I don't want to spoil some fun posts here, but I see a certain pattern where a couple of interesting questions are followed by a slew of rather similar ones. In my opinion, it's getting old pretty fast. Take for example:

Drawing stuff

Detecting stuff

Some questions are very well asked, clearly show effort and have excellent answers that really add new knowledge to the pool. Others are just more of the same and don't show any effort. Case in point: the Draw a X-mas Tree question, launched within days of the Snowfall question. Nobody doubts that Mathematica could draw a tree; we have all the necessary graphics primitives on board. There's no difficult problem to be solved, no conceptual issue at stake. It's just plain work. And the OP wants us to do it.

This is the first X-mas tree, so I suppose no Close As Duplicate then? Or can we extend this close reason to incorporate any "Draw X" or "Detect X" question? If so, I feel we should develop some clear criteria.

But perhaps we want fun contests without restrictions whatsoever, the more the better? If so, we should update the FAQ which states you should only ask "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face".

  • Very nice way of starting the discussion!
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 22:11
  • If you think these questions are bad, you should visit some of the Matlab forums once in a while :)
    – Nasser
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 22:46
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    @NasserM.Abbasi As acl told you in chat, the existence of crappier sites/fora doesn't mean we should lower our standards :)
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 23:09
  • I agree with you Sjoerd: (generative) art questions shouldn't be asked just "for fun" or "pour l'art" but only if there is either a wider practical justification of the algorithm requested (I can argue for my own posts, but I won't) and/or the poster really made an effort researching the topic. The latter is definitely in the FAQ, and low vote count usually indicates the attitude of the community toward poorly researched questions. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 23:11
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    I am not in disagreement with the sentiment. However, I am not sure I agree with enforcing the "actual problems that you face" bit because, obviously, it's ambiguous. What if I need to put a figure in a paper of mine, but, if I write the paper without that figure, publish it, and then decide to waste my weekend plotting the figure anyway for fun? What if my job is to find fun problems, solve them, and publish the results? Requiring questions to be practical and answerable is clearly enforceable, but the second bit isn't (except in extreme cases such as "draw me a christmas tree"). (cont'd)
    – acl
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 23:15
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    It might seem I am splitting hairs and/or being unreasonable, but I remember a case when someone asked what I thought was an interesting question (and which was definitely practical and answerable) and basically was rudely told to "not waste my time" by someone here. when he "admitted" that he just thought it would be interesting to know. In summary, practical, answerable, showing some effort, all these are required for very good reasons; but I am worried about the rest. In any case, this mini-rant is somewhat tangential; I agree with most of what you say.
    – acl
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 23:19
  • 1
    @acl +100 for What if my job is to find fun problems, solve them, and publish the results? Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:06
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    I know this isn't the spirit of SE sites, but I usually learn more from a good answer (no matter how <s>stupid</s> bad the question is, than from a good question. Can't we manage these situations just downvoting/voting to close when necessary without a predefined policy? Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:21
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    I felt the same about the christmas tree question. Apparently, most people did, it got ignored and eventually closed. So the system works. Throwing away all graphics and computer vision questions because of this seems like throwing out the baby with the bathtub. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 10:39
  • I have actual problems solving the fun questions.
    – cormullion
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 10:42
  • Please see also meta.mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/877/…
    – Nasser
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 15:20
  • May be we can split the forum into 2 forums. One for fun light weight questions. And one for the research/advanced questions. This way the moderator instead of closing a question from the advanced forum, move it to the light weight fun forum? Is it possible to split the forum to 2 separate ones?
    – Nasser
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 15:23
  • I don't think that can be done. There are SE sites devoted to fun coding, particularly short coding, or code golfing. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 15:25
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    The assumption here is that when someone is asking how to draw something or locate something they are doing that "for fun" Not a safe assumption applied to imaging questions IMO. Questions such as these have practical applications in my Industry. Turning this site into a non-image or no-fun as is mentioned above site, goes against the popular vote on the site & direction Wolfram has taken the software. Clearly these questions garner great interest and votes, Why? Because they show creative solutions and in many cases interesting uses for Mathematica. Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


This is getting too long for a comment: I think you're mixing up different things.

1. Questions that lack effort

Often contain an equation or a long unreadable code listing, with a very descriptive explanation like "how do I solve this" or "where is the bug". I'd say the christmas tree question is very close to this category. Questions like this usually get a "what have you tried" comment, and if the question isn't improved, it gets ignored and/or closed quickly.

2. Repetitive questions

Can take forms like "How do I detect X in an image", but also "how do I solve (nonlinear/differential/integral/recurrence) equation X" or "how do I extract information X from a list". They're not duplicates, because the solution to differential equation will not necessarily work for any other kind of equation. But I can see how they get boring after a while. OTOH, I often learn a lot from the answers. And they're clearly covered by the FAQ.

3. Fun questions

Confetti, hedcut, word clouds. You're right, they're probably not covered by the FAQ. OTOH: They're fun. And they're not hurting anyone. Maybe we could have a "fun" tag, so people who don't like fun can just look the other way?

  • Perhaps not only a fun tag, but a puzzle synonym?
    – m_goldberg
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 2:39

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