This is, in a certain way, a reiteration of Henri Menke's question/request "Please add more off-topic close reasons". At the moment of writing this, this question has one highly voted answer, which did, however, not get accepted.

The reason for this post is simple: rather frequently questions are closed because it is "unclear what you are asking" or "too broad". A non-negligible subset of these questions appears to be closed for other reasons: too little effort by the OP. Such questions are also referred to as "do-this-for-me".

My question here is: does the fact that "too little effort" (or something equivalent) is not among the options one can choose mean that

  • we are not supposed to close these questions, or
  • we do not want to confront the OP with the statement "you show too little effort" and thus choose another reason to close it?

If the second option describes the situation, wouldn't it be better to add a new option that politely says that we expect more effort?

Of course, it is tricky because a good question does not necessarily involve a lot of effort. In fact, some of the highest voted questions are very basic and do not involve any MWE. So, in this sense, "too little effort" may not be a valid reason for closure on its own. On the other hand, "unclear what you are asking" does not seem to be right either.

P.S. If we add new options for closure, we may also consider adding "Solved in the comments" because this happens quite frequently, and usually the official reason is "Off-topic: solved in the comments" but I can't see why a question that has been solved in the comments "off-topic". Of course, I do not disagree with closing it because it is really no longer an open question.

  • 2
    +1, but the focus of my previous question was another, see my comment under Stefan's answer!
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 4:42
  • @CarLaTeX Grazie! Yes, I know. This post is not directly related to yours. (I personally do not vote to close question very often simply because I do see how I can say "unclear what you are asking" is the reason.)
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 4:47
  • @Johannes_B But then why do you post this comment here? Can't you find a better place to add it? The way you phrase it suggests that I am in favor of closing a question as "Off-topic as solved in comments" , which I am not. I would kindly like to ask you to remove your comment because in its present form it is not particularly helpful.
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 11:55
  • 1
    there used to be more closure possibilities, but network wide they cut it down to the few now available, which is when this site started using the slightly unfortunate "off topic" closure for "every closure not otherwise listed" there were multiple requests to have more options at the time all rejected as status by design. So if you want to change this you need a feature request on the main meta not for tex.sx (and most likely it will be rejected) Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 12:45
  • tex.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3644/… Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 12:49
  • @DavidCarlisle Yes, this is related. My question is, however, different in that I am really wondering if "unclear what you are asking" can be used when it is rather clear what the OP wants, and similarly for "too broad". Of course, it is very unfortunate to then refer to these as "off-topic".
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 14:37
  • it is not great but I don't think it matters much to be honest, so long as you leave a comment to the OP saying it's being closed as solved in comments. if it is closed (for any reason) and doesn't have a posted answer, the system will clean up and delete the entire post after a while anyway. Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 15:06
  • @DavidCarlisle This leaves the question whether or not "too little effort" is a valid reason to close a question.
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 15:08
  • 3
    Personally I don't think it is. But others disagree. I think users should put in effort to make the question clear (and that might, or might not, require making an example) but I don't think any actual behaviour should be required of someone asking a question. Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 15:17
  • @DavidCarlisle This would be one possible answer people could vote on.
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 15:21
  • @Johannes_B -- Regarding closing a question as "off topic because solved in comments", I will occasionally use that with the additional information "user error, resolved in comments". I'm not sure about the "flag for deletion" suggestion given in the question cited in an earlier comment, but it is almost always the case that (almost) no one in the future will be helped by it. Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 17:35
  • As @DavidCarlisle mentioned, the 'minimal understanding' close reason (which is not entirely the same but sort of implies 'too little effort') was removed for all SE sites in 2014, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/211080/…. Quote: 'As of now, the "minimal understanding" off-topic reason is gone. Instead, the top-level "Unclear what you're asking" reason [should be used]'. People have been complaining about that a lot but that didn't result in any change.
    – Marijn
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 9:13
  • This is probably also related to the apparent policy of StackExchange to attract more visitors, even if they provide low quality content, to increase revenue for the short term even if that leads to a loss of knowledgeable contributors followed by a loss of overall visitors in the long term, see for example meta.stackoverflow.com/a/377519/5763564.
    – Marijn
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 9:42
  • 1
    @marmot I haven't accepted Joseph's answer on the other question because nothing has happened so far. The proposed new off-topic reason is yet to be added to the dialog. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 8:59
  • @HenriMenke I see. (Well, the main purpose of the first paragraph is to say that I tried to do my homework and look for related posts before. I was afraid that others may close my question because it doesn't have an MWE. ;-)
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 19:14

