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Overview

There has been some concerns lately about whether we close too much. So we start giving leniency a chance. Scroll down to What we do to get to the fun part. Read the rest if you're interested.

Why we do

It's all about answers. Whatever we do here, whether it is commenting, asking, answering, closing, reopening, deleting, or editing, is to make all the knowledge that's in your minds or out there more accessible. We might even take a step further in the future and actually produce knowledge, but in the end, it's only about the knowledge in the answers you provide.

So why do we close, really? Is it because we hold a grudge? Is it because we'd like to feel superior? Is it because we're elitist, and only want the more veteran chemists to be on this site?

Those are some of the accusations that tend to get thrown at close voters around the network I poke my head around. They were even thrown at us at least once. I don't know if those are the reasons you guys vote to close, but why I do is because I want the providers of that knowledge to stay. That's why the system of closing is designed in the first place, and what it's meant to be used for.

Of course, all of that would work providing that we have a stream of valuable and/or interesting questions. I wouldn't mind, merely care, if someone came to rant on meta about how poorly their posts were received. I've seen too many of those for them to have any effect now. At times, they even manage to show how well the current system is working. Stack Overflow, the largest site of this yard, is continuing to exponentially grow.

However, when one of our two only Socrates's is concerned about excessive closure, we have a problem. In fact, this was not realized just today. We ourselves had some concerns, expressed before on meta, and there were some fruitless efforts to come up with more objective ways of closing questions as homework. Well, buckle up. It's time for real action.

So, while I don't see myself in the place of someone who gives orders, and while I realized this defining and redefining is going to take forever to reach meaningful results, what do you say we stop dipping our toes in water?

Dipping toe in water


What we do

An experiment. For one month, effective Thursday, 2016 Sep 1. Here's what we do, and we don't:

  • We will only close blatantly obvious homework questions.

That is, the ones that ask for calculations, without any effort on behalf of the asker. Here's one such example. (Imgur mirror for <10k users.)

  • We won't close easily Googleable, or rudimentary questions.

Instead, go ahead and provide an exemplary answer. If your answer will hardly be anything more than a link to the first Google result and a quote, but sufficiently addresses the question, it's okay. You can mark it as Community Wiki if that would make you feel better. You can also downvote if you think the question's quality isn't high enough. But no close votes.

  • Regarding mechanism questions,

The ones that are obviously from a textbook, for instance a screenshot with no effort provided, will be closed and linked to the homework policy.

However, it's not obvious whether the typed out ones are homework. In those cases, only vote for closure if one of the bronze tag badge holders, who are trusted to make the right decision, say that the question is scraped from a textbook. Notably, again lack of research in itself is not a close reason.

  • It's worth explicitly mentioning that lack of research is no longer a valid close reason.

Why would we

The biggest cause of the uneasy feeling of closing something we don't have an objective reason to do so were questions without demonstrated effort. Sometimes, further unnecessary but required context only clutters space. The grayer areas of detecting homework land, where the question was only conceptual but showed no effort, caused some questions to be closed that shouldn't have been. Ones that could've triggered interesting discussions. Why deprive ourselves of the chance to learn something new, or add a shiny post to the already full basket of Chemistry Stack Exchange?

Hence we're giving what we culled before a chance, to see how it plays out. After a month, we'll be able to evaluate whether the experience on Chem.SE has been more positive for us. We'd be able to discern whether sending more people home with answers is what we can take, or it's just too much and hinders the better questions from getting the attention they so fully deserve.

One month isn't too short a period not to show the results well, and not too long to be able to cause damage that we can't heal, if there was any to come from this. So just lend me a hand and trust me. We'll dive into the water that perhaps may be deep, but it's much more likely that we'll have a good swim instead of a tragedy.

What's the worst that could happen?

