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Nowadays I find more and more of my questions being closed and I don't understand why. I've got the impression that acquiring knowledge isn't the priority here anymore, but rather following some established policies and forms. I think that the homework question policies should be changed. I guess that if these policies were applied when I first joined this site, 90% of my questions would be closed, yet some of them have 2k views now and have probably helped someone to wave away their doubts. Here are some example questions:

  1. Why does diamagnetic current induce a downfield while the paramagnetic current induces an upfield shift?

It is marked as a duplicate, and a link to the original question is given. I don't think that it is a duplicate, as it doesn't ask about the NMR phenomena and it isn't addressed in the answer (how do the upfield and downfield effects arise)?

  1. Why is the Still-Gennari reaction Z-selective?

I really don't understand these homework questions marks. It would be more helpful for everyone to see just a concise answer than follow my guesses and confusions. I have actually provided my guess in the comment. The answer is pretty satisfying and could help others grasp the concept.

  1. Generation of singlet oxygen by irradiation

The question directly applies to the appliance of senzitizers in photochemistry, the answer is profound and would help everyone who looks up something similar to understand the concept. I guess that it is again closed because I didn't take a guess in answering this question.

  1. Quadrupole moment of a molecule

I accepted that this question may be closed because it is possibly a duplicate, but it is closed because it is off-topic again.

So why being so strict when choosing which question should be closed as long as it is clear what is asked? Isn't the answer more important? It should be obvious what homework questions are, yet I am confused. The questions I asked aren't practice problems where I could show you my calculations, I could only guess what the correct explanation is.

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    $\begingroup$ "I think that the homework question policies should be changed." I'm with ya. We have tried to do that, but it's a bit hard to figure out how to change the scope exactly (See meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/3181). It didn't reach final conclusion and I appreciate any contribution and help form your side. Or any side. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ Also relevant meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/3012/… $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ When I first joined this forum, the rules weren't that rigorous, and that's why I switched to this site from another forum where they apply the Socratic method. I preferred this forum, because I could get answers much faster and I could easily navigate through other users questions which was very hard in the other forum. I don't see why is this forum changing in the same direction. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 27 '16 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ We're trying to be bureaucratically clean, Marko. Those lazy people that toss their homework at random people on the internet and you're not one of them? Yeah, that's the people we don't want this site to be filled with. Take a look at the front page. We always get some blatant homework thrown at us. If we don't close those questions they'll get more and more, until it gets to the degree that you don't get fast answers anymore. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ This post just triggered what could possibly be our first site-wide experiment. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't want this site to be filled with people like that then maybe regarding some stats like users points should be considered when choosing which question to delete or mark as homework. With things like they are now, I am losing interest in this site which I had found exceptional before. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 27 '16 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ I understand that you might be a bit frustrated about the closures, but 1. Duplication isn't bad. It's unfortunate that it sounds a lot like closure, but it's not. It's something like showing a very related question in a more prevalent way, such that it leaves no place for further answers. 2. Closure won't harm you or your stance on the site in any way. It would have taken you close to a question ban if you didn't have positive contributions, but right now, to get question banned, you'd need something like 1000 downvoted and closed questions. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ 3. User reputation does affect the way we see questions. We try to keep things unbiased, but it's still a factor. That's how it should be, because that number indicates we should put some of our trust on you. 4. Nothing is perfect. There will always be positive and negative feelings about things you got around to know about a lot. The very fact that you came here, and asked for a change means that you haven't given up on this site, and that's good. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 27 '16 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ This site has been an indispensable source of knowledge for me and I would really like to remain here. Therefore I hope that some things will change so I can continue asking questions without hesitation and discouraging closures. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 27 '16 at 16:46
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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree with your sentiment @Marko, and actually usually like your questions (I like having the excuse to ramble about organic chemistry), but if you look objectively (the Still-Genarri question, for example), it does show no evidence of any research on your part(i.e. your thoughts/papers that you might have read other than a single source), which, is basically what the homework policy says should be closed. Essentially, they're excellent questions, but people are just applying the rules that the community decided upon. $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Aug 27 '16 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ If my search didn't take me anywhere I don't see why I should mention it. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 27 '16 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Marko My point was that, even if the question is theoretically good, the homework policy states that you should show some effort or thought. You even did so in the comments. If this had have been in the body of the question it likely would have remained open. Even if your thoughts are wrong, it still shows that you've actually thought about it rather than being spoon-fed an answer. $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Aug 27 '16 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ I see your point, I just think that it could possibly clutter the question with unnecessary info. If someone other than the op wants to learn something from a question, it could confound him. I prefer reading concise questions and answers. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 27 '16 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ For a question and answer to be useful not only for YOU, it needs to be not only concise but also complete. You are in all cases pushing off the work to make it complete to the one answering it. Not only homework, but ALL questions must show some own thought and effort. Only you seem to think spending the effort to be beneath you. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 10 '16 at 9:10
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There’s so and there’s so. I feel that at least two of those questions were incorrectly closed. For another two, I feel that I understand why they were closed (and I even took part in closing one, although I was definitely jumping on the close vote review bandwagon).

