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This is a very clear followup to Qiaochu's question: http://meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/9180/proposal-ban-verbatim-homework-questions

The reason that I create a new post is because I want to remove the issue from a homework-related issue to a minimum-quality-standard issue. The current necessary minimum standard for a question on MSE is very low right now. In my opinion, it is too low. Regardless of whether a post originates from a homework set, or someone self-studying, or whatnot, there should be a higher minimum level of effort put into composing the problem.

I propose that we start downvoting and/or closing questions containing nothing else than the statement of a problem. Further, we should leave a comment explaining why the post was closed and encourage posters to show their work and thought process.

To clarify a little, I would downvote/close posts such as https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/370659/interes-prove-this-equation and https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/370035/write-the-equation-of-each-of-the-following-use-the-form-y-a-sqrtbx-hk.

In each of these questions, there is nothing besides a problem statement. I do not think that this is okay.

As an aside, I would like to ask that any comments on this question please be on topic.

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    $\begingroup$ If the community decides that something like this is going to be the official policy (and the number of upvotes in Qiaochu's posts suggests that it is quite probable), it would be nice to have a comment template tailored for this situation, which would explain why the post was closed and what is the OP expected to do, if he wants to get the question reopened. (It is probably too soon to work on it now, since no decision has been made yet, but it's a thing we should keep in mind.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 25 '13 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ Proposal: ban proposals that ban valid mathematical questions. $\endgroup$ – Math Gems Apr 25 '13 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ I already do what is being proposed. You're all welcome to join me! Also, I might need a comment template... $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Apr 25 '13 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ @user17762: to quote from the accepted answer to that thread "...and that the post makes it clear that it is posted as a puzzle". Adding a disclaimer of that sort would technically make it no longer a a post containing "nothing else than the statement of a problem." $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 25 '13 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ @MathGems Feel free to open another thread for your proposal. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Apr 25 '13 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ Might I suggest that, rather than banning questions that are nothing but a problem statement, it might be better to specifically require something? Like, maybe a motivation? Anyone asking a question should know why they're asking it, and the least a user can do is fake a reason. Saying "there must be more than just a problem statement" is a little vague, because you could just as easily go "Solve x^2+2x+3=0" and then follow it with a few lyrics from a song (more likely, they might go "I've tried a few integers that didn't work", which satisfies). More specific should be more easily enforced. $\endgroup$ – Glen O Apr 25 '13 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ @user17762 How legalistic to we need to be? I'd bet almost all of us can almost always (>90% of the time) tell the difference between a lazy, low-quality problem statement and someone who is posing a puzzle to find different solutions. $\endgroup$ – Neal Apr 25 '13 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ I vote not to close this post. $\endgroup$ – user38268 Apr 25 '13 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Neal, I agree that lazy questions are precisely like porn... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Apr 25 '13 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ It deserves mention that the vast majority of these type of questions are homework questions, but we do still have questions like example 1 example 2 which are good questions despite being flatly stated. These good questions wouldn't be hard to rephrase to add some detail, and requiring to do so would (imho) be worth the sacrifice if we improved the overall quality of the questions on the site. Not everyone agrees with me on this, though. I think it would be worth considering ideas for a $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Apr 26 '13 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think I want all questions like this closed. Sometimes these are the result of the OP simply writing in telegraph style. Sometimes it is from a person who has problems expressing him/herself in English. If it has all the earmarks of a HW problem, sure, but... What J.M. says! $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Apr 26 '13 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Jayesh That might work in a system which had a properly designed rep system. But in SE any competent undergrad can easily amass huge rep simply by picking cherries all day long (e.g. calculus questions). So rep has little correlation with expertise needed to judge question quality. Generally, SE rep has little correlation with anything. $\endgroup$ – Math Gems Apr 26 '13 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ And again it’s prohibit, prevent, close, downvote, discourage — in short, take a negative approach. I much prefer to encourage better posts and ignore the ones that I don’t like. And quality is a function not just of the question but also of the person reading it. It’s one thing to express one’s negative opinion of a question’s quality by a comment or even a downvote; it’s quite another to preempt someone else’s less negative opinion. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 27 '13 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael: He’s saying that the same Help, I’m lost! question might indicate fairly extreme cluelessness from one poster and be quite reasonable from another, depending on the kind of course the poster is taking, and that this may not be at all obvious to a voter who hasn’t some teaching experience with both types of course. And I’ll add that those whose teaching experience has been largely with good students frequently badly misjudge the difficulty of problems for the entire range of students. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 27 '13 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ For people with a very uncertain command of English, it may be difficult to describe work done. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas May 1 '13 at 15:29
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The below constitutes an attempt to provide a comment template to accompany down-/close votes. A copy has been placed on the list.


