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I have spotted a user with reputation 600 that doesn't show work for any question. All of them are SOPs and basically say "thanks in advance" as his work...

I know SOPs are allowed but what about a user that strictly posts SOPs, showing no work whatsoever? Isn't this discouraged?

P.S. His answer-to-question ratio is 1:13.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, what does "SOP" mean again? $\endgroup$ – draks ... Dec 19 '13 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ Could you tell me what's wrong with SOP's? An explanation how an OP tried to solve a problem is often irrelevant to the solution(s). Moreover, it often obscures the question. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 19 '13 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato "An explanation how an OP tried to solve a problem is often irrelevant to the solution(s)." One can (and many people do) think that the exact opposite conclusion holds. "Moreover, it often obscures the question." One can (and many people do) think that the exact opposite conclusion holds. $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 19 '13 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: Although correct, it shows no effort on their part, and furthermore, discourages self-learning. $\endgroup$ – Don Larynx Dec 19 '13 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Did There are usually several(or many) different solutions of a problem. Asking about a particular solution of a problem is not usually a good idea. Demanding an OP to explain how she tried to solve the problem can often be counterproductive because it tends to make us concentrate on her way of thinking. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 19 '13 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: I don't see how that solves his problem....Please be constructive. $\endgroup$ – Don Larynx Dec 19 '13 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ You just don't like to give away an answer for free, do you? In that case, you don't have to answer at all. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 19 '13 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato "Demanding an OP to explain how she tried to solve the problem can often be counterproductive because it tends to make us concentrate on her way of thinking." Sorry but I fully disagree. Would you have any empirical evidence in support of this assertion? Ditto for the ones in your previous comment. $\endgroup$ – Did Dec 19 '13 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ The empirical evidence is that in the large majority of cases, there is no visible reference to the OP's "work and effort" in the answer. This is not accidental, because continuing from the OP's work (lacking, as it so often does, a usable grasp of the problem or the ideas needed in the solution) tends to be either not possible, or makes a clean exposition more difficult, when writing an answer. I suggest to anyone interested to gather some data on what has actually been the result of the "work and effort" movement and whether it is pushing in the good or bad directions. $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 19 '13 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ By design, this site allows people to get answers to questions about the Harry Potter books. But somehow, we've managed to avoid having MSE flooded with those. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 19 '13 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ The most obvious way that SOPs "obscure the question" is that people believe that the P is the question. $\endgroup$ – user14972 Dec 19 '13 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ All in all, the fight against problem set questions is not even a noble one. It is just a fake sense of what is right. The only one favored by such a fight is the despotic teacher that administered the problem set in some god forsaken bad university/high school/primary school. No online impersonal command to show some work is going to teach any student the value of working a bit on a problem before seeing the solution. It only makes it slower for them to see those solutions. Seeing solutions is very important for the student. $\endgroup$ – OR. Dec 19 '13 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ I do prefer a clearly stated problem-only question (short, readable, unambiguous) over something where 80 percent of the question consists of OP ramblings added to the same mathematics problem. If the OP has anything that makes the mathematics in the question objectively easier to understand, appreciate or solve, such as graphs and data tables, proofs of lemmas and special cases, links and references about the problem or related ones -- that is excellent, and I do want to see that, but it is a rare case that this is the "effort". $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 19 '13 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ The user profile is for introductions and personal information (the person has background X, is at institution Y, is taking class Z, has internet difficulties, or whatever else). All that should be kept out of the questions or linked from the top comment under the question. @DonLarynx $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 19 '13 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ A long time ago I was a TA who usually taught problem solving for first year calculus. I would have a student who could not answer some problem tell what they did. So long as they made no mathematical errors I let them continue. When they got to the point where they gave up I would ask for another student to complete the problem. I would continue my job as a stenographer. At the end of the process we would have an answer. We would see what was necessary and what could be eliminated. The process was slow enough that virtually every one in the class was able to understand how to solve the ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Dec 20 '13 at 0:12
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This is definitely discouraged. When we (the moderators) notice that a user repeatedly posts PSQs (Problem Statement Questions, which I assume are the same as SOPs) and shows no effort to improve them, we generally contact the user privately about their behavior. If they continue, it becomes grounds for a suspension.

If you think a user has been asking a lot of low-quality questions, the best practice is probably to flag one of them as "very low quality", which will get the moderators' attention.

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    $\begingroup$ I have downvoted 4 of his questions and will flag all of them. However, I am hoping he is let off with a warning. $\endgroup$ – Don Larynx Dec 19 '13 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ What's wrong with SOPs? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 19 '13 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato Complete acceptance of homework-level PSQs turns Math.SE into a homework-answering/take-home-test-cheating service in the eyes of the rest of the internet. As we want Math.SE to maintain some reputation in the eyes of academia, we don't want users to only use Math.SE for these lower-level PSQs. In short--there's nothing wrong with a PSQ, but an overabundance is harmful to the site's reputation. But that's the topic of a different meta thread. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 19 '13 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DonLarynx I would recommend against downvoting a whole slate of a user's questions. For one thing, the downvotes are likely to be automatically reversed. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker Dec 19 '13 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton, I think there is more evidence that cultivated hostility to problem-only questions turns MSE and its meta into an adult kindergarten, with users pointing fingers at each other and seeking to limit others' conduct as a sport unto itself, than indications that it makes MSE questions better or improves MSE's reputation. $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 19 '13 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ I think SOPs should be limited, at the very least. $\endgroup$ – Don Larynx Dec 19 '13 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton You can't forbid homework questions in this site. Better get over it. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 20 '13 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto Just because something is unattainable doesn't mean it isn't worth fighting for. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Dec 20 '13 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton It's easy to win over them. If you don't want to give away an answer, you can ignore them. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 20 '13 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ Do you really suspend people who don't elaborate on their questions? Assuming the questions themselves are interesting and not just copied homework, I find that objectionable. $\endgroup$ – Potato Dec 20 '13 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Potato If the questions are interesting and not just copied from homework? Of course not. I'm only addressing boring homework questions with no work shown. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker Dec 20 '13 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx That's not quite the case - SE has been very clear about its "optimized for pearls, not sand" policy, to quote. But what I'm talking about is not deleting questions (which is something we do with great reserve, and only in the cases you cite) but rather contacting and possibly suspending users. Indeed, "continuous low quality contributions over time" is one of the default templates for mod messages, and one of the most frequently used. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker Dec 20 '13 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying. I don't know what you considered "not quite the case": users have been clear about it in the meta, and moderators (such as Willie recently, and several others before that) have periodically answered on meta that it is not their job to make correctness judgements. As far as SE is concerned, the "optimize for pearls" was a description of what all the voting and flagging and reputation tools distributed to users is supposed to accomplish, as well as some design decisions by SE. Lots of high effort users could be suspended for "boring" posts if it's more than that. $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 20 '13 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ The "optimize for pearls" SE blog post, by the way, does not include the word moderators, and was about user capabilities and SE design ( blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/06/optimizing-for-pearls-not-sand ). A repeating theme in the SE blogs tagged [moderators] is '...moderators are the “human exception handlers” on Stack Overflow, elected to deal with those rare situations the normal community moderation can’t handle...' and similar excerpts from blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation . So I don't see what you think was wrong in the initial comment. @AlexBecker $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 20 '13 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton, the trouble is that the fight, even if (in the fighters' perception) is for a good reason, is causing collateral damage such as: making questions "too localized", longer, less readable, and filled with on-demand Junk Context; shutting down interesting questions that don't have those problems for purely stylistic reasons; and creating the adult kindergarten atmosphere described above, which surely does not help MSE's quality or outside reputation. Better to focus on objectively useful and usable characteristics of questions (sources!), and not the nebulous "context and effort". $\endgroup$ – zyx Dec 21 '13 at 22:54

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