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This is a follow-up to a couple comments on What can we do to make this site more “intimidating”?

@Jason-C asserted that ELU's problems with question quality are no different than what other sites face. Specifically:

Many sites on SE have faced similar problems and solved them, never by making the site more "intimidating", but instead by using the tools we have been given appropriately.

Is that really true? I'm no SE guru, but I do pop over to other sites and have not noticed this same phenomenon there. Not even close. Writers, Sci-Fi, RPGs, WorldBuilding... sure, they get silly questions now and again, but the vast majority seem to be good ones.

I likewise find it hard to believe that an academic-oriented site like "MathOverflow" ever got the same deluge of horrible questions as we do. It would be like someone going there and asking "What is 27 x 52?" To which the immediate response would likely be: "Is your calculator broken?" or "Why in the world are you asking that here?"

I like @Andrew-Leach's summary of why ELU may be different:

I do think that subject area to be a special case, because the world his wife and his dog think they know something about English (as opposed to car maintenance, or mathematics), but members of other communities may not understand that.

But I'm open to being convinced that I'm wrong. I'm not savvy enough with the data stats to answer my own question, but perhaps someone else is?


Edit to clarify why I'm asking this:

Imagine you're complaining about your house being swarmed by flies and your neighbor says, "I had that same problem. Just use a flyswatter." But you've been using your flyswatter, and it's not working, and your arm's getting tired.

Before you start asking for a bigger flyswatter, I think you need some justification for why you need one when nobody else does. Maybe you don't. Maybe you're just doing it wrong. Maybe you're overstating the fly problem. Maybe your neighbors know something about fly-killing tactics that you don't.

Then again... maybe you've got a whole fly colony and nobody else does.

This is a question I believe can be answered with real data.

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    math.SE gets some homework (math major style) questions which are considered too elementary and closable. – Mitch Jan 1 '16 at 16:11
  • I have no interest whatsoever in attacking you. I don't know you very well, either. – user140086 Jan 1 '16 at 16:32
  • I read your edited version. Don't get me wrong. 1. How much time do you spend to guide newbies to write a better question or answer. 2. How much time do you spend in EL&U compared with this Meta post. (I have not seen you very often since I joined this site). 3. Why do you need such data when you feel majority of the EL&U's questions and answers are just trashes. Just because it has more than 60K questions asked doesn't necessarily mean this site is great. – user140086 Jan 1 '16 at 18:15
  • @Rathony - I would have voted to close that question as 'show your research' because anyone who spent 5 minutes on Google or used our standard references would have found a dozen sites discussing comma use for which/that. It does not belong here. As for the rest of your questions, there are many ways to participate in this site, and everyone does so according to their interest and ability. – Lynn Jan 1 '16 at 20:37
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    @Rathony - Who died at SE and made you the new owner and arbiter of what should and shouldn't be done? You can come across as very rude on this and the main site. If you have an answer, maybe you should post it, instead of attacking someone in comments. (Oh, and it's not all about you.) – anongoodnurse Jan 1 '16 at 22:56
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    @medica I appreciate your comment about Rathony's behavior. I'm tired of the sheriff attitude from this individual and the rude language they use. – michael_timofeev Jan 2 '16 at 3:03
  • You're wrong about Writers. The problem is even worse there. – Ricky Jan 2 '16 at 21:57
  • @Ricky - I will take your word for it, although I have not witnessed that myself. What - if anything - has that community done to address it? – Lynn Jan 3 '16 at 1:06
  • @Lynn: Nothing at all. Writers is full of idiotic questions written in atrocious English. – Ricky Jan 3 '16 at 1:09
  • LQA is an age-old problem on SE meta.stackexchange.com/questions/56817/… (Jul 13 '10) – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '16 at 13:23
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    Some sites close a lot of questions; I think Programmers is over 50%. (Some get fixed and reopened, but I suspect a minority.) I haven't been tracking EL&U; are those questions getting put on hold quickly? If so, it's a little annoying but there are processes to help. On some sites the real problem is bad answers because everybody thinks he's an expert; those are harder to deal with. (Related on MSE.) – Monica Cellio Jan 3 '16 at 20:56
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    @MonicaCellio - They aren't getting closed as quickly as they should (or need to be in order to discourage them.) We have several problems, one of the major ones being a lack of consensus on how to deal with poor questions, even those with clear outlines on how we should be dealing with them (e.g. those asking for a definition of a word.) This means some users VTC while others upvote and answer them; then the front page looks like these are acceptable. The cycle of new users defining the site differently results in what J.R. has said in his answer. – anongoodnurse Jan 3 '16 at 22:35
  • Thanks @medica. I haven't been as active here as I once was, and part of it is my own confusion about scope. (I was here pre-ELL, and then I seem to remember a lot of arguing and then the creation of ELL, but I haven't always been able to figure out what's really wanted here now.) – Monica Cellio Jan 3 '16 at 22:37
  • @MonicaCellio - Bad answers do happen, but they aren't as big a problem here that I can tell. They get downvoted quickly, and eventually get removed. – anongoodnurse Jan 3 '16 at 22:38
  • Certain times of the year good ole StackOverflow gets swamped by "do my homework" questions from programming newbies. Some are quite blatant. The only thing I'd recommend here is to add (or restore) some appropriate closing codes for "do your own homework", et al. – Hot Licks Jan 12 '16 at 3:23
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The programmers site has a similar problem. Someone suggested that it might be due to the name of the site. The specifics are different, but the idea remains that the community's name may be attracting certain kinds of content. There's a lot of content that fits under the heading English Language and Usage. (NB: I'm not proposing a name change for ELU - such a drastic step has repercussions, some of which were brought up in the discussion on the programmers site, including rebuilding site reputation / brand recognition and SEO ranking.)

