MATLAB Answers

How do I write a good answer for MATLAB Answers?

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Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 3 Feb 2011
Edited: per isakson on 14 Nov 2020
Since the question, "How do I write a good question for MATLAB answers?" has been asked, I wondered if we could benefit from the corresponding question about giving answers.
Some of the things I have in mind:
  1. How to (or indeed whether to) coax more information out of a sparse OP?
  2. Do I ever want to reveal EVAL?
  3. How to deal with obvious homework cheats?
  4. If I edit an answer (or have a better one) I have given, do I put a big EDIT: to demarcate the new stuff or submit a new answer?
  5. For stock questions (think FP issues), do I put a link to a previous Answer post or the FAQ?
I think each of us has our own approach to all these and more issues, but I'd still like to see what people have to say in one spot. So what other issues come up when you answer a question on Answers? How do you address them? Should we (the regulars) try to stick to a "standard" approach to these?
Thanks
  13 Comments
Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 4 Feb 2011
That sounds like another suggestion which should be suggested as an answer below!

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Answers (16)


jiro
jiro on 3 Feb 2011
Not sure if this is a good practice. I'm interested in hearing what you think...
If you have a minor addition (or edit) to someone else's answer, post a comment on the answer asking to improve the answer with your suggestions, instead of creating a new answer. This will hopefully reduce redundant answers and multiple answers with small incremental changes.
EDIT: Once the minor addition has been inserted in the answer, the commenter (who asked for the minor addition) should delete the (now meaningless) comment.
  8 Comments
Michael
Michael on 24 Jun 2011
Technically shouldn't Jan delete the comment about deleting meaningless comments now that Jiro has updated his post?

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Kenneth Eaton
Kenneth Eaton on 3 Feb 2011
I'm generally in favor of pointing out when a key edit (i.e. correction) has been made to an answer for the following reasons:
  • It helps indicate to people who have already looked at your answer that they should give it another read.
  • If an aspect of your answer has been mentioned in another answer or a comment, it's probably best to point out the edit so that the other comments don't look strange.
If it's just a matter of fixing typos, I don't think any indicator is needed.
If the edit makes the answer completely different, like adding a whole different possible solution, adding another answer may be in order since this gives people a chance to vote on the solutions independently.
Regarding the format for indicating an edit, " EDIT: " usually works well, or a lead-in explanation like " Based on the comments, this answer has been updated... " if you're feeling wordy.
  5 Comments
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 23 May 2011
In practice, a time-stamp for reformatting does help.
When I as a user see an unreadable posting, I am reluctant to go back to it until I know it has been made readable.
When I as an editor see an unreadable posting, I might not have time to edit right then; if Matt or someone else gets to it first, then the time-stamp update relieves the pressure on me to push other things out of the way to do the editing.

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Jan
Jan on 3 Feb 2011
Use an external debugger and paste the copied text instead of struggeling with the keyboard latency of the web interface. Being stressed by this suboptimal interface decimates your power to concentrate on the answer.
  9 Comments
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 23 May 2011
Sometimes I fall asleep while composing responses. Literally at my desk sometimes, but more often if I have stretched out on the coach to see if I can come up with a new perspective.

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Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 3 Feb 2011
Put a clarifying question in the "Comment on this Question" box instead of putting your question as an answer.
  2 Comments
Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 4 Feb 2011
Unless they are cycled out of sight by other comments ...

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Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 23 May 2011
Keep it civil.
  • Even though it may be tempting to write a put-down or overly sarcastic remark, don't.
  • Links to insulting websites are discouraged.
  • It is better to give up trying to help someone and stop posting to a particular Question than to resort to mockery.
  • Sarcasm and nuances of English humor don't always translate well to non-English speakers - especially in text. Just keep in mind that we don't want to drive sincere people away.
Feel free to add elaborations or questions/concerns on the topic of civility to the comments below!
  1 Comment
Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 23 May 2011
I agree. I think some very good contributors to this site let their frustration show sometimes. If they're getting jaded, they should consider taking a break and let some new people add to their reputation score.

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Doug Hull
Doug Hull on 3 Feb 2011
If it has been asked and answered before, link to it.
  3 Comments
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 23 May 2011
Instructions for linking to individual Answers and even Comments are shown here: http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/994-wish-list-for-matlab-answer-sections#answer_1459

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Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 3 Feb 2011
Ask the writer of an obvious homework question (especially when no work is shown) to:
  1. Provide the work done so far (the code!) and,
  2. Revise the original question to cover a specific MATLAB question.
  3 Comments
Jan
Jan on 4 Feb 2011
The edit trap! Better than what?! No need to answer - I can guess it. But editing has the power to make the comments totally confusing.
While "work done so far" hits the point, "cover a specific MATLAB question" is not specific to homework cheats (see: how to use STRTOK...).

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jiro
jiro on 3 Feb 2011
If the question is vague, ask to clarify instead of assuming the question and answering based on your assumption.
  2 Comments
Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 4 Feb 2011
Also, some questioners just don't seem capable of writing a clear question, or respond slowly, or don't respond at all.

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Matt Fig
Matt Fig on 4 Feb 2011
Read the question all the way through before answering! (I need to remember this myself.)

Derek O'Connor
Derek O'Connor on 9 Jun 2011
An answer should illuminate not dazzle.
  7 Comments
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 9 Jun 2011
It is unlikely there will _ever_ be enough of us to "illuminate" all the doit4me whose major project is due in two days.

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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 4 Feb 2011
Should we trust the title, or should we trust the Question, if the two differ?
  2 Comments
Kenneth Eaton
Kenneth Eaton on 4 Feb 2011
Whichever one is longer. ;)
Seriously though, this is probably a situation where asking for clarification is likely in order (example: http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/744-what-techniques-can-i-use-to-extract-horizontal-lines-from-noisy-image-data).

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Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 8 Feb 2011
At the risk of being obvious, test your answer! I find it useful to compose my answer, with comments, in the Matlab editor. Then I get rid of the % signs and paste into the Answers window.


Doug Hull
Doug Hull on 3 Feb 2011
Be brief
  3 Comments
Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 4 Feb 2011
Brevity should be balanced with adequate explanation. Many answers just provide code that will be cryptic to novices.

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Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 3 Feb 2011
How about a Wikipedia-like version history?
  2 Comments
Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 4 Feb 2011
See the comments on Kenneth's answer.

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