6 Answers 6


One possible custom reason could be

Not generally applicable

which is close to the old 'Too localized' reason we used to use.

Many of the questions that closed after a comment trail or are 'do it for me' are probably only of real use to the person asking the question, but not more widely. That's for example the case if the question comes down to a typo/misunderstanding, or for 'draw it for me'. They are very hard to search for, and likely the answer won't directly help anyone else.

  • Is there a limited set of options we could choose or we can invent the description from scratch?
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 8:26
  • @CarLaTeX We can write whatever text we like, it's just it come up as a sub-option for 'Off-topic'.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 8:59
  • That goes in the right direction, perhaps, but is that really the distinctive feature? How many questions are "generally applicable"?
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:00
  • @marmot The StackOverflow model is that all questions should be useful to more than just the OP. The entire idea is that repeatedly answering the same question over and over is a drain on people's goodwill.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:07
  • 1
    Yes, this I fully agree. But I feel that the some of so-called "do-it-for-me" questions lead to answers that may serve not just the OP. And some questions with a neat MWE have a very limited general applicability. But you are right that "Not generally applicable" is a reason that should be added to the menu (unless it is already there).
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:10

It's possibly true that do-it-for-me questions have wider applicability, but they would only be found by chance. It is unlikely that people will find posts in any meaningful way when you have a title like "How do I draw this picture?" or similar. So with the site geared towards a community of knowledge, it's often that these questions are closed.

Historically we used to identify such questions as being "too localized." That made sense. Now the broader reason is considered off-topic, which doesn't always sit well. However, I've grown to understand that it's only a means to an end for content that doesn't fit the other titles. This is a network-wide specification and would likely not be changed unless there is network-wide support for alternative/improved closure capability.

If the wording is something that you (or anyone) sticks to, then you should consider voting accordingly as well. Do-it-for-me questions typically "show little/no research effort", exactly what the downvote button is labelled as:

enter image description here

It's too often that people are scared to vote, because it may be seen as negative in terms of our supportive community (and cause loss of reputation when downvoting on answers). In voting accordingly, however, you are supporting the community to separate good from excellent, and bad from horrible.

  • These are good points but is your conclusion that we should not close these questions, but just downvote?
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:43
  • 1
    @marmot: Downvoting may identify the post as being of poor quality and it could end up in the "low quality review queue" where closure is an option. My conclusion here is in favour of voting in general. Sometimes both, depending on the quality.
    – Werner Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 17:59
  • This seems to be a reasonable suggestion to me. If the OP shows no effort, and someone writes an answer that many may benefit from, then no harm has been caused. If no one feels like answering this, after a while the post will get weeded out and does no longer add a loose end to a Google search.
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 21:57

I changed my mind, let them open!

My useless war against just-do-it-for-me questions is over, since it causes more harm than good.

From now on, I'll join David's philosophy: I'll ask for an MWE only if it is stricly necessary to answer.

I'll close a question only for the already specified reasons, but I'll continue to downvote the just-do-it-for-me questions asked by old users.

  • Just for the records: I am not necessarily in favor of keeping these questions open. However, I have a hard time closing them because it is "unclear what you are asking".
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:02
  • 1
    @marmot Indeed, they are perfectly clear!
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:03
  • The reference to "unclear what is being asked" should be viewed in light of the accompanying description: "Please clarify your specific problem and add additional details to highlight exactly what you need." (emphasis added) If this is still insufficient, do-it-for-me can also be classified as "too broad", because there is no focus and therefore numerous, possibly unrelated, solutions that depends on how the answerer interprets the question. That's just another idea though...
    – Werner Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:33
  • @Werner I think which is better depends on the specific case
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:57

We always had just-do-it-for-me-questions and we will always have them. They are often answered and they will be answered in the future.

