Along with the riveting debate that ensued and thoughtful answers,
Please see: (tutoring) tag proposal

Original posting:

We've all seen questions such as: link.

The stackexchange community is guilty of answering questions without first establishing whether or not the OP has interacted with them. In practicing this, we cannot be sure that the OP will understand our answers if we are not gauging where he/she is at in their level of understanding of the question. This kind of question-answering automatic behavior ideally should stop; we could be potentially hindering the OP's learning and creating dependency. I would appreciate it if answerers think and pay attention to the context of the question before they typeset an answer, without as much the answerer could be robbing the OP of their experience and development.


A special thanks to all who participated in this discussion.



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closed as not a real question by zyx, Inquest, Asaf Karagila, Rustyn, Andres Caicedo Mar 9 '13 at 21:09

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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This is related (at least to some extent) to older discussion tagged homework. There has been plenty of discussions about homework questions. –  Martin Sleziak Mar 7 '13 at 7:47
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Have you studied the earlier threads such as this, where the problem has been discussed from many angles? It might be best to try to collect all the arguments to a single thread for easier reference. Yes, this is a problem. No, we will never agree on a single best policy. –  Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 7 '13 at 7:48
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The fact that this was discussed extensively and the discussions brought nothing is IMHO relevant. –  Martin Sleziak Mar 7 '13 at 7:59
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@Martin: It's not relevant, it's absolutely relevant. It tells us that there's really no possible way of coming to a uniform agreement on the topic. –  Asaf Karagila Mar 7 '13 at 8:01
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"If a member of the stackexchange community notices that another member is answering a question without first being debriefed by the OP, the first member should ideally comment on the answer, or downvote." I often feel like doing this, and sometimes do it, but I feel like people would think I was being a pain if I did it as often as I'd like to. –  Tara B Mar 7 '13 at 16:12
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Allow me to be devil's advocate for a moment: what is the point of this site? Are we tutors or are we people who love to solve problems? I for one am attracted to this site because I just love to do math and I don't do much in my day job. If I come across a reasonably difficult problem, I want to solve it and if it has an interesting solution, I want to show it off. I do not respond to obvious anonymous HW posters, but I will solve an interesting problem almost as a reflex. If that behavior needs to be regulated, then codify and enforce it. –  Ron Gordon Mar 7 '13 at 18:19
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@RustynYazdanpour: vain, perhaps. Or human. I mean, what motivates you to post anything on this site? If it's not an inherent desire to share what you know, then I'd have to say that you are very different from many of the frequent users on this site. Look, I am not trying to be combative - you are pointing to something that is problematic. But I think, at least what I've observed - is that anonymous HW posters are pretty much batted away, or told to change their expectations. Other times, though, many of us are putting up the best we have, and loving it. –  Ron Gordon Mar 7 '13 at 18:57
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I'd be very surprised if there were any feasible way to effectively enforce academic integrity on any web site, Math.SE included. That's like a dating site trying to prevent people from cheating by really asking them if they are definitely not cheating on someone. In the end, all questions of academic integrity come down to the person whose integrity is at stake and their relationship with academic institutions. The only thing that stops me from getting homework answers online is me. Certainly no moderator could stop me. –  Todd Wilcox Mar 7 '13 at 19:32
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I don't know if we "need" to be anything in particular. My understanding of StackExchange is not that it is primarily a community for education. "We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise." and "Stack Exchange's focus on professional communities and real-world problems results in over 80% of questions getting great answers, fast." are not in the direction of education. In the case of Math.SE, we have the homework tag and less of a need for real-world discussion, (continued...) –  Todd Wilcox Mar 7 '13 at 19:59
    
so there is an education side to Math.SE. Still, the main focus is on answers to questions. You have proposed a solution, and some members of the community may follow your proposal, and some may not. In a community like this, that's about the best you can hope for, especially when the action is not in direct line with the stated purpose of the community. –  Todd Wilcox Mar 7 '13 at 20:02
    
Speaking only for myself, I know math a lot better than I know how to "debrief" someone on a Q&A site. If I agreed with you 100%, I still wouldn't know what exactly to do differently. –  Todd Wilcox Mar 7 '13 at 20:04
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@RustynYazdanpour I think the formatting in your second-to-last comment is messing up the margins for these comments. –  Antonio Vargas Mar 7 '13 at 20:21
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@RustynYazdanpour: when using bold in comments use the mark-up **...** instead of MathJax, since the mark-up respects linebreaks. MathJax can mess up column widths if too wide. –  robjohn Mar 7 '13 at 20:56
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I think this most recent edit should be rolled back. It removes all context and does a bit of a disservice to those that took the time to provide careful, thoughtful answers (i.e., all of them). –  cardinal Mar 9 '13 at 21:03
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@cardinal I've included the original posting. –  Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 21:13
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4 Answers 4

I don't have time this morning to give anything close to a complete "answer", but I wanted to write in to say that I am sympathetic to Rustyn Yazdanpour's perspective. In particular I saw the question he links to when it came up last night and had a very similar reaction to it.

I also feel that simply answering questions like these is almost certainly short-changing the learning process. Moreover -- and maybe this is more directly pertinent to me -- it is almost certainly short-changing the teaching process. Exercises posed to students serve a purpose which, especially at the undergraduate level, is usually quite different from simply supplying the student with a needed fact. They are supposed to develop skills and technique, reinforce ideas, and so forth. I think no instructor, when faced with a student who asked them "Show that an open interval can be written as a countable union of closed subintervals" would simply supply the answer. The job for the instructor is rather to ascertain Why is the student unable to answer this question on his/her own? and proceed from there.

Can someone plausibly argue that anyone is being well served when anything like a socratic process is omitted and questions like this simply receive answers? The point has been made that questions and answers can be valuable to those other than the OP. This is certainly true in principle, and also true in practice for many kinds of questions (e.g. more days than not I learn some mathematics by reading through this site). But for questions like this one I don't see it.

Of course we all wonder what can be done. One idea is to try to change the piece of SE culture that thoroughly anonymous users and questions are cheerfully allowed. If you ask an undergraduate level question like this without providing any information about yourself or context in which the question arises, then you are severely hampering the process of someone engaging in a dialogue to help you find the answer for yourself. It also becomes more likely that this is a homework question that is being dealt with in the laziest possible way, i.e., by simply anonymously slapping the question on the site with minimal (possibly identifying!) context.

Well, that's all for now. More later, I hope.

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I do like your answer, but I wanted to explain that I was really responding to Rustyn's concern in the question that without knowing the OP's background, we don't know if the OP will understand the answers being given. My point was that it as long as they are getting answers that they do understand, there is nothing wrong with more advanced answers as well; as I said in my first paragraph, it would be silly to deny people the opportunity to give more advanced answers to the question at all, or require that they do so elsewhere. –  Zev Chonoles Mar 8 '13 at 5:21
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The mathematical level of an answer is (to some extent at least) independent of how much it "gives away", so I am not saying that full advanced answers to homework questions should be considered positive just because they are of interest to others; I would certainly prefer that, on homework questions, people who have something more advanced to contribute also do so in a way that preserves the learning experience for the OP. Of course, if the OP can't understand the full, advanced answers at all, there is no danger; at any rate they would be significantly harder to pass off as their own :) –  Zev Chonoles Mar 8 '13 at 5:21
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With regards to the issue of the learning process: if it is not here, it is somewhere else (ahem-yahoo answers-ahem). I've gradually become convinced that rather than trying to fix the internet (have you heard of Lashzone?), it is easier to fix how we, as educators, treat homework. After all, that is something (almost) entirely within our control. –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 9:22
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@WillieWong I don't think that "if not here, then somewhere else". There aren't that many people who have the time and ability to give high quality answers on college level math. Look at Yahoo answers -- it's almost all high school Algebra and non-proof based calculus. I think it is entirely possible that the math.SE community could attract virtually everyone who was interested in answering such questions online. If we had a strong anti-homework policy, would that seriously cause you to leave and go to Yahoo answers (or to sci.math, or to found your own group using osqa?) –  David Speyer Mar 8 '13 at 13:22
    
Just for fun, I've reasked the question over on Yahoo answers answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130308052725AA3Omoy . We can see what sort of answers it gets (although, if the people there have any competence, they'll google the words and find the math.SE answers. A better test would be for me to type in a question from a textbook which is not online...) –  David Speyer Mar 8 '13 at 13:28
    