The Still-Gennari one could have included additional information directly, imho. It asks why a single one of the many HWE variants gives a specific stereochemical result. Why only that one? What do you know about the standard? What does the standard give? I’m pretty sure that you can ramble on a lot about what the difference of Still-Gennari is to standard Horner-Wadsworth-Emmons and what the latter gives (maybe even why). As such, while it doesn’t have to be closed, I can definitely understand it getting closed.

On the rose bengal singlet oxygen question, I am at a loss what the close voters would have wanted. A structure of rose bengal? Hence I just dropped a reopen vote on that one.


Concerning the policy, it is somewhat laid down in rule 6.

Rule 6: there is no rule 6.

There has been a lot of rambling going on but no definite action taking. I have stated my points before, and I think we should get a move on towards deciding on a new homework policy, but nothing has happened yet. The problem here is probably that everybody (that explicitly includes me) is pointing into the empty room and saying ‘somebody should lead the way!’ (Which reminds me of the joke about the four people everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody, where nobody always does everything.)

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    $\begingroup$ I was one of the people who voted to close the rose bengal singlet oxygen question. The question is "What is the mechanism involved in the generation of singlet oxygen when ground state triplet oxygen is irradiated in the presence of rose bengal?" and the OP wants to know a mechanism of action. A putative mechanism was not included by the OP - it would not have mattered to me if a structural representation of rose bengal was included by the OP, unless the question included a query in re: the structure of the molecule in question. Just my $0.02 and reason behind my VTC. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Aug 28 '16 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Agree on the Still-Gennari, as it was originally submitted it should have been closed. Now with OP's comment on the main question it can debatably be edited reopened. I know that OP is an established user but when we VTC the user should have nothing to do with that. Imagine if it was a 1 rep new user, it would have been closed without any second thoughts. Things that could possibly be included: 1) discussion of differences from normal HWE. 2) links to original papers by Still/Gennari (not very hard to find - even Wikipedia cites it: Tetrahedron Lett. 1983, 24, 4405–4408) $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Aug 29 '16 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ (...) merely saying "I looked up the original paper but couldn't find anything relevant inside there" (which is true), I think, would have stopped the question from being closed. With that said, I suppose that under our new experiment those questions would not be closed. It seems like it is generating good answers at least some of the time. So let's be more open towards these kind of questions. $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Aug 29 '16 at 1:13
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There is no policy of excessively closing questions.

The why of closing should be obvious; we close questions that our model doesn't provide a satisfactory answer for. We're neither a homework completion service nor a discussion board; hence we don't answer "Calculate the number of moles." or "What is your favorite chemical?". We're also on the internet, so we inherently can't provide a reliable answer for "Am I gonna get sick?".

In the case of homework, since the early community foresaw some value in having them, we didn't treat them as blatantly off-topic; but to prevent becoming yet another help forum, we adapted a guideline from Physics.SE, and that was requiring effort.

There seems to be an inclination to close questions that do not demonstrate previously done effort, and since closing must have a reason, people treat these like homework questions. It works in most of the cases, since questions they close usually have some other problem than merely lacking shown research.

However, it has some downsides to it, and that you have proven well. Good questions get closed, while they shouldn't. Neither close voters nor askers are at fault; but lack of objectivity in closing and bureaucratization of the process are to blame.

Thank you for this post. It ignited some thoughts in me, and I'll be writing up some meta posts so at least I get something done. What you can do, as a diligent and profound asker, is to help us distinguish more easily between homework and non-homework questions, since the line is sometimes fuzzy.