Yes, there are rules about what's on-topic and off-topic, but to a new user landing on an ELU page, the link to those rules is on a page that itself is accessed via a link consisting of one word in the footer, a place many websites put their copyright notices, names of web developers and other things not of primary interest to most site visitors. That is, visitors don't normally intentionally visit the page just to read footers, much less documents linked in the footers.

Even the HOW TO ASK box on the Ask a Question page doesn't tell you immediately what's on-topic and what isn't. The link to the help page is more visible, but the relevant information is still hidden behind a link to 'help'. People who land on the site and want to ask questions probably consider the 3-box form (title, body, tags) simple enough that they don't need help. A dedicated link named "What questions does this site accept?" might be more useful if you wanted visitors to look it up.

Having said all that, as a regular visitor to ELU, I haven't (yet) found the low-quality problem to be particularly problematic. It's easy enough to just skip uninteresting questions. If more is desired, consider requesting a tag exclusion filter.

tl;dr: On the "Ask a Question" page, link directly and prominently to the on-topic / off-topic rules.


Update related to @michael_timofeev's answer.

Michael Timofeev pointed out the gentler, more helpful approach taken by users of the mathematics forum. Would it really be so bad if ELU followed the same path? We'll get more me-too questions, but these would be pointed to canonical questions and answers. With the extra attention on the canonical pages, they may eventually migrate to wiki status. If the concern is losing the canonical Q&A in the sea of lookalikes, consider also that linking back from the (possibly many) me-too questions to the canonical Q&A should help improve the page rank of the canonical Q&A / wiki. Far from diluting the usefulness of the forum as a place to find answers, allowing duplicates of popular questions automatically make it easier (via improved page rank) to find the canonical Q&A.

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    Good points about making the on/off topic rules visible, but I don't understand your suggestion about duplicates. Duplicate questions aren't eradicated from existence now, they are just closed with a pointer to an existing answer - which I think is what you're describing? – Lynn Jan 2 '16 at 22:01
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    @Lynn The OP's flyswatter analogy calls for better tools for ELU to get rid of low-quality posts. You're right that once a question is posted, the mechanism works as you say. The OP and linked Q are trying to avoid those posts altogether. My update is saying that we don't have to be so hard on duplicates to maintain site quality if we just keep linking them to the good posts. – Lawrence Jan 8 '16 at 14:48
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I appreciate everyone's input as to why ELU may be worse than other sites. I was actually looking for proof/disproof as to whether it actually was or not. I believe I have figured out the data explorer well enough to answer my own question.

enter image description here

This graph shows the percentage of closed questions (compared to asked questions) from 9/1/15 - 1/3/16.

As you can see, Programmers and ELU rate significantly higher than other sites - both needing to close about 28% of questions asked. (On some months, ELU was as high as 48%.)

Edit to add: As curiousdanni notes in the comment, this doesn't include deleted questions, so the actual number of bad questions is even worse.