@DavidSpeyer I am not sure if "If we had a strong anti-homework policy, would that seriously cause you to leave and go to Yahoo answers (or to sci.math, or to found your own group using osqa?)" is addressed at me. But for the record, I used to be a pretty active user on YA before StackExchange as we know it came to being. I stopped using it because it got harder and harder to find interesting questions to answer/think about. In an ideal world I would like there not to be homework questions on Math.SE (and for users to read the faq, to search for duplicates before asking, to read tag-wikis –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 15:49
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...before using them). The reality, however, is that homework policy is extremely unenforceable. On the one hand how are you to know if a question is from homework or from a person who is stuck while self-studying? On the other how are you going to keep users from "breaking the embargo" and answer questions that are possibly "homework"? The only way I can see that happen is for a very strictly moderated discussion forum, kinda like sci.math.research. But then I wouldn't want to be a moderator (too much work) nor a member (too much censoring). –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 15:53
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I agree fully that to teach someone, the wrong approach is almost always to provide a full worked solution. However, the structure of MSE is not very well suited for guiding students to find the solution themselves. The MSE chat, however, is an amazing place to do such, and I would love it if more students were redirected to chat for detailed help (and if the rep requirements for chat were removed to make this possible for new users). –  Tobias Kildetoft Mar 8 '13 at 15:58
    
@Tobias: It doesn’t make the system happy, but I’ve had fair luck with discussion in comments. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 16:58
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@DavidSpeyer's repost of the question was answered on Yahoo! within one hour of asking. (And correctly.) –  user53153 Mar 8 '13 at 18:46
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ask questions getting answers

I think this site's about page makes it clear that Math.SE is not an online academy. It is not meant for teaching mathematics. It is meant for asking and answering mathematical questions. Of course, the quality of both questions and answers is important. Low-quality content dilutes the value of the site and can drive away expert users. Both are serious concerns for Math.SE.

My observations suggest that low-quality answers are usually preceded by low-quality questions. So I would like to see the problem attacked at the root, by prompt closure and subsequent deletion of low-quality questions. Users do not need moderators' help to do that. The only attention that a problem statement copied from a book deserves is the three clicks required to vote to close (as too localized / not a real question, whatever fits better).

As long as a question remains open, there is no feasible way to prevent the posting of a complete answer. An answerer could come from outside of academia and have no particular concern for the academic integrity or the learning process of the questioner.

So, my suggestion is:

Vote to close early, vote to close often.

The extreme lenience to low-quality questions on Math.SE risks turning the site into something akin to Yahoo! Answers. (Click at your own risk.) It is unparalleled across the SE network.

Closed questions

Source of the chart


EDIT (M.S.):

The blog post have been removed from the EL&U blog. It seems that the data are not entirely correct. (It is ratio of closed question to all posts, instead of closed questions to all questions.) See here for details.

