# Just a hint please. [duplicate]

I have seen some posts which mentioned they want only a hint. They want to think about their problem and solve it themselves. Nevertheless some people give an answer, good or poor, even Op insist to it just want a hint, and we post an answer with starting "It might be useful . . . " or something like this. We don't wait for one or two days then give the answer - perhaps for vote -. For this I think it might be useful to have a tag (at the first of tags) name "Just Hint" or "Just Hint please" respect to OP.

Also it may provide by site lock the answer box for some day :).

• I understand your proposal and it might be reasonable, but I do not think a tag will stop users for providing complete solutions. If the OP really wants to work on details on his/her own, better to simply state it in the question. – Jack D'Aurizio Nov 23 '17 at 11:25
• Locking the answer box does not look practical, either. Once a question vanishes from the recent or interesting queues, the chances of being answered decrease a lot. The risk is to ask for hints only, and getting nothing. Not sure if this is better than having a complete answer, even if the original request is for hints only. – Jack D'Aurizio Nov 23 '17 at 11:28
• Good point. Thanks. – Nosrati Nov 23 '17 at 11:31
• Related (duplicate?): Suggestion for “Hint-Only” Tag. – Martin Sleziak Nov 23 '17 at 12:04
• @JackD'Aurizio "If the OP really wants to work on details on his/her own, better to simply state it in the question." I read that MyGlasses, here, in this meta post, is asking about questions in which the asker has already stated they want only a hint. so we are talking about posts where askers already "simply state that fact in the question" – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 21:30
• Sorry @amWhy, I am not in the mood of fighting over words tonight. I meant to state it is enough. I do not think the creation of a tag is appropriate here. – Jack D'Aurizio Nov 23 '17 at 21:44
• @JackD'Aurizio Thankyou for your second and third sentence in your last comment. Please at least give me the credit that when I am seeking clarification as to what you or any other commenters mean, and it doesn't make sense to me, I am sincerely interested in understanding your (or their) point(s) of view. Do not ever dismiss any such question of mine as nothing more than "fighting over words". – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 21:59
• This is a great concern to bring up, @MyGlasses. And I think your suggestion could work nicely. Don't take the reception of the question personally. There are too many folks invested in garnishing more rep, who have never learned how to hint effectively, and so see any pressure not do all the work for someone conscientious enough to ask for "only a hint", as a threat to their possible gain of rep. – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 22:05
• @MyGlasses that's very admirable. but I wanted to point out that the downvotes aren't disagreeing with the fact that requests for "hints only" aren't always being honored. Most likely, the concern is with the suggested solution, not the problem you point out – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 22:16
• In my opinion it'd be best to sunset the entire hints-business (for the most part). There are way too many issues with it, and it is not really in the sprit of the site. That is to say I am against anything that tries to institutionalize it. – quid Nov 24 '17 at 19:44
• @quid Some questions solve by owners and they need just a hint to verify. – Nosrati Nov 24 '17 at 19:48
• I have difficulty to understand what you mean. Could you try to rephrase it. Do you mean that some users solve the question first and then ask for a hint to check their idea? – quid Nov 24 '17 at 19:50
• Then, I am afraid, I do not really see the relevance to this discussion. The reason is that I do not see why it is important to suppress complete solutions in this case. – quid Nov 24 '17 at 19:58
• @quid, I think many of us also degree with your opinion: "In my opinion it'd be best to sunset the entire hints-business". It's a way to help askers who want us to do all their work for them, by providing enough information to get them going, if they're willing to participate in their own work. Else, many of us would simply have to boycott PSQs altogether, only to have rep-seekers hoard to gladly do users work for them. – Namaste Nov 24 '17 at 20:32
• @amWhy (I assume "degree" is "disagree" and not "agree".) Instead of a hint one could just as well give a terse answer, which in some cases might be near identical to what is considered as a hint. Except that it comes with the promise of actually working; and if it does not the person providing it at least has some accountability, as they cannot hide behind it being a hint. – quid Nov 24 '17 at 21:12

Here are several arguments against this:

1. The tag would be a "meta-tag". It would not pertain to the subject of the question. These are generally discouraged, and generally tend to be excessive and unneeded (see the history of the homework tag on this site).

