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I have used other stack-exchange websites successfully (there are about 100 of them) to get answers to my questions.

Here on Academia.SE the word rant is being used in a way that I have not seen on other websites and I would like some clarification.

There are some guidelines in the help section of Academia.SE and even a small section on what not to ask. I still confused and find the use on here very subjective.

Example Possible "not a question" post

Recently, someone posted the question "Fee surcharge for international students", which was an undisguised rant.

Let me look up this word to see what it could mean:

rant to talk loudly and in a way that shows anger : to complain in a way that is unreasonable

This definition characterizes most online behavior, unfortunately. That anger is also very real - what should unsuccessful posters do with it?


Specifically, I am concerned that "rant" is just a trope used by high-ranking users on this site to close/delete questions they don't like.

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    Presumably you have not seen the text of the question in question. – StrongBad Jul 30 '14 at 12:29
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    I think this is a perfect example. The way this question is worded, it doesn't seem like a rant, but if it started off with "my question was closed as a rant because the high rep users hate me" it could easily be perceived that way. – StrongBad Jul 30 '14 at 13:06
  • BTW there exists a tag called (rant) on mathematics meta and christianity meta. So on some metas rants in the sense "posts complaining about something and urging users to behave differently in connection with some issue" are tolerated. You can have a look a this tag-wiki, which discusses how a rant on meta-site can be constructive. – Martin Aug 4 '14 at 8:24
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    I think the help center definition pretty much gets it right: your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?” – E.P. Aug 6 '14 at 20:00
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What is a “rant” as far as Academia.SE?

It's a rhetorical question, where the OP has little interest in the actual answer (if there is any); Often asks to explain a rather subjective situation, e.g., "Why is my advisor so bad? Why the reviews from this journal are unfair? Why is the cost of that abusive?".

In particular, the question does not aim at understanding whether the qualification of the subjective situation is correct or not, but states it as fact.

That anger is also very real - what should unsuccessful posters do with it?

There are plenty of places on the Internet where people can share good/bad experiences and discuss about them, for instance forums, sharing sites (e.g., Reddit).

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    Yes, I'd second the point that a "question" is merely a rant if the questioner is not interested in an answer. – paul garrett Jul 30 '14 at 15:25
  • In many circumstances, the chat rooms of this site can be a good place to discuss such matters - as long as the tone is civilized and respectful, of course. – E.P. Aug 6 '14 at 19:57
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In the help center, you will find the following text:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about __”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain __ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

A "rant" is a special case of a question whose motivation is "I would like to participate in a discussion about __", where the motivation of the asker seems to be "I would like to complain and/or share my ideas about __".

If a question

  1. has a strong negative tone or a strong ideological tone, and
  2. does not have an objective answer, or the answer would not be helpful to anybody

it is likely to be characterized as a "rant".

What are some indications that my question might be a "rant"?

If your question is any of the following:

  • Is there any point to X?
  • Why are academics so X?
  • Why did/didn't X do Y in this situation?

this may be an indication that it is a rant.

If your post is seen by others as a "rant," what should you do?

Try editing to make the text of the question less subjective and/or more neutral, and to clarify how the answer will be helpful to you.

  • How about this: You should allow questions to contain rants, but not answers, that would prevent discussion logorrhea, and prevent annihilation of potentially important issues that have no other way to be voiced. – TheDoctor Jul 31 '14 at 3:11
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    @MarkJ this isn't a site for voicing issues (no matter how important they may be), it's a site for asking and answering questions. Questions that are rants tend to not lend themselves to the question and answer format, so they are better voiced at a site that isn't dedicated to Q&A. – ff524 Jul 31 '14 at 9:28
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What is a “rant” as far as Academia.SE?

I think the definition of "rant" in Academia.SE is pretty much the same as everywhere else (you even cite a pretty good definition). The only difference I see is that around here any sort of complaining (warranted or unwarranted, blindingly obvious or more subtle and backhanded) often gets called a rant - simply because Academia.SE usually does not want to get into discussions about various ethical concerns regarding highly ideological issues (sometimes we can't help ourselves, of course).

Specifically, I am concerned that "rant" is just a trope used by high-ranking users on this site to close/delete questions they don't like.

I don't think that it is a trope thrown around by high reputation users to willy-nilly kill questions - it is just a valid reason to quickly explain why something that may sound like a good question for Academia.SE to the OP is in fact not, similar to (for instance) the "boat programming" trope on the original Stack Exchange. The Academia.SE community has simply decided that questions that are perceived mainly as a place to vent or complain are out of scope.

Here on Academia.SE the word rant is being used in a way that I have not seen on other websites

The word has not been invented here, but is quite common slang in many online communities. Other SE sites probably don't have use the term as much because, well, most sites don't get as many rant-y questions as we do here. However, from cursory observation, I have the impression that other more soft-question oriented SE sites have exactly the same issue (and term!).

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Since the original question that spawned the original meta question has been deleted, I am reposting it:

I am an international student in the United States and have been here in a PhD program for roughly 5+ years. Last week, my university's board of control proposed charging international students a surcharge of $250 per semester based on the fact the my public university hasn't been getting enough funds from my state (Michigan).

Most of the international students find this rather discriminatory. I am unable to find the federal or state rule or letter of the law that is being "exploited" in this case, to impose this surcharge. This surcharge, apparently, cannot be paid off with a GTA/GRA appointment.

The rationale given is that the "cost of education has been increasing".

Any help in this regard would be useful. I bring this to academia.SE since this has an amalgamation of academic voices from all over the world which might provide better perspective to the (un)fairness of this "surcharge" situation.

What is the legal precedent for such surcharges without enough notice?

I am not sure how this could be described as anything but a rant in the traditional definition. The fact that other SE networks have less of an issue with rants is probably related to the fact that the questions are more "factual" in nature and we tend to have softer questions.

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    I see how this could be too narrow (country = US, state = Michigan, university = whatever). But I think the OP expressed this in a tone is between neutral and disappointed, rather than spitting hatred. The OP may not have understood how the university funding works (nobody does, though, hence the calls for "greater transparency" in US higher education), and a reasonable answer would have explained the in-state and out-of-state tuition levels as an example of how university "discriminates" between different groups of students. – StasK Jul 31 '14 at 2:40
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    The futility of the OP's attempts to do something with situation, though, are to some extent typical to the weird constraints academia has to operate within. I am sure the university lawyers have looked into the "federal or sate rule or letter of the law", and these are better lawyers than what international student body can produce. So they would have zero chance in producing any sort of a meaningful protest against the proposed fee. – StasK Jul 31 '14 at 2:42

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