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Everybody who's been here for a while knows that the homework policy is not as advertised.

If the exercise is sufficiently interesting, and the OP is sufficiently polite, the question often stays open and gets good answers. More sophisticated exercises also fare better: an interesting and nontrivial mechanics problem which has nothing to do with homework is much more likely to be closed than a routine QFT exercise literally screenshotted from a homework assignment. This is not the official policy, but it's what we do. For the most part I'm happy with this, though I do wish people only closed the boring mechanics problems.

Recently I've noticed a few people posting questions in rapid succession, each with a screenshot of a problem. If you look at the questions as a whole, it's obvious they've split their entire problem set or take-home exam into tiny pieces and asked us how to do the whole thing. However, since each question alone contains quantum field theory, which is viewed as sophisticated, none of these questions are closed or even downvoted, and most have some answers or comments. (Note: if you go check and see there are close votes and downvotes, they're solely mine.)

I think this kind of behavior should not be encouraged. This is the textbook example of what the homework policy is designed to prevent, and I don't think it should be overruled just because quantum field theory is involved. Before answering a question, consider the context!

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a limit on how many questions a user can post in a short amount of time? I thought there was. Is there an argument for making the limit more restrictive? $\endgroup$ – craq Mar 28 '18 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ "If the exercise is sufficiently interesting, and the OP is sufficiently polite, the question often stays open and gets good answers." - (my emphasis). I would like to think that the relative few here that more or less regularly volunteer their time to answer questions can at least count on the fact the this community would never discourage "sufficiently interesting" questions in any form or fashion. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Mar 29 '18 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ "Boring mechanics" is actually quite useful considering our capacity for underground transit. 😉 Seriously, tho. If someone is asking a homework question, I enjoy pointing them in the right direction, but doing homework for them is unethical and if they simply need a tutor, then some sort of formal arrangements should be made. $\endgroup$ – Rubellite Fae Apr 5 '18 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ "This is the textbook example of what the homework policy is designed to prevent"- I personally have never looked at the homework policy that way. Always thought it's just a way to filter out the low-quality educational questions that most probably will be of no interest to anyone other than the student (the OP) who needs to do her homework. I don't think it's there to prevent people from cheating. $\endgroup$ – Mo_ Apr 7 '18 at 20:05
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Recently I've noticed a few people posting questions in rapid succession, each with a screenshot of a problem. If you look at the questions as a whole, it's obvious they've split their entire problem set or take-home exam into tiny pieces and asked us how to do the whole thing.

This sort of behavior, which is undesirable but not necessarily obvious to reviewers going through the vote-to-close queue, is a good reason to cast custom flags for moderator attention.

It's also helpful to point out what's happening in the comments, with a remark like "previous related questions by this user: [a] [b] [c]," to make it easier for folks reviewing the questions to see what's happening. But if the close queue process isn't working, that's basically what the diamond moderators are for.

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To discourage rapid postings of the type alluded to in the question, methinks screenshots of text should be outright banned. I can understand a screenshot of a figure, but if it can be easily done with LaTeX/MathJax, there’s no place for a screenshot.

If anything, the time and effort going to typesetting makes it easier to justify that the OP has done some effort - at least a tysetting effort - in thinking about and posting the question.

Of course typesetting also means a question becomes searchable and all those advantages, but it seems to me that intolerance to screenshot questions is enough of a deterrent to eliminate the most egregious cases.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe we should have a dedicated meta Q&A thread specifically on that? We would then be able to link those posters to that thread and be done with it? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 28 '18 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty if there's a little more support I'll make a suitable version of my post as a question. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 28 '18 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Some screenshots of text will probably be legitimate, so this will be difficult to automate. Besides, I think deliberately making the site more difficult to use seems like the wrong way to go about things. $\endgroup$ – craq Mar 28 '18 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @craq I actually think that having searchable text - something not possible with screenshots - is what makes the site easiest for the users. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 28 '18 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ but how do you know these things? you show no evidence either way $\endgroup$ – amara Mar 28 '18 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @naiad sorry I don't follow. Are you suggesting that text from a screenshot is searchable? If yes pray explain how as this would be most useful. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 28 '18 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ do you really think that $\endgroup$ – amara Mar 28 '18 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ In order to detect that an image has text, won't you need to do some form of OCR on it? At that point you can include searchable text as metadata. Do you want to protect against other alphabets or is the user base sufficiently English-speaking that that's not necessary? $\endgroup$ – craq Mar 30 '18 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @craq the issue in my mind is the reverse: if I am searching for a keyword as part of an answer site-wide, say “perturbation” or “Poincare” or “normal mode” or “Liouville” or whatever, then my search would not include the keywords when they appeared in screenshots. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 30 '18 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeroTheHero I'm pretty sure google search indexes on metadata from images, so stack exchange could provide that metadata. Google may even run OCR on images automatically if they detect text. I'm not sure about stack exchange's search algorithm as this could do with a number of improvements. $\endgroup$ – craq Mar 30 '18 at 19:28
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I often answer naive questions, if a) the questioner is young,( high school level) ( I look at the profile) or b) if the title is such that general searches will bring the question to the fore.

For a) because I am a grandmother with high school level grandsons and hope that for any naive questions they ask (wherever) there is a teacher willing to respond. People asking naive questions at 15 may turn out to be brilliant physicists at 25, if encouraged to open their brain.

On this I have my own experience when I had a very bad math's teacher from 12 to 14, and then got an excellent one at age 15. The internet is a help venue for such situations and it is a pity not to be available.

For b) because one of the purposes of the site is to have a repository of questions for searches on the net, and if the title is a clear question the search will land on it.

So without solving the problem if it is a homework problem, I try to give pointers and links, as I see many others doing.

I would vote yes , to stop accepting photocopies, I would make an exception for formulae ( as my computer sophistication does not include formulae programs :)

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