In these days a lot of questions are asked that are plain homeworks, and thus they are soon closed. I used to agree with the rationale, but now I am thinking if it would not be better to leave an hint (as an answer or a comment), so that people won't turn away. Whay do you think?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think many agree that leaving a hint instead of a full answer is often the best thing to do. Do you suggest that we then delete answers that contain a full solution? How do you plan to enforce this "leave only hint" policy? $\endgroup$
    – Thomas
    Jun 1, 2014 at 15:10
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ Riddle me this: why don't you want people who aren't going to do anything but post plain homework to turn away? $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Jun 1, 2014 at 15:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: Are you suggesting that mau is Batman? :-) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jun 1, 2014 at 15:32
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ <1> Closing a question does not prevent leaving a hint as a comment. If it's too long for a comment, it's too long to be a hint. <2> Stack Exchange is not about accumulating users; it's about accumulating valuable content, which routine homework questions (and answers to them) predictably fail to produce. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jun 1, 2014 at 16:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @words maybe you should post this is an answer? $\endgroup$
    – Grigory M
    Jun 1, 2014 at 17:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @wordsthatendinGRY I stongly disagree. Some of the best answers on MSE are answers to homework questions. And many of the best teachers on MSE desire the ability to themselves choose which questions are worthy of answering, and not having that choice forced upon them by others. Continuing to force that choice will cause MSE to continually lose more of the best teachers. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2014 at 17:09
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque It is natural that people who dislike SE model will find a better place for them outside of SE network. In particular, I would not want to prevent them from moving to a site more suitable for teaching... (Also, note that I referred to routine homework questions: e.g., "find a diagonal matrix similar to this one.) $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jun 1, 2014 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @wordsthatendinGRY, people who dislike SE model will go away anyway. But there could be people arriving later who will find the problem and the hint - since they would be searchable - and profit with this. This said, I have no definitive idea about what to do. After all, I don't have any homework question to ask for... $\endgroup$
    – mau
    Jun 1, 2014 at 18:13
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Bill: And some of the best answers are answers to questions about things like understanding mathematical concepts and theorems. And some of the best teachers leave MSE (or never even join) because of the homework questions. And the prevalence of homework forces people to wade through them whether they want to or not, if they find elementary topics interesting (and even the less elementary topics are attracting homework assignments). And all of the other things you ignore. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Jun 1, 2014 at 19:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl As I've said many times, the best way to address that issue is to give users very fine-grained control over the question stream, not to force "majority" preferences globally onto everyone. That is a recipe for failure in a general level math forum like this. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2014 at 19:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @mau The non-searchability of comments isn't really a problem for that, since people take search terms from questions they were asked. And questions are searchable, closed or not. More importantly, the Internet is already full of hints and model solutions to routine homework problems. Google search for "find a diagonal matrix similar to" brings a bunch of Youtube videos, pages and pdf notes explaining the process: all made with more thought than goes into a typical quick half-hint,half-answer on this site. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jun 1, 2014 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @word: ... but still, an answer explaining the process would be appropriate for this site. And I bet "how do you diagonalize a matrix?" would attract an answer. And it would be much more likely to be a good answer than a response to "diagonalize this matrix for me." A more focused question like "why do we find the eigenvalues when diagonalizing a matrix" would likely attract more in-depth information. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Jun 1, 2014 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl It may be somewhat appropriate, yet harmful if it injects inferior material into Google search results. The existence of such a question makes the Internet worse, which is the opposite of what SE is meant for. That said, I wouldn't vote to close either of two sample questions in your comment. The sample question (or rather non-question) in my comment was "find a diagonal matrix similar to [this one] $\begin{pmatrix} 3 & 2 \\ 2 & -5\end{pmatrix}$". $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Jun 1, 2014 at 20:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @mau: One problem with trying to leave a hint is that it may be too tempting for others to immediately leave a full answer as well. Not all users respect the presence of a hint enough to wait a reasonable time (say 24h) for the OP to think before posting a full answer. The gamification is very effective in this way: even users who know they don't care about rep may still find themselves unable to resist the urge to post an answer. This even happens to me on (rare, I hope) occasions. The only way to prevent it, with the current system, is to put the question on hold. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2014 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: I don't even mind a "diagonalize this matrix for me" question - if it's written well and the OP is engaged. IMO the goal of this site is the interaction between askers and answerers. We aren't here merely to answer questions like a quiz. We're here to respond to questions that have been asked by real people. The problem with PSQs, in my mind, is they are too highly correlated with OPs who are not active in the process. So my own goal is not really to eliminate PSQs - I find that an unfortunately necessary side effect of a goal to avoid uninvolved "absentee" askers. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2014 at 11:41


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .