With the "minimal understanding" and "what have you tried" close reason removed now, what is the proper way to handle the do-my-homework-for-me type of question, where a person clearly didn't put any effort into the assignment/problem and posted here instead?

For example: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/21034725/how-to-reverse-the-output-of-my-program-in-c - the OP simply posted their "set of codes[sic]" with a requirement on how to change its output, clearly without trying something first.

Are these questions now:

  • "Too broad" because we would have to "write a textbook" for the OP to understand the reasoning behind the answer? The answer in and of itself is rather short and simple... Actually I am starting to like this option now. The description of this close reason says "there are too many possible answers"

  • "Not clear what you're asking"? But it is quite clear what the OP is asking...

  • Acceptable? We should now be answering these types of question now? Doesn't sound good for the community...

  • Downvoted and to be left open forever, hopefully unanswered? I would prefer to see closure or some feedback to the poster to go try something and come back. The "on hold" system is great for this...

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    What, "minimal understanding" is gone? – Pekka Jan 10 '14 at 1:55
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    @Pëkka The requirement for minimal understanding. That is, the one that said "Questions asking for code must demonstrate minimal understanding and include an example of what you have tried" – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 1:56
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    @Pëkka So is "describe the specific problem...include valid code" :( – Geobits Jan 10 '14 at 1:56
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    I agree there is now a gap in the close reasons, but "minimal understanding" was often misused to say "you're stupid go away". So the best option is to put a custom close reason. – psubsee2003 Jan 10 '14 at 1:57
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    @Geobits To be honest, I'm more sad that one is gone. I didn't see much abuse of it at all. – Dennis Meng Jan 10 '14 at 1:58
  • @DennisMeng Me too. I can do without minimal understanding for the most part, and it was rather a catch-all. While "describe" can fit under "unclear", it's a whole lot broader there, with less specific guidance. – Geobits Jan 10 '14 at 2:00
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    I would quite like a sub reason of too broad "this question involves multiple elements, try to narrow it down to a single issue you are having trouble with". Almost all requirement dumps would fall foul of this – Richard Tingle Jan 10 '14 at 2:02
  • @Richard, that is a tremendous close reason. Why am I suddenly having this sinking feeling that we will end up with Closing Changes 2.0? – jmac Jan 10 '14 at 2:04
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    @AlienArrays I think "typographical error" means a typo in the code not in the question body. That is, the OP mistyped a JavaScript identifier and didn't realize they were getting an undefined or something? – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:04
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    I think it's quite apparent that something needs to be done with it. The linked question is sitting at +0/-8 right now with not a single close vote. If it had been posted yesterday, I can almost guarantee it would be closed by now. Now, we're all trying to figure it out instead of doing what needs to be done. – Geobits Jan 10 '14 at 2:10
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    On typos, the question being asked was caused by such, and that's the reason it was closed. That new reason is correct in how it's phrased. @ali – random Jan 10 '14 at 2:11
  • Sounds like a custom, "This question is incomplete. You have left out the piece of code that you are currently using to generate your desired result. We cannot know where your current bottleneck or logic flaw is without seeing the code." – random Jan 10 '14 at 2:21
  • @random I see enough of these questions on a daily basis that 1)I would rather not have to type that out all the time, and 2)since that particular close reason was removed, my first reaction was "are we not supposed to close these questions anymore?" I've only ever used custom reasons for "this isn't about programming, it's about careers" or the like... – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:24
  • Save the text and copy it across when closing. It's how the current "typo" one was brought in. Enough users were manually entering it that it warranted a specific reason. – random Jan 10 '14 at 2:26
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    This question is incomplete. You have left out the piece of code that you are currently using to generate your desired result FWIW, @random, Bill and others are pushing for "unclear" in that case. – Michael Petrotta Jan 10 '14 at 2:34

A potential solution to this problem of requirement dumps would be to have a sub reason of too broad of

This question involves multiple elements, try to narrow it down to a single issue you are having trouble with. This enables the answers to be focused on the specific problem you are actually facing without replicating things you already understand

Almost all requirement dumps would fall foul of this and it would make it clear that multi elemented (full program) questions are off topic even if the individual elements are simple (for example most do-it-for-me questions have keyboard entry, data storage and logic all in a single bundle).

Additionally many of these questions use elements from several existing stack exchange questions, if forced to be asked seperately they could be closed as duplicates of their respective elements.

