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It seems that I wasn't clear about what I'm asking:

I've noticed that new users might not always post the best questions and subsequently have their questions closed. Usually the users with low reputation end up writing questions that get closed, so is there a way which SO can make them take an extra step or two before they post their question so that we ensure their question is not closed? These extra steps should only be present until the user gets a slightly higher reputation. I think this would save people some time and effort when they're answering a question which may potentially be closed.

Here is an example where the OP could have done a quick search and found the answer to his homework question and not have his question closed:

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Easily-googlable questions being on SO is not a bad thing. One, massive, resource that isn't likely to die any time soon (and as the data dump if it does) is better than a hundred sites with little bits of the answer, any one of which could die. – Phoshi Mar 28 '10 at 16:04
@Phoshi, so how could we encourage new SO users to be aware of outside resources? Perhaps implement a recommending system that learns from previously closed questions and makes a recommendation to the user: if their question looks like it might be closed, then the system would give them a warning. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 16:09
There already is a warning when a user is asking a subjective question:… Also, see the sites' policy on homework questions:… – Ether Mar 28 '10 at 17:55
@Ether I was thinking more along the lines of homework questions. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 17:57
It's also been suggested in the past that we add a link to on the "Ask a Question" page, but it's already fairly well-established that most people don't read. – Ether Mar 28 '10 at 17:58
We could ask them "Does your question comply with the guidelines?" Yes/No "Is your question a homework?" Yes/No and this would only apply for the new users. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 18:08
@Lirik: where did you read that homework questions are against the guidelines? Because, in fact, they are not. – Andreas Bonini Mar 28 '10 at 18:35
@Kop When did I say that homework questions are against the guidelines? – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 19:23
You seemed to have implied it in everything you said so far. You appeared to be stating that homework questions are the root of all evil.. – Andreas Bonini Mar 28 '10 at 19:30
@Kop The point is to help an OP avoid having their question get closed, not to eliminate homework questions... I simply don't see where I even REMOTELY imply that there is any problem with asking a homework question. How you came to that conclusion is simply beyond my understanding. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 20:24
@Lirik: If we can get an algorithm to understand questions, why would we need answerers :P – Phoshi Mar 28 '10 at 20:48
Easily-Googleable questions with answers doesn't come automatically, someone has to post it. Why not on SO? (Just reiforcing Phoshi's comment). – BrunoLM Aug 26 '10 at 22:48
up vote 16 down vote accepted

New to SO != new to asking questions. Plenty of people manage to show up and ask questions without any real problems - it's the "new to Teh Internetz", the lazy, and the clueless that run into trouble.

And they're going to run into trouble no matter what.

Every site has this problem, some more than others. The big difference on SO is that we do close and delete poor questions, rather than leaving them around to clog up the site and contribute to a reputation of mediocrity.

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Thanks. Your turn. – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 18:48

If the purpose of SO is to collect the sum of programming knowledge, why would it be desirable for someone to not ask a question simply because it was answered elsewhere?

Additionally (from someone who does quite a bit of searching), the answers that I find (while comprehensive) don't always actually help me overcome a problem.

Finally, Google is not the only search engine :)

If the question is programming related, does not invite an extended discussion and has not been asked before on SO, I see no reason why it should not be?


After a protracted discourse in comments, I have found the root of the problem: alt text

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I agree with almost all of your points, but almost all of them ignore what I'm actually asking: if the OP posts an obvious homework question and hasn't demonstrated sufficient effort, then the question gets closed. See this question for an example: – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 17:04
@Lirik - homework questions are just fine on SO. I repeat, homework questions are just fine on SO. If the OP indicates its homework (and if not, its usually not hard to figure out, search meta for that) the questions are welcome. Mentoring is a part of programming. – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 17:35
@Lirik, I saw no less than three questions today where the OP said "This is homework, please no complete solutions, just guidance". You never asked for help with your homework? (Granted, I do catch up with RSS swallowing a couple of weeks at a time so those questions did not appear in one day) .. But still. – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 17:39
@Tim, I did ask for help with my homework:… But there are homework questions that still get closed because the OP did not post their question correctly and I think that we can prevent that if they have to do some precautionary steps before they post. This would only apply to new users. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 17:41
@Lirik - Did you search here regarding the same?… – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 17:47
No Tim, That question still does not explain how to solve the problem. If the user is new then SO could ask them: "Is this a homework question?" and if they click Yes, then they would automatically get the homework tag. This way not only does the community mark suspicious homework questions, but the OP gets a chance to "come clean"... maybe they didn't even know that the homework tag exists. – Lirik Mar 28 '10 at 17:52
@Lirik, I think you are forgetting comments that they are extremely likely to receive? When I say extremely, I also consider the fact that I am extremely likely to coax one byte out of malloc(), no matter what is going on elsewhere in the system. Kindly, think in terms that reflect actual, not hypothetical use of the system? There are, after all, plenty of examples. – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 18:20
@Lirik, no system is perfect, driving good questions away from SO is most decidedly not the answer. By reverse logic, I should have to work through some kind of form prior to applying the homework tag and leaving a comment. Its a system built on trust. If you can produce an algorithm that maps and predicts trust (which by extension could accurately predict fame), I'd be very, very happy to see it. Until then, the community does a rather good job dealing with this, minus several cases which are the basis of your point. Unless, my over zealous pen pal, you have something else to add? – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 18:25
@Lirik - if your question passes the FAQ, which is clearly posted on all sites, it is welcome. How such a question is received mostly depends on its intent, not just how it was written. 573 of us (me included) earned a badge for editing good questions to make them clearer to a broader audience. – Tim Post Mar 28 '10 at 18:35

There's a How To Ask section which is shown to every new user with less than 10 rep.

How to ask screenshot

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