For many questions a Minimal Working Example (with Bibliography) can be very helpful and for some it is even detrimental to the answering of the question.

My suggestion is to point the user to MWE(B) tutorials when they are writing their question, by adding links to them in the yellow box on the side.

A small change could already cause improvements. Consider the change: "Provide details. Supply a Minimal Working Example when it could help. Share your research."

The current advice box

My question: Is there any reason to not provide this advice to users submitting questions?

In previous suggestions there have been some discussions on how to get askers to help us help them by providing MWEs.

There are more meta posts I could link to, but it should be clear that this is an area that needs improving.

My suggestion fixes these issues. Yes some users might not read the yellow box, but even if only 5% of people read it, it would still make TeX.SE better.

My suggestion focuses on the same problem as discussed here, but provides a different solution that could be used alongside this solution.

I don't think I'll have to convince anybody here about the usefulness of MWEs, but just in case, here's an extra reason MWEs are helpful:

My personal experience with making MWEs has been that while reducing the problem down to its core I already found the cause of the problem before even submitting the question.

A small improvement that could be made if this feature is added, is to scan the tags and question for "bibliography" or "bib". In the event those are found the MWE suggested on the side could dynamically change to a MWEB. That way users needing an extra bit of help are instantly sent to the right place.

Finally if this feature gets added we need to decide on what to link to. There already exist very extensive guides on writing MWEs (and MWEBs). Maybe a concise wiki article would be better as to not present new users with a wall of text, which might deter them. I propose to have this discussion after we decide on whether to add this feature.

  • 3
    I seriously doubt that this would have a noticeable impact on the number of questions asked with an MWE. But at the same time I can't really see how your suggestion could have bad effects. So why not? Given the recent efforts to unify SX sites, I'm not sure if 'we' (for a suitable value of 'we') can change the text displayed there.
    – moewe
    Jul 13, 2018 at 14:11
  • Ah, at least according to tex.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7452/35864 there is a way to modify the How to Ask box.
    – moewe
    Jul 13, 2018 at 14:19
  • 2
    This has been discussed numerous times. The ones who will read that box already tend to provide MWEs. Others don't care. What is research? What is Minimal Working Example? Just from a user experience point of view, these are no-gos as far as user intake and site design is concerned. The box won't make too much of a difference even we had the power to modify that text. We really thought a lot about this. In SO it might work since it is more hostile and people line up to instruct you how to do things but over here I don't think it is a good fit to have such things.
    – percusse
    Jul 13, 2018 at 21:38
  • @percusse I really don't see why a line on the side as a suggestion would be a no-go as far as user intake. We are not forcing anybody to write a MWE, we are simply suggesting it. If one doesn't understand or care for the suggestion, then they will be told so in the comments. It's just very often the first comment on a question will be to provide a MWE. I feel like at least trying the suggestion could be worth it. After having it for a while we can see if we have had even the slightest improvement. And in the event that nothing improved we can get rid of the suggestion.
    – Flexo013
    Jul 18, 2018 at 9:53
  • There are two issues that got intertwined. One is the excessive demand for MWEs under questions and other is the lack of MWEs by the OPs. These are different.
    – percusse
    Jul 18, 2018 at 10:52
  • @percusse So, correct me if I'm wrong, you are saying that the excessive demand for MWEs is an issue that we need to look at separately. I could see that being true, but don't have enough experience myself on TeX.SX to decide whether I agree with that. - Putting that aside. - I think my main concern I want to address with this suggestion is that OPs lack any pointers to MWEs. Giving them any pointer could be beneficial, which this suggestion neatly does.
    – Flexo013
    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:08
  • Yes and we also discussed that a few times and my opinion is not a popular one. Regarding the note, that's what I meant by some read it some don't care.
    – percusse
    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:12
  • 'I started getting errors when I added my first bibliography entry to thebibliography. How can I avoid them?' And you will ask me for an MWEB?
    – cfr
    Aug 20, 2018 at 0:32
  • @Flexo013 "I don't think I'll have to convince anybody here about the usefulness of MWEs". Actually, yes you do have to convince the learners (question posters) about the usefulness of MWEs. One key reason why learners omit their own MWEs is because of their experience with convoluted MWEs in answers. The "double-standard" reinforces the idea (in new learners) that MWEs are confusing and useless, and worse, gives them the impression that LaTeX just isn't worth it. Most pple just use my LaTeX templates.
    – user152148
    Jan 23, 2019 at 1:02
  • 2
    @JonWong Ooh, where can i get your LaTeX templates?
    – Johannes_B
    Jan 28, 2019 at 6:25
  • @Johannes_B Co-workers using my templates without wanting to understand LaTeX.
    – user152148
    Jan 31, 2019 at 1:21
  • 2
    @JonWong Where are they located. Not who is using them.
    – Johannes_B
    Jan 31, 2019 at 6:16
  • @JonWong "I don't think I'll have to convince anybody here about the usefulness of MWEs" I meant that as in here on the Meta TeX.SX.
    – Flexo013
    Jan 31, 2019 at 11:07


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