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I do agree with Jan and whatever-his-current-name-is formerly known as Ina. I would like to take the opportunity to point out a few things that would maybe help in the future to avoid closures.

In general there is no trend that questions are getting closed more often during the last year. To me it actually appears that the opposite is the case (within the last four months). That set aside I have noticed a couple of times that questions are getting closed as duplicates, because the answer in a linked question addresses that to a certain point. That should not be done and I am quite often using my mod vote to overrule such decisions.

In any case, I am thankful that you are presenting this case in such a detailed fashion, for everyone to clearly follow. I find it very important to communicate about such concerns and to make the community find a common stance. You may have seen that these are all gradual processes as the community changes. And since everyone has an equal vote, everyone should participate and of course heard. You can also see that you sparked a new experiment, initiated by Ina, which will hopefully be a good experience for everybody. So thanks again for caring about this site and the community.

Now for a bit more techincal stuff:
Closevoting is part of why this site functions very efficiently and keeps this site clean of an overwhelming number of repetitive questions that eventually do not help many. I would like to remind everyone, that a closed question can be reopened, which when done often leads to a more concise and better understandable question in the first place.
Another thing I would like to point out is, that a long comment thread below the question is often a sign that the question can be improved simply by including the briefest and most relevant information that was obtained through this process in the original post. After that comments can be cleared and one is right at the answers.

Now a bit more closer to your questions. None of them were closed unanimously, so obviously we are in somewhat uncharted territory, which is one reason why we wanted to change the close policies to offer more guidance on that part. However it also means that there have been some of us thinking that the questions are not up to our selfimposed standards.
This is a bit unfortunate, but it happens, and our site is not fault proof. As of now less than 10% of your questions have been closed (and/or deleted), and I believe that is not a big number. I am positive that some of them can easily be salvaged.

You have asked her in the comments:

If my search didn't take me anywhere I don't see why I should mention it.

The answer to that is pretty simple: To not show you stuff, that did not help you in the first place, to prevent others to look in dead ends, to shorten the sorting process of those willing to answer, to understand your general thought process. There is always a chance that you have done the research thoroughly and just missed a detail that would have been essential to grasp the whole picture.

Anyway. Here are a few thought on the questions itself.

  1. Diamagnetic and paramagnetic ring current

I have addressed the duplicate issue earlier. Here I just reopened the question. I don't think that there was any resemblance of the questions apart from the title.
Picking a descriptive title makes it easier to understand what your main focus is. In that case it was just a placeholder - pretty meaningless. (Apart from this there was a somewhat crucial typo, which I hope to have corrected.) I edited the title to give more focus, and to clearly distinguish it from the other question: Why does diamagnetic current induce a downfield while the paramagnetic current induces an upfield shift?

  1. Still-Gennari reaction stereoselectivity

I can see why this question was closed - even though I see that this is not just a trivial homework exercise.
You have reasoned, that you provided you insight in the comments. As I stated above, that is not really the right place to do it. I have no included your comment into the question, and if it would have been presented like this in the first place, I doubt it would have been closed. You obviously did think about it, why not share it? (Because this question is a bit old, it might need a reopen vote to get things rolling.)
Btw. This question was first dequeued, then closed. (timeline) The final close vote was your own. (How is that even possible?)

  1. Generation of singlet oxygen by irradiation

Well, that one was reopened quickly. One of the questions that should not have been closed. Even though I would need to do my own research to start to even understand the question. This one is not really making it easy to see where you are coming from. I also have no idea what rose bengal is.

  1. Quadrupole moment of a molecule

Apart from being quite general and a non-descriptive title I see nothing wrong with this question and it probably shouldn't have been closed.
However, if the first comment is the link to a wikipedia page (that you already read), it's already a sign that this question will not be very well-received. Just don't send us down the path you have already walked and found insufficient.


If you think the decision of the community is incorrect, then use a reopen vote on it or edit instead of commenting. (Editing dequeues, too, if not closed.) As a community we are diverse and we make mistakes. Nothing is set in stone, it just needs a little more communication.

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  • $\begingroup$ Regarding my close vote, I gave it as the question was already predestined to be closed and I was already planning after the closure of the rose bengal question to start up this discussion, so I would mention those two questions, but I was distracted by some obligations at that time. I am very glad that things are getting sorted out now. I see that I wasn't clear enough about"Diamagnetic and paramagnetic ring current", but now it is okay. $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 29 '16 at 12:57

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