This does not seem to be tied directly to popularity; Mathematics had 10x as many questions and StackOverflow had over 100x as many questions, yet both have much lower close rates.

It's not a perfect representation of question quality, but I think it illustrates that the problem is not unique but it is likely much worse than average.

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    Is that including deleted questions? Data like this would be something the SE could help with. – curiousdannii Jan 4 '16 at 0:13
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    It would be interesting to see what types of questions are being closed here as opposed to math or even sci fi. Maybe it's just me, but the kinds of questions asked at math are very different than ELU, as are the ones at Sci Fi. Like I said, I don't think math gets the kind of questions we do, and sci fi seems more open to questions that in my opinion would be quickly closed on ELU as lacking research, opinion based, or in some other way not suitable. Thank you for the data...it shows that in fact there is a difference. – michael_timofeev Jan 4 '16 at 5:15
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    @michael_timofeev - I don't visit the math site so I can't comment. Sci-Fi does have more subjective questions, but they do a pretty good job IMHO of following the good subjective/bad subjective guidelines. You don't see a lot of questions that are as terribly written or terribly basic, but that's understandable. It's a different audience. People don't come there trying to learn sci-fi by asking such basic questions as "What is Star Wars", like they do here. – Lynn Jan 4 '16 at 14:23
  • @michael_timofeev - It's not an awesome question because it doesn't actually show any research. I have a hunch it's a duplicate but don't have the time to look right this second. But it's well-written and thoughtful, which puts it a cut above average (though sadly our "average" is pretty low). – Lynn Jan 4 '16 at 14:31
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    I believe dismissing the relative popularity is a mistake. The monstrous volume on Stack Overflow in particular may well be a cause in and of itself for the low closure rate. The folks on SO who care about question quality are trying their damnedest to close them. But these folks are swamped by newbies asking ridiculously rudimentary questions, and not-quite-newbies who are rep-whoring by answering these soft-ball questions as fast as they can. – John Y Jan 5 '16 at 4:05
  • @JohnY Quite right. I just meant that there is no direct correlation between popularity and closure rates as Andrew Grimm's answer suggested. – Lynn Jan 5 '16 at 11:19
  • What's the number for academia.se? It feels like we get a high proportion of questions there that need closing, and get closed. (does the query handle questions that get asked and also deleted)? – EnergyNumbers Jan 5 '16 at 19:32
  • @EnergyNumbers - Academia was only 5%, on par with the other sites, and no - this doesn't include deleted questions. – Lynn Jan 7 '16 at 2:43
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    Ah, so the results could just show that ELU & Programmers are poor at deleting/reopening closed questions, rather than that they get a disproportionately high number of bad questions. – EnergyNumbers Jan 7 '16 at 7:50
  • @Lynn - could you share the link to data explorer for the query you used to obtain the data in the chart? – Max Vernon Jan 11 '16 at 16:36
  • @MaxVernon Sorry I didn't save it. I just used one of the existing queries for # of closed questions and then modified the date. – Lynn Jan 11 '16 at 21:36
  • I think the attitude of the users on the exchange, and how active the high rep users are in moderation, is going to have at least as much of an effect on the % of closed questions as the quality of the questions. So, the high close rate could say as much about how aggressive ELU is about closing questions as about the quality of the questions. I don't think this graph tells us all that much. – DCShannon Jan 12 '16 at 2:26
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    Code Review has a closure rate exceeding 30%, and I've been told that that is nowhere near the highest among SE sites. Note, however, that Code Review has strict and well defined on-topic criteria, and we moderate rather aggressively there to either improve or disqualify questions as quickly as possible. – 200_success Jan 14 '16 at 11:29
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    As a high-rep Programmers.SE user, I feel we are lacking in both active delete voters (for the many blatantly off-topic Qs we get) and active editors. There are people who complain about how much we close and cast reopen votes, but they rarely edit the salvageable questions so no one else votes to reopen. It doesn't help that many of our salvageable questions can only realistically be salvaged by the OP themselves, which I suspect is less true on many of the other SEs. – Ixrec Jan 15 '16 at 8:26
  • We need the % of close votes cast, per-questions-asked. According to a meta post, SO has a 5k close vote back log. All this data tells us is that ELU is good at closing a closer. Forget comparing anything to SO, it's madness in there (at least, I assume it is); stick to Programmers and Mathematics, taking pages from their books. Also, I'd replace "needing to close" with achieving a closure rate of. Apparently, SO needs to close a bunch of stuff too but that ain't happening. – Mazura Jan 22 '16 at 23:34
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I don't have hard comparative data, but I suspect we do have a problem most other sites don't (or at least not to this extent): a lack of functional consensus on the purpose of this site.

