Why was this question closed as homework? (10k+ rep needed to view; it was deleted by OP as of this writing.) (Question was undeleted and reopened; see Martin's answer)

Original text:

Please scroll to question 21. near the end of the paper. The answer is A.


To set up an experiment where rate of reaction of sodium thiosulfate and hydrochloric acid is analysed. We add sodium thiosulfate to a conical flask with acid in it. we can measure the rate of reaction by recording the time taken for a cross to disappear beneath the conical flask due to a precipitate forming.

Why is rinsing the conical flask with acid likely to decrease the accuracy of the experiment? I would imagine that stirring the solution introduces error as the rate of stirring is difficult to control

I could see closure as unclear what you're asking, due to failure to include key details in the post itself.

But this is not a 'problem dump' question -- OP has a reasonable question about the answer to a test question about an experimental procedure. IMO the community should have worked with OP here rather than just homework-closehammering him.

In fact, I have taken the time to rework the question, and invite 10k+ rep users to consider voting to undelete.

Given the above, and various other occurrences around the site, I propose we formally dial the homework close reason waaaaaaay back. Based on the results of last year's experiment, this sort of philosophical change seemed to have salutary effects, so how about let's move forward with a formal change to site policies in this direction? There's been a lot of discussion about what to do about HWVTC, with little action actually resulting. Mostly it seems like there's difficulty reaching consensus about exactly how to define what's homework/homeworky and what's not.

So, how about we change the homework VTC reason to only cover questions that are explicitly posts containing the text of homework problems/exercises; either with no additional comments, or with requests for help without mention of any technical concept that they're having difficulty with?

We've already deprecated the homework tag, and are thus in the process of minimizing "homework" as a category on the site. We seem to have received an appreciable influx in new askers and answerers to the site in the last few weeks; if we want to welcome these new people in and grow the community, we probably are sending exactly the wrong message by summarily closing a bunch of posts, instead of engaging their authors and helping orient them to the site philosophy/policies.

Implications and recommendations if this were to be implemented:

  • Posts that "feel homeworky" but do not include an explicit problem statement are not closeable as homework. Downvote and move on, or engage the OP in comments if desired.

  • "Insufficient research" posts (AKA, "Three seconds of Googling" questions) are not closeable as homework. Downvote and move on, optionally leaving a suitable comment.

  • Posts that include a problem statement and do ask a technical question are not closeable as homework. If the question is poor, downvote and move on; or, engage OP in comments; or, vote to close as unclear or too broad if appropriate.

  • AMIRITE questions are not closeable as homework. (This is the implication I'm least happy about, but I think it's necessary.)

    • If there is no useful exposition to be made and the only reasonable response is a trivial "yes", then provide that trivial "yes" in a comment, downvote the question as being poor for the site, preferably leave a comment indicating this motivation for the downvote, and move on.

    • If the answer is correct but there is some useful exposition to be made, make it in an answer. The appropriateness of a downvote here is somewhat less clear; likely I would not upvote, though.

    • If the answer is not correct, write an answer explaining why. As above, the appropriateness of a downvote here is unclear, since the question represents a real confusion someone had about a problem, and thus may be helpful to others.

  • Posts that are laden with misconceptions are not closeable as homework (if they ever were).

    • If the misconceptions are sufficiently few, post an answer addressing them. Probably do not downvote or upvote.

    • If there are too many to address, downvote and leave a comment to that effect.

  • Posts that address basic concepts are not closeable as homework (if they ever were / should have been)

    • Check for possible duplicate targets for these, either through site search or The Giant List of Duplicates. If no dupe target is forthcoming, consider writing a detailed answer that can then become a dupe target for other questions. (If the particular question is insufficiently general, then create a new, general, self-answered Q&A and then close the particular question as a duplicate of the newly-created one.)

This proposal is just to feel out the general opinion of the community on this course of action. Appropriate changes to the wording of the close reason and of the relevant Meta (here, at minimum) and possibly Help Center pages would have to be drafted and approved down the line.


2 Answers 2


I have previously been vocal about my dissatisfaction with the close reason and it is no secret that I want to rework it completely. As a matter of fact, I'd like to even toss in the idea of completely disabling it as an interim solution, while we work out a new system. (Closing "as homework" would still be available via the custom reason, but it might set a slightly higher bar to prevent misuse.)

Closing questions should always be an interim solution with the target of improving the question itself so that it gains enough value to be helpful for future visitors. This site is not about a quick fix, but rather about a long-term (evolving) repository of knowledge. As such, every closed question (exception duplicates) is basically noise as it does not attract new answers. (It could be argued that it should consequently be deleted, but that's something for another time.)
Ideally we wouldn't need closure at all, but with a site that receives many questions of a certain kind (with questionable utility) it is unfortunately a necessary evil; i.e. it prevents the site to be cluttered and automagically clears abandoned content. My biggest problem with the current policy is that it doesn't help improving the question to a broader level of usability, it demands many things rather than suggesting ways to improve the question and help the user to actually get an answer. It's also prone to generate posts that can be considered XY problems (asking about Y, while the problem is actually X).

In principle I agree that in most cases down-vote, comment, and move on should be the preferred course of action. It is vital to engage in communication to improve the question. From my experience this is not always received very well and most of my questions about context are ignored, but I at least gave the question a fighting chance. There have been occasions where a question was unclear to me, but not to someone else, who in turn even was able to share an answer (which then let me understand the question better).