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Thanks for bringing this up. This is something I've been thinking about recently too; the increase in do-my-exercises type questions is likely to lower the standard of the site and repel potential new users who are actually interested in mathematics. Just hiding those questions only allows the situation to get worse. :) –  Rahul Mar 7 '13 at 21:06
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However, a textbook exercise problem is still clearly a real mathematical question; I can imagine people disputing the "not a real question" close reason and kicking up a fuss. Why not choose "too localized"? That's how they close homework questions at Physics.SE. –  Rahul Mar 7 '13 at 21:09
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There are a few sites that prohibit homework questions that don't show any effort by the asker, Physics and Chemistry for example. SE is also thinking about adding certain specialized sub-reasons for closures (though nothing is certain yet about this), this might allow to find a better close reason for such cases. –  Mad Scientist Mar 8 '13 at 8:35
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We already have too many questionable quick closures. @5pm: Your argument for the position that ‘Prove that $\sqrt2$ is irrational’ is not a real question is sheer casuistry. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 14:59
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Dear @Brian: Pardon the superficial speciousness of this, but bear with me for a moment: "Prove that $\sqrt{2}$ is irrational" is not a question, real or otherwise. A real question is: "I'm trying to prove that $\sqrt{2}$ is irrational. I started by writing $\sqrt{2} = p / q$ for $p,q$ in lowest terms and found $2 q^2 = p^2$. I see this implies $p$ is even and $q$ is odd. But, then, both the left-hand and right-hand sides are even. So, I don't quite see where to go from here. What am I missing?" (...) –  cardinal Mar 8 '13 at 19:08
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(...) My opinion is the first should be closed immediately, without hesitation, but with a friendly comment to the OP. The second, if not a duplicate, should be answered, probably with a short hint. I would prefer to read much more of the latter and almost none of the former. (@Brian) –  cardinal Mar 8 '13 at 19:08
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@cardinal: They’re both real questions, and I consider it dishonest to pretend that I don’t know what question is being asked when someone posts ‘Prove that $\sqrt2$ is irrational’. I consider it simply nasty to close the first sort immediately; at the very least the OP should be given an indication of how to improve the question. If a week, say, goes by with no response, and no one is moved to answer the question, then it’s a reasonable candidate for closure. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 19:20
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Dear @Brian: I was not trying to suggest, in the least bit, that you did not know the question being asked. Indeed, that was precisely the point of my lead-in phrase: I didn't want you to misinterpret the point I was about to (try to) make. I think it is important to recognize that closure of question is not permanent, nor intended to be permanent. I believe that disposition is not widely recognized on math.SE, though it is moreso SE wide. Furthermore, editing the first version into something like the second will automatically raise review flags so it is evaluated for reopening. Cheers. –  cardinal Mar 8 '13 at 19:30
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@cardinal: I fail to see how that roundabout process is better than simply leaving it open in the first place. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 19:33
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@5pm: I have seen counterexamples to that claim. And if an answer is posted, so what? It does no harm (unless the answer is wrong). –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 19:34
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@Brian: I think it comes down to what the community decides are high-quality questions of long-term value. If "Prove that $\sqrt{2}$ is irrational" is the kind of question the users of this site are happy with, then it will not be closed. If the standard evolves to something different, then that is what my last comment was addressed toward. :-) –  cardinal Mar 8 '13 at 19:39
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@BrianM.Scott Re: "And if an answer is posted, so what? It does no harm". Solutions-on-demand are harmful in two ways. (1) They remove an incentive for the poster to put thought into their questions. Posters have no reason to heed comments asking for improvements to their questions, if they get what they want anyway. (2) Many mathematicians find a homework-on-demand site unpleasant to look at, and awkward to be associated with. Fewer contributing professionals and more transient homework posters is not a recipe for long-term success of the site. –  user53153 Mar 9 '13 at 1:26
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@5pm: (1) I don’t share your optimism: I rather suspect that most of those who pay no heed to the comments wouldn’t improve their questions significantly anyway. (2) It’s not my problem if some mathematicians haven’t caught up with today’s reality. Anyone who really wants to cheat on homework can do so very easily. Here, at least, the answers are far more likely to be either hints or competent explanations. And I’ve the impression that the bare-bones answers are often from people who aren’t all that much further along than the OP; if the OP isn’t benefiting, at least they are. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 14:20
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@Rustyn: I think that you and those who agree with you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. I think that many people’s reactions to poorly posed questions is punitive rather than helpful. And I did not say that more often than not the querent doesn’t heed the comments; I said that I suspect that those who fail to heed the comments are unlikely to respond significantly to harsher measures. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 9 '13 at 17:54
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@BrianM.Scott I know where you're coming from because I tutor for a living but those questions aren't their questions, they're somebody else's questions that they've copy/pasted. In that case, we should be answering the creator of the question. If the comments are harsh, then it's not the questioner's fault if they get discouraged and give up their pursuit of an answer--it's the fault of whoever left such a derisive comment on behalf of the community. –  Rustyn Mar 9 '13 at 18:18
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Experience shows: Even if the OP asks only for hints, and someone gives a hint and asks a question of the OP ... STILL someone else will come along (probably within just a few minutes) and write a complete solution. So far, nothing has worked to get that "someone else" not to do this. Not even downvoting the answers. But you can keep trying if you want to.

Maybe start by making a big announcement that you will downvote such answers.

