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PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!

avatar PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 08:42PM
I think it's time to make a few things clear about how requests for identification help should be answered. There have been, in my mind, some pretty poor comments and suggestions made in this forum, and I've heard some negative feedback at Tucson from people unhappy with the quality of feedback given here in identification requests. A suggestion was given to change this topic to "Ask the Experts" and ONLY to allow pre-vetted "experts" (however that is to be defined) to answer questions.

Now, I don't think all the criticism is fair, and I don't think at the moment that an experts-only system is right. But, unless things improve then it may have to go this way in the future.

The main criticism is ill-informed comments. And especially comments that are made with an air of certainty when the answer is either wrong or impossible to be sure about.

PLEASE REMEMBER

A request for assistance is NOT a game. You DO NOT have to make a guess about what you think the specimen is.


If you are going to answer then ideally you want to be able to explain your answers, eg.

"I think this is plumbogummite because of the relationship with mimetite and the similarity to material from both China and Rougton Gill."

or better still

"I've been collecting at this site several times, and similar specimens have been analysed as plumbogummite"

and NOT just "It's plumbogummite"

Don't forget it's very difficult to tell what a mineral is from just a photo. Please request the uploader provides more information, and I'm happy for you to make INFORMED guesses as to what a specimen is, as long as you make it clear that it's a guess and not a random stab in the dark.

But it's probably best to wait for other people to reply first before suggesting a mineral name unless you are at least 80% certain what the specimen is.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 09:44PM
    
Hi Jol,
80 % ? ;) .. LOL .. to judge a specimen from a picture is - unless in some very clear cases - a shot in the almost dark if you are a serious geoscientist. Although i can understand the feedback you received we should at first place encourage the questioners to upload SHARP and representative pictures. Including whole picture - detail - matrix etc. I think there should be some requirements for those questions otherwise one may be inclined to write the "shot from the hip" in answering. Although i certainly won´t think the shoe fits i know myself that bad pics and comon minerals may provoke a quick answer.

I am totally with you that the typical answer to such a question maybe the ones you posted
.". looks like as i have seen,
similar to,
quite sure because i have lots of them and analyzed" etc.

Thats what every serious mineralogist etc would answer if judging visually from sometimes ;) not optimal pictures

The "ask an expert" thing may be not that bad .. but it contradicts the spirit of this database and community a bit. Although it might be better in cases, i agree. But to encourage people to stay here and contribute the "expert system" will be frustrating.

Another thing .. who chooses the experts .. although i am a mineralogist with quite some experience i have not much knowledge about most US localities .. may my reputation on other things being grandious and nobel prize worth ;) .. i wouldn´t comply to the standards needed to judge local stuff. So the experts circle would be great of course to cover ... not worth the effort to install this system until a serious need is visible.

So this is a double-edged problem and my opinion is to keep things as they are.

Cheers
2 cents
Roger

"Who watches the watchers" ;)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/21/2011 09:48PM by Roger Lang.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 09:51PM
As Roger says, we don't have a complete list of all the dedicated collectors with in-depth local knowledge of specific localities, so I think the solution is to leave the system open as it is now, but for the management team to step in and use the "delete" button more often, eliminating the posts from beginners who give obviously wrong answers.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 10:04PM
    
Alfredo Petrov Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> but for the management team to step in and use the
> "delete" button more often, eliminating the posts
> from beginners who give obviously wrong answers.

yepp, that would be a good effort but it will be a lot of work for the admins

cheers
Roger
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 10:18PM
    
If I may add to Alfredo's post - if you make use of the delete button, please send a note to the poster about why it's being deleted. Or perhaps, edit their post with your comments - not a public shaming or rebuke, but steer them in the right direction.

I agree with Roger - this is a community forum and I would imagine that you want to encourage we newbies to contribute where we can, and learn from our mistakes. It will take only one or two such deletions without explanation to turn a new contributor away.

