I already said that answering just-do-it-for-me questions gives a wrong signal.

Moreover, it makes this site become a just-do-it-for-me(-for-free) service.

Indeed, it leads to comments like this one by a serial just-do-it-for-me asker, please note the

I hope you stop voting me down because I see lots question posted in similar fashion or even more with out MWE.

I would like to suggest, when we answer to a similar question, to make a premise to the answer or comment the question like this:

Your question is a just-do-it-for-me one, you should add a minimal working example, I'm answering only because:

  • you are a new user
  • I think your question is interesting, anyway
  • I have some spare time, I'm answering just for fun


  • I am a reputation seeker.

Some clarification

I am not saying "do not answer bad questions" (I, too, do it every now and then) I am only suggesting (I do not want to oblige anybody) to write an answer like this one or leave a comment like this one.

Otherwise, a user will always ask just-do-it-for-me questions and will be annoyed if someone asks him/her to add it.

In the long run, it is good also for the users. If they only cut and paste the solutions, they will never learn how to do things by themselves.

Further clarification

I don't want the answerers to justify themself for answering, I would like to make the OPs know that, even if they got an answer, it is not fair to post a just-do-it-for-me question, they got an answer only because they are new users, etc., not because the question is perfect and they can continue to ask such questions in the future.

I think that seeing many questions with the classical request for the MWE and then answered, gives the OPs a wrong signal, if the answer begins with "you should have provided a MWE but I'm good and answer anyway", the ones who required an MWE would appear less bad.

All this is only my opinion, you are free to think and act differently.

  • 10
    Another reason: "I don't like unanswered questions and want to kick this one from the list of unanswered questions". ..... and I don't mean myself by using "I"...
    – user31729
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 8:01
  • 4
    @ChristianHupfer Yes, that could be another reason :)
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 8:08
  • 7
    The main problem is that all the interesting questions have already been asked and answered, so it comes down to dealing with “template” garbage and “how do I draw this in LaTeX”. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:04
  • 2
    @HenriMenke Every now and then a good question still appears but, in generally, I agree with you. The best strategy should be avoid answering to similar questions, but sometimes I, too, give in to temptation. At least let's make clear they are not entitled to get an answer.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:54
  • 10
    @HenriMenke: About 120 years ago people thought Physics is completed and there is nothing new to be detected, but then Einstein, Planck etc. appeared on the stage ;-)
    – user31729
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 14:01
  • 2
    sometimes the way a question is worded is "novel", or gives a slightly different slant on an almost-duplicate, which might provide a more likely route for another newbie to find an existing q/a. in such a case i sometimes suggest closing as a duplicate, but give a token answer to save a newbie from searching through a long chain. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 14:09
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    To be honest, I do not fully understand the purpose of this discussion. If you think that a given question is not worth being answered, do not answer it. My personal reason for trying to be polite to those users is that I want to keep LaTeX alive. If we are not trying to give newcomers a start, one day I might be forced to write my papers in Word since arXiv is no longer supporting LaTeX as it has been become a tool used only by a hand full of enthusiastic users.
    – user121799
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:26
  • IMHO this is related.
    – user121799
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:38
  • 2
    @HenriMenke If I understand you correctly, we could just close this site, i.e. not allow new questions (since every interesting question has already been asked).
    – user121799
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:40
  • @marmot I'm not saying not to answer to new users, I'm saying to explaining them that they should post a minimal example. Otherwise, you have the result of the comment I shown in my answer. The same OP was rude towards who asked him to post an MWE in a previous question.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:44
  • @CarLaTeX I am definitely not defending this OP. However, I also do not want to start any answer to a question without MWE with a long discussion why I am writing an answer.
    – user121799
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:47
  • @marmot: You're looking a bit far into a bleak future by extrapolating on these comments. We've been averaging around 60 questions a day for the last 5 years and somewhere between 70-80 answers per day. I confident people won't turn to Word, not would we have to close the site (for whatever reason).
    – Werner Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:47
  • @marmot Yes, your link is related but I'm just proposing to tell that a minimal example is needed, otherwise the users think it is not.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:48
  • 1
    @marmot: I agree with you though that I don't agree with this proposal... :)
    – Werner Mod
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 17:49
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    @CarLaTeX I am not a fan of those questions. Buti have to say, that a MWE is not needed to answer the question. If I do a MWE with two \draw commands, there still is no effort from my side. A pointless MWE is still pointless.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 15:04

4 Answers 4


Some simple ideas:

  • If you want to answer just-do-it-for-me questions, answer them.
  • If you don't want to answer them, don't.
  • If you want to leave a comment explaining why you answered, leave a comment.
  • If you don't want to leave a comment explaining why you answered, don't.

In general, trying to legislate behaviour, especially of people who are giving answers freely, is the best way to alienate people. I used to participate on English Language and Usage until people started downvoting my perfectly reasonable answers to questions they deemed not sufficiently researched. Let's not get to that stage.

  • Since everybody misunderstood my question, probably it was badly written, I edit it adding some clarification. I am not trying to oblige anybody, I am suggesting to leave a comment to avoid unpleasant consequences.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 6:42
  • I agree in principle that everybody should be free to behave as they prefer. However, if many people do (1) and (4) often, then the quality of the questions goes down, the usefulness of the Q&A repository goes down, and the fun in answering goes down, which is also a good way to alienate people.
    – Marijn
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 10:59

I disagree with this for the following reasons:

  1. This attempts to "force a policy" onto the community that might not align with everyone's intent.

  2. "Enforcement" of this seems like it will clutter comment sections with "Please see [this Meta post]", suggesting answerers now have to edit there post to conform to something.

