Mindat Logo
bannerbannerbannerbanner
Welcome!

PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!

avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:20PM
It's not always practical or possible to take a hardness test.

Crystals may be too small, or it may be impossible to test a specimen without unacceptable damage.

ditto for streak test and acid tests.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 01:27PM
I agree wholeheartedly with George.

Jolyon, if I remember correctly, you rebuked me at least once for suggesting a hardness test. If it out of style, it should be removed from the sticky.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:07PM
    
If Jolyon will suffer letting me have one more post on this topic (before shutting it down), I promise not to offer any more. My point was that one of the principal faces mindat presents to the public is the ID forum. People have heard of mindat and maybe have heard good things about it. You know, sort of like “Anything you want to know about minerals, just ask the people at mindat; they have forums where the public can write in with a question.”

So far, so good. But I don’t think the people who need ID help are expecting the rest of us to start arguing amongst ourselves over their submission, each of us seemingly able to explain why the previous possible answers are wrong. They are not looking for a discussion forum. And their postings should not be treated as if the ID forum is such a forum.

Of course the rest of us are into discussion–even me. I could easily have come back with my objections to those who had tried to contradict me, and if we were all professionals or even semi-professionals, and discussion was our game, that’s what would have happened (been there, done that, way back in the 1990's in other lists). But that would not have been appropriate in a thread that was supposed to be helping a member of the public who had turned to us for help. They just want a simple answer (yes, of course I know that may not be possible). But they read, “No you’re wrong because . . . . ,” followed by, “No, YOU are one who is wrong, because . . . . ” (etc. , etc.). I think their reaction could only be something like, “What a bunch of bozos!” I stopped posting comments where I did in the instances I cited for the benefit of good public relations for mindat, and obviously not for the benefit of my ego.

The title for this thread might also have been “Please read before answering requests for help, and try to send a response that will be helpful to the (non-mineralogist) asker in view of his/her probable state of knowledge.”

Finally(!), let me say that if you really want to read nasty discussions, just go to the scrapbook forum. Those people take no prisoners.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:09PM
It's a tricky one...

Firstly, unless you really know what you're doing hardness tests can be difficult to interpret, especially with smaller specimens.

Secondly, old-fashioned reference points such as "copper penny: hardness 3.5" and "steel file, hardness 6.5" are just so completely wrong it's laughable.

Note that most "copper pennies" produced for many years are steel electroplated with a copper alloy. So you really can't judge it as a reference point any more. And steel alloys can vary greatly in hardness.

Thankfully the fingernail remains a reliable way to tell Gypsum from Calcite.

Generally, it depends on who is asking the question. If they are experienced collectors then a hardness test should be no problem for them, but then they're likely to have done that already. For beginners we need to make sure we give clear instructions, not just "please test the hardness", but things such as "can you scratch it with your fingernail?"

Jolyon
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:11PM
Quote
Norman King
So far, so good. But I don’t think the people who need ID help are expecting the rest of us to start arguing amongst ourselves over their submission, each of us seemingly able to explain why the previous possible answers are wrong. They are not looking for a discussion forum. And their postings should not be treated as if the ID forum is such a forum.

Absolutely! And the way you were treated in that particular thread was one of the reasons that I became so frustrated with people here...
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:19PM
I'm thankful for everyone in replying to this thread. I wanted this to be seen as a point for discussion rather than a set of rules to be given out from above, and I value all your contributions!
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:23PM
Jolyon:
I believe that in the US since 1981 "copper" pennies have been copper-plated zinc. They were steel only during WWII. Are they steel in the UK?

In the example I'm citing, I thought my hardness testing suggestion was pretty good - to determine between a 5 and a 9 by testing with a 7 and inspecting with a lens. You replied that you wished people would stop suggesting scratch testing. Is hardness testing mentioned in any official capacity on the site? Are instructions given somewhere? (That last question is not rhetorical. Is it? Where? Should it be?) If so, please don't fault me for suggesting that it be done.

