I understand that there has been a lot of debate about PSQ's and I believe, we have decided to leave a comment explaining that the OP should some thought on the problem so it is not an "isloated problem" but even if we post the following comment

Your question is phrased as an isolated problem, without any further information or context. Please provide context, and include your work and thoughts on the problem. These changes can help in formulating more appropriate answers.

And people agree with it, by thumbing it, there are people who still post the answer! What's the point of having that comment, explaining to the OP that their question, the way it is presented, is not appropriate for the site when people still posts hints and answers? (For example, this) Even crazier, is the fact that when the post had -3 votes to indicate that it was not fit, it got 3 upvotes! How does make any sense? The OP of such questions will just think

It was okay here, even though they told me not to, I still got answers. So who cares then, I'll just continue to do this

What is your opinion on this? Shouldn't something be done? Because, posting the comment otherwise, is somewhat redundant.

EDIT: The vote count has now chandged since I downvoted the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely; this completely defeats the purpose. It seemed like, initially, that the previous discussions were about moderators rapidly closing such questions, to be re-opened after editing. But, for some reason, this didn't happen. $\endgroup$ – Douglas S. Stones May 14 '13 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ I mean, everybody can continue to vote as they please. The kind of meta discussions do not produce a binding code of conduct or something like that. Many members do take the majority view into account when making their voting decisions, but some choose to ignore it, there is nothing to be done about it. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 14 '13 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Being one of those to answer the question linked above, I will say that when I started writing up my answer, the comment did not appear in my browser. It showed up when I submitted my answer. I had actually answered more fully, and when I saw the comment, I removed the last part and left some for the reader. I did consider the fact that the question was pretty minimal, or "isolated", but it is one of those problems that if you have no idea where to start, it is like banging your head on the wall. There seemed little use in asking what had been tried only to find they have no idea what to do. $\endgroup$ – robjohn May 14 '13 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ I have mixed feelings about how many PSQs are being handled (often the response seems discouraging to new users). However, I do feel strongly that downvoting good answers is wrong. Complete answers to homework are still to be avoided, however. $\endgroup$ – robjohn May 14 '13 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ For the record: on my first day here (or was it the second?) I got a downvote for posting a complete solution to a homework problem. My first reaction was WTF? But I did realize that I had given too much help. And probably somebody just wanted to send a new guy a signal not to do that again. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 14 '13 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Also: I agree with more or less everyting robjohn says above. Some posters are a bit trigger-happy with this template. I might make it a rule that before it is posted, the poster should have a reasonable idea on how to proceed with the question, and be able to give hints. On some questions it is perfectly possible to get stuck at the starting gate. Quite a bit of experience is needed. I deal with these on a case-by-case basis. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 14 '13 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ IMO it can certainly be sufficient "effort shown" to have a line stating "I'm completely stuck and have no idea how to proceed". Giving this information to the answerers will likely make the answers more useful to the OP as well. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 14 '13 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ @robjohn My reason for wanting to close these questions was that I think complete answers to all PSQs should be prevented. My guess (which I am very confident in) is that close to all users posting such questions are attempting to learn something, whether from a book or from a course, and giving complete answers to exercises is extremely unhelpful, because it skips a large part of the learning process. Forcing people to communicate with the OP in comments encourages hints and discussion rather than complete answers. $\endgroup$ – mdp May 14 '13 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Etiquette for Downvoted Questions. From the top voted answer (+26 as of now): "some users thought the question was ill posed or ill suited to the site... If you disagree with those users, you have no obligation to refrain from answering the question. It's as much your right to think the question is worth answering as it's the right of those other users to think the question was bad." $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 14 '13 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Here is my observation of the way things worked before the PSQ talks: moderators get auto-flagged that a certain user has had a lot of questions closed due to low quality, and we send them a message that their questions need to be improved (with a possible suspension). This may not have as quick a turnaround, but it certainly grabs their attention. $\endgroup$ – robjohn May 14 '13 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ " giving complete answers to exercises is extremely unhelpful" ---- not giving complete answers can also be unhelpful. The Educational Constructivist philosophy that a learner has to generate everything on their own to understand it can be actively harmful if it denies opportunities to see a coherent flow of ideas (vs one that haphazardly arrives at the end result) using correct calculations and logic. True model solutions are extremely valuable but unfortunately rarely available for learners. SE interface allows better worked out examples than in books, classes and solution manuals. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 14 '13 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx Refusing to ever give a complete answer is unhelpful I agree - but I can think of no situation where it would be strictly more helpful to instantly give a complete answer rather than a hint to a student who has no idea how to start a problem. Some time spent playing around with the problem is even useful for remembering the definitions and identifying things that one doesn't understand properly. $\endgroup$ – mdp May 14 '13 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not suggesting that the student should never see a complete answer, or that they should have an answer at all before they see one, but they should do something towards the problem, or they'll never develop problem-solving skills. At least some communication with the OP is necessary to determine what their needs are, and if you think they'd benefit from a full answer then so be it - but if they just post a problem verbatim then they have communicated almost nothing to you at all. $\endgroup$ – mdp May 14 '13 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Matt , at the rates a typical class assigns problems for solution, it is a rare OP who will post more than a small fraction to MSE. Some selection process is going on, by difficulty presumably, and this means in most cases some degree of engagement with the problem has occurred and the poster is stuck, confused/unaware about some basic ideas, or otherwise in a situation where hints could just move them to a slightly less foggy place from which they can stumble to a solution, instead of dispelling the fog. One problem solving skill is to recognize one is clueless - OPs have done that well! $\endgroup$ – zyx May 14 '13 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ I am uncomfortable with the line "...I believe, we have decided to leave a comment explaining that the OP should some thought on the problem..." and with @JyrkiLahtonen's line "Many members do take the majority view into account when...". I am uncomfortable because I believe the majority of users did not partake in the discussions, and many probably do not know or do not care about these meta threads. So really, these statements are about "the majority of people who took part in a specific thread or sequence of threads". The whole community was not consulted. $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 17 '13 at 13:50

Even though the "community" may agree on something, it certainly doesn't mean that all the individuals do. The people who don't think that the question is suitable show this by posting such comments, not answering the question and (sometimes) voting to close. The people who think these types of questions are valid are well within their rights to vote the question back up, post answers and vote to re-open.

It may seem contradictory, but that is because the community has conflicting views, and those in favour of such questions have more power in the issue then those that aren't. People who don't like such questions can refuse to answer, and possibly vote to close (although this requires five users, can be undone, and is still a controversial option at the moment.) If a user approves of such a question and posts an answer, it doesn't matter if $20$ others have already decided not to answer it, the answer is still there.

As to what should be done, I don't think that there is a lot to be done. The issue has been discussed a lot on meta, to the point where I suspect that anyone who reads it has developed their own opinion. At the end of the day, meta discussions are a way for people to think about issues and to decide for themselves how to act. Everyone still has a right to answer whichever questions they want, and vote how they like, even if it is an "unpopular" opinion.


Technically, PSQ's don't break any current community rule, so right now this is where the community stands on it;

  • If you like the question and you feel like up-voting, go ahead.
  • If you're offended by it and you feel like down-voting, go ahead.
  • If you're offended by it and you think you've enough time to add a comment, go ahead.
  • If you want to answer the question with or without regard to how you feel about PSQ's, go ahead.
  • Even if you feel it is worth flagging, then go ahead. The mods will deal with it. If the question is extremely poor in quality, I'm sure the mods know what to do.

A lot of people have different opinions and sentiments about PSQ's and unless the community reaches an agreement (or at least enforces one), the situation remains chaotic.


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