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Today is my fourth anniversary on ChemSE. While I have enjoyed my time on the site, I have recently had the perception that the quality of questions in the broad area of organic chemistry has gone downhill. There appears to be too many inquiries that can be labeled "homework" or are generally "off the wall". Is there some mechanism for improving the quality on the questions? I invite the input of the ChemSE community.

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    $\begingroup$ Since anyone with access to the internet can ask a question, we can't limit that end of things. We can downvote and vote to close to eliminate them from the front page until they are brought up to standards (best case) or deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 19 '21 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think I get what you are exactly asking about. We are the only real "mechanism" to improve quality. Me, Jon, mods and others... and you too, I guess! It seems you don't use the power all that much though - I mean flags, votes, edits, all this can bring quality up, in a direct or indirect way. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Nov 20 '21 at 1:50
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It depends on what you mean by the quality of the questions.

If we're talking about how they're presented, with poor grammar or poor photos of mechanisms, etc., then that's easy to fix: just edit it! There are lots of amazing users here who put lots of effort into doing this.

But if we're talking about how intrinsically interesting they are, then that's quite hard to fix. As Jon Custer mentioned in the comments, SE is open to practically anybody to ask questions. On the Internet, you're also likely to select for people who need homework help, because those who need professional help are almost certainly more likely to look elsewhere (see also: Why so few questions from the top 36 users?)

[There's also a seasonal effect: SE tends to get more homework-type questions closer to exam seasons, but that's not an important consideration, in my opinion. Question quality can always be improved regardless of what time of the year it is.]

Ultimately, I think the only way to improve this is to be more restrictive about what kinds of questions we keep on the front page. That is to say, to have more active moderation of content quality. That may entail one or more of the following:

  • downvoting: it's worth noting that anything that is voted to −4 or lower will not appear on the main page (when viewed on a desktop web browser)

  • deleting questions that aren't suitable for the site: this proposal has been sitting dormant for a while, and I think is the best middle ground between "being too passive" and "being exclusive / snobby".

  • stricter policies on what questions are acceptable. This would have to be discussed on Meta.

Contrary to popular belief, closing doesn't help much: instead of hiding questions from view, they are left to sit on the front page and annoy visitors who see a bunch of closed questions on the front page.

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I don't generally answer organic chemistry questions and I certainly do not answer meta question but I would like to take this opportunity to answer your question although orthocresol already provided all the points.

Let's consider two types of question:

1.

What is the mechanism of this reaction?

[Enter reaction image]

plz what is the mechanism of the rxn? any help appreciated. thanks!!!.

Why did [X] atom attacked [this position] instead of [this position]?

Question:

[Enter reaction image]

My thoughts/analysis:

[...]

[rough sketch of mechanism drawn by OP/any mechanism found on Internet]

Reference: [...]

Of course (1) will be insta-closed by mods but if one follows format (2), any level of questions is allowed here. In chem.SE, you will find different level of questions: pre high school questions, high-school questions, undergraduate question, PhD questions. Of course they have their quality based on the level of question but there is no limitation that is blocking you or any quality level you have to maintain before asking a question. Anyone is allowed to ask a question at any level and anyone is allowed to answer questions any level. The only catch is they have to provide the thoughts/analysis. So it is our job to tell users that this is not an ordinary Homework delivery site and that you will get your answer if you provide your thoughts. There are dedicated pre-written message for that that are delivered in comment section.

Of course there are one-timers who comes with zero expectations, post a question and vanishes. We can't do anything. We don't have any bot that predicts and remove one-timers. But we do have the homework policy. Such questions will be closed. Understanding OPs will edit the question and we will reopen it if it passes the standard. There are users who are willing to stick here for some time and they will know the process, what type of questions are allowed, how to make questions more presentable or interesting. So, we have to encourage such users who are willing to stay here. In this way, the "quality" of questions will inherently get improved.

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