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Why your question is NOT "urgent" or an "emergency"!

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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 22 Feb 2012
Commented: DGM on 13 Nov 2022
Recently, many posters have indicated that their Questions are "Urgent" or "Urgent, Help Immediately", or even an "Emergency". This frustrates the volunteers immensely. The volunteers do the best they can in the time they have available, and it is emotionally overloading to be asked to "jump" on to problems at the expense of their personal lives and other duties. It is also not fair to the other people asking questions when people try to push in to line ahead of them.
I, for one, am getting positively cranky about the constant demands for "urgent" help. I am overwhelmed by the "urgent" requests, and I am not being polite about them.
The below is a collection of some of the responses people have made on the topic of "urgent" or "emergency" questions:
"urgent adjective
1. compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter."
So basically you are saying that this is sufficiently important that I should cancel my appointment that I have been waiting a month for, and pay the $150 cancellation penalty, because it requires IMMEDIATE action? Is there an international crisis in automated ball detection in cricket that YOU personally were chosen to solve on a day's notice? Will there be riots in some countries if you are unable to solve it in time?
  • Urgent is when the nuclear reactor containment system is about to collapse. Or when I've run out of chocolate.
  • This is not a resource for HELP NEEDED URGENTLY. If you need help urgently, then you should be hiring a consultant, such as
Note: I am not a consultant, and I am not employed or contracted by MathWorks or any related company or organization in any capacity.
Disclaimer: I did receive a baseball-style hat from MathWorks once.
  • I like the questions with emergency, urgent and help as subjects. It makes me want to see how ridiculous the question is. It decreases the quality of my answer.
  • Urgent matters like this should probably be raised as support cases.
  • Urgency does not make the impossible possible.
  • My parents told me when I was able to speak: "Never shout "help" if it is not urgent. Urgent means: The sox your are wearing are burning and severe harm is imminent. If you do not wear the sox currently, it is not urgent, such that there is enough time to shout "my sox are burning in the cupboard" instead of "help"."
  • If your government has not asked the Canadian Embassy to contact me, then this isn't an emergency.
  • If you post that something is an "emergency" then you should be able to document that there was a literal and immediate risk of loss of life, or at least of serious and literal risk of damage to health (e.g., a broken leg.) If emergency officials such as ambulance or fire department or police or doctors did not get involved, then it was probably NOT an emergency.
Every day, I receive numerous email messages marked as "Urgent". If you would like your Question to be treated with more respect than I treat these, then marking your posted question as "Urgent" is strongly advised against.
For example, the below message was quickly sent to the Great Recycle Bin In The Sky:
Hurry now and claim your fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria or your fund will be confiscated by the wicked officials of the CBN. [...]
divya reddy
divya reddy on 6 Nov 2020
HEYY Mr. Roberson I TRIED TO contact consulting but not getting a reply since 24 hrs ...i need some audio compression code explanation
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 6 Nov 2020
HEYY divya reddy: I answered your original URGENT post in less than 45 minutes, in the middle of my night. By a few hours later, you indicated you were happy with my response, and you then did not post about the topic for several days.

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Answers (12)

Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 4 Oct 2015
If you had time to post your question, it wasn't an Emergency.

James Tursa
James Tursa on 1 Mar 2012
Is there a way for TMW to make this post PERMANENTLY appear as the very first post? Or for TMW to scan all new posts for the words "urgent" etc. and redirect them to this post before allowing the new "urgent" post to go through? Just wishing ...

Melissa on 9 Mar 2012
First off, I wish to thank all of the volunteers who help those of us who really need it. I also would like to apologize for those who feel that their procrastination or superior complex makes the need for "urgent" postings.

Jan on 31 Mar 2012
I'm using a limited urgency scale:
Level 1: Somebody should polish the silver.
Level 10: My socks are burning.
Imagine I'm working on the computer and my wife plays with the kids. One kid has performed something really bad, e.g. plugged her head between the posts of the steel handrail. Shouting out loud: "Jan, come, it's urgent" would increase the panic level of the child with the known unwanted side-effects. A friendly and calm: "Jan, visit us in the staircase, urgency level 7" will be much more target-aimed to catch my attention.
Here in this forum the situation is different for me. Whenever somebody uses the term "urgent", I'm convinced that he or she does not want a fast answer from me, but most likely from Walter.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 31 Mar 2012
These days I only answer "urgent" questions if I am bored. I barely read them. I've been getting my Recommended Daily Allowance of stress from other sources, and so haven't needed to supplement it by dealing with "urgent" questions.
Bjorn Gustavsson
Bjorn Gustavsson on 27 Jan 2021
Jan, what are levels 2-6, 8 and 9?
(I don't know if this is an urgency-level 0, 1 or 2...)

