This question is a follow-up to this question about what some of us feel is a large spike in low-level homework questions.

I propose we include a specific link to our canonical homework meta question in the How to Ask sidebar that shows up when the cursor is on the question title box:

How to Ask sidebar

I propose we add the line

Not all homework questions are allowed. Please see the homework guidelines.

though a link to the FAQ could also be useful if it doesn't make it bulkier.

I understand from David Zaslavsky that the moderators do not have direct access to the sidebar, and probably we need to appeal to the Stack Exchange team for this. If so, it would be good to have a strong consensus that we do want this. (Which, based on the score of my answer to Dilaton's question, seems to be the case.)

It is definitely possible to access this sidebar: the guys at Seasoned Advice have a line like it. How to Ask sidebar in Seasoned Advice

(On the other hand, it just looks like they just went ahead and did it, without any indication of how.)

So: do you agree on this addition to the sidebar? More generally, can you think of useful modifications or parallel measures to deal with this?

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    $\begingroup$ I'll ping the team and just get a picture of how easy it is to get this done for the site. Some changes require site-specific code manipulation (which have a low chance of happening), and some changes require a quick edit to a site parameter. I feel that this is the latter; it wasn't hard to get this done on Chem. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 6 '13 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like it's a painless job to add it in. Once we agree on the wording (which should be "short and helpful") and show sufficient consensus, it can be enabled. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 6 '13 at 14:58

Since you now have a specific off-topic close reason for these, I re-used that to update the sidebar guidance:

ask question sidebar

Homework-like questions should ask about a specific physics concept and show some effort to work through the problem. See: homework guidance.

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    $\begingroup$ Noooooooo!!!!!!! We recently had a discussion about the wording of that close reason, and while it wasn't conclusive (David Z disagreed that there's a problem with it, several people agreed there was, a lot of people said "meh"), I'm very sad to see it repeated in the side bar. I realise that, having missed this discussion, it's probably too late to change this, but I suspect it will result in an even bigger flood of low-quality "I tried this and then got stuck plz finish solving it for me" posts. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Aug 3 '13 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ If/when you change the close reason, ping me & I'll update the sidebar, @Nathaniel. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 3 '13 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Shog9, could you please, as an impartial mediator have a look at this issue and the related discussions? Manishearth wants to burnicate the popular-science tag we have by all means, claiming that it will be harmful in the future (which is not clear but his strong personal opinion). But since our community has such a broad range of physics knowledge (from none to research-level), many people found this nice proposel very helpful, and others this tag because they enjoy answering, $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 8 '13 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, @Dilaton - I'm headed out for the afternoon, but I'll try to get to this when I get back. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 8 '13 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ asking, or reading about physics at a simplified non-technical non-mathematical level at present. Burnicating the popular-science tag would directly shoot down this by many people considered useful suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 8 '13 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so I say thanks in advance for your help and time :-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 8 '13 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry Shog9 but I forgot an important point: if you find time to evaluate some of these discussions, it would be good if you could look for deleted answers and comments too. In particular for even politely formulated comments, it is not uncommen to get deleted in an ongoing discussion with a discussion partner who has the power do delete as soon as 10s after they have been posted before anybody else has a chance to see them. The excuse invoked for doing this are claims that they are too political, not constructive or a personal attack for just disagreeing with something or somebody. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 8 '13 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ In my opinion and as I understand how meta discussions should work, way too many non offensive, non insulting, non abrasive, etc comments get too often (and sometimes way to fast) deleted. This can make discussions with people who have the power to delete very difficult and to me it sometimes even seems that deleting comments in the context of still ungoing not yet settled discussions in this way could even be inappropriate :-/. Now I sit back (I have nothing more to say anyway) and trust in you being able to help find a fair solution for these issues, if you find time for it. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 8 '13 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: I read all the comments in cases where a large number have been deleted - I wouldn't be doing a very good job if I didn't. A bit of advice though: don't rely on comments for important discussion points; even if they don't get deleted (moderators should be cleaning up long, tangential comment threads periodically, but this doesn't always happen) they're still tedious to read; if you have something important to say, you'll get a lot more mileage out of editing an update into your answer. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Shog9, I have seen your contributions to the discussion and highly appreciate your help. I will look at my answers again and update them if I thinks something important is missing. To be very honest, to me it seems that Manishearth is way too personally biased concerning these popular-science/level-filtering issues, to handle this particular situation in a good and fair way for the benefit of the whole community. I'd prefer somebody more impartial, such as you for example, helping out in assessing what the community needs and what is the best way to go such that the majority of the $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ community agrees and everybody can at least (not too unhappily) live with the solution we will find. From my (most probably personally way too biased too) point of view it looked as if many people were happy about the nicely formulated level-filtering proposal, some issued concerns about details that should be clarified, but Manishearth is the only person who strongly and completely rejects the whole concept and therefore keeps writing meta posts to challenge this idea as a whole, such as the popular-science burnicate request. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 11:53