I could ramble on about closing questions, but I don't think that would be much helpful to an already complicated problem.
For the specific question question at hand: I already only down-voted as I read it in the mobile app on the go. I thought I commented, but as it turned out I either forgot to post it or didn't have the time. (That's the problem with making decisions on the go.) However, thanks to your effort, I think the question is now well enough to be helpful in the future and I think it provides enough context and arguments to have a good answer.
Therefore I have undeleted and reopened the question.

  • $\begingroup$ One of the challenges is followup. Since new users tend not to know how to ping, often I'm not aware if/when an effort has been made to improve the post. I know you can enable notifications when new answers are posted on a question - can one enable notifications of, e.g., edits to a specific post? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ If everybody would vote more, especially on questions, the initial down-votes would not have such a big impact. When the user base is growing follow-ups will be difficult anyway. If you star a question, you'll be "notified" of any and all changes. I for one would not like to be notified any more than I already am. The system is quite clever, sometimes you don't have to ping to notify the other party. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2017 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ I don't get any favorites notifications at all. I suppose there's a setting somewhere I've missed? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @hBy2Py You don't get them in your inbox. You'll see changes on the favourite tab of your profile page. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2017 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ And yet, there then come questions like this one, which reeks of 'do my homework for me.' However, otherwise, it's a perfectly fine question for the site, I'd say. Is there any way we could embargo questions like this for 24-48 hours? Make them unanswerable until any illicit urgent usefulness to OP is past? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ .... why did you freeze the Spring Cleaning chatroom? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @hBy2Py How is that in any way a good question for the site? "What is the chemical equation for the action of heat on trioxocarbonate(IV) salt, hydrogen trioxocarbonate (IV) salt and trioxocarbonate (v) salt?" What is action of heat in the first place? What is trioxocarbonate(IV) or trioxocarbonate(v)? I have no idea what this is asking. And I don't see any conceptual query and doubt it will be helpful for anyone in the future. Closing is the embargo on our platform as it prevents cluttering the site before the question is significantly improved. [...] $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ [...] The whole idea of useful for the OP should be completely eradicated from (y)our thinking. The individual does not matter, only the content does. I couldn't care less if I'm doing someones homework or not. It's not my problem if the OP learns or not. If a question is interesting, well presented, and helpful for a certain number of people I don't care where it came from and if someone gets a good grade for it. It's about broad applicability, which most of those copy and paste exercises simply lack. That's why they won't be found, are not helpful, and should be avoided. [...] $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ [...] Not every question can be good, intriguing. Or even be answered. Not all are good fits. When we allow too much of the badly fitting questions, the site will get cluttered, effort gets triplicated, and those who usually answer lose interest. The HW policy should prevent most of this, but it should not be used as a tool to voice your opinion as "this is a bad question" that's what down-votes are for. Ideally we wouldn't need closure ... (I froze Spring cleaning because April is over and it appeared to me that it is not in use anymore. My mistake. I can reopen if necessary.) $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ I must've been really distracted yesterday afternoon - you're right, that question's terrible. Sorry about that. As re the chat, there's a feed of new questions tagged with "homework" that was being posted in there, allowing us to clean them up as they're posted. I'd like to keep that functionality active. If you prefer, to keep it semantically isolated I can create the same feed in a new chat room, though. $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Mart, we're getting a lot of conversation about the homework closure reason, but it seems like no real conclusions from the community. Should we construct, say, a more explicit poll meta question to formalize a decision process and timeline? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 3:08

What I believe is that MOST of the users, who are moderators, are actually professors. As a result,they scoff upon the humble school students who ask homework questions. Apparently they take the "work it out yourself" policy a bit too seriously, and probably treat the answer-seeking individuals as their own students who have been assigned with some assignment, and have henceforth come to this website to quickly find the answer. What they fail to realize is that that is not the case, and acting so harsh with them is not exactly getting them, or this website anywhere.

Now to answer your question, i believe that it all comes down to the "taking things too seriously". They have forgotten what distinguished the straight home-work questions from the ones that have been given some thought, and that probably led to some user to shut down your question.

What these users don't realize is that they are costing this forum from more more potential users because of their haughtiness, because there exist more number of people who cannot think of an answer to a question, than the number of people who reason behind every answer. Our goal on any forum is not to make scientists out of men, but to simply provide answers to those in need of one. I guess that is why stackexchange can never be as widely used or respected as laymen websites such as quora, askiitians, etc. (And yes, they too have qualified individuals who are willing to answer questions)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For the matter at hand: Your comment is strangely off-topic here; you might achieve quite the opposite of what you want. This post is about a worrisome development, i.e. closing too many questions. The goal of the site is quite different from other sites like Qoura, (I don't doubt that there are qualified people around there), as we do not want to help an individual, but everyone who may have the same (or similar) questions. Therefore we want the questions to be as conceptual as possible. Without showing the thought-process that went into solving a problem, a question is simply too localised. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2017 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ (@Martin-マーチン) I actually think our goal is to "teach how to fish", rather than just "giving a fish." None of us answering questions here has expansive amounts of free time to dedicate to the site; answering one question with a broadly applicable answer that avoids seven other people posting substantially similar questions b/c they had that one answer available is a key element of the Stack Exchange network philosophy, IMO. $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 11:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree completely that our tendency toward overactive closure costs the site users, though. It's uncomfortable for the established community to welcome in new personalities, new styles of writing, etc. But we're harming ourselves if we try to cloister the site, intentionally or not. $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 11:10

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