Why don't we just ban homework altogether?

Banning homework: vote and documentation

We're having some more recent discussions on the tag. A month ago, there was a flurry of activity involving a tightening up of the policy. Unfortunately, I was really busy after that and later on was out of town.

I agree that there are some residual issues about high-level homework (something that I'd been planning to address but didn't have the time). I'm pretty sure we can sort these out in parallel or even after installing the new policy.

What's the current status of the policy? Should we be pushing forward with it?


3 Answers 3


How about we simply say that for a trial period (a month?) the moderators don't close any homework questions, and we close them only due to 5 VTCs from site members. That's a small change since I don't think the mods close many homework questions anyway. Mods should still close for other reasons, and of course can VTC just like everyone else.

The decision about what should and shouldn't be on the site is then just down to the site members. I don't want to tell site members what to do and I can't anyway, so everyone should VTC as they see fit, though I reserve the write to post pleas for mercy if I think a question has been closed unnecessarily :-).

I'm not fussed about the homework tag, though I won't be using it myself. If enough of us VTC quickly the homework tag should become unnecessary anyway.

If after a month we're all happy with the way things are going we could start updating the text in the VTC dialog and the guidelines. Only at that point do we have to agree on exactly what we're going to say is acceptable or unacceptable.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "and of course can VTC just like everyone else" actually no, we can't. Moderator close votes are always binding. We don't have the ability to cast a normal close vote like other 3k users. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Dec 29, 2013 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ There is the work around where we cast our binding vote after four other people have voted, but that requires keeping a close eye on the progress of the question. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2013 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ and dmckee: I'm aware that in some quarters the moderators are regarded as despotic autocrats and I'm very keen NOT to imply any criticism of the moderators or suggest any changes that make the job of moderating any harder. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2013 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, and I didn't think you were doing so. But it is very relevant for this particular discussion that we (mods) don't get nonbinding close votes, and I thought it would be important to point that out. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Dec 30, 2013 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not really sure how this would help regarding progress toward the new policy. The proposed change is about being clearer about which types of question are acceptable, which is pretty orthogonal to the issue of who closes them. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 1, 2014 at 4:49
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    $\begingroup$ Orthogonal? If it is site members who decide what's acceptable and it's site members who close unacceptable questions the two seem very closely related. As long as we rely on mods to close questions we need documented guidelines for the mods to follow. As long as we close questions ourselves we need no such guidelines, just our own opinions, though obviously it's nice to know what the concensus view is. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2014 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie I don't think it works like that! Up and down votes are down to individual members' discretion, but close votes are supposed to follow policy, regardless of whether they're cast by the community or by mods. Policy changes are effected through the meta site, not by people casting close votes according to their own opinion. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 2, 2014 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ Another way to look at it is from the poster's point of view: if the FAQ says that some homework questions are OK, and a user posts a question that follows the guidelines as written, and then the community closes it anyway because people's feelings don't match the guidelines, then that's no good. We have to change the guidelines first, before we change which questions we close. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 2, 2014 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Nathaniel: I take your point about guidelines for users, but I still think that if we let the >4k users decide what to close for a bit then we'll be in a better place to agree the wording for the guidelines. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2014 at 8:06

Officially nothing has changed about the policy yet, i.e. the old one is still in place.

Unofficially, my impression is that we are converging on a change in which

  • "Homework questions" per se would no longer be allowed on the site, as suggested in the questions you linked
  • Our existing homework policy would be changed to describe how people can modify their homework questions to conceptual questions to make them acceptable here
  • The tag may be entirely removed as part of this. We haven't yet fully discussed that, I believe. (I would like to see this happen.)

We should definitely push forward with this; there is no particular rush, but we are getting close enough that it would be a shame not to see this through to the end. We need to decide what to do about the tag, and I don't know if there are any other unresolved issues to handle before we put these changes in place.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, thought so. Is there anything yet to be done or should we be able to just switch over to the new policy now? I'm pretty sure there isn't. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2013 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ I guess you commented before I got my ninja edit in - I think we should decide what to do about the tag. If we want to drop it entirely, we can just do that. If we want to keep it, we need to hash out what exactly it will be for in light of the new policy. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Dec 28, 2013 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ Ah. I think what we can do is to provisionally keep the tag as is and apply the new policy, and then discuss what to do with the tag. I suspect that discussion might drag on a bit. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2013 at 19:14

From my point of view, I would like to make a new proposal for the wording of the new policy, which would reflect the consensus described in David Z's answer (i.e. it would be at heart a "no homework" policy rather than a "some homework" one) while also addressing the issue of high-level homework questions in a way that I think most people would find acceptable. (With the right definition of homework many of these will be excluded, and the rest can easily be converted into non-homework questions.) This is dependent on me finding time to write it though, which I haven't had much luck with the last few weeks.

Of course if someone else wants to do that then great!

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    $\begingroup$ By excluded, do you main the high-level questions can be exluded from being homework which means that they are no longer touched by the homework policy either, and can therefore be detagged from homework in the course of time? This would finally be the right thing to do IMHO, and I look forward to your suggestions. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Jan 1, 2014 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton yes, that's what I meant. I think this can be achieved by saying that it's OK if a question arises during the course of a self-study problem, as long as the question you're asking isn't the set question itself. This will make most of the high-level questions (and many of the more interesting introductory level ones) ok, and I think the rest should not be too hard to edit into shape. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 2, 2014 at 2:37

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