I tried to make the question as concise as possible. I apologize if it appears misleading after reading further on and invite you to find a better 'title'.

And now to the core of the problem: AFAIK, questions that could be tagged {please-do-my-homework-for-me} are not exactly welcome. We tolerate them, but usually ask for a minimal code snippet from the OP (in some cases of course this does not apply). It seems to me that questions of this kind, where a figure is posted and the user just waits for someone to have mercy on him/her and do the job, have become more frequent. Same for questions where it is clear that the OP just didn't bother to search for an existing answer. So far, so good. It could come from a totally disgruntled student who is in the middle of a crunch and can't line up two words that make sense after a 72 hour shift - and this is the last hope, but it could also be a lazy one, who just slaps the question/picture on the site. Either way, we are not here to judge, but to help. So, what I really would like to sort out is to have a proper guideline for these situations and to avoid the kind of totally schizophrenic attitude that I recently witnessed.

For reference see Exhibit A: The OP just posted a picture asking to have it done in TikZ. In return he/she was asked to post some code. Meanwhile the question got some close votes and at the same time comments with hints to solve the problem... Now, IMHO the drawing is not particularly challenging to do in TikZ, still, before the OP did post anything to show his/her efforts, the question was answered... So what is the right way to do it?

  • ask for MWE and wait for it (we have 'answer the unanswered' sessions quite regularly, so if the question is 'abandoned', it could be answered then)
  • vote close (into what category of close reasons should it be put then?)
  • answer it anyway
  • introduce a {do-this-for-me-I-don't-have-the-time-for-whatever-reason} tag
  • other (please specify)

Please cast your vote! :)

  • On the 'vote to close', I guess under the 'new' scheme this would be 'off topic' ('we do not answer questions which are ...'). – Joseph Wright Jun 25 '13 at 21:30
  • 5
    I propose to introduce a garbage tag (that is much shorter than do-this-for-me-I-don't-have-the-time-for-whatever-reason tag) from which unsung masochists can pick up the trashy stuffs and convert them to useful ones. – kiss my armpit Jun 25 '13 at 22:26
  • 1
    Might be Related Are we starting to get homework questions? – texenthusiast Jun 27 '13 at 5:38
  • "ask for MWE and wait for it atleast 24 hrs (we have 'answer the unanswered' sessions quite regularly, so if the question is 'abandoned', it could be answered then)". – texenthusiast Jun 27 '13 at 5:44
  • Note that we do have a text building block relating to "just do it for me" questions, see meta.tex.stackexchange.com/q/2763/86 – Loop Space Jun 28 '13 at 10:50
up vote 33 down vote accepted

Answer it anyway

For better or worse I think any of the other options are trying to legislate behaviour on the part of other users when it is probably not in our best interests to do so. There are many motivations people have for answering questions, most of which are relatively personal. Here are some (I've written in the first person, but these are not my reasons per se, just ones that I think some of us will recognize either in ourselves or others (and some are hopefully just a bit funny.))

  1. I like to help people.
  2. I like to learn new skills by solving other people's problems.
  3. I like to show off how much I know by answering questions.
  4. I want to gain more reputation than egreg!
  5. Badges, gimme more badges.

Now the goal of the site is presumably to have good questions and answers, but its undeniably true that it's entirely possible to have a good answer to a lousy question, and that in the grand scheme of things, the answers are arguably more valuable than question. (I agree this can be debated, since questions are also very important.)

The question then becomes how do the motivations relate to the site goals? Well they deal exclusively with answers (not surprisingly) and so whether or not the question is good or not is irrelevant. Now in the case of questions, especially graphics related questions, although the site would like questioners to do some work, we all tend to benefit from the answers that some people seem very willing to give (presumably for one or more of the reasons listed above).

So what do we gain by trying to restrain people who want to answer such questions? Not much, as far as I can see. On the other hand, if we close such questions very quickly, some users who are happy to provide these kinds of answers might actually get a bit unhappy since they are being denied an outlet for their skills. If that were the case, it would be a net loss for the site overall.

Clarification

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't encourage people to show some work and try to guide them with comments about what how they might get started on showing some code. But I also don't think we should be too aggressive in closing such questions or discouraging others who want to answer them from answering.

  • 15
    +1 for (4.) :-) – David Carlisle Jun 26 '13 at 8:18
  • 5
    More reputation than egreg? Impossibru! – Ingo Jun 26 '13 at 11:41
  • At least, a hint should be added to the welcome message that do-it-for-me type questions, although not forbidden, are frowned upon. – AlexG Jun 28 '13 at 13:11
  • 1
    +1 for all. It is a wise to mention (2). But I have a question: How many thumbs of one normal hand (not like this one) you need to count users motivated by (4)? – Fran Jul 8 '13 at 21:07
  • @Fran Oh secretly we all are motivated by (4). :) – Alan Munn Jul 8 '13 at 21:41
  • Dreaming is not the same as being motivated :) – Fran Jul 9 '13 at 0:29

I don't think that it is necessary to phrase some general rule for such cases.

There is a natural self regulation: Questions on this (and other) sites compete as the resources (time and interest) for answers are limited (even the egreg resource). When there are only a few bad question they sometimes get answers anyway but when their number increases people start to ignore them or put more pressure on MWE's.

Answer it anyway

I totally agree with Alan.

I think that the principal property for a question to be a good one (or at least a not-to-be-closed one) is to have a clear title and a clear explanation of what the user want to achieve. If it is so also the answers will be very precise and it will be easy for other user with the same problem to find the solution.

I also add that there are people (I know someone of them) that have a lot of goodwill but when they are in front of some computer code the freak out and there is no possibility that they can obtain what they want..

  • And they are using TeX?! – cfr Dec 5 '13 at 2:36

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