  3. You may end up alienating new and existing users who don't want to follow this suggestion.

An alternative proposal:

  1. Let users be free to ask do-this-for-me questions as is the current state.

  2. Use voting to establish the site behaviour. That is, if you don't think someone has done their research (as indicated by the hover text on the voting buttons), then down-vote the question. That's literally what the voting system is designed for. Down-voting is not something that one should be scared of doing. It's one of the only (anonymous) ways we have to distinguish between relevant/good content and irrelevant/bad content.

    Additionally, you can vote-to-close with a reason of the question being "too broad", as there are no specifics in the question for which help is requested. New users who take advantage of this will soon learn that such behaviour is not well received here.

This allows users who want to have fun in answering do-it-for-me question to do so. If a question is closed before they can answer, then cast a re-open vote, or ping a moderator, or start a discussion in chat where you'll find plenty of support to re-open something.

  • I'm not forbidding to answer a just-do-it-for-me answer. I did it many times and I'll do it in the future. I'm only asking to leave a comment saying that the MWE is needed, otherwise, the user will continue to ask just-do-it-for-me questions. And I'm not obliging anyone, it's only a suggestion. As for my policy of voting see here: tex.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7735/101651.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 18:28

I personally do answer question which lack an MWE or a perfect MWE if they are still answerable (e.g. they are using some local images instead of example-image-duck I'll leave a comment saying that we don't have those files available and that he should use example-image-duck, but still would work on an answer). I sometimes even answer do-it-for-me questions if I have enough spare time and like the challenge or think the answer is easy enough to not be a challenge at all.

If a user gets rude towards me for me requesting some work on their end, wherever I find it appropriate, I try to remember myself to not answer questions from that particular user if they are not well stated including an MWE. So in this case I'd ban the user you're anonymously referring to from my personal help/support list (or more precise add to a blacklist) for as long as they need to become well-behaving. Currently I have 1 user on said ban list and in that case I left a comment stating that he won't get any new answer from me unless said conditions are met.

  • 2
    You're good, I have about 10 people on my do-not-answer-to-this-one list :)
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 18:37

I agree with Alan's answer here. No one should feel the need to justify answering or not answering a question. If you want to answer do, and if you don't don't. If you feel the OP is abusing the site and repeatedly asking poor questions downvote (if you wish).

If I had the time or inclination to learn tikz, I'd probably try to answer as many tikz questions as I could as I have always found that to be a useful learning strategy. Whether or not the person asking the question has made a reasonable attempt to answer themselves really isn't that relevant in such a case. Answering the majority of questions posted to comp.text.tex a lifetime ago is how i learnt Tex in the first place.

Currently (as I'm quite happy with picture mode and not trying to learn tikz in depth) If someone posts a tikz question without a MWE I am quite likely to comment asking for one, as with a non working example I can often debug and make a reasonable answer, but without an example I wouldn't know where to start.

So whether or not it's reasonable to answer poor questions is as much about the state of mind of the person who is answering as about the attitude of the person asking the question. I don't like any of the boilerplate texts used on the site, and certainly would not like to see any standard texts used here.

  • My proposal was not intented to justify what the answerer does (but, since everybody understood this, it is undoubtly badly written, notwhitstanding my clarifications). It is intented to let the questioner know that his/her question is not good, even if s/he got an answer. Downvoting is useless, since usually there are 4 or 5 upvotes in any just-do-it-for-meTikZ question!
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 4:51
  • +1 I fully agree with you. It is by trying to answer the questions asked here that I learn TiKZ and LaTeX.
    – AndréC
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 6:15
  • 2
    @CarLaTeX downvoting is not useless, the OP sees that even if the total count goes positive. Fundamentally I disagree with you that any comment asking for a MWE should be left. Such a comment should only be left if it helps you answer the question. Many questions need the clarity of a MWE to make an answer possible, but if you have made an answer then that isn't the case. As I tried to show above, whether an MWE is needed should be based on whether or not you need help to answer the question, not on an effort to educate the user on the ethics of asking questions. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 7:53
  • @DavidCarlisle The problem is that if just-do-it-for-me are always answered, when the MWE is actually needed you got reactions like the one I showed in my question.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 8:00
  • @CarLaTeX why is an MWE needed if the question is answered? Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 8:08
  • @DavidCarlisle Not needed for the question answered, but needed for a subsequent question. Moreover, I don't think suggesting people to keep a fair behavior is bad.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 8:43
  • 1
    @CarLaTeX Not sure if you realized yet, this is a do-it-for-me-site. Look at all the biblatex questions that want to change a comma to a period somewhere. If you know the package and its documentation, the solution can be provided in two minutes. Time is valuable for all of us and i don't want to force people to spend time on something unneeded.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 8:58
  • 2
    @CarLaTeX no each question should be considered on its own merits, don't ask for an MWE just to educate the user, just ask for an MWE if it would help you answer the question. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 9:11
  • @Johannes_B Yes, it is a do-it-for-me-site, and it seems it's ok that way. I thought it wasn't, but from your answers and comment it doesn't matter at all.
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 18:14
  • @CarLaTeX Look at it another way, from the OP point of view. Would you read 1000 pages of manual, even though someone read it before, a person who would spend only five minutes? And if it cannot be answered, with the info given .......... Well then .... maybe it can't.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 18:19
  • @Johannes_B Between reading 1000 pages and spending 10 minutes trying to do something before asking there is a big difference, imho
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 18:33

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