2. The order of the tags is always determined by the number of questions having this tag. So you would have to retag about 80,000 questions into this tag just to ensure that it is going to appear first.

3. The first tag appears in the title of the question, which makes it a hint for search engines. Having "hint" is just useless information in that aspect.

4. Just because there is a tag doesn't mean that someone is going to take it into consideration. There is ample evidence around the site that some people don't care about these things, they are either oblivious to their existence, or they are actively ignoring them. And truth is that a large percentage of the people you think about giving complete answers to hint-only requests are in this category.

5. The tagging system is used for classifying the questions, and to make tracking and searching easier (this is one of the reasons meta-tags are discouraged), and a "hint" tag would detract the whole system.

• The big-list tag is barely used anymore, and these questions are often closed as too broad or opinion based; the soft-question tag is used sparsely enough that it isn't a big issue (and that is an exception to the rule). In either case, a hint tag could probably amass a nontrivial percentage of the questions on the site (let's say 5%, that's still over 40k questions). – Asaf Karagila Nov 23 '17 at 22:16
• Okay, okay, I'll concede on that point. and I'll delete my first comment. But I think there is more to this meta question than: "We need another tag? like or dislike?" I simply think you have some valuable things to say about the basis from which the suggestion arose. – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 22:20
• I agree there is some merit for discussing the community responses to "hint please" questions. But this thread suggests a tag and locking the answers (admittedly, this is probably a joke) as a solution. I'd expect a serious discussion to relate this to previous meta discussions e.g. PSQs or homework, and raise points to here and here. Not just say "Ugh, I hate when people do that, how about adding a tag". It sucks that participating in meta properly can be a difficult task, but that's a big site now to maintain, and it has a lot of history. At least acknowledge these when approaching an issue. – Asaf Karagila Nov 23 '17 at 22:23
• I understand your concerns, and agree adding a tag (or freezing posts from answering) is not a valid solution. And I agree that meta is huge, and needs to be searched just as we expect users to search for questions they have, before posting on main. Maybe we need an altogether new question, or a link to a past question with answers, to address the "over-exhuberance" of answerers who cannot restrain themselves from answering a question fully, ie. doing all the work, despite the not-too-rare-asker who sincerely requests: Please, I'm looking for a hint only! – Namaste Nov 23 '17 at 22:34

Complete answers can be turned into hints by the use of

Spoiler tags

and this is also a friendlier thing to do for future readers; what if they also have this question, but want more than just a hint?

One could encourage the use of spoiler tags on questions that ask for just a hint, please, in a number of ways (in increasing order of dubious forcefulness):

• Leave a boilerplate comment on the question to the tune of "This question asks for a hint. If you want to give a full answer, put everything except the main idea in >! spoiler quotes."
• Edit the question to include similar text, in case people don't read comments (or there's too many comments).
• Edit other people's complete answers, hiding everything except a hint behind >!.

Of course, all of this requires a "hint police" to actually implement, which may not be very practical.

• I'm sorry, but including "spoilers" which solve a question from start to finish, does not a hint make. To me, when someone uses them to answer a question specifically stating "hint only", it's not a hint, but an answer. – Namaste Nov 24 '17 at 18:56
• @amWhy I agree, but it's better than nothing. (And I think that people who currently write complete answers to "hint only" questions would not go along with any reason to remove their complete answers entirely, unless it were an extreme one such as "delete all such answers".) – Misha Lavrov Nov 24 '17 at 18:59
• "Complete answers can be turned into hints by the use of Spoiler tags" Hmmm... actually, complete answers are turned into... complete answers by the use of spoiler tags. What these tags do is mainly to give a good conscience to users who suspect they should not answer the question at all. – Did Nov 24 '17 at 22:25
• @Did: And require a smidgen of extra effort from the reader. – Asaf Karagila Nov 25 '17 at 8:40
• Spoilers obviously are useless for obstructing a lazy learner from just seeing the answer, but they do serve the needs of an asker who genuinely wanted just a hint from accidentally seeing too much. Assuming the hint part of the answer is composed well. Which is exactly the hard part :-) Anyway, spoilers work occasionally. – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 26 '17 at 21:12