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I don't want to discuss how to deal with zero effort questions (several posts already on the argument). But what about the following situation? Consider the following example

https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/776122/particle-movement-along-a-line-calculate-displacement

Now I made a comment asking to show the effort (usual comment). No response from the OP but answers that went so far as to show the entire calculation. I don't want to comment each answer negatively but what would you do? Should I ignore the situation and move on?

Thanks for considering my question...

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    $\begingroup$ So you don't want to discuss how to deal with zero effort questions, but you want to discuss how to deal with answers to zero effort questions? Sorry, but I think this is the same question in disguise, and if not I can at least say with certainty that this issue has been addressed many times before in the comments and answers to previous questions about PSQs. I don't forsee this adding anything new or constructive to the discussion, so I propose closing as a duplicate. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Apr 30 '14 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex: I think previous discussion has focused on the questions, because the expectation had been that changing opinions on what to do about answers was far less likely to go anywhere. (but then, talk about changing opinions on what to do with questions was thought to be unlikely to go anywhere as well) $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Apr 30 '14 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ I have occasionally left comments on answers along the lines of, "by writing out a complete solution, you have deprived OP of the joy of working out any part of it on his own." $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 1 '14 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ @user144349 The willingness of so many people to answer problem-statement questions with no thoughts, efforts, or context, has led (in my always to be humbled opinion) to a serious decline in the question quality on math.SE. This isn't a do-my-homework site, and we shouldn't encourage posts that have this intention. There's other reasons that we encourage context and details: If you look at the comment chain on the accepted answer to the question, you'll see that the lack of context originally led to an answer that had to be edited to actually answer. $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 1 '14 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers The "willingness of so many people to answer questions" is essential to the prosperity of the site. Any actions that inhibit that are highly detrimental to the site. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 1 '14 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque Which is why I meant to emphasize my opposition to low-quality questions, not questions in general. My goal on math.SE is to help people learn, who are honestly putting forth an effort; I have no interest in contributing to a do-my-homework site. $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 1 '14 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers Then simply ignore questions that are not to your taste. Suppose you happen to love questions that contain immense effort, but there are a handful of users who decide that these questions are poor quality and scheme to close them all. How would you feel about that? $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 1 '14 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque If I was in a very small minority, and the much larger community had different feelings about what is on-topic, then the analogy would be relevant (and if my views were that opposed to the community, I simply wouldn't participate); considering the numerous meta discussions on this issue in the past, I rather doubt that the word "handful" describes the number of users who vote to close PSQs. $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 1 '14 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque Yes, opinions vary with time (but from what I see, the opinion has been moving towards putting these questions on hold). I think that encouraging these students to ask good questions is the proper route, before voting to close; this is why I routinely leave welcoming comments to new users, also asking for context and thoughts. Finally, considering the emphasis that the site places on community moderation, I don't really see the objection to the votes describing the majority's opinion. $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 1 '14 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: The willingness to give good answers to good questions is what is essential to the prosperity of the site. The willingness to give bad answers to good questions is detrimental. The willingness to give bad answers to bad questions is very detrimental. And, I believe, the willingness to give good answers to bad questions is also ultimately detrimental to the site, due to the behaviors they encourage. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl May 1 '14 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl But that says little given that there is no general agreement on what constitututes a "good" question. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 1 '14 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Maybe, maybe not. But we have to get people to actually admit that not all questions and not all answers are equally valuable before we can even begin a reasonable discussion about it. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl May 1 '14 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Having people show effort is not a end; it is a means (although unfortunately, some seem to view it as an end). And it is ultimately a compromise to accommodate the opinion that we shouldn't turn people away because they can't/don't/won't ask a better question, without adopting the extreme position that MSE should take all questions good or bad and do nothing to fetter the use of MSE as a homework mill. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl May 1 '14 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill Dubuque: I'm not sure which site you think is "going down the tubes" due to too many questions being closed. In the "logic" tag that I follow the average question quality is noticeably lower recently, and only a tiny number of the low-quality ones seem to be closed. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 3 '14 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill Dubuque: On the subject of attracting expertise, I completely agree. On whether experts are being retained, I think the main arguments I have seen about that are anecdotal and focused on a small number of atypically active users, rather than being visibly based on objective data about "experts" overall. As an expert in my field, I can say something about how to retain experts. One way, from my perspective, is to keep the overall quality of questions at a certain (imprecisely specified) minimum level by teaching questioners how to write a good question and requiring them to do so. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 3 '14 at 22:21
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Most homework questions such as that you've linked to are easy to answer. Questions like that usually get put on hold as off-topic. However, before that can occur people answer the question. There are two reasons for this:

  • Some just want to earn reputation, and nothing more (the questions are basic, and easy to answer for most of the users on M.SE).