This question is of insufficient quality (Version 6 -- reflect the new "on hold" status)

If necessary, this can be preceded by Hello, welcome to Math.SE.

Your question is phrased as an isolated problem, without any further information or context. This does not match many users' quality standards, so it may attract downvotes, or be put on hold. To prevent that, please [edit] the question. This will help you recognise and resolve the issues. Concretely: please provide context, and include your work and thoughts on the problem. These changes can help in formulating more appropriate answers.

Your question is phrased as an isolated problem, without any further information or context. This does not match [many users' quality standards](http://goo.gl/mLWc8), so it may attract downvotes, or be put on hold. To prevent that, please [edit] the question. [This](http://goo.gl/xQWVb) will help you recognise and resolve the issues. Concretely: please provide context, and include your work and thoughts on the problem. These changes can help in formulating more appropriate answers.

(Note: The link under "This" (which has been shortened to allow for more text) in the comment template should be updated to point to a to-be-created "Proper question formatting" thread in place of the current one, which only deals with homework questions.)


One thing that I would like to see added to this is a word on what to do once the question has been edited -- so as to make it more probable that indeed the negative votes are removed. Suggestions directed at this are appreciated.

In some sense, I think close votes would be more appropriate for this type of question than downvotes, because they are easier to cancel by arbitrary users (using reopen votes and -requests if necessary). This as opposed to downvotes which are more visibile, and can only be cancelled by the person that cast them.

One thing that certainly would help increase the effectiveness of suggested template is a possibility to revoke close votes; see this thread and links there for more information.

Following Jyrki Lahtonen's answer, I think it is good to include a word on the intended use of this template. It is not intended to be cast in stone, nor is its use. Please, always use common sense and your truthful judgement before adding it anywhere. This will help to prevent unnecessary frustration for questioners and the share of people opposing the measures that this template suggests.


Addendum: After having noticed that the comment character limit prohibits people from including the necessary nuance in their statements, I have created a QA Policy Discussion chatroom to circumvent this. All are welcome to share their thoughts to come to a consensus; the only requirements are that one is thoughtful, willing to listen to others, and most importantly, polite.

