. (Unfortunately we lost negitron.) Of course this is just one forum of many here.

    I'm with chroot, that we shouldn't be discouraging the homework section just to increase the percentage of more professional discussions. If we do anything, it should be looking for ways to increase traffic in the professional forums.
  13. Oct 26, 2009 #12


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    I agree on this point too. But, at some point, we'll run out of people to help with the hw sections if we can't keep enough professionals around. Maybe it just has to level out naturally, that enough HW threads will go unanswered that growth there will stabilize. I'm pretty sure chroot has hit upon the reason for the imbalance, that one section is growing much faster than the others.

    Unfortunately, moving the HW questions to a HW forum isn't being done consistently. There are still a lot of very basic questions showing up in the main forums that are drowning out any hope of more in-depth discussions.

    I don't think it's necessary to hide the HW forums, as I don't think seeing them is part of the problem. The problem is more the lack of meaty debate in the main forums. I like chroot's idea of initiating some such debates just to entice people to regain some interest in that. I think there's a lot of mental inertia about getting such discussions going, and something to reinvigorate interest in more than just providing homework help may be all that's needed.
  14. Oct 26, 2009 #13
    My point is that PF used to be a place full of experts, with some people (me, and some other members that joined around the same time) asking questions and learning. Now we (batch from around when I joined) mostly graduated top of the class and are finishing grad school. The posts used to have equations, were typed well, no one text-spoke, and the questions were mainly conceptual.

    Now its: "hey guyz! Can u do diz problm 4 me?"
    and its ALL over the place. They post their homework questions EVERYWHERE.

    I'd much rather see PF be a place full of experts in industry and academia (which it used to be).

    Can anyone name a single new Aerospace engineer thats joined PF since I signed up (03)? I can tell you one that did stop buy: he was a professor and worked in industry for 30 years. He suck around for about a month, and then he left for good. Thats the kind of people you want to stick around. Yeah, its good to help students with their homework, but the mission should be to have a collection of experts. Student's shouldn't take priority. (In fact student's didn't take priority when I joined, which is why it was good. There wasn't homework help sections). I'm not saying get rid of HW help. But HW help shouldn't bleed into any other section of PF. It's like the floodgates are opened and HW questions are spewed all over the place. On top of that, there are "nonacademics" who ask the most basic questions a google search could answer. I don't understand why their threads don't get deleted. Example: "How does an airplane generate lift?" We get that a million times. Try GOOGLE. Then come back when you have a specific thing to ask. At some point, you waste your time repeating yourself: so I just don't answer that question anymore.
  15. Oct 26, 2009 #14
    In my opinion:

    I, myself am in my last year of high school. I have used this forum for a year and a little bit. I love reading questions from peers at my level, helping teach others what others have taught myself. I see it in a selfish way, if i can explain it then i can confidently say i know it. However, this forum has played a major, MAJOR role in sparking my interest in physics.

    I will be going into undergraduate commerce next year, however, several of my elective credits most likely will be attained towards a minor in science. Just because i LIKE it. While some may not think so, i frequently visit the quantum mechanics forums, engineering forums and so forth. Nonetheless i can't say i understand the topics there, but i find it heavily intriguing and thought-provoking. This community has made me ask many more questions about the world around us, some of which have my physics teacher stumped. I slightly had a theory about Bernoulli's equation and principles before i knew such a thing existed. I spent an hour or so trying to figure out how the forces act on an airplane when it's in flight, after consulting with my teacher she tutored me in the subject. I didn't think it would have to do with "fluids."

    Do note, that you are leaving out a major factor of this communities future success. You may see it from your point of view, but it's people like me who create futures for these communities. Im sure the things i have learned here won't be forgotten and will probably make me a very seasoned member of these boards one day. There are others like me, and even more dedicated to the subject than myself. Most people -im sure- have found this forum because they had a question, or were looking for a community to discuss these topics. The people who you help on homework, not all of them are these selfish leechers. I do what i can, what i can do is limited. However i believe later on ill be able to become a greater asset.

    Remember that, the majority of the people attracted to these boards are here to ask for help. Even though that may be true and there is a percentage who will not come back and just take what they need. People as young as i can, can still love and have passion for the science. Help them today, and they may end up helping you in the future. Call me ignorant, but i believe you lack this certain point of view.

  16. Oct 26, 2009 #15


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    Actually, people are often amazed at the lack of quality of many of the threads from several years ago. Our rules were much more lax and a lot of garbage was allowed. You won't see that tolerated now.

    Posts of this kind are moved or deleted, as appropriate, as soon as they are found. I personally think that we do not have enough moderators to handle the increase in threads. We basically have the same number of moderators that we did 3 years ago handling a disproportional increase in posts, and several of the moderators have had to siginificantly cut their time here back.

    I think your "memories" may be a bit colored.

    Sure we could try to limit the forum to a handful of academics engaged in serious discussion, but that's not going to bring more traffic to this forum. Don't forget, real professionals have their own professional forums where they go to discuss issues with their peers. Certainly we want to attract high quality professionals here, but I think we have created a rather successful model based on Greg's vision for a site where students could come for help.
  17. Oct 26, 2009 #16
    Google Aerospace forums. You get two hits, PF, and another forum that sucks. I have not seen/found any such forum on this topic that is good. Why not make this that place?

    A side: It would be very nice to require people to put their backgrounds into their profile in terms of education level:

    no background
    high school
    college undergrad
    industry professional

    So people can gauge what kind of technical reply to give.
  18. Oct 26, 2009 #17
  19. Oct 26, 2009 #18
    I'm with Borek. It is just like listening to old people talk about how things were so much more difficult in their day or how kids these days don't have to work for anything.
  20. Oct 26, 2009 #19


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    First, a physics forum probably isn't the first place a person would look.

    I'll relate conversations I had with several of the famous scientists (my friends) that I tried to get to post here. They said that professionally, they had their own places online where they discussed "work" with their peers and it wasn't open to the public. You won't find them on the internet.

    This was discussed and it was decided that people would very likely lie about their level. It should be apparent fairly quickly after a couple of pointed questions what their "real" level of knowledge is.
  21. Oct 26, 2009 #20
    If they lie, kick em out.
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