As for who is expert... that is beyond my knowing - I do know that I am not an expert. I also know the material that I have collected locally, and would hope to be able to contribute where I can.

my 3 cents (inflation factor, you know)
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 10:19PM
    
If you are an expert do you really want to be bothered with a long explanation by someone with a river rock and a poor photo? I would be better to let the none experts field some of that stuff and if things get off the rail then the experts can step in. Isn't it better for someone to get a brief answer then no answer?
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 10:27PM
    
Maggie Wilson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
this is a community forum and
> I would imagine that you want to encourage we
> newbies to contribute where we can, and learn from
> our mistakes. It will take only one or two such
> deletions without explanation to turn a new
> contributor away.
>

yes, that is a good point and i agree

>
> my 3 cents (inflation factor, you know)

4 cents .... can you top this ;)

cheers
Roger
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 21, 2011 11:09PM
> Isn't it better for someone to get a brief answer then no answer?

No
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 12:13AM
    
I agree with Jolyon .. a brief false answer is no way better than no answer .. no answer means no meaning on the subject as most of the more experienced folks would react if they may know remotely but are less than sure .. then better refrain from answering or join in with an educated guess exhibiting the uncertainty.. Maybe some not so experienced people may want to contribute and therefore may give short (but wrong) answers .. this is a part of learning here and should be tolerated but maybe metioned as Alfredo and maggie pointed out (combined).

This is a matter of education on this site but any restriction could discourage voluntary aid here.

Still double edged stuff

5 cents Maggie

cheers
Roger
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 12:27AM
Think about the person who has the enquiry.

If it is "one of us", a more experienced collector who has a query about something unusual they have found, then a certain amount of speculation is OK, and may be expected.

But, if it's someone with a more general enquiry, especially someone who is new to the site, there are few things more off-putting than seeing ten different people replying with different suggestions and arguing about it.

And perhaps we should all make clear in our replies whether we know the minerals from the area in question well or not.

And if you're writing your answer and it sounds too much like "Well, i don't know anything about the minerals from X, but it's probably Y", then think about the value of what you're saying - does it actually help with the enquiry at all? Similarly, there is little value in posting messages saying "I also agree that it is Y" - it's not a vote! Unless you can add something useful like "I also think it is Y because of the striations remind me of photo-12345.html"

However... if no-one has replied, and you think that you can make a suggestion, even if it's not based on actual experience, then do so - but make it clear it's just a guess.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 12:33AM
    
I also agree with Jolyon.....it only takes a few more keystrokes to explain WHY what has been presented is obviously slag, or a quartz pebble, or whatever. Over the years I've had many pieces of slag, hematite concretions, lumps of solder puddlings, etc, etc. brought to the lab for either assay or just ID. To NOT use these occasions as teaching opportunities is doing a dis-service to the newbie.

Another nickles' worth.....

Don S.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 12:35AM
If you want an elitist "We know what's best" mentality to pervade Mindat, by all means, only allow "experts" to make (what can only be at best tentative) id's from photographs and descriptions.

If, otoh, you wish to improve what is already an excellent open resource for all, use the forum to educate those making "substandard" posts for help in identification and such. Otherwise, you'll reduce this to a "professionals" forum, with all the grandstanding, pompous, testosterone poisoned nonsense evident on lesser forums. It's helped me more than once, but there are a few self appointed "experts" who can "put off" otherwise honest requests and subsequent responses. After all, one of the great things about online focused forums is you can always choose to "ignore" posts you don't agree with. Tuscon hardly qualifies as an impartial referree, IMHO...

John L.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:24AM
I think we all have the potential to be able to answer questions posted here well, I'm just asking for people to think a little more and put reasoned explanations into their suggestions rather than treating it as a guessing game, which some people have.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:30AM
    
Jolyon

How about adding an Icon to the persons answer if they are one of the "Mindat apointed Experts"
Then the person who's trying to find an answer,, knows that that person's answer is "more likely correct"

Wayne
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:41AM
Ok I am going to put my 3 cents in on this one. Many people in here from the experts to the novice are looking for one thing and that is correct information. Now the answer to this comes from both directions, from the one asking to the person(s) answering. Any of us that have been here have seen the poor photos of rocks, minerals, and fossils we all know that to make a reasonable decision on what the person is asking is nearly impossible. Now what usually follows is the litany of people telling the person asking the question that their photographic skills suck. Now this in no way includes everybody and many are very civil and say to the questioning person in one form or another, " in order to have any chance to identify this question we need better photos" they say this very kindly. But there will always be the people who feel the need to to bash somebodies ability to photograph a mineral. This has the effect of shutting off people from coming here because of the perceived ill will to answering questions or the nastiness that can come out when the question is answered.