Personally, I like that people have differing opinions. I learn from them all. I just want everyone to remain civil.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 02:31PM
In the UK they have been copper plated steel since 1992
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 03:24PM
Norman:
I don't know you, and I don't mean any offence. I remembered that thread on the Indiana fossil and I looked it up. It seems rather innocuous to me. I realize that the other posters did not defer to your expert opinion, but is that really that insulting? There seem to be no arguments or personal attacks. Were they removed or contained in private messages?

My point is that we should all try to refrain from getting too personally invested in discussions about minerals. I have revisited some of my previous posts to various topics, and I did find one response that really did make me mad at the time. But it didn't last - life is too short and there are too many rocks to look at to allow myself to be that affected.
Thanks.
k
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 03:56PM
    
In the US it is a zinc alloy (after 1982)
[www.usmint.gov]

Zinc has a Mohs hardness of about 2.5, so it and copper are in the same ballpark.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2011 04:10PM by David Von Bargen.
Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 06:19PM
    
Generally I agree with that what Jolyon said because a high scientifically level should be the aim of such a leading forum as mindat.

However, there are two sides of the medal. It is nearly impossible to determine a mineral only according to more or less objective pictures even if you know the location of the find very well. Some of the requested IDs are non crystalline minerals or the crystals are very small so that physical features can not be detected. For example I know the dumps in my region very well but I (or we local collectors) are often astonished of unexpected minerals in the micro range. An analysis is expensive and therefore an idea of other collectors is mostly welcome. I think nobody of the experts will give a binding identification only according of a picture. Nobody can hope and claim to get a binding identification on this way.

Either everybody who opens the thread “Identity Help” finds automatically the sentence: “For identification a complete analysis made by a good laboratory is necessary” and no entry is possible or leave it as yet.

At last it is my philosophy that a specimen with a complete recorded location will not become worthless even if a wrong name of the mineral is written on the label. However, an analysed mineral without determined location is worthless.

Uwe Ludwig
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 07:40PM
I agree with a lot of the comments made by many of the above about leaving this forum the way it is. I don''t think you can have an "ask the expert panel" unless you have several hundred experts because no one is an expert on everything and as Maggie and others pointed out, many people may not be considered an expert but are very knowledgeable in their area or a particular field. I don't consider my self and expert but a couple of degrees and many years of collecting and selling have given me some expertise on somethings. I only offer opinions when I feel I know the answer. That doesn't mean I am always right but that does not make it is wrong to try. I have posted minerals I have questions on from time to time and sometimes get different answers. I then take their answers and do some research which usually entails going to Mindat. com. It helps to narrow the possibilities down from 4000+ to a few possibilities. Saying "I agree" in ID help is good because it gives you more confidence in the answer. I agree with Jolyon in that it also helps to reinforce the answer if you give an explanation why you think it is so. I have been a member for several years and have noticed that there has been a big improvement in both the quality of the photos and responses. I think you should leave it alone, it seems to be working. It has certainly helped me.

My 2.5 cents worth (I am a broke mineral dealer, I spend it all on minerals) winking smiley.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 08:45PM
    
Interesting to read, folks!

I ´d like to come back to Rolf Brandts idea of an online form for ID questions which may include some critical things like streak, hardness etc. Even if it can´t be done (small xls, etc) the sheer view of such a list which should be mandatory to fill (an option in a dropdown field with "not possible" or "not tested" would be necessary of course) may bring people to think about first checking the properties of their rock before trusting that the experts will read from the crystall ball (blurry photo). I would support this. A lot of unexperienced people simply have no clue what properties of minerals are diagnostic .. so they ask "what is it" and post a picture. If we could manage it that some basics will be provided by the uploaders a lot of guessing and time consuming asking would be obsolete.

I think we have reached

my 6 cents

now

BTW the short "i agree" message is very useful IMHO!

cheers
Roger
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 09:45PM
    
Roger, if we are enticing curious people into a serious interest in minerals, a form with stuff like hardness and streak would seem daunting and confusing, even if we had links to John Cleese like narrations with videos of the tests being performed.

