I know there has been a lot of discussion about categories for closing questions due to being off-topic. Many question, like this recent one should certainly be closed, because it's simply people asking the community to do work for them, showing no effort nor previous research (a.k.a Tom Sawyerism). However, I find that this doesn't really fit into any of the existing options for off-topic. As was articulated by m_goldberg on that particular question:

Other: I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because there is no well-posed question in this post; the OP is simply begging for somebody to act as a free coding service

Since (at least to my impression) there are many such question (from the recent past: this, that, and that) , I would suggest to add m_goldberg's answer (or some close variant) as a category for off-topic. I am always too lazy to actually spell this out so in such cases I mark the "trivial mistake that can be found in the documentation" or "needs a professional help" bullet, depending on my mood, by more often than not this is simply inaccurate. I think it would be better if the real reason was correctly pointed out, both for the OP and for future OP's.

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    I was going to write something as an answer, but I followed through your meta links and realized that I did say something about it... and my stances haven't really changed in the past 4 years. Two points from each of my posts I want to reiterate: 1) "The end goal should be to convey to the user politely, but firmly and clearly, that their question is not a good fit for the site." and 2) "... the only good way to solve this problem is if the community takes a principled stand against such coding requests. ... In other words, use the existing tools (comments, downvotes, close votes)" (cont...)
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 5:28
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    I think that such an off-topic reason would be too harsh and make us explicitly an unwelcoming community. (FWIW, I personally think m_goldberg's comment is also probably a little harsh but I'm not really concerned because y'all can police yourselves and he probably sees a lot more trash than the rest of us do, thanks to his tireless work.)
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 5:31
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    We put a lot of effort into wording our off topic reasons carefully so as to cover the maximum number of reasons while also being respectful. I think that we can revisit some of those reasons — it has been 4 years and we have a lot more visitors and questions now and a whole bunch of users who weren't even around back then. However I would suggest that we go about that in a systematic way as we did before instead of on an ad hoc and reactionary basis.
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 5:34
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    How about we post a Question "Does this site provide a free coding service" with the Answer "No" then close them all as duplicates of that :-) Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:34
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    Silly comments aside, I'm not usually bothered how much effort the OP has put into solving their problem, so long as they post a good question. And we already have close reasons for questions which are unclear or incomplete. "No effort" seems like a criticism of the poster, not the question. Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:35
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    Under Off-topic, the reason "This question cannot be answered without additional information. Questions on problems in code must describe the specific problem and include valid code to reproduce it. Any data used for programming examples should be embedded in the question or code to generate the (fake) data must be included." does not seem unreasonable in such cases.
    – bbgodfrey
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 0:12
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    The most upvoted topic and many more from those which bring attention to this site would have been closed then: mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions?sort=votes
    – Kuba Mod
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 7:09
  • @Kuba I guess it depends on the nature of the question. I agree that maybe "no effort" is not the right wording, but everyone can see the difference between the XKCD question and the question I linked to (sadly no longer available because it's closed).
    – yohbs
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 13:49
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    @R.M. I agree with most of what you say, also about the style of words which is somewhat too harsh. My main point is that it we could phrase together a generic response, which is now lacking from the ready-made ones, and which would be beneficial both to the OP and to future ones in understanding better what it is about their question (not about themselves) that makes the community feel uncomfortable or unwilling to help.
    – yohbs
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 13:52
  • I would also like to invite @m_goldberg too this discussion
    – yohbs
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


I accept yobbs' invitation to enter to this discussion.

I only use my infamous closing reason for what I consider to be truly egregious code dumps (and because I'm a grumpy old man).

What qualifies as egregious? Basically, when the question exhibits all or most of the following problems:

  • Code shows no attempt to isolate the problem.
  • OP doesn't give any info on what is going wrong.
  • OP doesn't supply any test data.
  • OP doesn't supply any example of a correct result.

Maybe my wording is a little harsh, but I try hard to only use it for cases I think truly deserve a little harshness. I fully expect the community to judge any such closing votes. I expect the question not to be closed when that judgement is that I have gone over the top.

For any help-me-debug question I feel is less than egregious, I may down vote and/or leave a comment. I do that far more often than I propose closing.

Sometimes, despite the lack of effort, the code will intrigue me. I will actually debug it and post an answer. I'm far from the only one to behave this way, which is why the site has fair number of code dumps that do get free debugging. The lack of consistency shown by this doesn't bother me.

I don't think we need an additional no-effort closing choice. I agree with R.M. that the available tools are up to the job.


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