In our last chat session two weeks ago (sorry for the delay), we had a discussion about updating the homework policy and homework close reason. I'm making this post to summarize that discussion and solicit feedback on how to proceed afterwards.
The current status
According to the homework policy, questions are considered "homework-like" (or "educational") and fall under the policy whenever
...[the question's] value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself.
However, it's not always clear whether a question fits this description just from its content. And if you track the questions that we actually close these days using the homework-like close reason, quite a few of them are likely not of an educational nature. Instead, we've taken to using the homework-like close reason on questions that simply ask us to calculate something without the original poster making an attempt at it. We do have a policy on showing effort, separate from the homework policy, but it doesn't justify closing those questions. (Also, it was meant to catch questions that the homework policy doesn't.)
It seems that most people believe that questions where the poster asks us to do some simple calculation for them should be off topic. However, it's not clear exactly where we should draw the boundary of what sorts of questions are off topic, and what reason is best to give for considering them off topic. There have been a number of discussions on this in the past, among them:
- Banning homework: vote and documentation (November 2013)
- What's the current status of the homework policy? (December 2013)
- Homework - the view from the chat session (March 2015)
- Should we rename the homework policy? (October 2015)
We will probably want to create a new policy that replaces the current homework policy, and gives a different criterion for a question that is off topic. This new policy would become the new justification for closing low-effort homework questions (those where it is clear that it's a homework/educational question), so whatever we wind up going with, it should be some criterion that does catch those questions.
There are a few options that I can identify:
- Questions which ask us to perform calculations are off topic
- Questions which don't show sufficient effort are off topic (I suppose this is the nice wording for the poster being lazy)
- A combination of the previous two - kind of like our current homework policy, except that the criteria of "ask a conceptual question" (more or less) and "show effort" would apply to all questions, not just those we consider to be of an educational nature
Those are the most likely contenders, but for completeness, some other options:
- Questions which ask for a conceptual understanding of something are on topic, and everything else is not (this is kind of like #1, but excludes more questions)
- All questions which come from homework assignments are off topic (difficult to enforce)
etc. etc. And for comparison, our current policy would be something like
- Questions which are educational in nature are off topic unless they ask a conceptual question and show effort
We have some ideas for what kind of criterion should replace our current homework policy. For each of these ideas, we should consider:
- Are there a significant number of questions which are off topic under our current homework policy which would be on topic under the new policy? If so, should they be on topic?
- Exactly what sorts of questions would become off topic under the new policy which are not covered by current close reasons? Do we want them to be off topic?
Hopefully the answers we come up with will help us focus the new close reason.
At some point in the future, we will also have to discuss the role of the homework-and-exercises tag in this new policy.