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    $\begingroup$ It's a good start, but I believe that neither the phrase "copy-pasted from a source" nor the word "homework" should appear in such a comment. The current discussion is not about homework questions, but only about the desired quality of questions we keep open. As such, it would be more neutral to simply state that the quality of the question is in dispute (including points such as it is "impossible" to discern what level of answer would benefit the user, or exactly what about the question is troubling the user). (Likely a "new" How to ask a good question meta-thread should be opened.) $\endgroup$ – user642796 Apr 25 '13 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Arthur I was indeed a bit bothered by the fact that I was referring to "How to ask a good homework question" when the guidelines set out there seem to apply to a more general type of question; I felt there needed to be a comment to explain this. I'll gladly delete the word homework if the link is replaced by one that indicates guidelines for general questions. Would "is phrased as a stand-alone problem" form an adequate replacement for "cp'ed from a source"? $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Apr 25 '13 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ That's looking pretty good to me. Although, I'd suggest "Your question..." $\rightarrow$ "This question..." and to snip "Concretely:". $\endgroup$ – Douglas S. Stones Apr 25 '13 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ I would change the template as: ... This does not match MSE quality standards ... $\endgroup$ – Kasper Apr 26 '13 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ I really appreciate the time you've been putting into this. I also really like the direction the template is going in. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Apr 27 '13 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ If people insist on punishing such questions, I much prefer that they use downvotes. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 27 '13 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Who is talking of punishing the questions? The proposal is to try to avoid the questions in the first place, and when they do appear, try to get the OP to improve them. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Apr 27 '13 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Tobias: I thought it clear that punishing the questions simply refers to closing them, downvoting them, making them harder to ask, etc., and quite a few people are advocating one or more of those practices. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 27 '13 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: If that's what you're talking about, then why did you use the word "punish" which both connotes and denotes something very different? $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Apr 28 '13 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: Because (a) I thought it obvious in context, and (b) that usage falls well within the range of connotations of the word. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 28 '13 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: ... and even if you are talking about punishment, rather than simply closing questions pending improvement, note that (assuming noble intent) the point of a punishment is to correct or deter the offending behavior. An ineffectual punishment is a rather terrible thing, as all it does is cause hard feelings without any positive effect. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Apr 28 '13 at 9:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl: And from my point of view what you want will cause hard feelings with very little positive effect except possibly for those who will be able to postpone a bit longer having to learn to deal with the increased volume. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Apr 28 '13 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian: I've been in favor of this (and stronger) policy from the very beginning. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. The only thing volume has changed is to make ignoring the issue (so as to avoid dealing with this discussion) much less tolerable. $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Apr 28 '13 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ "this does not match many users" preferences would be better. The words 'quality standards' are somewhat condescending, ill-defined, and the subject of some disagreement about whether adding the extra material improves a question. //// Replacing "improvements will" by "changes can" in the last sentence is more neutral and factually correct. //// "make Q more valuable for future visitors" is debatable and can be read as an unnecessary criticism; I suggest to drop it. Lengthening a question with OP's work+context arguably makes it cruftier and more localized, not of more universal value. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 4 '13 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ I added this template to the list of templates: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/4925/… $\endgroup$ – Julian Kuelshammer May 7 '13 at 6:55
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Late to join this party, but there are a few sporadic thoughts I want to share, so here comes anyway.

First and foremost I'm all for culling the weakest questions from here. The fact that they irritate many frequent posters is reason enough! Learning how to filter out some tags was a good start that improved my daily experience, but apparently that is not good enough for everyone (for many a reason).

Also I quite like the evolution of this thread, including its title. "Banning questions with no work shown" was IMHO bad. The current title is better, but I still have some reservations. The goal is to improve the quality of the questions, and some criteria have been listed. Some eager beavers have already gotten to work and started reposting comment templates left and right and airing their pet peeves at newcomers.

I want to call for some flexibility in the application of ALL the listed criteria of quality.