If you've seen me on Meta much then you'll know I often complain about high-rep users who never vote, edit, flag etc, and just answer questions. Other people always respond and say that our users have the freedom to decide how to participate, which is fair, they do. But the reality is that this site has two groups of people with very different expectations of what the site scope is. The group that frequents Meta have come to the consensus position that questions without evidence of research, proof reading questions etc are off-topic. But there is another group which deem any question coherent enough to understand worth answering.

Which other sites are so divided over whether homework questions are allowed?

Now the bad questions inevitably get closed, even if they do get answers from such users first. I'd like to say that having so many users with a different position on scope sets a bad precedent, encourages those questions to be asked etc, but I have no evidence that stopping those answers would really help things much at all. But I think it does affect our moral, for me at least. Our problem isn't just that we're fighting a never ending flood of bad questions, but that there are dozens of 5000+ rep users who aren't joining the fight, and some are even actively working against us.

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    I did upvote this answer, but "a lack of functional consensus on the purpose of this site" is a problem on many SE sites. If, however, people were like-minded, and closed (and deleted) OT questions as quickly as possible, we might find out, and morale might improve greatly. – anongoodnurse Jan 2 '16 at 1:47
  • @medica All sites would have that to at least some extent, but ELU must be high on the list I think. – curiousdannii Jan 2 '16 at 2:54
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    Totally valid concern, and I share your frustration. FWIW, this is one particular problem that I don't think is unique to our site, as evidenced by this meta.SE question. – Lynn Jan 2 '16 at 22:08
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My theory: ELU has it worse because it has been successful.

Unsuccessful sites (like Travel.SE) mainly get users from other Stack Exchange websites (primarily Stack Overflow), who are familiar with the Stack Exchange model, and know how to ask good questions.

Successful sites get people coming from Google. They may or may not know how to ask good questions.

ELU has been a successful site. To make it worse, ELU is a non-STEM site, so probably has less overlap in the user base with other Stack Exchange sites.

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    Not just a non-STEM site, but a non-STEM site about English – a language that maybe half the adults on the planet are struggling to learn. – J.R. Jan 3 '16 at 15:35
  • @J.R. - Your comment totally circumvents all of the recent, "Why does ELU suck these days?" questions. - The English are too many. – Mazura Jan 22 '16 at 23:44
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The creation of ELL was supposed to help alleviate this problem, but it seems like ELU gets as many novice/basic/learner questions now as it ever did. Many of these come from new users who appear to be English learners (or are English learners – one recent question began with First of all, I am a french secondary school pupil so I am sorry for every mistakes). However, such questions are rarely migrated, and I don't see many comments pointing toward ELL, either, unless I'm the one leaving them.

Questions like this one may ultimately get (rightly) closed, but, from what I've observed, they get routinely answered and upvoted as well. It seems like a critical mass of English learners have made ELU their Stack Exchange of choice for honing their English skills, and more are finding this cite every week.

I often see brand new users ask a question like:

What's the difference between specify and point? They have the same translation in my language.
(emphasis added)

and they are exhorted to go find a dictionary, rather than the English Learner's exchange. When that happens, I wonder if maybe Robert Cartaino was right, and we should have just kept all the English questions in one place.

As it is now, it seems like we have one community specifically geared toward learners – and another with a hodgepodge of learners and serious etymologists jockeying to hold sway over its future.

