From help pages:

"If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK."

And the website at the same time has a "homework policy".

How do these things can actually be combined????? How can asking and answering questions not turn into a discussion? How does the first rule make the site useful for anything other than homework questions or just very simple questions?


I see these two policies as complementary, serving as brackets to eliminate two extreme sorts of questions we'd like to avoid. I suppose if the "brackets" were too wide there might not be any middle ground remaining, but I don't think that's a problem we're having.

On the one hand, we want questions that have answers. There are plenty of interesting questions that don't have good answers, and shooting the breeze about those sorts of questions can be a lot of fun. But that's not what the Stack Exchange is for. We have a little flexibility since we can use the chat server for those sorts of open-ended questions. But the model on the main site, with questions, answers, and (ephemeral) comments, is explicitly designed to discourage open-ended discussions. A predecessor to Stack Exchange refers to such questions as chatfilter.

On the other hand, we frequently have new users who will paste a multiple-choice homework problem into the question box and seem to be expecting someone to answer "it's (c)." Those sorts of questions don't have any value for anyone except the asker --- and don't really have much value for the asker, either, since context-free answers don't have any explanatory power. A good homework-like question isn't "what's the answer to this question?"; it's "how can I arrive at an understandable answer to this question?"

There's a pretty wide grey area at either end of these brackets. There are homework-like questions that some users see as interesting where others see low effort and low value,. Some users may see a question as open-ended or opinion-based, while another user may be able to provide factual answers. That's why we have community moderation.

If you spend some time reading highly-scored questions and answers on subjects that interest you, I think you'll get a feeling for the broad range of questions that have interesting answers that become clear with minimal back-and-forth.

  • $\begingroup$ A good homework-like question isn't "what's the answer to this question?"; it's "how can I arrive at an understandable answer to this question?" I have the feeling your second version will also get shut down and closed in 90% of the cases, to be honest $\endgroup$ – Sanya May 6 '17 at 13:36

The homework policy, whilst confusing and a bit poorly defined, basically works like this:

Are you asking for people to do calculations for you and give you your answer for you? Then this site likely isn't for you. The same goes if you're asking something incredibly specific, rather than just about the concepts that the question is rooted in.

Are you asking a conceptual question, one that asks about a fundamental physics concept and could actually be useful to future readers, [who aren't just your classmates looking for worked solutions to your class' homeworks] if so then welcome to StackExchange.

  • $\begingroup$ As someone who is not a physicist my point in asking questions about quantum physics in such places is to get answers to questions that would generally require deeper understanding than presented in single textbooks or publication, which I can read by myself. Questions that may require reading more than one book and many publications and making conclusions based on the combined information of the books, so as to save time as physics isn't my occupation. Or if I form some concept to ask if the concept is plausible. I guess here just isn't the place to do that. ..... $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 4 '17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ ..... I just can't understand what kind of questions are considered "acceptable" here. And why should any question have to be considered acceptable or not, unless it doesn't contain improper language. I wouldn't spend time to start scrolling what 'highly scored ' questions get more attention. I don't mind going back and forth until reaching an answer. My time for doing homework is already several years passed. I'm just including the policy in this question to try to understand the site. I think I understand it at some level and looks like I need to look for other places $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 4 '17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ This is a question and answer site. Any question that fits this description [i.e. not a discussion] and contributes positively to the site's users [i.e. not an incredibly specific / homework question] and isn't an irredeemably bad or useless question $\endgroup$ – user95137 May 4 '17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ I believe this gives you a good understanding of what's wrong with the question. And I wasn't saying your question was identical to the example of the "bad or useless" question, there were three statements in that comment, you just ignored the other two. The two that actually apply. $\endgroup$ – user95137 May 4 '17 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Then what was wrong with this question: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/330819/… Do you really find it comparable to a question that asks if moon landings actually happened? And asks that in a nonsensical and wrong underlying way? Then I really should escape from here as fast as I can. $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 4 '17 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Refer to my above comment. $\endgroup$ – user95137 May 4 '17 at 19:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Or don't, either way I'm done with this. $\endgroup$ – user95137 May 4 '17 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ I guess a big part of my questions would be very specific and also discussions. But regarding the discussed question the first formulation was not very specific or rather not very detailed, the second was more detailed, but before any answer was given I received what I'd call an arrogant attitude by a moderator who also blocked the question, which caused my arrogant attitude which I'm willing to retract, but still I guess my first statement in this comment means I shouldn't be asking questions here. $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 4 '17 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ But do you know all the users of the site and what questions would be a positive contribution to everyone of them, or what questions everyone of them would consider a positive contribution to themselves? $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 4 '17 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, You can also refer to my comments any time? $\endgroup$ – Georgi Pavlov May 5 '17 at 23:08

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