Often when cruising the latest questions or working through the review queue, I'll make an edit that only adds .

I see two problems, the first very minor, the second potentially insidious.

  1. Is this too minor of an edit?
  2. Is it safe to make the assumption that a post is homework?

I argue that the first point is a non-issue, because these edits would not fall into the same category as Should I have accepted a trivial add-homework-tag edit on this old question?. These aren't old questions, they're the newest ones under https://chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions.

For the second point, if the OP says "this isn't homework", it probably isn't worth fighting over (unless the post is obviously homework or is VLQ) and the tag can be removed.

I use the word "insidious" because it's like judicial activism. It could easily be used as a weapon. Homework implies bad things, so choosing to add to a question is sending a message of how homework is defined on the site.

Though, I would like to continue adding to questions that are on hold or just recently closed for being homework, but for some reason don't have the tag. These are questions that are obviously homework, ignoring some previously contentious ones that resulted in "experiments".

Where we draw the line on "should be added in" is probably the same as defining what a homework question actually is.

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    $\begingroup$ Personally (controversial opinion) I am against having the homework tag. I feel like so far it has not been of any use apart from collecting statistics, which are inherently flawed because a lot of homework questions do not even get tagged with homework. The guidelines say that it will affect the kind of answer we write, but honestly, the question body itself is more important than a somewhat arbitrarily applied tag. Furthermore, many homework questions can be edited to make them less homework-y. Honestly, I would say that in the long run, I would prefer if we get rid of the tag. $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Oct 25 '16 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. And so does Jeff Atwood himself: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags $\endgroup$ – pentavalentcarbon Oct 25 '16 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, they knew that it's a meta tag when they created [homework]. It helps classify things. Some people just ignore [homework]-tagged, and some favorite the tag. I would've provided an answer, but Jan has already added his. If the only thing the edit is doing is introducing [homework], I treat it on a case-by-case basis. Basically, if it misses other problems in the post, I reject the edit. If it's on hold, I reject the edit so we wouldn't waste time on it on the reopen queue. (It's not really improved) In all other cases, I'd probably approve the edit, or edit myself to polish it further. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Oct 25 '16 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth pointing out that after 2k, edits you make can be trivial, and adding a tag causes no harm, but it's discouraged to do it when the question is on-hold. You should also be careful not to flood the front page with edits. The idea is that people with less than 2,000 rep get their edit peer-reviewed, and it's expected that those peer-reviewed edits be more substantial. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Oct 25 '16 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Death to the homework tag! I'm on mobile so I can't look it up, but there is a discussion on it already. Maybe it's time to revive it. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Oct 26 '16 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, ok, I'll stop my bad behavior. I couldn't find anything in meta...maybe it was improperly tagged ;) $\endgroup$ – pentavalentcarbon Oct 26 '16 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Please don't get me wrong. This meta post is a new discussion, the point you raised in your comment had been addressed before. And I mean it might be a good idea to revisit it. Maybe we can chat about it after my return. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Oct 26 '16 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/238/… is perhaps what y'all are looking for. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Oct 26 '16 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't really want to suggest the removal of the homework tag so soon - I think we need to sort out the actual policy first and then we can talk about 1) possibly giving it a new name 2) whether we need the meta tag. I know I promised, before elections, to discuss the actual policy. It will happen some time soon. $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Oct 26 '16 at 12:01

Is it a bad idea to have an edit only be the addition of the homework tag?

  1. Is this too minor of an edit?

No! Having the correct tags under a question is vital.[1] Tags are useful. For high-rep users, there is even a function that allows for quick tag editing without even having to click the edit link.[2] Thus, a tag edit applying to a question which is homework is good and encouraged, especially if the question is still somewhat new.

  1. Is it safe to make the assumption that a post is homework?

In my opinion, until we have decided on a new policy,[3] the old policy is in place.[4] We have no supreme court that could rule a policy to be no longer applicable; our way to do this is by community and meta discussion. Since we haven’t reached an agreement yet,[3] we need to go by the old policy until we have one.

This old policy lays out clear guidelines when a post is defined as homework.[4] If these guidelines apply, I say add the tag. If people disagree, comment to point them to our policy and explain why you think the tag is correct.

However, the tag is not worth starting a fight over it. So if they continue to disagree after having read the policy, let it be.

Note that equation (1) applies. questions do not have to be bad per se. Good homework questions exist and should be upvoted as proof of their existence and to point users towards great and shiny examples.

$$\text{homework question}{} \ne{} \text{bad question}\tag{1}$$


[1]: What do I need to know about tagging?

[2]: Help centre

[3]: What *is* a 'homework question'?

[4]: How do I ask homework questions on Chemistry Stack Exchange?

  • $\begingroup$ Mart would've edited the MathJax if this was 2015 and my post. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Oct 25 '16 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.R. I'm very tempted. It screws up the formatting on my mobile device; it does not anything valuable to the post. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Oct 26 '16 at 3:10

For me, the "homework" tag means that this question has been posed to the OP for educational reasons, i.e. that he should not only know the answer, but learn something more by answering it.

I agree that this is obvious in most cases, and if the OP has not put his own thought in it, it gets flagged (not just tagged) as homework anyway. But it also doesn't hurt, and it might keep someone from just throwing a four-word answer that solves the question, but nothing else.

In short: The tag is a means of communication, and that is rarely a bad thing.


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