23
\$\begingroup\$

After checking the stats on custom closing messages, homework seems to come up at least 30% to 50% of the time. Because of this, creating a custom closing message would be beneficial.

Homework questions are allowed on this site if there has been a solution attempted, without a solution the question should be closed (there are unscrupulous posters that post questions straight from a text book without attempting or even post cell phone pics straight from exams).

A suggestion on a message would be this:

I’m voting to close this question because homework needs an attempt at a solution. Provide the solution, edit the question and reopen your question

If you have any suggestions on a message post below

Edit:

For anyone looking at this for the status review, we need the question count to be increased on the site so we can add more close reasons. I think ours is suck at 3, we'd like 4 or possibly 5.

\$\endgroup\$
2
19
\$\begingroup\$

YES, please.

DSP.SE has such a close reason:

This question appears to be homework. Complete answers to homework are off-topic, but specific questions about homework are acceptable if they include enough detail. Please edit the question to include more background about what you don't understand.

(emphasis theirs!)

And honestly, it's the best thing since sliced bread the FFT, because it is a very crisp statement.

Of course, there's the students that in all honesty just want help. And these actually get a positive way forward, and usually start editing¹ and improve the question up to a point of being sensibly reopened or refered to a duplicate. The brutal truth is that thinking about which question to ask is often the solution already.

Then there's those who start to argue "it's not homework, I just randomly came across this totally constructed example", "I just want an answer", "if you can't help, don't put down other people's questions"; and you can just ignore these, they are exactly the type of volunteer time bloodsuckers you don't want to encourage.

Problem

We can only have a limited number of close reasons, three. So we'd need to decide which one has to go, or ask for an additional slot.


¹ ok, that paints a bit of an overly positive picture; many skip the "please edit your question", and just starts commenting, but it's a good start.

\$\endgroup\$
11
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Merging usage and repair sounds good to me; maybe open another meta question for that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Sep 19 '20 at 2:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hearth I can do that, but as far as I can tell, Voltage Spike hasn't yet marked this question answered – and as engineers, let's be be certain that we agree on the problem before proposing a solution. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20 '20 at 16:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Given the limitation, really, the homework close reason should be system-wide, not custom \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20 '20 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but I don't think we'll be able to convince SE of that – especially since there's explicitly homework-open SE sites like mathematics.SE (as opposed to MathOverflow.SE). I'd rather address the limitation. It seems pretty arbitrarily low. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20 '20 at 17:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So there's definitely a general rule, but it's likely more philosophical then technical. For example, StackOverflow has SIX custom close reasons instead of the three we're allowed. So I suggest that the "community supported option" be "We need a fourth custom close reason for homework". \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Sep 23 '20 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO that's knowledge I didn't have! \$\endgroup\$ Sep 23 '20 at 7:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What the community managers want is for an explicit and well bounded request, with the appropriate amounts of community support (votes). A mod can interact with a CM to see the feasibility of such a request, and what it would take to make a convincing argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Sep 23 '20 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO aha! Sadly, lately I see a reduced community activity on meta.EE (that might be subjective), though, so we'd really need to foster this. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 23 '20 at 13:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So hypothetically, a mod could show this question to CMs (e.g. in the Teachers Lounge) and get feedback on whether this is enough community support, or if a separate, bounded meta question is needed, or if the answer is just a hard no. Meta has always been an out-of-the-way place. Activity there is generally when people are trying to get something done, or when people are complaining. A post like this could always be featured to improve visibility on the main site. \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Sep 23 '20 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome! Seeing that OP is @voltagespike ♦, I'd guess discussing this has moderator support. Featuring it on the side bar would sound like a fantastic idea. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 23 '20 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I support this addition of a close reason. The frequency with which we see OPs asking for solutions with no demonstration of work or attempt to solve feels rather high. \$\endgroup\$
    – JYelton
    Sep 30 '20 at 17:16
5
\$\begingroup\$

Once upon a time, SO had such a "homework" tag and once explicitly required that someone asking a question had to demonstrate a minimum of knowledge in the topic, such as actually making an attempt to solve the problem themselves.

This system was removed by SO the company, in the start of the "quantity over quality" era that begun once Atwood left the company. They tried to mask it as if it was some "community consensus" but all calls were made by CMs and devs. (See this, I wrote that in early 2014) The company does not want us to close inane homework questions, since somewhere around 2013. They want to generate maximum traffic. If you try to push out a different agenda than them, you'll be up against it.

So even if you manage to push through this proposal "under the radar", chances are that the close reason will eventually get found and clubbed to death by SO employees. The only viable longterm solution to avoid inane homework questions seems to be founding a new community which isn't ruled by a commercial private company. Then we can use whatever close reasons we please.

\$\endgroup\$
4
\$\begingroup\$

I love the idea, but the message isn't perfect yet. It's not so much that homework questions need an attempt at a solution, but that there needs to be some indication of where the student is lacking understanding. Otherwise, the question is usually "too general". I often use "too general" to vote to close such questions, but that message isn't particularly helpful to the student.