  1. The ability to formulate mathematical thoughts and questions according to the exacting standards of the tradition of our trade is an integral part of the training of a mathematician. That is, indeed, one of the reasons we the teachers want you undergrad students here to formulate your questions unambiguously. However, we should not expect similar standards from non-math majors. It is not always an essential skill for them, and they simply have not been exposed to good mathematical style enough to be able to phrase their own questions well. Yet they are intelligent people worthy of our respect. Also our Charter/FAQ welcomes their questions also! A computer scientist or an engineer who happens to find him/herself in a cryptography course may write here asking about someting on elementary number theory. They are not always fully conversant with the proper terminology, and may not realize the need to list all the necessary assumptions. Yet their questions should be accepted and answered! Some of you may cry: "We cannot answer an underdefined question!" I say, Tough! Learning to "autocomplete" mathematical questions so that they make sense is another integral skill in our trade! If you cannot autocomplete the question yourself, then ask for help in the comments, and/or wait for somebody else who can make sense out of it to show up. My undergrad measure theory professor started his course by stating that he expects us to correct all the mistakes in the homework problems that he assigns us so that they make sense. Before we solve them. To drive this point home: Imagine that you have graduated, and have taken a job in some company. If your boss assigns you a problem to work on, I hope you have the sense not to reply: "But Sir, as stated, your question is trivial and/or does not make sense."
  2. Many seem to think that for a question to be of high quality it should be typeset in beautiful LaTeX. While that is almost a must on some occasions, this strikes me as silly. Do we really teach freshmen to use TeX somewhere? In these parts they have zero use for TeX before they start writing their first practice essays, which typically happens in the Spring of their second year.
  3. I would give the askers of more advanced questions some slack. Specialized questions from advanced undergraduate courses give many of us a chance to learn something ourselves and/or refresh a piece of theory that was half-covered by cobweb in some corner of our brains. Of course, it is not impossible that a student taking an algebraic geometry course is equally lazy as that freshman in a calculus course, but usually they have learned at that point. Also at that level we have more askers in self-study mode (may be somebody at an institute were no local help is available).
  4. This is an international site meaning that you should not always judge askers by your local standards. Everyone here is very understanding of the occasional language mistakes we the furriners commit (thank you!). But there are other factors. If you are studying a textbook written in English, writing out the question is usually easy, but language may form an extra obstacle when trying to describe your own work. Another related thing is that the role of homework problems in grading varies from one region to another. I don't remember what kind of an impact to your grade the HW problems have in the US, but in my courses it goes as follows. In order to earn the right to take the final exam the students must do some minimum number of homework problems. If they do more than the minimum, it will affect their grade, but the effect is minimal, say, up to 5% of the total grade (IOW it is meaningful only in borderline cases). They still copy solutions from pals and such, but learn after a year or two that this won't help them in the finals. This may explain why I am less worried about "cheaters" than some other members. If the cheating aspect is for real, then by all means we should do something about it, my reservations notwithstanding.

But my items #1 and #3 lead me to think that a degree of some extra maturity is required from anyone littering the threads with comment templates calling for some obscure quality standards in the name of the holy Math.SE. Yes, in most of the cases we are talking about it will be obvious that the asker is just logging on to a free do-my-homework-for-me service. But there are cases when more experience is needed (even though the question may look like a botched elementary HW problem). I might want to forbid undergrads from taking action in some cases, quite irrespective of their rep tally, except that it is not politically correct here. So instead I will ask you all to also be aware of your own limitations. I have made such mistakes here myself, so I will testify that it is not easy to diagnose that you really don't know what the question is about even though you initially thought that you should (thinking that if you don't then there's something wrong with the question).

Last (tongue-in-cheek, or may be not). Why do we complain so much about the copy/paste homework problems? I mean, is there a qualitative difference between a copy/paste homework problem and a copy/paste textbook answer? Both are largely relying on somebody else's work to produce the goods. Cousins of CPTA are "Let me google it for ya" - answers. Guilty as charged! But aren't the askers really looking for something they cannot get from their textbooks and/or Wikipedia?

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  • $\begingroup$ +1. I agree with all the points. $\endgroup$ – user17762 May 1 '13 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ Mostly agreed. As one of the alleged "litterers" I would like to emphasize that I try to judge how apt the comment template is before I put it under a question (broadly following conditions like 1 and 3 above). I'll try to increase my efforts in this regard, and I hope the other users of the template (or derivatives of it, I've seen some) will also be thoughtful. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 1 '13 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ Well put, Lord_Farin. I'm not pointing fingers at any particular "litterers". I have just seen some instances I didn't agree with. It is also easy to miss that a question has been improved/edited - possibly as a response to such a comment - so my reaction is also sometimes misguided! As long as we judge the questions case-by-case we will do fine I think. This is NOT a job for an automaton. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 1 '13 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with all of these points. $\endgroup$ – Potato May 5 '13 at 22:39
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I propose that we start downvoting and/or closing questions containing nothing else than the statement of a problem. Further, we should leave a comment explaining why the post was closed and encourage posters to show their work and thought process.