In regards to comments from ill informed people there will always be people in any gathering like this. Yes i do agree that there some who use the questions people ask as a game and just throw out answers. But as a whole there a limited number of people who when asked to identify actually answer.

Remember this is communication in two directions we often forget that there is an actual person who asked the question. How you go about dealing with this Jolyon is up to you, maybe you want to adopt a rating lvl for all the mindat members where as newbies have all their comments checked and once you hit a certain lvl that check is removed. Ahhh ya but that would add more work to some. Then there is the fact that some of the comments come from long timed members so how are you going to deal with them. I really have very little in the way of answers to how to deal with this Jolyon.

There you go my 3 cents


Byron
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:43AM
    
I actually suggested the idea of PRO ID's a couple of years ago, also stating that copycat posts weren't needed, in the majority of cases these were simply made to help a friend out. At the time we were told "I agree's" were good as they helped to confirm.

Photographic mineral identifications are difficult, we all know that, but some people are alot better than others at the investigation work that goes into eliminating minerals and coming up with a group or specific minerals that fits to there own way of thinking, surely this is not a bad thing. I think long term we are always going to have guesses, those that research and also the very wise Mindaters we all know and love that just nail the hard ones everytime.

Hope I worded this properly, it's not meant to be offensive to anyone, just my 2cents worth.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:46AM
Theoretically, in an expert only forum there would be no questions. I agree with Maggie, novice members may be excellent contributors via local experience. Also, a "remember" statement about how to properly answer a question at the the top of the forum might help to curb the problem.


p.s. hehe John L. : )


Thanks, Amani E.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:05AM
    
could it be something like yahoo where a thumbs up or thumbs down is given to responses???? they have something like that in yahoo answers or whatever there thing is called.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A buena hambre no hay pan duro
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:27AM
You don't have to necessarily be an expert to identify a mineral correctly. In a recent Lapidary Journal there was a photo of wulfenite from the Fench Mine. The curator of minerals at the Smithsonian was consulted and didn't have a clue. I did and responded with what I'm 99% certain was the correct awnser. This is not to toot my own horn or discredit the curator in any way I'm sure his knowledege of minerals is vast compared to mine it's just to point out that sometimes even us non-experts have useful information.I'm just the average joe mineral collector. Dave Owen
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:57AM
    
I would like to say that I no longer try to help with ID’s because it seems to me that comments from various contributors are often argumentative or disputive with previous comments. In one situation where I contributed, someone found a rather large, dark-colored, concentrically laminated stone in a shoebox and the group seemed to end up with a consensus that it was a single very large crystal of schorlomite. If so, I believe it would have been larger by an order of magnitude than any previously found schorlomite crystal. I left the discussion out of frustration before seeing its conclusion. The next one I contributed to, an expert (on the mindat Management Board) contradicted my opinion by stating a characteristic of my “guess” that I was unaware of. So I then consulted the photo gallery on mindat to verify what I was told and found that without further qualification the mindat photos did not support the opinion that was offered in dispute of mine. I did not say anything lest the original asker would leave thinking we were not all that expert at all. The next opinion I posted (on a different object) was immediately contradicted by a different mindat board member who said his opinion was better for a seemingly logical reason, yet what he said was simply not possible for the object in question. My last (forever?) posting was an answer to a question about a fossil I have perhaps unique qualifications in this group to respond to since the fossil came from near Bloomington, Indiana where I earned a Ph.D. in paleontology and stratigraphy at Indiana University (and I said that in my second posting on this item), then taught paleontology to upper-level geology majors for 28 years, and published a college-level textbook in paleontology for underclassmen. I explained my answer just as Jolyon suggested, and got jumped on by two other contributors who disagreed with me. I repeated my ID and my rationale, and then made a few comments relating to how the original asker might handle this situation where the experts do not agree. I’ve never been back to the ID pages.

I had wanted to say something about my experiences with the responses we give to such requests, and had written a couple of paragraphs. But I feared that my comments would be regarded as presumptuous and even abrasive, so I deleted the whole thing.

Those are the sum total of my experiences with ID requests.
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