Let's go mad


In the answer and the comments below, please let me know whether you have anything to add to the bullet points, or have some insight to share. There are a few days left to the beginning of the experiment, and we can tweak things until, say, 30th.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is this mechanism question valid: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/34766/…? $\endgroup$ – RBW Aug 29 '16 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ The badge holders should give some input on that, but it does seem like a legitimate question. Reopening. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 29 '16 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ No it's not. It's an advanced question, but heck, my organcis professor often gave homework questions we couldn't solve with the help of his assistants & doctoral candidates. Plus it's posed in a lazy, offhanded way, without even a question mark, and no hint to any own effort by the OP. $\endgroup$ – Karl Aug 29 '16 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ Can you tell us how to agree on what a blatantly obvious homework question is? My degrees are not in chemistry, and I still see many blatant homework questions. Heaven forbid if I actually knew more chemistry (likely meaning I'd done more chemistry homework). $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Aug 29 '16 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Jon as a guideline, stuff asking for calculations or picking a choice are homework, but conceptual questions aren't. The problem we're trying to solve is that some conceptual questions that are not homework tend to get closed as homework if there is no demonstrated effort by the OP, hence the close reason and the guidance won't fit. Bottom line is, if you can be certain that it's homework, it is; but we won't be closing as homework in the gray areas. It would be helpful to comment in such cases so the close reviewers agree. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 30 '16 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Marko You might (in general) want to review your questions to actually have a meaningful title, especially for this one. Also consider that a question should be helpful for everyone and even though you might use common abbreviations, it would be much better to actually include the full one in the body. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Aug 30 '16 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @DEAD - I'm in! Thanks for taking the lead on all of this! $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Sep 1 '16 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ Will a question that explicitly says "This is my homework" be closed under these guidelines, regardless of what the question is? $\endgroup$ – Matthew Read Sep 25 '16 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I established these guidelines so we be a bit more lenient on closing. If someone explicitly states that it's their homework, lack of effort will likely result in closure. However, we have a history of leaving questions with a potentially interesting answer open. So we'd decide more or less on a case-by-case basis. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Sep 25 '16 at 19:58
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Pre-experiment stats up to 2016/08/31 16:00 UTC.
Post-experiment stats up to 2016/10/01 16:00 UTC.

Total question statistics

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|} \hline & \textbf{Pre-experiment} & \textbf{Post-experiment} \\ \hline \text{No. of questions} & 16\,753 & 17\,385 \\ \text{Qns without accepted answers} & 8\,376 \,(50.00\%) & 8\,718\,(50.15\%) \\ \text{Qns with no answers} & 3\,460 \,(20.65\%) & 3\,660\,(21.05\%) \\ \text{Qns with no answers, not closed} & 2\,830\,(16.89\%) & 2\,993\,(17.22\%) \\ \hline \end{array}$$

Answer statistics

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|} \hline & \textbf{Pre-experiment} & \textbf{Post-experiment} \\ \hline \text{No. of answers} & 19\,299 & 19\,928 \\ \hline \end{array}$$

Closure statistics

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|} \hline & \textbf{Pre-experiment} & \textbf{Post-experiment} \\ \hline \text{No. of qns closed} & 1\,641 & 1\,723 \\ \text{No. closed as not duplicate} & 1\,124\,(68.49\%) & 1\,171\,(67.96\%) \\ \text{No. closed as duplicate} & 517\,(31.51\%) & 552\,(32.04\%) \\ \hline \end{array}$$

Homework statistics

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|} \hline & \textbf{Pre-experiment} & \textbf{Post-experiment} \\ \hline \text{No. of HW qns open} & 1\,929 & 1\,997 \\ \text{No. of HW qns closed} & 321 & 341 \\ \text{No. of HW qns closed as duplicate} & 55 & 57 \\ \hline \end{array}$$


Close reason statistics (10k)

Pre-experiment: Last 90-day period until start of the experiment
During experiment: Last 30-day period until 2016/10/01 17:00 UTC

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|} \hline & \textbf{Pre-experiment} & \textbf{During experiment} \\ \hline \text{Total asked} & 2\,058 & 943 \\ \text{Total closed} & 716\,(34.79\%\text{ of total asked}) & 319\,(33.83\%) \\ \text{Closed as HW} & 339\,(47.35\%\text{ of total closed}) & 133\,(41.69\%) \\ \text{Closed as HW then edited} & 27\,(7.96\%\text{ of closed as HW}) & 9\,(6.77\%) \\ \text{Closed as HW then reopened} & 8\,(2.36\%\text{ of closed as HW}) & 2\,(1.50\%) \\ \text{Closed as HW, edited, then reopened} & 6\,(22.22\%\text{ of edited}) & 1\,(11.11\%) \\ \hline \end{array}$$

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