If I look at questions with the most views, answers, and votes this month, then I see a lot of questions that may be closed according to these standards:

I think there around 5-10 questions in the top 50 most popular questions of the month, that should be closed with these "new" closure standards.

I don't think those question self are great. But with closing such a question, you are also closing the (potential) great answers. Instead of closing, I think a more decent way would be to put such questions on hold.

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    $\begingroup$ They are not that great. Some gave rise to good answers. I don't think tey would all magically disappear. Some will be rewritten to confirm to higer standards, some will not. No reason to worry. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Apr 25 '13 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ I hope you realise that closing questions is exactly the manner in which we "put such questions on hold". When a question is closed, it is an indication that there is something not quite right with the question as posed, but the querent (and others) always has the option of editing the question to make it more acceptable. We even have an entire meta-thread devoted to soliciting reopen votes! $\endgroup$ – user642796 Apr 25 '13 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @ArthurFischer Quoting Kundor, who proposed this idea: "It should have friendlier connotations ("Your question is worthwhile, but here's some things we want you to do before we look at it") than closure does." $\endgroup$ – Kasper Apr 25 '13 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's probably just me, but I wouldn't feel the slightest loss if none of them got any answer. $\endgroup$ – Martin Apr 25 '13 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Martin It probably is not just you. But these are all in the top 50 most popular questions of the month. So in general, people on MSE did like it that these question got an answer. I think the reason my post here got so many downvotes is because the audience on this meta doesn't represent the audience on MSE very well. To me it feels a little bit like the elite is going to determine which questions they want to see at MSE. $\endgroup$ – Kasper Apr 25 '13 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Kasper The minimum reputation for upvoting is 15. I'm not sure this is enough for voting to represent te actual stakeholders in MSE. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Apr 26 '13 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ It's interesting to compare your first example with this one $\endgroup$ – Hurkyl Apr 26 '13 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ I highly doubt that Kundor's "hold" functionality will ever be implemented. Furthermore, we shouldn't base solutions to current problems on features that do not currently — and may not ever — exist. While certain users may leave in a huff over their questions being closed, others (the more thoughtful variety, IMHO) should read a comment such as the one proposed in Lord_Farin's answer as a mini-guide to the desired etiquette of math.SE. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Apr 26 '13 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ Closing is the correct way to put a question on hold, and SE is even thinking about changing the language to make it clearer. There are quite a lot of changes planned to closing, I don't see how an additional "on hold" feature would be needed. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Apr 26 '13 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ Of course there will be lots of people who like these questions. There are lots of students who like to get answers without working at all. Chances are there is a fair overlap between these two groups, and at some point I think it's fair to ask whether facilitating this behaviour is conducive to the general state of education, which I believe is the duty of every educated person. $\endgroup$ – user2055 Apr 27 '13 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato ?!?!?! I guess you have no idea what effort means. My motivation may suck, but it is certainly explicit. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker May 20 '14 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato Sorry but you are clearly out of your depth here. If you want to slander Michael, at least do so using a question on a mathematical subject you know something about. $\endgroup$ – Did May 21 '14 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato Yes you are wrong. $\endgroup$ – Did May 29 '14 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato No, since (1) this is apparent to anybody interested in the matter and (2) experience shows that you are actually not interested in explanations. You tried to slander Greinecker because you thought this might allow you to push your specific agenda and you failed, time to move on. $\endgroup$ – Did May 29 '14 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato Read my lips: time to move on. (And repeating as a mantra that the question shows no effort will not make this true.) $\endgroup$ – Did May 29 '14 at 14:06
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Originally from Hurkyl,


To get help from your professor, you should walk into his office, place your homework sheet in front of him, and silently wait for him to give you the answer.

Disrupted, the professor picks up your homework and notices that it is relatively untouched, save for your name on the top. From above the paper line, you see him give you a strange glance.

"Well..." he starts, giving you a prompting gesture.

"Well, could you help me with the problems?" you respond.