After all, an answer does help the person who asked the question and it gets the person who answers some free reputation from upvotes. You cannot get coffee from Stackexchange reputation ... but still, nice to have.

  • You will get a free coffee cup when you have a reputation score of 100,000. ;-) While what you are saying is correct, it does not contain the information that, since this is a public site, also others, i.e. not just the OP who asked the question, may benefit from an answer.
    – user121799
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 19:00

After a nice discussion with @marmot some time ago. After a long thought, my opinion is as follows:

In a diplomatic and democratic way, I, for instance, decided to

  1. downvote and cast a vote to close (giving explanation on "Why-I-Chose-To-Close") bad questions posted by members who have been here for a long-time now (irrespective of their reputation, but not applicable to new users).

  2. Nevertheless, answer it, if I really have some spare time. But mention explicitly that they need to provide an MWE (iff necessary). On the other hand, if I don't have time, I would choose not to answer it.

  3. However, irrespective of the rep/the user's time in our site, if the question is challenging/interesting, I would answer it anyway.

  4. If the OP gives a starting point, I will convert my downvote to an upvote and retract my vote to close the question. And, if the question is already closed, I suppose editing makes the question pop-up in the review queue. Hence, I will vote to re-open it anyways.

Please read the aforementioned points in an ascending linear sequence.

  • 1
    I see. Does that mean that you answer questions with an MWE even if you have no spare time? (Just kidding! ;-)
    – user121799
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 21:49
  • 1
    @marmot sometimes yes ;) especially on Friday evenings. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 5:27

Actually this is a Question of how do we define effort (or proof there-of) here. i personally had already the Problem of having to typeset a very common Symbol that how ever not is among any of the common Symbols packages. and a quick Google for the Symbols Name + "latex" did not Show up anything. so in this case a do it for me Kind a Question was Born. and someone gave me as an answer "just use tikz for it" but in all honesty i would not expect someone to read like dozens of pages of documentation on some Latex package that s/he probably never used before and Maybe will never again after the Job is done. (i for example didnt even know that tikz is a Thing and i still dont know the least About using it...).

therefor someone must first define how effort is to be proven. (or did someone already and i just never noticed?)

  • These are interesting thoughts but as far as I understand things the model of this site works slightly different. Let's assume we want to establish a reason for closure: "too little effort" (to be clear: I do not want this). Then everybody who votes on this will judge whether or not in their opinion the effort is too little. There is no proof. Likewise, if you upvote a question because "it shows research effort and is clear" you do not have to prove that it does, you only have to have the opinion that it does.
    – user121799
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 18:34
  • 1
    i already saw These Buttons on Questions the Thing is then that it moves the responsibility for the decision to some member here on the site. sure that is how it works and there is Nothing bad About it except that having Guidelines for the decision may at least help in some cases. also this could be a readme for the new Players here to get an idea on what to do. this does is not intended to be a duplicate of "how to ask a Question the Right way..."
    – der bender
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 18:49
  • Yes, I fully agree with your last comment. (The question, though, is whether or not "too little effort" can be a reason to close a question, and, if so, whether we should add this option to the menu. I do agree that it will make a lot of sense to have a set of guidelines. I also morally agree with most of what you are saying in your answer, yet I do not see how this is an answer to the question.)
    – user121799
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 18:55
  • thank your for that excellent tldr of the Question: how About a fully different Approach: it seems common Knowledge that do-it-for-me Questions are hard to get around and Maybe even a neccesary Evil. therefor: is adding a Checkbox in the post Question Dialog "is-difm-question (y/n)" a good/meaningful method to raise awareness for this Kind of Question in the OP (if yes also including a short TextBox for Information "why do you want anyone answer this type of Question")…. I guess this is a Topic for a new meta post.
    – der bender
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 20:34

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