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For many questions (although not all), a MWE is helpful (see, e.g., Should minimal examples be required, or just encouraged, for questions to be answered?). However, many posts don't include one (especially in case of first time users).

It has been proposed to add MWEs to other people's posts by editing (Should minimal examples be completed for the submitter if they only provide a code excerpt?), but this has disadvantages, the OP not being forced to provide research effort being one of them.

Currently, the Ask Question page does not mention MWEs directly, and also the linked How to Ask etc. are not clear about this (if I'm not overlooking something). Adding to this may help increase the number of questions with MWE.

However, a more direct approach may give better results. If the OP tries to post a question without the text \begin{document} in it, a warning can be issued. This warning should be polite to cover cases where a MWE is not necessary. Would this be a good idea or are there disadvantages I didn't think of?

20

This is a bad idea, for a few reasons.

First, despite the fact that people like to demand MWEs, it's not really the case that every question demands one. Yes, they are important in lots of cases, but there are plenty of good questions which don't need them at all.

Second, plain TeX users or ConTeXt users would never be able to ask questions without an annoying reminder.

Third, questions concerning installation, editors, or other related tools, which are all on topic also don't require a MWE.

Fourth, nagging users is a way to make the site more unfriendly.

  • 2
    I concur that this is a bad idea, but the OP has a point. I just revisited the Ask A Question link on the main page. I suggest we consider a rewrite to reference the need for a MWE when it is a LaTeX code issue. At least a link to "What an MWE is?" – R. Schumacher Aug 3 '16 at 19:06
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    @R.Schumacher Yes, I agree, on that point. It would help to explicitly suggest not posting code fragments and pointing to the MWE page on meta. – Alan Munn Aug 3 '16 at 19:15
  • @R.Schumacher It shouldn't be limited to LaTeX. MWEs can be provided for other cases, too. They just look different. Not just plain or ConTeXt, but MetaPost, for example. But it might be helpful to give a schematic LaTeX MWE as an example, so long as it doesn't suggest all MWEs must fit it or that MWEs are only needed for LaTeX or whatever. – cfr Aug 4 '16 at 23:49
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    I agree with 2-4. I think some questions aren't improved by an MWE, but these are quite rare. It is true that many don't strictly need an MWE, in some sense, but they would very often be greatly improved by the addition of one. – cfr Aug 4 '16 at 23:54
  • In most cases where something strange happens and an MWE (or a crystal ball) is needed to answer, the OP cannot provide an MWE. This is the sad thing. – Johannes_B Aug 6 '16 at 6:03
7

I somewhat disagree with Alan Munn.

  1. It is true that not every questions needs a MWE, but the majority does. Think of your email program; if you mention »attached« in the text the program asks you whether you have forgotten something. The same could be done here; if the MWE is missing, ask the user whether he maybe want to add it for clarification.

  2. I agree that scanning for \begin{document} is a bad idea. I would scan for an indented code section instead. Obviously, this doesn't help against incomplete examples but reminds the do-it-for-me fraction that posting only an image is ill-advised.

  3. Agreed.

  4. Users have to be reminded about site policy. If everyone had read Welcome to TeX.SX! we wouldn't be discussing this. Also, there could be a privilege at, say 500 rep, which allows you to skip the nagging (or you can keep it as your own reminder).

  • 1
    If everyone had read Welcome to TeX.SX we wouldn't have TeX.SX. I haven't been in the site for a while but now even there are complaints for obvious code snippets which is not helping to anyone other than the OCD of some. There is an etiquette. Not a policy. – percusse Aug 11 '16 at 18:34
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    Most users don't know how to prepare a MWE, so this is a huge treshold for asking a question. – Johannes_B Aug 12 '16 at 6:39
  • Some users post a screenshot of a MWE and are happy that they managed to do so, the system still complains that no MWE is given. – Johannes_B Aug 12 '16 at 6:40
  • I've never read the Welcome post before. I already know how to use the site (I think) but I have to say that it seems rather overwhelming to me. There is way too much in it for somebody to properly absorb and apply it while trying to ask their first question, it seems to me. I think it would be very easy to have read that and then forget all kinds of things when actually asking a question. This is partly because some of what it says is more important than the rest, but this isn't obvious to a new user. – cfr Aug 12 '16 at 12:17
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    Maybe it could be tag-dependent, so a post tagged with {context},{plain-tex}, {tex-core}, {installing}, {texstudio} etc. is not checked for a LaTeX MWE. – Marijn Aug 12 '16 at 18:37
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    @Marijn That requires proper tagging which is another big problem. Recently, when I was going for a tag badge, I noticed that most questions are tagged insufficiently or just wrong. – Henri Menke Aug 12 '16 at 20:04
  • Am I wrong if I say that a MWE is due since it both proves the effort of the OP and helps us to help him? In this case, I wouldn't consider the case of a screenshot MWE, @Johannes_B, since it's just another shade of do-it-for-me. – Enrico Maria De Angelis Mar 10 '17 at 19:04
  • One possibility could be to automatically tag non-MWE-provided questions with a noMWE tag, couldn't it? Furthermore, we could force the tour before the first question.. – Enrico Maria De Angelis Mar 10 '17 at 19:08
  • @EnricoMariaDeAngelis Some updates break stuff, for example one of the classes i maintain. Once the reason is located and known, there is no point to demand somebody to provide a MWE if the person gives the proper error message. So it really is a piece of unknown. – Johannes_B Mar 10 '17 at 19:35

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