  • I think I like this solution the best. Perhaps linking to sscce.org would also be in order, so we can catch the "fix my program for me (full listing attached)" type of question, or should this be a separate sub-reason? – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:12
  • I like this one (much better than mine). Still not perfect, I don't think it's clear why “involves multiple elements” is bad. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '14 at 2:16
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    @lc. No! “fix my program” is a completely different case from “write my program”, requiring different guidance. Rather than sscce.org, link to the new help center page, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/214955/… – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 10 '14 at 2:18
  • Now that I've read it over a few more times, the current description of "too broad" is actually not bad. It states There are [...] too many possible answers [...]. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue [...]. which works quite well in this case. I could certainly think of 1001 different ways to answer the question I linked to. – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 3:37

It's unclear what you're asking. To use that specific question, is the person asking

  • How can I step through in the debugger to see why the output comes out in this order?
  • How would better variable names help me to understand code I am trying to debug?
  • How do loops work in C? (see the tags)
  • Where can I learn the basics of logical thinking?

Until you get more details, you don't know whether to explain about F5 (or the equivalent in their IDE - this information is missing from the question), or to advise renaming j to numDigits, or something else entirely.

It's clear what the user WANTS. They want their code to work. But it's actually not clear what they are asking. Some of them might even want to understand why it's behaving the way it is, something neither answer on that question is currently offering.

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    Fair enough, but I think we need a better description or help process for this type of question. If I were the one posting this type of question and I got a response of "please clarify", I don't think I would know what or how to clarify! – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:10
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    FWIW, I thought it was a pretty clear "What do I change in my code to make the output look like this?" That's not necessarily a good question, and it deserves to be closed, but I thought it was entirely clear, based on the lack of your bulleted points being asked. – Geobits Jan 10 '14 at 2:17
  • Well, that's the interpretation from the answerers. And nobody is closing it, so perhaps this particular one is being deemed ok. But I haven't answered that (even though I know what's wrong) because I don't know what the OP doesn't know. I mean if you start with i = 1, then you don't subtract off as much as if you start with i=n. Does the OP know that? I guess not, or the question wouldn't have been asked, but figuring out just what to explain is not simple. Blasting in the new code and letting the OP figure out what's different is simple, and two people have done that. – Kate Gregory Jan 10 '14 at 3:07
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    The only reason I haven't CV'd it is because I honestly don't agree with either the 'unclear' or 'too broad' reasons being advocated for it here. I can't figure out which specific reason it should be closed for. I could write a custom OT message, but this type of question is so common that my enthusiasm for that will quickly decline. I have no doubt that it should be closed, and for precisely the reason that it attracts the types of answers it has received. Code dump in, code dump out, with no possible help to future visitors. – Geobits Jan 10 '14 at 3:14

If I understand Shog's reasoning correctly, this is now "unclear what you're asking".

n my experience, clearly-written but overly-broad questions are fairly obvious: if you've been assigned the task of implementing an order-entry system from scratch and haven't ever written more than "hello world" before, you have my sympathy... But that's clearly too much for a single question.

When I post a homework question, then it may be perfectly clear, but the question still is, "what is your question"?

  • The problem is, the text for "unclear what you're asking" is: Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. It might catch the business requirement-dump questions, but I don't think this applies for homework, specifically the question I linked to. – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:08
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    @lc. I really think it does. "Here is ten tons of bricks. How to build a house?" isn't a question on this Q&A site; it's "unclear what you're asking" even though your requirement is really really clear. – Pekka Jan 10 '14 at 2:10
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    I would argue that your example is more "too broad" than it is "unclear". (Not that I have a better analogy off the top of my head though) – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 2:17
  • And yet. – Michael Petrotta Jan 10 '14 at 2:43
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    Honestly I'm starting to like the "Too Broad" option. The description says There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs. The linked question would seem to fit the bill for "too many possible answers" quite well. – lc. Jan 10 '14 at 3:25
  • @lc. But wether we like that reason or not is beside the matter even if it is correct, if the poster fails to understand why he got that reason. A close reason should give the poster a clear indication what he needs to fix. I doubt that the poster will understand in hwat sense it is "too broad" because he has (often) a very clear idea what his problem is, even if he fails to communicate it. His problem is "I want that solved" and he probably knows that anybody with some experience can do it, which is exactly what he thinks he finds here. – Devolus Jan 10 '14 at 16:06

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