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    We can't just migrate those questions to ELL because they're off topic there. And even if no comments are made suggesting they visit ELL, the close reason does. But one problem is that questions don't get closed fast enough. – curiousdannii Jan 4 '16 at 0:05
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    @curiousdannii - I would have had no problem if the questions I've linked to here were migrated to ELL, and I would not regard them as off-topic there. – J.R. Jan 4 '16 at 0:24
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    I don't know exactly what the question expectations are at ELL, but I would think the specify/point one would be closed for lack of research at ELL too. The other examples you picked are better, but you did pick some of the better questions we get. We get thousands more which aren't suitable at either site. – curiousdannii Jan 4 '16 at 0:26
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    @curiousdannii - I didn't say it was an exemplary question, but I think it's okay to cut newer users a little bit of slack on their first question or two. The fact that it "translates to the same word" indicates the O.P. has done a little work, and it also provides a clue as to why a learner would be confused by the differences between those two words. – J.R. Jan 4 '16 at 0:29
  • @curiousdannii highlights the main reason why I vote to close instead of vote to migrate. While ELL may cut users more slack than we do, a crappy question is a crappy question, and most of these would be closed on either site. Of course, I was with Robert C on the idea of keeping the sites together in the first place, so I'm probably biased :) – Lynn Jan 4 '16 at 14:18
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I think Andrew Leach hit the nail on the head.

If we look in other areas that I visit things seem to be a bit different. For example, on the mathematics forum most of the questions and answers are handled in a different way. Take this question, https://math.stackexchange.com/q/679712/262555.

It is a question which could be googled or looked up in a third semester calculus textbook. However, no one told the person to "look it up." Users pitched in to help. Of course this is not a 27X52 type of question. It is the kind of question that requires knowledge and the ability to teach mathematics (or at least give an answer that can help someone learn.) In most math, it's not really possible to say "in my opinion," because either the answer is correct or not. The way to get to the answer varies, however there are usually tried and true methods that people prefer because they save a lot of time and confusion.

On the math forum there are questions that amount to "proofreading." In fact a large number are of the sort "I'm trying to prove this and so far I did this. Am I on the right track?" Many of those questions are also ones that could be "looked up on the internet." Of course people don't because they enjoy the community feel of "doing math." and math requires a bit more help and "seeing the big picture."

I have posted questions and had them ignored or had my butt chewed out because they were "basic" or you could "look it up on the internet." In the math department "basic" questions such as "why is a negative times a negative positive?" have been discussed and rediscussed many times, and I have seen a number of brave dads ask some basic questions to help their 8 year old son. The brave dad got answers, and they weren't "look it up on the internet." or "Did you ask his teacher for help?" I saw a bunch of people vying to give the coolest answer and add something new to an old question.

Contrast that with ELU where anyone who speaks English can ask a question or answer it, and you can right away see the potential for "trouble." Anyone can answer a comma question based on "in my opinion," "according to Dr Bund..," "Who knows because there are no rules..." or "Grammar Girl states that..." Heck, even I can answer questions around here. Combine this with how "stirred up" some of us seem to get by "wrong" answers and the fact that some people around here have "seen it all" and there are going to be questions about the site and our common purpose. How can we have a common purpose when no one here can really agree on where commas should go in a sentence? How can we have common purpose when some users pop in every once in a while to answer a few questions for the heck of it, some stop by to "clean up the trash" and then leave not to be seen for a few weeks, and other users want this place turned into the hallowed halls of academia where everything has to be footnoted and people walk around with robes and mortarboard with a site-approved tassle.

It might be time to realize that because language is such an open field and it does not take a college degree to answer questions, this site might always be "plagued" with this "problem" and that it will have to undergo a periodic "purge" to rid it of a nuisance inherent in it's structure from the get go. On the math site it's harder to fake it and mathematics from the get go is intimidating so you aren't going to get very many people asking 2+2 sorts of questions. Contrast this with English where someone who listens to Grammar Girl feels they are a grammar expert, someone who is a computer programmer feels they have a "structured mind" and can answer questions, a guy who reads "tough books" in his off time can weigh in on relative clause matters, and someone studying English in Oz needs some quick help on his homework, and you have a recipe for disagreement...or maybe you have a recipe for a site with a lot of variety and no possible way of having consent.

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    I like your point about the helpfulness of other sites (+1). It occurred to me that me-too questions can actually help improve the quality of the site. I've expanded on this in an update to my answer. – Lawrence Jan 2 '16 at 12:55
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    To use your math example, I don't think anyone here would have a problem answering a question that required a "third semester college English textbook" to answer. Quite the contrary, they would probably be welcomed with open arms. People have a problem answering questions that can be answered with a dictionary, or 10 seconds on Google. There is a line between being helpful and being exploited as a dictionary lookup service. One must also consider the existence of ELL for truly basic questions where a learner may not be capable of finding the answer on their own. – Lynn Jan 2 '16 at 22:03
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    @Lynn as I have said before some dictionary questions are ok, specifically "What's the difference between...?" I feel are ok, as the dictionary cannot always help a learner understand why one of two similar words are chosen. Again and again I have seen members shut down those types of questions. Questions that are "What does X mean?" and could probably be looked up in a dictionary should be given some consideration before being told to look it up. Why is the person asking? What about the word could be confusing? – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 0:21
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    @Lynn for example someone posts "What does foretell mean?" Instead of rudely telling them their question is bad or "look it up in the dictionary." we should be thinking, "Oh, maybe they are confused by predict, foretell, and foresee, and just didn't know to put all that in a question." Other cultures place a lot more responsibility on the teacher (which is us if we are answering questions) for figuring out the student's motives and problems. – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 0:28
  • @Lynn Perhaps the math example wasn't the best...over in the math section that question could be considered by some as a "look it up in the dictionary yourself." kind of question because it can be looked up easily in a calculus textbook or on YouTube. The question did get several good answers and in general, I have seen the math forum more open and not so willing to close questions. That said, I have noticed a lot more "bad" questions lately, even from my liberal viewpoint. – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 0:34
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    @michael_timofeev - Fair points. For me it's all about balance. If someone asks a question: "What does foretell mean? The dictionary says xyz but I'm confused because..." then I will gladly answer it, because they have put forth some effort, shown their research, and are genuinely in need of help. But we get an AWFUL lot of purely lazy questions that have none of that. One shouldn't be rude, but politely asking them 'What did the dictionary tell you? Why are you confused?' is wholly appropriate IMHO per the site's charter and help guidelines. – Lynn Jan 3 '16 at 1:04
  • @Lynn I understand...all I can offer is my experience as an ESL teacher and that is that the Western model of learning is not as common as us Westerners would like to think, and a fair number of people also don't consider it the best. Personally, I disagree and feel it is the best but in many cultures "what did you do to help yourself?" is not the correct way for a teacher (us on this site) to answer. I say all this because many of the questions come from non western people and people of different cultural backgrounds. – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 1:09
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    @Lynn I say all this because it is a constant source of frustration for me in my own classroom...students (many of them managers and CEOs of companies) who put in no effort for their learning...it's not because they are lazy but because that's the cultural norm for student teacher relationship...most of them wouldn't even think to look it up themselves...that's the teachers job. Like I said I disagree, but it's something to consider, here. – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 1:12
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    @michael_timofeev - I respect your position, truly I do. I do some freelance work as a teacher and you are entirely correct about the model there. But when you look at the charter of StackExchange, it is Q&A from experts. To quote the help: "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions". It is not a traditional student/teacher relationship. And "show your research" is right there as a requirement in the How-To. Certainly some people come here with different expectations, but I don't feel it's my place to turn the site into something it's not. – Lynn Jan 3 '16 at 1:41
  • @Lynn fair enough. – michael_timofeev Jan 3 '16 at 1:44
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    @Mari-LouA Andrew leach. Thank you Mari Lou! – michael_timofeev Jan 4 '16 at 5:16
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    @Lynn Also in the charter is that SE is supposed to be a repository for Q&As that are useful to future visitors. If "useful to future visitors" is a goal, having a too-picky eye toward what research this particular questioner has done may be counter productive. I think it should be less "has this particular questioner done his research?" and more "if some third party asking this question had done research in the usual places, would the answer have been obvious?" - Just quoting dict-defs to show you made an effort isn't helpful. Expanding upon why those dict-defs still leave you confused is. – R.M. Jan 4 '16 at 19:27
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    Interesting side-note: Three days ago the linked question on Math.SE has been put on-hold as "off-topic" over a year after it was asked and answered, probably as a result of the link here. At the risk of sounding like Alanis Morissette, I'm pretty sure that's ironic. – Todd Wilcox Jan 5 '16 at 19:40
  • I have said before some dictionary questions are ok, specifically "What's the difference between...?" While I'm not really a regular here, my personal impression was that such questions would be more welcome at ELL rather than ELU, unless perhaps we're talking about a fairly obscure difference that a native English speaker wouldn't already likely be aware of. Certainly, a large part of learning a language is learning connotation differences between words whose dictionary definitions are similar and those questions are perfectly valid, but my understanding is that those are why we have ELL. – reirab Jan 7 '16 at 22:47

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