# Homework problems from new users

It seems like there are a lot of new users who join to post homework questions. That's perfectly fine, of course, but their questions are often just copy-and-pasted homework problems without any explanation or work. Those posts are usually voted down and closed quickly, but a sizable chunk of the Close Votes log consists of this type of question.

Can we add something to the help menu, or even some sort of notification upon signing up, to stop new users from doing this? (It may be worth mentioning that math.stackexchange is different from some of the other stackexchange sites in that regard; it's common to post code and expect bug fixes on some of the software engineering sites, and some of the questions on the language sites are simply requests for translating certain phrases.) Right now, these questions are closed with the reason "off-topic because the question is missing context or other details" in the close-question dialog; would it at least be possible to add a reason, on the first page of the dialog rather than in a sub-menu, with a more polite variant of, "We're not here to do your homework for you. Put some effort into your question"?

• The problem is not homework. Personally I don't care if students come here to get their homework done for them; it's a losing battle, and if they want to botch their own education, good for them. What I do care about is people posting questions that are not useful for other people, and in this regard the "missing context" reason is fine. Feb 19, 2016 at 8:39
• Well said @NajibIdrissi!! Feb 19, 2016 at 13:56
• @NajibIdrissi: Yes, that's my point. I want to warn new users about this problem and make the "missing context" reason easier to invoke. Feb 19, 2016 at 15:35

some sort of notification upon signing up, to stop new users from doing this?

We have this. Try clicking Ask Question as a new user (i.e., on a browser where you are not logged in, or in the private mode of your current browser). This page will be the first thing you see:

Does it help? Maybe to some. Others march on, pushing aside anything that stands between then and posting their question. After all, they need the answer, and quickly, please, much appreciated, thanks I need help!

would it at least be possible to add a reason, on the first page of the dialog rather than in a sub-menu

No. The first page of the dialog is standard across the network. Whatever topic-specific reasons sites want to have (even the sites as big as Stack Overflow), they have to put under "off-topic".

• Shame about the dialog. It's a nontrivial change, but what about requiring that users wait some period of time before submitting their Very Important Question That They Need Answered Now Because It Is Important, or disallowing posts (as opposed to comments, etc.) until a user's rank reaches some threshold $\epsilon > 0$? Would that work with the stackexchange software? Feb 19, 2016 at 17:33
• I did propose raising the barrier slightly, though this cuts both ways: losing good contributors is also possible. The other thing is no-starter. There are systems (Experts Exchange, Yahoo Answers) where users sometimes have to post answers in order to ask a question. It's horrible.
– user147263
Feb 19, 2016 at 17:37

"We're not here to do your homework for you. Put some effort into your question"?

You are still doing their homework (or whatever else it may be) for them if you answer such a question that contains Work And Effort.

Enforcing W & E in the body of the question means that questions become worse by several metrics: longer and more cluttered; marking and organizing duplicates inhibited by minor differences in the W&E; and the actual nature of the question --- solve the stated problem, or perform for OP? --- is obscured. Of course it also leads to a culture of policing the OPs and related unpleasantness for the site as a whole.

Maybe (and IMO definitely) the preoccupation with homework has been a bad thing for MSE. I certainly would not want to have additional click-and-send messages or comment templates to the OP containing the words "effort" or "homework".

• As I said above, homework isn't really the issue; instead, it's (largely new) users who just drop in a homework problem and demand an answer, without explaining the context of the problem, what level of math they're in, what exactly their problem is, etc. At that level of mathematics, problems are mostly a matter of taking the material covered in the last few classes and applying it to the given problem. I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean in the rest of your response. Feb 19, 2016 at 22:24
• Copy and pasting a question is not a "demand" unless the user writes a demand into the question (for which they will be flamed, and the demand can be edited out by OP or others). Objectively speaking, what the copypaste users are doing is neutral and in some ways productive: transcribing some part of their textbooks and class material into a searchable and tag-organized internet math site. Given that authors of the books often put interesting, educational, or valuable material into the problems, this is a perfectly reasonable source of content for MSE (setting aside copyright issues).
– zyx
Feb 19, 2016 at 22:33
• I don't see how "homework isn't really the issue" here when the word homework appears 5 times in the title, tags, body and the essential proposal of the question. Homework was the core issue behind the work-and-effort shibboleth now used, dysfunctionally, as a closing heuristic, and you introduce that reason again to buttress the heuristic by baking it into the user interface. This question is a [feature-request] to somewhere officially tell users the site is not here to do their homework, in exactly those words. This all sounds quite homework centered.
– zyx
Feb 19, 2016 at 23:04
• The problem I'm describing is a proper subset of homework questions asked here. Feb 19, 2016 at 23:17
• The behavior (not "problem") that you described appears in homework and non-homework questions, and both categories account for a significant fraction of the total. Singling out the first category is itself a form of focus on homework. If you were really only talking about the lack of context, work and effort, there would not have been much interest on the meta in deploying those as shibboleths and closing criteria had it not been for concerns about the realized and potential volume of homework questions, and (for some posters) moralistic issues related to that.
– zyx
Feb 19, 2016 at 23:30
• Whatever, dude. Feb 19, 2016 at 23:40
• I stop communication when the bad faith comment trolling starts to appear. Bye.
– zyx
Feb 19, 2016 at 23:54