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Sean on 22 Feb 2012
Just a thought: you could come into Answers with the -urgent tag searched:
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 22 Feb 2012
The terms are showing up in the titles and contents.
I am the person who has added most of the "urgent" tags, upon specific use of the word in the Question. It is useful as a tracking mechanism, to help assess what does or does not get answered quickly (or at all), and to see how often people are using the term.

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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 28 Feb 2012
I get the urge sometimes to edit the "Urgent"'s and replace them with other words, but I haven't found quite the right words yet.
.... Please help, it is very very Ostrich
.... Xanthodontous!! Image magnitude!
.... Cognitive radio question. Extremely topiary!
Suggestions ?? This question is very bort!
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 1 Mar 2012
Without going into details, I have found out that in some languages, "bort" has a meaning that is not acceptable for this usage.
DGM on 13 Nov 2022
I'm placing my vote for changing all instances to "aieeee", preserving the original case and any following punctuation.

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Corentin OGER
Corentin OGER on 21 Oct 2020
This reminds me of University years ago. The guy in charge of ordering bits and pieces for lab projects had a sign on his desk saying "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine".

Andrew Newell
Andrew Newell on 22 Feb 2012
Just for curiosity, has anyone seen a genuinely urgent question?
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 23 Feb 2012
Many "I will fail my assignment / honors-project that is due in 3 days / tomorrow / 2 hours", but those I would refer to more as being "Time Sensitive" rather than "Urgent".
There have been a very very small number (two?) of Questions which explained the reason for their time sensitivity and asked for expedited responses in a manner that I personally thought was reasonable under the circumstances ("a grant proposal deadline just fragged us; we can go with what we have but it would be great if someone could suggest a better way").
John D'Errico
John D'Errico on 7 Mar 2017
There are some circumstances where criticality is important. A hospital waiting room must be able to distinguish between those with a critical need, and those who are hurting, but can be temporarily bypassed. Answers is not a hospital though, in the sense that nobody will die if their question is not answered immediately.
If you will fail your assignment if someone does not snap to attention though, this is NOT a factor at all. That merely makes this a learning opportunity for the next assignment. Time management is something that all students must learn, and some will only learn it by rueful experience.
It simply is not a bad thing if a student fails to complete an assignment. If that also causes them to fail a course, were they that close to the edge that a missed assignment pushed them over, then something else would have done the same next week.

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John D'Errico
John D'Errico on 7 Mar 2017
Nobody ever posts a question where they really don't care when it gets an answer. So, from the point of view of a person going to answer a question, every question is equally urgent. The person who insists their question is terribly important and must be answered immediately in front of all others is therefore the equivalent of the person who cuts into a ticket or food line, ahead of hundreds of others who waited patiently for their turn.
Good time management is an important skill, one well worth learning. Start your project as early as possible, and you will find time to finish it.

Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 13 Feb 2018
Edited: Walter Roberson on 13 Feb 2018
tl;dr : research article finds people pay too much attention to tasks artificially marked "urgent", at the expense of tasks that are actually important. This implicitly differentiates that "urgent" does not mean "important".
n everyday life, people are often faced with choices between tasks of varying levels of urgency and importance. How do people choose? Normatively speaking, people may choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows, instead of importance tasks with larger outcomes, because important tasks are more difficult and further away from goal completion, urgent tasks involve more immediate and certain payoffs, or people want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later. The current research identifies a mere urgency effect, a tendency to pursue urgency over importance even when these normative reasons are controlled for. Specifically, results from five experiments demonstrate that people are more likely to perform unimportant tasks (i.e., tasks with objectively lower payoffs) over important tasks (i.e., tasks with objectively better payoffs), when the unimportant tasks are characterized merely by spurious urgency (e.g., an illusion of expiration). The mere urgency effect documented in this research violates the basic normative principle of dominance—choosing objectively worse options over objectively better options. People behave as if pursuing an urgent task had its own appeal, independent of its objective consequence.

Oleg Komarov
Oleg Komarov on 22 Feb 2012
..and you're being polite.
I will link your post on the tutorial.

Matteo Niccoli
Matteo Niccoli on 12 Mar 2012
Edited: Walter Roberson on 7 Mar 2017
Emergency: please urgently read my tweet about this at:!/My_Carta/status/179213958543183872
(a.k.a. I really like you posted this Robert, good reminder in addition to an entertaining read). I will post it on all my social media


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