  • Some want to be helpful.

  • Some like to demonstrate their knowledge.

I lie in the second bucket, and I'm sure that many others do, too. A reminder for myself and piece of advice for others, whichever bucket you may fall in: let the OP to first show his/her work. If that doesn't happen, vote to close! That's the best way to moderate the site. :-)

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    $\begingroup$ I think there's another phenomenon -- people just like to answer and show off what they know. It's worth noting that even people who believe in not simply giving out an answer but engaging in Socratic dialog and helping the student work his own way to the answer will still succumb to the temptation of simply writing out an answer... especially in the presence of other people doing so. (I observed this phenomenon on a math/physics help forum where prolonged discussion is more appropriate than on MSE) $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl May 3 '14 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl That's a nice observation! I'll make the post CW - hope you can add your comment as a bullet point! $\endgroup$ – user122283 May 3 '14 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I agree with that assessment. I'm not perfect myself - sometimes it's too tempting - but I do think that in many cases users with higher rep should "sit on their hands" and not answer especially easy questions until other answers are present. This is not only helpful for delaying answers for poorly written questions, so the questions can be improved - it also helps lower-rep users take advantage of the easier questions. (The idea that higher-rep users should go ahead and answer because they are "better teachers" than the average answerer is, in my experience here, usually unfounded.) $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 3 '14 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Carl In my experience, the longer it takes for a question to receive a good answer, the much higher the probability that it will receive many poor answers. Further, the longer the delay in answering, the fewer views the answers receives (since many readers do not revisit threads). So delaying as you propose would cause many of the answers by the best teachers to receive far less exposure. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 3 '14 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I'm doubtful the relationship between "expert", "high rep", and "best teacher" is very strong. And in almost every case there's little a 20k+ user could write that nobody else could; this is one of the things I ask myself before answering a question too soon. I can always add a comment below someone else's answer if there is some specific aspect I think is important, or write my own answer a few hours later. If the asker is genuinely interested, they'll check back. A delay of 12-24 hours makes no difference when someone finds the question much later via google. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 3 '14 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Carl "rep" should play nor role whatsoever in one's decision to answer a question. Rather, one should consider more pedagogical matters. We are here to share knowledge of math, not to play rep games. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 3 '14 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: on that, I strongly disagree. To encourage new experts to contribute, we need to give them a chance to write the obvious answers any expert could write. Gamification is great at urging experts to answer every question we can, and it's hard to resist. But higher-rep users should consider whether answering so many is really the best way to contribute. In particular, users like me with the luxury of being online enough to amass 30k or more should consider whether we're taking more than our share of the questions, and whether we might have over-estimated our own teaching abilities. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 3 '14 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ Moreover, there are objective ways to identify exceptional teachers. They may win university-wide, state-wide, and national teaching awards, or teaching or exposition awards from the AMS and MAA, etc. I've seen no data to suggest we have more than a miniscule number of such renowned educators on this site. On the other hand, we have a large number of high-rep users (including me) who are genuine subject-area experts , and maybe OK teachers, but who are not really "best teachers" in any sense other than being high-rep. Are concerns about math.SE losing "best teachers" backed up by evidence? $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert May 4 '14 at 0:10
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How about an answer embargo? Let the answerer impose a, say, one or two day limit for users with low reputation to see the answer. Instant gratification for the answerer, no "gimme my homework ASAP" incentive.

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I would start by asking myself two questions:

  1. What effect am I hoping to cause with my comment?

  2. Is it likely that my comment will have the desired effect?

Past that, do what is most blissful to your state of mind. You said you don't want to comment negatively on each answer. Ask yourself why you don't want to do that.

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How about this?

  • Answers that are given 5 minutes or earlier after the question was asked, are invisible until 5 minutes have elapsed (Rationale: if a question takes less than 5min to answer, it was probably too basic and showed too little effort in the first place.)
  • When the question is flagged to be closed within 5min after the question has been asked, all answers remain invisible until the issue has been decided upon, that is, either the question has been closed, or the close has been disputed.
  • When the question is closed, all answers remain invisible.
  • I think answers that have been visible once, should remain visible, even if the question was closed afterwards. I don't have any objection against showing the answers in any case, after 48 hours have elapsed.
  • Upvotes on closed questions or upvotes on answers of closed questions should not increase the reputation count
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