Just messaging "you need to provide an attempted answer" also doesn't provide explanation as to why the attempted answer is needed. Often, the point of lack of understanding is provided in the way of an attempted solution, but there are certainly other ways.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What about Please edit the question to include more background about what you don't understand.? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 '20 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ "... to highlight your point of confusion or misunderstanding" might work, but might also dissuade personal attempts, which wouldn't be ideal. The message I'd like to bring across is that asking for an attempt at a solution isn't busy work, and that the request is for a real reason \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6 '20 at 23:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ To give potential answerers an indication where to start, it's necessary that you explain what you've tried and where you need assistance understanding to help you proceed, maybe? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 '20 at 9:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. If there's room "Showing your own attempts to solve is often of great help in this process" \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 '20 at 16:29
0
\$\begingroup\$

Right now y'all are using the three slots allowed for a site by default - it's not a matter of them being stuck, that's just the default for everyone. We can expand the slots to four or five - five is the max - but we tend to do so thoughtfully to ensure that there's a strong need for it.

Many of the requests we get for this come from sites that have used the three slots but one of the close reasons they have active currently gets very little usage and so we recommend that they retire an unused reason rather than having a fourth one. This is important because the close UI can already be somewhat confusing and muddying the system with superfluous close reasons exacerbates that issue. We're doing a lot to improve that experience so hopefully that won't be as big of an issue moving forward.

The first thing that I do when I get a request like this is to review the 10k user tools that show the close stats for the site over the last period of time if you have 10k reputation here, you can view the last 90 days by clicking this link. If you don't have 10k, I'll show you what it looks like here:

Screenshot of the 10k close tools page, showing the usage of all the close reasons over the last 90 days. Description in following paragraph of text.

Here you can see the usage of the different close reasons the big ones in the first five rows are the ones on the "community specific" page of reasons, so the three custom ones for EE along with the catch-all "other" and the migration option (belongs on another site). Of the three custom ones, your repair reason is used the least, only used on 5.23% of questions overall - now, this is a small percentage but since y'all close quite a few questions, it's still 70 questions, or about one per day. The other two are nearly triple that, around 13.5% each.

Considering this, I'm willing to increase the number of slots to four but I'd really like y'all to think about your close reason more carefully - not because I think the reason you want to add is bad - you're already using it as the most-created reason for the "other" option:

Screenshot of further down on the 10k page where it shows the list of other options. The word" homework is highlighted in many of the items on the list, indicating that this reason in various forms is very common.

There were 70 questions over the last 90 days closed with some variation of the homework close reason and - well, I'm supporting making this a close reason for the minimal reason that some of the messages that have been created weren't necessarily very kind:

I’m voting to close this question because this is homework, dumped on us, without any own effort and without even asking a question of one's own understanding.

I’m voting to close this question because stack exchange isn't a homework solved on demand service.

I understand that it can be frustrating to see these questions over and over and even to have a request like this one in place to get it made an official reason makes you hopeful and looking forward to a time you don't have to recreate the text over and over.

So, what I'm asking is that y'all come up with a few things - close reasons are much more complex now than they were when your last reason was added. Now, rather than only needing one piece of text that did all the work, you can now target the text to different audiences. So, rather than one, you need five elements:

  1. Brief description - this is the Bold part of the close reason that appears in the close vote UI when closers are voting to close the post. It's the equivalent of "Needs more focus". For this, maybe something like "Homework"?
  2. Usage guidance - this tells close voters when to use this close reason. So, you could put something like:

    This question is about a homework problem but is missing additional details such as the asker's attempt at a solution and an explanation of what they do not understand.

  3. Post notice close description - visible to all users. This is a general note about why the question was closed. It can include links to resources that explain the site's policy. An example might be:

    This question was closed because it is about a homework problem but doesn't provide sufficient information to be answered. It is not currently accepting answers.

  4. Post owner guidance - this additional information appears in the post notice but only for the asker of the question. It should contained detailed information about how they can improve their post and may also include links to help here on meta or in the help center. For example:

    While we will not provide the answers to your homework, we can help you understand how to get to the correct answer. To do this, we need you to edit the question to include more details including what work you have already done and the solution you came up with and specific information about where you are stuck on solving this problem.

  5. Privileged user guidance - this additional information appears in the post notice but only for users with the close/reopen privilege. It is designed to help them know how to guide the asker in improving their question or inform them when the question should be reopened. You might say something like:

    Please guide the user with specifics on how they can improve their homework question - if some of the details are in the comments, consider editing the question to include them. If the necessary information is added to the question, please vote to reopen it.

Y'all have a ton more context than I do, so I assume you can do a better job of crafting these elements than I can but I do hope that this gives you some help in how to do this. You have 500 characters to work with for the last four of these. The first is much shorter (100 characters). Please let me know if you have any questions. Once you've completed this, ping me and I'll get a developer to increase the number of close reasons for you.

Additionally, if y'all would like to follow this format for your existing close reasons, please do drafts for them here on EE Meta and a CM can edit the existing reasons to follow this pattern (have a mod tag the discussion once you've settled on the text). Since moderators can not edit the close reasons, you'll need a CM to help with that but we're happy to do it if you wish.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • \$\begingroup\$ We were able to punch in all the information for this (it still should be there) and did that a few months ago, and it should be there, but it wouldn't let us post the close reason because we are stuck at three, we'd like to increase that to 4 and we should be good to go. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Mar 18 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see that but the text you have in there doesn't follow the guidance above - could you review what I've written and see how it differs? \$\endgroup\$
    – Catija StaffMod
    Mar 18 at 22:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, let me discuss that with @SamGibson and we'll get back to you. Thanks for looking at this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    Mar 18 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoltageSpike - Hi, I think I understand a plan for what needs to be done, with the kind help from Catija, and will discuss with you. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Mar 19 at 2:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .