I recently had a thread put "on hold" for "missing context or other details", stating that I haven't put my thoughts on the problem or attempts I have made to solve it.

Am I not allowed to just ask a question? I accept that not every answer is going to be perfect for me, that's kind of the point of the upvote/downvote button from what I understand. I don't think I should be required to halfway do a problem in order to ask it.

  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Try asking a question whose direct answer would be an explanation of the mathematics, or the art of problem solving, or a clarification of something specific you are having trouble with, rather than something like '42'. The point of showing your work to give the answerers enough information to answer the questions you should be asking but don't know how... or, at the very least, to help the reader (who cares about such things) distinguish you from others who are just trying to get people to do their homework for them. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 5:16
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ At the very least you should put your question in some context. Where is it from? Why do you find it interesting? What part gives you problems? Explain any remotely non-standard definitions and notations. If you have given it a shot (which you really should have if it comes straight from a textbook) say a few words about how far you got and where you got stuck. $\endgroup$
    – mrf
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 5:23
  • 25
    $\begingroup$ Random musing: if you don't care enough to attempt a solution, why are you in need of one? $\endgroup$
    – Scott H.
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 7:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Now that you bring up this issue in regard to your own posts, do you mind explaining why you want to post exercises here and have other people answer them? If you have a reason for doing this that you think others will approve of, it would probably help your cause to let us know what it is. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


I accept that not every answer is going to be perfect for me, that's kind of the point of the upvote/downvote button from what I understand

That's one way of doing things, I suppose. Post a question that gives no clue to your background or the source of difficulty. Let people post multiple answers trying to guess what kind of help you need. (Optionally) upvote those who guessed correctly and downvote those who guessed incorrectly. Remarkable time saving on your side of the computer screen.

Am I not allowed to just ask a question?

You are allowed to ask a question. So far. Automatic question ban will kick in only after sufficiently many of your questions have been downvoted and/or closed. At this rate, it should not take long.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the more or less straight answer- no, you cannot just ask a question. $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 12:19
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Dear @Nick, it seems to me that you may have misunderstood this answer, which I believe is closer to "Yes, you can, but just like in the rest of life, actions come with certain consequences and social norms play a role in them." $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 1:19

You could argue that you're not required to, but then again, no one is required to read and answer your question.

A lot of users, myself included, tend to ignore questions which are purely a problem statement. In the past I have given answers to such questions, only to find that the user was still confused about some much more basic concepts, making my answer pretty much useless to them.

It is incredibly frustrating spending a lot of time on an answer, making sure it is well thought out and presented, only to spend even longer discussing the solution with the OP who could have saved us both some time by following the advice given and including their thoughts on the problem.

Adding such details usually helps the OP clarify and understand the problem. I myself spent fifteen minutes tonight writing a question for this site, only to figure out the answer, and therefore did not ask the question; this occured because I made a special effort to clarify what I was confused about.

I imagine you would downvote a response which contains just the answer to a problem you've posted as opposed to a detailed solution, the reason being that you want to understand the solution. At least, I hope this is the case. If you want to understand, the first step is to make sure you understand exactly what it is you are trying to understand.

The take-away message is this: including your thoughts and questions about a problem helps you to better understand the question, and it helps everyone else to answer it appropriately.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I totally agree, nobody is required to answer my question. But my issue is, does that mean it should go on hold? I accept that some people will ignore my question. Should others not be allowed to answer it just because some don't like the way it's posed? $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 11:33
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ @Nick Being put on hold means that "enough" users with voting priveleges (read: users who have been on the site long enough to earn them) agreed with the fact that you need to add something. But if you add something, the question can be re-opened! That's the whole point... sort of a pause for review and editing. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 11:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .