As a reviewer of first posts (posts by new users) there seems to be a grey area as to what level of question is acceptable. This question (it has already been deleted 11/16/17 2:30 am EST) basically asking how to calculate an area given the length and width of a rectangle, seems to be on the border of being too easy.

Should a first question this easy be accepted?
(An upvote does not mean yes and a down vote no -- nor the reverse.)

This question is very similar to a prior question which is identified and linked to in the comments. However, that question is over 6.5 years old. It seems reasonable that the community's opinion may have changed in 6.5 years. From the responses, I think that there has been some shift in the direction of allowing elementary questions under some circumstances. Your conclusion based on the responses may differ. In any case, it seems reasonable to have a more current discussion.

Moreover, the examples from the older post have been deleted and I was hoping that we could replace them with newer ones. However as mentioned above, my new example has already been deleted. IMO examples are very helpful in this discussion. Could they be brought back in some way?

Finally, since there have some interesting responses here, it would be a shame to lose them if this post were deleted. (btw What happens to cLosed posts?)

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with the question you linked to was not that it was easy, but that the user has given very scant detail on what he has attempted. $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician Nov 15 '17 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, if one is dealing with coordinates without knowing basic geometry like "length times width", the user has more serious problems that need to be addressed. $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician Nov 15 '17 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ After posting I noticed an apparent duplicate "Is there a lower bound to the level of the questions that can be asked here" (which I've been having trouble linking to). It has some very good responses but the examples it links to have been removed. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Meskin Nov 15 '17 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M. I agree with both of your points. But let me ask you should either of those issues cause the question to be rejected? I have accepted questions that showed little work but have commented to them on that. Your second point is closely related to being too simple. Do we want to take on the job of educating the student? Would the answer be that the two points are related? Would we be more willing to work with the student if he or she showed some effort. Of course, it would take some delicate wording to get that across.. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Meskin Nov 15 '17 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ Here's your link: math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1951/…? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 15 '17 at 6:26
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    $\begingroup$ A kind of lower limit comes from the minimum age requirement - an SE user must be 13 years of age to participate. However, opinions vary what that says about the level of the material. I don't think pressing for a limit like whatever Terry Tao grokked at 12 is too elementary would win any support. OTOH allowing questions from Joe Doofus, 13, would also meet some resistance. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 15 '17 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also see all linked posts to the post immediately above, e.g., math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/23269/… $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 15 '17 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ "an SE user must be 13 years of age to participate," but there is no way to enforce this (is there?) and on more than one occasion I have voiced my suspicion that one participant or another was in breach of this regulation. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 15 '17 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson if you have clear reasons to suspect this, please, flag for moderator attention. We sometimes have users that state they are below the age-limit in some form. Such accounts are deleted. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 15 '17 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Perhaps you or another mod can address the asked question, and/or acknowledge it's a duplicate question? $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 15 '17 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy the existing answer is fairly well-aligned with what I believe too. I likely would phrase the second half-sentence a bit differently. Instead I think one should consider both and take some kind of average. I believe I have written about this somewhere not too long ago; maybe I'll look it up. Regarding the duplicate, I do not disagree that it is a duplicate. However, standards and practice evolve and it is thus might be reasonable to redo debates from time to time. Whether or not this is warranted in a particular case is a judgment call. I am indifferent about this particular one. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 15 '17 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ rOkay, @quid. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 15 '17 at 22:50

In my opinion, the "easy--hard" and "well-asked--poorly-asked" axes are orthogonal, and one should generally only pay attention to the latter one.

Empirically, I suppose, questions of the hard & poorly-asked variety may gain some staying power, whereas easy & poorly-asked get swifter retribution. The difference between these may explain what you're seeing a bit.

  • $\begingroup$ I understand what you are saying, @rschwieb , but don't you think there is a lower bound on the "easy--hard" axis? What about $10+9$? And if you say, yes, that is a lower bound, then what is a glb? On your other point, while I agree that they are different axes, I'm not sure that they are orthogonal. From my limited experience, there does seem to be some correlation, although the data is noisy. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Meskin Nov 15 '17 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenMeskin If a post whose main question is $10+9$, and it is well-written, I don't know why I'd exclude it. I think the problem with your example is there probably isn't a way to make a well-written post that asks what $10+9$ is, and so "easy/hard" never comes into play. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Nov 15 '17 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ These questions are similar to "What is $10 + 9$?": what does $−2^2$ evaluate to? , Understanding $−2^2$ and $(−2)^2$, Why is the result of $−2^2=−4$ but $(−2)^2=4$?. $\endgroup$ – user222031 Nov 15 '17 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ The second and third seem like duplicates of the first but the presentation is better than quite a few questions. If the question only had "Calculate $-2^2, (-2)^2.$" in the body and title, then the question would probably get downvoted and closed. However, I'm unsure how much research effort is expected by these types of questions. $\endgroup$ – user222031 Nov 15 '17 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @user222031 In a case like this, the person either understands that $-(2^2)$ and $(-2)^2$ are two different things and is asking which one is the normal interpretation, or else lacks the sophistication to even realize that the two things are different, and hence can't detect why they are unsure of how to proceed. If the OP can manage to express, directly or indirectly, either of these cases, I don't see any reason to exclude the question. In either case, the answer requires more than just a single integer answer. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Nov 15 '17 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ I would probably vote to close math.stackexchange.com/questions/907851/… until it was improved, though. Good examples! $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Nov 15 '17 at 20:47

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