"Hm, do you want me to do your homework for you?"

"Well, no, I just want some help with them."

"...and what have you tried?" he asks, setting the homework sheet back down.

"I have no idea where to start."

"Then can I see your notes?"

"Uh... no, I left them at home."

"Well," he says, handing you back your papers, "I suggest you come back tomorrow with those notes."

Frustrated, you get up. You are about to leave when you hear the professor call you again.

"Oh, and I'd suggest you come back having attempted some of the problems too."

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  • $\begingroup$ Except that, the only problem is that it is easy to return to the professor than to reopen a closed question. $\endgroup$ – A---B Sep 11 '17 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ @A---B Well, the professor has an obligation and gets paid for this kind of stuff, but we don't. (Btw, aren't you forgetting a particular chat meet up?) $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 11 '17 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ True to some degree. (Sadly I did not receive the ping about the chat.) $\endgroup$ – A---B Sep 11 '17 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ (Hard to ping someone who doesn't show up lol) $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 11 '17 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ (Arguable but true). $\endgroup$ – A---B Sep 11 '17 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ @A---B It may be easy to return to the professor. It is easy to reopen a closed question. $\endgroup$ – Did Sep 11 '17 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Did Can you give me some examples of questions from < 100 rep users that were closed and reopened ? $\endgroup$ – A---B Sep 14 '17 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @A---B Not sure about < 100 rep (nor how it relates), but see here, here, and some stuff here. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Sep 14 '17 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ @A---B You seem to think it is difficult to reopen a closed question. Given the mechanisms devoted exactly to this operation, I am surprised. $\endgroup$ – Did Sep 15 '17 at 6:02
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We will see how this works in reality, but one of the possible drawbacks of this proposal my be an increase on workload on the users.

Ideally, if a question containing only problem statement is posted, then:

  • The questions is closed with a comment what can be improved. (5 users are of reputation at least 3000 are needed for this; it make take some time from them, since the decision is not always clear-cut. Sometimes this might lead to a longer discussion in comments whether the question should really be closed or not.) And perhaps before closing on this ground we should also search for duplicates; which also requires work. (But we are supposed to do this with new questions anyway, regardless of this proposal.)
  • The OP writes an improved version.
  • If the improvement does not seem sufficient, some of more experienced users leave comments what else can be improved.
  • If the edited post looks good, someone posts a reopen suggestion on meta and we again need 5 users (with rep$\ge$3000) to do this.

It is always possible that only a fraction of the questions will be improved, so maybe usually only 5 people who vote to close the question will be needed; which is not that bad.

(But I have to admit that I do not have a better solution that the one already proposed; so even if there are some downsides to it, it still might be the best way to go.)

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3
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I noticed that some posters counter the comment-template with a question-templates: copy-pasted text in which a problem statement is wrapped. One example (seen in multiple posts to which I do not link)

I want to solve the example below, but I can not.

[Problem statement goes here.]

Please, you will be very grateful if someone would help resolve the communities in this example. Previously thank you.

I don't think that the addition of such a wrapper achieves anything in terms of question quality. Presumably, one could ignore the wrapper and demand more original text from the poster. Considering the language barrier, I don't think that would lead very far.

So here comes yet another proposal.

Tag questions that are nothing besides a problem statement as problem-statement.

And a few bullet points:

  • The standard phrases such as "I can't solve this", "How to solve this", "I need help", "Help please", "Thank you in advance" should not be a factor in whether a question qualifies as problem-statement.

  • The tag could be applied by anyone with privilege to retag questions, including the OP of course. Whether a post is a problem-statement can be objectively determined; in this the proposed tag is different from homework.

  • The tag wiki should encourage the poster to provide the source of the problem, possibly mentioning potential copyright issues.

