There is a post about homework which deals with similar issue. My concern is pedagogy. There are some people posting on here who are asking for answers to what I consider to be "rite of passage" questions [maybe that should be a tag].

What I mean by this is that the value in working it out for yourself is immeasurable in relation to plugging the numbers into someone else's answer. There was one about $sin3x$ recently, and two points on a line.

What I would like is some guidance on when answering the question is less helpful to the questioner than giving a hint. And whether there ought to be a [hints welcome] tag which might disable the kudos for answering? [No idea whether this would be possible] - and maybe upgrade the reward for hinting?

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    $\begingroup$ Part of me want to say: this is a question and answers site. If you want hints, it is perhaps better to use our awesome chatroom. :-) But seriously, if you see a question for which you feel a hint is more pedagogical than a full answer, feel free to post just a hint as the answer. I know I've done that in numerous occasions. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jun 30 '11 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for answers and comments, and for tagging this (it's my first question, and I forgot). I'm quite new to being at all active on the site, and I was wanting to explore how best to help others, rather than for my own questions. I guess it's one of those experiences I have to get used to, to put up what I think is a helpful hint, and see an answer go up which fills in all the gaps - which does answer the question, but doesn't do much to help the person who asked to understand. $\endgroup$ – Mark Bennet Jun 30 '11 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ Well... changes in culture like what you suggest would almost certainly never work if prescribed from above. What you need is a grass-roots movement. Maybe by posting hints instead of answers yourself, you can inspire more users to follow your lead, &c &c. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jun 30 '11 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ I often prefer to give a hint as a comment rather than as an answer. My policy hasn't converged yet, so I wait until I give a full answer to your question. I don't think that there should be a reputation reward system to hints. If you give a key hint, the student (or other posters!) will suggest that you upgrade. Some newcomer students don't know about this, but it's not that big a deal. I learned a neat trick from Aryabhata this weekend: If a student is quick to catch on with your hint, ask him/her to post the solution as an answer, too! Then the question won't clutter the 'unanswered' list. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Jul 10 '11 at 18:48

To answer some of the questions asked in above: no there should not be a "rite-of-passage" or "hints-welcome" tags. These are what are known as "meta-tags" (tags that cannot stand alone) and should be discouraged! It is annoying enough as it is to see so many questions tagged only as or without a relevant tag for the actual subject; I don't want to make matters even worse by introducing two more meta-tags.

Your second proposal would involve a fairly significant change to the design of the StackExchange engine and its reputation system. It is not something that we can deal with on this site alone: any such change would have to come from "above", by the company that runs these forums.

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    $\begingroup$ The (hint) tag already exists (1 question). :) $\endgroup$ – t.b. Jun 30 '11 at 1:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo: Not anymore! $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Jun 30 '11 at 2:07

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