Although the current system has warts, I'm not sure it is broken and needs fixing. I'm really impressed by the people who have stepped forward to share their knowledge on the identity board and have taught me a lot. I have even made some new friends.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:06PM
I agree with Donald's and Rob's assessments, and I think we're getting too steamed up over this topic.

In the ID threads that I've followed or helped with, there is usually patience and sincere effort when Mindat regulars try to help collectors with their questions. Sometimes everybody jumps in at once (when the ID or locality is obvious), but I've rarely witnessed bickering among the "experts". Some of the unknowns may be "road fill" or the photos fuzzy, but the amateurs are making an effort to reach out to us. A little advice and asking for better photos or more information will often encourage them to do better. The process seems to work pretty good most of the time.

As Donald noted, none of us is an expert on all minerals from all localities, but even if we are expert on just one locality - or fairly knowledgable about a number of places - we all have useful bits to contribute when the need arises. smileys with beer

Woody Thompson
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:17PM
A form to be filled out for an ID request is a good idea. Perhaps users could have the option and when they made the choice to not fill out the form, they could be informed that if they choose to go that rout that their posts are much more likely to be ignored than if they do fill it out.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:30PM
    
Rob Woodside Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Roger, if we are enticing curious people into a
> serious interest in minerals, a form with stuff
> like hardness and streak would seem daunting and
> confusing,

Rob,
not that i disagree but the simple presence of this form (which would just show up before entering a post in this forum) would MAYBE encouraging people to think a bit more BEFORE posting. Even if they can´t fill the form because they don´t know such shice (ok this is denglish B)- S**t is the 4 letter word in english) ) as streak or hardness ... but maybe they can fill in colour, weight (light, heavy etc), odour, lustre etc etc - it would be useful. And if they can´t fill ANY field in the form so let it be. But i agree with Rock that then a message may appear that the question MAY be ignored because of lack of info. So to offer the questioners an option to provide some standartized info it would help them and the responders.

My meanwhile 7 cents ;)

cheers
Roger
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:46PM
    
Jolyon,

Here is a recent real world example of an identity request:
[www.mindat.org]

In this case the pictures are good, but the location was not given in the request.

How do you rate Mindat's response in this case. What could we have done better?

-Dean Allum
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:48PM
A form makes good sense, but lets make suggestions for the format that this form should take.

An area for photo information about what we want to see in an image. Perhaps this could be brief like well lighted in natural sunlight and in focus and close ups as necessary with a link for a more detailed information about what we would need in an image.

An area for where the specimens was from if they know and where they got it.

If the thing they are uploading is a rock, a link to a brief description about what a rock is and how they should not expect anything more than just a rough estimate of what rock type it is.

A section for physical tests they should run on the specimen if appropriate.

A place where they tell us what it is they want to know.

What else?

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/23/2011 09:58AM by Rock Currier.
avatar Re: PLEASE READ before answering requests for help!
March 22, 2011 10:58PM
    
Dean, I think there was a language problem there and replying in an understandable manner modulo translation engines is one of the warts on the identity board. Perhaps we could link to some translation engine on the submission form and in posted responses? I understand they have gotten better but I don't know anything about them
Sorry, you can't reply to this topic. It has been closed.
Mineral and/or Locality  
Search Google  
Copyright © Jolyon Ralph and Ida Chau 1993-2014. Site Map. Locality, mineral & photograph data are the copyright of the individuals who submitted them. Site hosted & developed by Jolyon Ralph. Mindat.org is an online information resource dedicated to providing free mineralogical information to all. Mindat relies on the contributions of thousands of members and supporters. Mindat does not offer minerals for sale. If you would like to add information to improve the quality of our database, then click here to register.
Current server date and time: October 21, 2014 03:50:35
Mineral and Locality Search
Mineral:
and/or Locality:
Options
Fade toolbar when not in focusFix toolbar to bottom of page
Hide Social Media Links
Slideshow frame delay seconds