  • One could object that problem-statement is a meta tag which are discouraged. But it actually does describe the content of the post. It is less "meta" than the existing homework tag. And it seems that for many users problem-statement tag would be useful in deciding whether to engage with the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Note the first comment at meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/9180 suggesting to do everything that one might want to do with policies, with tags instead. I don't care for the idea of using it to accelerate question closings, but it would have the benefit of making it visible how many questions of this type there are, and how many are closed. It is also consistent with both the pro- and anti-closing positions to add more tags and use them to improve reading and filtering, including finding questions to close or reopen. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 3 '13 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the first half of your answer: wrapping the question in a wrapper does nothing to improve question quality. However, dealing with this by introducing a "meta tag" does not seem like a good solution. SE generally frowns on "meta tags", as past experience has shown they lead to problems: disputes, editing wars. Tags are meant to help people use search to find related problems, not as a punishment. (Also, original posters aren't going to know to mark their question with a problem-statement tag.) And even if others add the tag, it's not clear how the tag itself will help. $\endgroup$ – D.W. May 13 '13 at 22:07
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Be careful what you wish for. Have you thought well about possible implications of your proposal? Here are some I came up with.

(1) There are great many good questions containing nothing else than the statement of a problem. Under your proposed rule, all of them should be closed.

(2) You are actually demanding a question to be personalized or localized. Let us take for example this question. You are demanding that he tell us which part of the particular proof he doesn't understand. Suppose you tell him how he can complete his proof along his line and he accepts your answer. The case is closed and we miss all the other different(and possibly better) proofs each of which has its own merit.

(3) A mathematically mature user may not like to explain how he tried to solve a problem, because he knows that there are various approaches to it. When his question is closed under your rule, he might well be offended and leave the site. In the end, this site might be full of homework-type questions explaining where they stuck.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding your point (3): I fail to understand why anyone would want to not share their progress, purely because there might be a different way to approach it. Regarding point (2): When the OP marks an answer as accepted, that doesn't prevent people from still answering the question. Regarding point (1): Just because a question contains good mathematics doesn't make it a good question. Routinely, there are mathematically interesting questions that are very difficult to answer satisfactorily because the asker has left out critical information about background and available tools. $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 21 '14 at 6:01
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    $\begingroup$ I also don't see how the linked question is related to the point you make in (2). The asker has mentioned their efforts and has a (very) partial idea of how to proceed with a proof - I don't think anyone is suggesting that questions like this be closed. (And there's no particular proof he mentions - his point is that he doesn't know a proof). $\endgroup$ – user61527 May 21 '14 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers [Regarding your point (3): I fail to understand why anyone would want to not share their progress, purely because there might be a different way to approach it.] Because explaining how one tries to solve a mathemetical problem and where he is stuck and asking help along his line are personal and localized. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato May 23 '14 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato not that it matters: "When I was a new member of this site, I didn't much care about my reps. But I changed my mind after I noticed what I said above." Originally you said that you didn't care about rep when you was new(hence when you had low rep), now you do care(as of a few months ago) and you had high rep then and now. Now you are saying the exact opposite thing. Low you cared, high you don't. That being said, (+1) to this answer, I do agree mainly with point (2). $\endgroup$ – Display Name Jun 3 '14 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ The comments were deleted simultaneous to my comment...?? Moderator? $\endgroup$ – Display Name Jun 3 '14 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ @DisplayName [Now you are saying the exact opposite thing.] No, I am not. I realized (when I had low reps) that a low rep user has various disadvantages. So I changed my mind. Understood? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Jun 3 '14 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MakotoKatob I suppose it really depends on your definition(range of time) of 'new user'. So you do or don't care about reps? You just implied that you do, but above(deleted now), you said that you didn't, hence Asaf(?) called you out on it. $\endgroup$ – Display Name Jun 3 '14 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DisplayName Let A be the time when I registered in this site. Let B be the time when I realized that a low rep user has various disadvantages. Let C be the time when I gained rather high reps, say 10,000. During the period between A and B, I didn't care about my reps. During the period between B and C, I did care about my reps. During the period between C and the present time I don't care about my reps. Understood? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Jun 3 '14 at 6:39

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