I am considering instituting the following somewhat harsh policy: automatically closing questions which have obviously been copy-pasted from a textbook, homework assignment, etc. Given the recent increase in poorly-asked questions of this type I think this policy has gotten somewhat more reasonable, but I would appreciate community feedback.

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    $\begingroup$ (a) As a matter of practicality: how do you propose to judge "obviously been copy-pasted from a textbook etc."? (b) FAQ-wise, it is already part of our homework policy FAQ. If the community agrees that such a thing is reasonable, it would be better practice to close it with a comment link to this FAQ item and offer the OP a chance to fix up the question. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 16 '11 at 17:46

I am personally not too thrilled about having moderators automatically close such questions. I say so for two reasons:

  1. The use of binding moderator votes should be in situations where it is very clear cut. There are generally shades of gray when it comes to issue of question quality.

  2. Moderators should not be the only force shaping the future of the community. We have almost 50 users with 3000+ reputation as of the writing of this answers. The community at large should start taking on some responsibility on what kinds of questions we want to see on this website. As such, I think this discussion should be less about whether moderators should "close-on-sight" those kinds of questions, but whether the community at large should vote to close poorly asked questions. (With my moderator's hat off, I think yes. This forum is getting enough traffic now that we need to be more picky in filtering out the signal from the noise. When a question is asked on this site, there should be some base-level of thought and effort put into it. The community should not have to build extended comment-thread conversations just to draw out from the asker his actual intent.)

What I am more a fan of is the moderators doing some sort of clean-up duty: one way to reduce the noise is the closing and deleting of "Abandoned" threads. But this I mean questions that on first sight seems to have good mathematical content, but are missing some crucial bits of clarification, which the question asker has not produced, after queries in the comments, after a few weeks/months/etc. These types of questions are inherently unanswerable (unless you are a psychic) and probably should just be closed/deleted to lower the noise on the site.

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    $\begingroup$ "The community should not have to build extended comment-thread conversations just to draw out from the asker his actual intent." - this on its own deserves a +1. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Apr 16 '11 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Fair point. So we agree that it's a good idea for us to be more picky as a community now. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Apr 16 '11 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ Not only that I completely agree with you, I have to say that I do enjoy voting to close questions. It's that long lost fun that I have in my "social responsibility bone". $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 16 '11 at 21:15

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