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I think the current answer is too vague for a lot of people (me) to properly understand and possibly even misleading. I would like to try and get exactly sort of questions are good and what aren't so that we can write a very clear and precise statement about that on the FAQ.


My understanding is that good questions are essentially ones that can be answered with one caveat..

Stuck people asking for a nudge or push or a counterexample e.g. "how do I compute/solve/prove this" seem to be quite good and tend to have definitive answers (of course sometimes there are questions of this form which seem to stem from laziness and that is a difficult thing to sort out).

The caveat is questions by people struggling with understanding or intuition asking for exposition or explanation also seems to be a good type - but these ones do not tend to have a clear cut answer i.e. you can only really say an answer to that sort of question is wrong (because of technical issues) but it's difficult to say an answer to this type of question is ever right.. unless it switched a lightbulb on for the questioner.

The previous type of question is different than philosophical musings about existence of mathematical entity or interpretations of infinity though. I think this sort of question is difficult to cope with because often they are very mislead and the person asking the question can have their mind made up already which results in a lot of frustration for everyone.. but on the other hand they can be very fruitful if asked well - especially questions about pragmatics and motivation like "why is such and such defined in this way".

Big lists of things are frowned upon, probably because the effort the questioner puts in compared to the combined effort of those answering is very high? It's easy to ask this sort of question and ignore a lot of the answers too - but one should keep in mind a big part of posting useful answers online is that people searching the internet can come across them in the future (long after the discussion is over).

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Evidenced by theads like this https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/1890/fixed-point-theorem-subject-to-f2xfxx apparently it's important to 'motivate' the questions you ask. I don't really understand why maybe someone can elaborate on this.

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    $\begingroup$ In the context of that particular question, it helps convince answerers that they are not just doing someone's homework for them. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 11 '10 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ Motivation is also a way to tell if someone is asking the wrong question. Often they are trying to complete a step in a proof or something and are going about it in a misguided way and it's important to know when this is happening or else everybody is just wasting time. (As a general rule of thumb, new users on math.SE don't provide enough information when they ask questions and should be providing more.) $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Oct 11 '10 at 9:41

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