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If this is more appropriate for discussion in a chat room, that's fine, I just don't know how to use the SE interface to get there.

People ask questions effectively asking for someone to write code for them, with no effort besides articulating a problem. In order to discourage this and encourage more thoughtful questions, should we

  • (a)downvote, (b)write comments explaining why the question isn't good and (c)otherwise ignore the question or
  • (d)provide links to starting points like useful related functions, (e)write informative snippets that don't just do the requested task but help with foreseeable difficult parts?

Obviously the direct reason for people asking these questions is laziness. But that laziness comes from the dauntingness of learning Mathematica which may be alleviated with thoughtful responses to unthoughtful questions. It might be morally annoying to do this -- if a question is low quality I don't advocate spending time with it -- but it would be neat if people could use the site to do extremely personalized problem oriented learning instead of just abstract skill enumeration. I suppose that might be better suited to a tutoring service, but my question still stands.


See Wolfram Mathematica Code please to see a post that gelled my thoughts on this question

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  • 4
    you are not the only one who got downvoted. I got two downvotes for even answering your question. I see nothing wrong with someone who explains the problem clearly and ask for help coding it if they do not know the language well enough to do it as a learning processes. As long as the problem is direct and reasonable and not a research type question asking people to spend 5 years to code it. But others here seem to feel differently.
    – Nasser
    Feb 7 at 20:38
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    I do think it is questionable to answer those questions, it doesn't improve the quality of the site, creates the wrong incentives, makes you complicit in cheating. Sometimes I wish answering had to wait for the resolution of the close votes, which is this case was well deserved.
    – rhermans
    Feb 8 at 13:06
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    But I have seen it from the other side too, looking for the Reversal badge, or just the satisfaction to find the answer. I wouldn't go as far as down-voting a good answer. The main problem is who has the patience and time to explain why a question is deficient? Ideally, we should all explain and educate as a community, many of us have on more than one occasion, but the usual suspects are not enough to cover the huge number of bad questions. Be content to do your part whenever you can.
    – rhermans
    Feb 8 at 13:07
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    Sometimes I have no idea where to start. I know the problem. I might know the necessary steps. But at the end, either I am not even wrong or my attempt fails miserably. In these cases, that I know I'm on the wrong path, I feel that articulating what I have tried and filling the page with useless codes is a waste of reader's time. So please consider (maybe rare) cases that the OP is trying to avoid embarrassing themselves.
    – polfosol
    Feb 9 at 11:26
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    @polfosol failed attempts allow us to see where is the misunderstanding or missing tool. If you don't share that, you leave us guessing and annoyed. That is a much harder starting point to actually help you. Even if you don't share your attempts, at the very least a good description of the objective, including expected output, and where your attempt fails is, I wold argue, a minimum requirement for a decent question.
    – rhermans
    Feb 11 at 9:30
  • @polfosol I don't think rhermans means these requirements are absolute and universal. I've wasted 10-15 mins on questions that turn out not to be quite as completely and clearly stated as the OP thought. When there's both a problem statement and code, any mismatch can be cleared up in the comments, and then the problem is usually easy to solve. When there is a "page [full of] useless codes," I just paste it: it's much easier to read & parse & trace errors in the front end.
    – Michael E2
    Feb 11 at 17:49
  • I think the current policies are too vague. Perhaps a better partition of possible question qualities (i.e. the cases are more distinct, and the cases better cover every likely question) is in order.
    – Adam
    Feb 12 at 1:30

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