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Me again. Blind application of that criterion "ideally including any attempts you have made to solve it" just seems silly for some problems.

Consider this question. Seems like an excellent question to me - surely it's at least curious that such a bad question got four upvotes?

I mean I understand the point to the "missing context... include your attempts to solve it" thing - we want to discourage students from thoughtlessly asking routine questions that can be solved by standard methods covered in class. But this question is not that - if someone asked this question in class I'd be infinitely pleased to have such a thoughtful student.

Seems to me the difference between this question and the typical PSQ question that deserves to be closed is that MSE is a better place with this question than without it.

The "context" is clear from the, erm, context: We know that if $f$ is continuous it has an antiderivative; what sort of weaker result can we obtain under weaker hypotheses?

And regarding attempts to solve it, it's an actual problem, not an exercise - I spent all morning yesterday thinking about it and there's more or less nothing I could say about my "attempts to solve it". I mean I didn't "attempt" to make $F(x)=\int_0^x f(t) dt$ work because it's immediately obvious that the integral need not exist. And I have no idea what else I might "attempt".

Hence, to satisfy the people who are going to ask what my question is:

Question: Can anyone give me a hypothetical example of something the OP might have said about "attempts to solve it"?

If yes that would be great, might help me solve it. If, as I suspect, no, then closing it for that reason just seems wrong.

(Before making insulting conjectures regarding my motivation here you should note that I saw the OP had accepted my answer before seeing the question had been closed, and my reaction was to comment that the answer really shouldn't be accepted, since after all it didn't actually answer the question. Of course my saying that leads to the question of what the point to my answer was. The point was to point out that a counterexample must be fairly hairy, to save people from wasting time trying to construct counterexamples that can't possibly work.)

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    $\begingroup$ Blind application of that criterion "ideally including any attempts you have made to solve it" just seems silly for some problems. Sure, I agree. That is why we have multiple methods to supply context, because we can't always rely on each one individually to be present. Are you under the impression that this one phrase is a deal-breaking criterion that people rely on for closing questions? Maybe for some, but I don't think many. In the case you mention, I think context could be pulled into this post from the previous related posts and the context passes muster. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ In other words, this question about "what could have been said about attempts to solve it" is misguided, the straw-man being that the forum rules closed the question for that specific reason (and not for other reasons) A question can have sufficient context without much in the way of a solution. The preceding questions for that user that led up to this question is a great example. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @rschwieb Well, strawman or not, that's the reason given. And I can't think of another reason people might have had. Regarding pulling in context from the previous related posts, the OP did include links to two related posts... (Oh, maybe I misunderstood you - perhaps your point was that the OP did supply context this way?) $\endgroup$ – David C. Ullrich Jul 19 '18 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ It is not the reason given: it is one of many pieces of generic advice beneath the reason given. Context takes many forms, not just attempts to solve. And, as I mention, I think the question has barely enough context to continue as opened. But I disagree with the premise of this post, that's all. If it hadn't already been reopened before I could cast a reopen vote, my name would be on the list. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ It also looks a bit like many of the poster's questions are weakly supported, so that may have had something to do with it. Like it or not, we all have to find some way of compromising in order to handle users who just simply post hard questions without context. I bet, though, if you went straight to the Reopen thread, it would have sailed through to reopening too. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ I voted to reopen. I have no idea what/where this "reopen thread" might be... $\endgroup$ – David C. Ullrich Jul 19 '18 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps it is worth saying that the full text of the missing context close reason is this (it includes the link): "This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level." $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 19 '18 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ I'm also of the opinion that not every question should require such song and dance. A directly stated, sufficiently interesting question inherently satisfies its own requirements for context, if you ask me, at least from a closure standpoint. This is why people should not be voting based on question format alone. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Jul 19 '18 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ Re: This is now moot, since the question in question has been reopened. Well, as you can see, the question already has a close vote now, so maybe there is no hurry to remove the meta thread. And since even among experienced users there seemed to be lack of clarity in what ways can context be provided, I think that discussion could be useful even if the question has already been reopened. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 19 '18 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidC.Ullrich Here's the thread: Requests for Reopen & Undeletion Votes (volume 07/2018 - today) An incarnation of this thread has been around for at least four years continuously, I think, and is referenced by numerous meta threads. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Thanks, but I don't see how the full text changes anything here. First/again, I don't see what she could have said about her attempts, and nobody's made any suggestion in that regard. Is there is in fact nothing she could say about that then the rest of the text, explaining why it would be a good thing, seems irrelevant. "helps others identify where you have difficulties": Right, if it's a routine question. But here, since nobody has any idea how to solve it, people can't point out what she's missing... $\endgroup$ – David C. Ullrich Jul 19 '18 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidC.Ullrich That would be tantamount to removing closure entirely, since 5 accounts could re-open every question permanently. But yeah, it also seems suboptimal to have no controls on how often/fast a question goes open/shut. Hard to do without tying the hands of our progeny and future selves. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 19 '18 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidC.Ullrich I think the existing practice is already quite fair: when a user voted to close a post (and the post is closed because of their vote), they cannot vote to close it again if the post is reopened. $\endgroup$ – user99914 Jul 19 '18 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ @rschwieb There is some limit on how often/quickly a question can cycle between open and closed, as one can only cast one close vote per question (perhaps per unit of time?). Thus once a question is reopened, the original closers cannot re-close it. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Jul 19 '18 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidC.Ullrich You keep asking for something else that the original asker could have added to improve the question. On a question like this, some explanation of why the question is interesting might be in order. For example your non-answer answer does a nice job of showing why the question is interesting, and several of the comments below that answer provide additional context. I would also like to suggest that the question you should be asking is not "What else could the OP have done?" and instead ask "What else can the OP do now?", with the goal being to end up with a good question. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Jul 19 '18 at 16:17
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I will repeat that the full text of the banner displayed after the question is put on hold looks like this:

This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level.

In particular, it links to: How to ask a good question. This FAQ item has also a section called Provide Context. You can see there that showing your own attempts is not the only possibility how to add context. In fact, many users advocate that other forms of context are quite often better (although perhaps they might be more difficult to provide by the asker). See the discussion here: Can we stop the “Show your work craze”?.

So even in the cases where it is difficult for the OP to show their work, they might have other options.


The question you are asking about at the time when it was closed looked like this:

Let $f:\mathbb{R}\to \mathbb{R}$ be continuous at $x$ for every $x\in I$ where $I\subset \mathbb R$ . Does there always exist a function $F:\mathbb{R}\to \mathbb{R}$ differentiable on $I$ and $F'(x) = f(x)$ for every $x \in I$. ?

Correct definition of antiderivative function

Existence of an antiderivative for a continuous function on an arbitrary subset of $\mathbb{R}$

You said yourself in the question here on meta:

The "context" is clear from the, erm, context: We know that if $f$ is continuous it has an antiderivative; what sort of weaker result can we obtain under weaker hypotheses?

The OP did not mention even that they know this.

Moreover, there were two links (one to another question, the other one to an answer) in the question without even mentioning what is the purpose of those links.

The same user asked several questions close to this one:

Adding a few words what the OP learned from those question and how they are actually different from this one could count as context too.

Personally, I would consider something like this certainly a sufficient context. (Although I'd guess I'm much less strict about context than most users.)

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