I described this site to a friend as "the best place I know to spend time constructively when you should be working". But it occurred to me that I don't know the exact way to describe what we're doing. Mark Twain said "work is whatever a body is obliged to do, and play is whatever a body is not obliged to do", but we're not exactly playing. On the other hand, I wouldn't (unless desperate for something to put on my CV), call it voluntary work. Is there a word or short phrase for what you're doing at this moment?

  • 3
    Learning :) -- For each tidbit I contribute, I receive a wealth of information about a topic I'm interested in.
    – teylyn
    Commented May 17, 2011 at 22:09
  • "I don't know how to waste my time better than to do it here."
    – user8568
    Commented May 17, 2011 at 22:13
  • 3
    We are fixing the world, one grammar mistake at a time. Commented May 17, 2011 at 22:56

4 Answers 4


Me personally, I'm edifying. And excogitating. Not necessarily in that order.

  • Based on some criteria I couldn't begin to figure out, EL&U 'site management tools' auto-classify your answer as 'potentially low quality'. Personally I'd say it's fine, but could be improved by adding exploring, for example (assuming you want to stick with e's, and that this applies in your case). What the hell - it's good enough for an upvote even as it stands, just for the word excogitating. Much better than plain old cogitating, for thinking not just 'out loud', but 'out there on the net'. Commented May 18, 2011 at 18:57
  • Really? Low quality? I must not have enough words. I have words, too many words, and no speech.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:01
  • 2
    @Kit: Nah - prolly summat to do with some very simple rules being followed by a routine that decides your wording is potentially ungrammatical. And let's be honest, you shouldn't really start sentences with And. Not to mention Not. Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:09
  • You'll have to add encountering if we keep meeting like this :-) Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:18
  • I prefer liaising. I'm sure the period-to-word ratio has somfing to do wid it as well.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:21
  • I bet you're right there. Anyway, a few 'false positives' doesn't mean it's not a useful tool. And EL&U is a good site for liaising and coming to a consensus, I find. Language would be in trouble if we could only establish 'proper' current usage by consulting authoritative books which invariably lag some way behind the times. Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:45
  • So the auto-classification must be one of those arcane "moderator tools", huh? I've got a ways to go before I get there. Is concensus a British spelling? I like this site too, but there's nothing wrong with a good etymological tome or two. They make good brain-eats.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:49
  • Duh. Concensus was me still in mind of the fact that earlier today I was pontificating about the recent 10-year UK Census. I don't know how many points you need to activate the 'Review' button, but my guess is you'll be there pretty soon. Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:57

AFAIC, this question was perfectly positioned in English.stackexchange. It is not a discussion about the "behaviour" on the site, but a question about a word that can be used to describe the activity of the participants of the site. Hence, it is a question about language use and vocabulary.

I feel it should be moved back.

  • Are you saying it’s not an appropriate question for the meta site?
    – nohat Mod
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:03
  • 1: Your answer is definitely appropriate for meta, 2: There are many kinds of meta: talking about the operation of the ELU site, talking about language in general, talking 'about' things rather talking of them. 3: Rereading the question, there is nothing ELU specific in it...could almost be in meta.SO. That said, it wasn't too weird in main.ELU (maybe a little of topic), but now that it's here no reason to move.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:25
  • 1
    Well, after the introduction sentences, the actual question is "Is there a word or short phrase for what you're doing at this moment?" And that is a question about English. If you all agree that the thread should stay in Meta, that's fine. But I feel it had its place in the English site.
    – teylyn
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 4:41
  • If I had a vote, it would be in English. Which is why I posted it there. Commented May 18, 2011 at 19:17
  • I take the point that the question itself is about the English language. However, I think the "meta-ness" that the question is also about the site means the question should be on meta. A reworded question about a hypothetical site similar to this one probably would be fine to stay on the main site.
    – nohat Mod
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 20:48
  • @Tim,@teylyn: oh. I missed that part, about 'a word or short phrase. bad reading attention.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 0:36
  • @teylyn: Technically speaking, I agree completely with your point. But let's be honest - I'm sure even OP knows perfectly well that this question is bound to generate much more discussion about the exact nature of the activity than about what to actually call it. Commented May 20, 2011 at 15:00

I'd say I'm "participating" in a direct sense, and "exploring" in a general one. I do agree with Twain, though: "play" is anything you don't have to do. Which only means you have to play like you work -- as profitably as you can -- and that too takes experimenting, practice and risk.


The main candidates for me are contributing and participating.

If I have to pick just one, it'll be the former. You could participate in Second Life, for example, without really implying you do anything to improve that site.

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