Similar to what I described in another meta post I've just seen a first time user become a "suspect" and discussed in the third person like they'd broken some rule, rather than have someone helpfully explain to them what the concern is.

The question in question: Need help with a simple Blackhole question

I'd like to know what might be the best and most welcoming way to deal with questions that might be related to homework, or just as easily might not be.

Should we apply "guilty until proven innocent" and vote to close right away, then let the first-time new user come back to find out that some users believe their motive was in question, then have to slog through a re-open voting process just to say "no, it wasn't"?

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Space SE seems to do quite nicely without a homework policy, or even any "suspicion of homework" accusations: Does this site have anything like a homework policy? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ Please edit my comment out of your question as implying that people who post answers somehow above those who post questions? That is your interpretation of my comment that you are responding to, not the comment itself. I agree with you that I could have edited out the ASAP myself, but I thought pointing it out to the OP would be of more value, because a term like that could be part of the reason people were reacting prickly to the bare question. $\endgroup$ – user1569 Dec 17 '18 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ There is already too much reacting to my own interpretation going on in the comments under the question; that hardly ever leads to anything constructive. That's why this is a known as the straw man fallacy. $\endgroup$ – user1569 Dec 17 '18 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ BTW You do realize that that last comment of yours (in screenshot) is an ad hominem. Let's keep out of that area, shall we? $\endgroup$ – user1569 Dec 17 '18 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen it might be better to just post an answer. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I agree with Jan Doggen. Edit your personal interpretation of certain users' actions out of the question. In fact, the whole thing about "ASAP" needs to go. It weakens your question, which is otherwise quite good. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I just realized this question is probably a duplicate: astronomy.meta.stackexchange.com/q/87/6 $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I'm asking about the quick-closing of a new user's first question based on suspicion; that plus the "new" welcoming concept makes this a bit different than that. I've substantially truncated the question to just one aspect now. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh True, but since we already have a policy that we don't close homework questions simply for being homework questions. It makes it kind of a moot point, don't you think? $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I mean, in the title you ask if we have a homework policy, and the question I link addresses that. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage okay so if I had known how to find this sites particular homework policy, that would have been handy to have been able to point to. People can find just about any kind of recommended policy somewhere in some SE site in the past: astronomy.stackexchange.com/questions/28755/… $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I see some related answers, and I believe you that you see a policy, but I don't see an actual policy there that I can say "this is the community's view" our "our policy". I would really like something a little clearer that can reasonably said to reflect a community viewpoint. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh That is a weakness of meta in general, but the presence of Undo's answer with net positive score (relatively high for this site) and the absence of alternative viewpoints, suggests a policy. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage okay and now there is your comment which makes two data points ;-) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 17 '18 at 13:35

There is NO prohibition against homework questions here at Astronomy. StephenG's comment that he was voting to close for suspicion of homework was ill-advised and had no basis in site policy.

JanDoggen then made reference to "some guidelines across the network" but this is a red herring. Most experienced users will be aware that each SE site is at liberty to define its own rules for what's on-topic. For example, homework questions are explicitly permitted on Physics.SE, and that meta post provides guidelines for how they should be asked (and links directly from their on-topic page.

Another example is English Language & Usage, which gets more questions in 12 hrs than Astronomy gets in a week. They too have no official site ban on homework questions, and their meta post How to deal with homework questions provides a very balanced and informative perspective based on two principles:

  • It is okay to ask about homework, and
  • An answer that doesn't help the student learn is not in their own best interest.

In fact, that EL&U meta post is mostly based on a similar post on SO Meta. So Jan, it looks like there are popular, high-traffic SE sites that cautiously accept homework questions.

I think this specific issue touches on a broader problem here on Astronomy. I've previously posted here because of some users' excessive eagerness to close questions as "off-topic" when they're nothing of the sort - they're merely poorly researched, overly basic or just plain low-quality. But as uhoh rightly points out, some are low-quality simply through a combination of inexperience on our site and the lack of a post-grad; a bit of tolerance (and assistance) might be a good thing.

I'm probably a bit quick on downvotes here, and perhaps I too need to be a bit more tolerant. But a downvote, while disheartening to the receiver, is I think far less affronting than having their question closed, especially when the question is on-topic but is being closed as purportedly "off-topic". I think it's worthwhile reminding ourselves (and especially reminding those of us who tend to forget) that SE's philosophy is to encourage answers rather than eliminating the questions.

Let me quote from SO Blog's Respect the community – your own, and others’:

[closing] should be your last resort. Close questions with an eye toward improvement and re-opening, not driving users away.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The downside to downvotes over close votes is that close votes can be reverted by other users, but downvotes cannot. Users often forget to check back on posts they downvoted to see if they have improved. That said, this is a minor problem with this otherwise excellent answer! $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 17 '18 at 14:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I will strongly support the idea of tolerance towards questions. I've seen mediocre questions that spawned outstanding answers. So instead of closing mediocre questions, let's help the authors improve them. $\endgroup$ – Donald.McLean Dec 18 '18 at 17:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Donald.McLean Perhaps some users need to recognise that voting privileges come with more responsibility, e.g. adding a comment on what's wrong with the post and how it can be fixed, not just hitting the flag link. This question was flagged as "unclear" yesterday but no comment was left. Poorly researched question but not really unclear at all. We have a few users who are simply intolerant of "simple" questions and use close votes to get rid of them rather than the comment box to improve them. $\endgroup$ – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Dec 18 '18 at 21:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To take this one step further, perhaps we (me included) need to be more assertive in using our editing privileges, and directly edit a question where we can guess what the OP is after so that it's easier to answer (and less likely to get flagged). As the site grows, we will eventually be able to flag some of this as duplicates instead: OP gets directed to where their answer lies, and we keep the site well-managed. $\endgroup$ – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Dec 18 '18 at 21:24

You must log in to answer this question.

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