Yes, I agree that this is a good idea.

(Obviously, upvote if you agree and downvote if you don't.)


I'm all for the general idea, but the current proposed text is a bit ambiguous.

As Shog9 put it, someone looking at this may think:

"Not all homework questions are allowed" ... ok; does that apply to my homework question? Naw, probably just other peoples'. Those guys homework questions are awful; they don't help me at all. Good job, site, disallowing those homework questions so folks can focus on mine!

Here's my proposed alternative:

If you wish to ask a homework question, be sure to include your work and highlight your conceptual confusion

A slightly better one (credit Shog9):

Include your work and highlight the concept confusing you when asking homework-related questions.

What say?

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    $\begingroup$ If one looks at the example on Seasoned Advice, they do explain that asking such questions is useless, since they will be deleted. I wonder if this promise of action matters. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kravchuk Jun 6 '13 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ I would be very wary of using a message that gives users the impression that their question will be OK as soon as they conform to a specific template. Perhaps something generic but with "teeth" like the SA.sx one? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 6 '13 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty: Yep. Got any ideas? $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 6 '13 at 17:48

Something with a bit more "teeth":

Non-conceptual homework questions are likely to be closed. Please read the homework guidelines.

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    $\begingroup$ "non-conceptual homework" doesn't quite express the intent here, I feel; emphasis should be on "identify the area of confusion" and "show your work". $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jun 6 '13 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog9 I wanted to reference a nice answer from you I have just today read on MSO, but I can not find it again fast enough. Maybe you you know which one I mean when reading the comments below this answer to the same thread and can link it in? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 6 '13 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: I'm not completely sure which answer you're referring to, but for what it's worth: I'm not going through book questions on this site (that's something for y'all to work out) and I don't particularly think they're relevant to this conversation (see my comment in the other thread). Generally-speaking, very broad "recommend me a book on X" questions are a bad idea - there are, however, specific contexts where they can be useful if you can avoid soliciting personal recommendations from everyone under the sun. But, again, that's a topic for a different discussion. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jun 6 '13 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog9 you had an answer to a question asking about the weight of community rules versus global SE rules, where you made these nice comments saying that SE does not expect at all that the individual communities follow each letter of the SE rules and that they are even encouraged define their own standards fitted to their needs. The question popped up when I was typing my feature request at MSO today and I was so happy about your answer. Agreed what you say about book questions and that this thread here is not to discuss study material references. When I ping you below another meta question $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 6 '13 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like you to see but you have not taken part in that discussion, will you get noted? I'll just try. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 6 '13 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ I would guess you're talking about this answer, @Dilaton. And if you want my opinion on some other discussion, just ask - I'll chime in as I have time. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Jun 6 '13 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog9 yes, that was exactly it :-). And I have given you linkes to what honestly speaking still bugs me below this post. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 6 '13 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog9 My point is that saying "show your working" will not improve the question quality. Unless it's something that will really filter questions that do not have a conceptual question behind them, then I see little value in the instrument. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 7 '13 at 15:57

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