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How can we tell when a complete answer is "deserved"? In terms of having the power to do something about it, maybe we do and maybe we don't have that power. The real question is do we want to go through all that trouble for potentially no benefit to the mathematical community (cheaters will cheat with or without us), when we could be focusing our energy on building and maintaining the resource that is Math.SE, an activity that has proven success? –  Todd Wilcox Mar 7 '13 at 19:40
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No need to talk about cheaters. Giving hints and letting the OP work on it can be seen as helping the OP learn. As an instructor, I have seen the value of this approach many times. Consequently, short-circuiting the "try this" process can be seen as hindering the OP's learning. –  GEdgar Mar 7 '13 at 20:21
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@GEdgar: and this is something I've thought about a lot. Why do students come here to get answers? I suspect a good chunk of the reason is that the answers count (toward something), but the learning process doesn't. So why not just remove that something? Make homework ungraded, but make doing homework a prerequisite to taking the final exam (I stole this from Andrew Stacey). You remove the carrot that makes them want to "have answer now", but keep the stick that tells them to do their work. Explain to them that in this system "cheating" is "cheating themselves". –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 9:17
    
@Willie, I like the idea of making homework ungraded, but making doing homework a requirement for admission to the final. However, my institution has a rule that the final can't count for more than 60% of the grade. That other 40% has to come from somewhere.... –  Gerry Myerson Mar 8 '13 at 11:57
    
@Gerry: Midterms? Quizzes? Attendance? –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 12:49
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@Willie: Please, not attendance! Someone who can learn without being there ought not to be penalized. Actually, homework works fine in all but the most computationally oriented courses; the instructor just has to be willing and able to devote the necessary hours to marking it up thoroughly. Questions that require explanations aren’t immune from cheating, but they are resistent, and in my experience those who can successfully cheat on the occasional question of that type also seem to learn from their cheating. I decided long ago that the learning was the important thing. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 15:11
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@Brian: In an ideal world the institution won't have a max 60% from final exam rule either. I bet the institution won't be too happy either if I just say: you all start with 40 points, the only other thing that is graded is the final exam... Incidentally, what are your thoughts on students who "can learn without doing homework?" :-) –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 15:42
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@Willie: I don’t have much of a problem with the $60$% rule: I don’t think that a course grade ought to depend too heavily on a one-shot exam. I could make an exception for a take-home exam taken over a two-week period, though. Credit by examination works for students who can learn without doing homework. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 8 '13 at 15:46
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@WillieWong At my university at the math department teachers check for attendance, give homework etc., where at CS department the only rule is that you have pass the examinations (small at midterm and big at the end) or present the project if the course was practical. The math examinations are strictly watched for improper behavior, etc., while at CS for example you can have all the books you want (only the photo-id is checked). The result is that math is national-scale good, but nothing more, while CS is one of top CS departments in the world (judging by rankings of TopCoder, ACM-ICPC, etc.). –  dtldarek Mar 9 '13 at 10:49
    
@dtldarek Does your school happen to have CS as a "competitive major" in the sense that you have to apply and get admitted to the major? –  Matt Mar 11 '13 at 0:05
    
@WillieWong Can you elaborate on what this means? In what sense can one check that the homework was "done" to allow admittance to the final without grading it? –  Matt Mar 11 '13 at 0:08
    
@Matt Besides the at-the-end-of-high-school exams (on the base of which you get admitted to better or worse universities, but everybody needs to do it) there is no entry exam and you don't need to apply specially. On the other hand, it is far from big, having ~180 students per year, so not anybody can get in (of course it works like this for all better-than-average schools/majors, esp. medical universities). –  dtldarek Mar 11 '13 at 8:08
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@Matt: one can certainly correct a problem set without giving it a score that factors into the final grade. What you want is for the students to try and work on the problem sets for a bit by themselves. You make it clear that it is okay to provide wrong answers, just not okay to provide no answers. –  Willie Wong Mar 11 '13 at 9:10
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Answers are not just for the OP. Many others will come here asking the same question, and they will have different backgrounds; it is preferable to collect all relevant answers in one place. Unless you are proposing that identical copies of the same question, the only difference being that they were asked by people with different backgrounds, should not be closed as duplicates of each other, because you think they should be getting different answers? That sounds too complicated to keep track of, and too murky to figure out when people have "comparable" backgrounds (this all assuming we get any response from them regarding their background at all...).

Moreover, advanced answers benefit other users who will learn something new about the question and its connections with the many topics in mathematics that the OP has not learned yet.

Additionally, while we have over time honed what is (in my opinion) an excellent welcome comment, which explains how it is in the OP's best interests to share what they've tried or thought about, ultimately the responsibility lies with the OP to keep their academic honesty. After all, this is the internet - we really have no idea who the OP is, whether they're telling the truth about something being homework or not, etc. That's why the welcome comment mentions that people will still help even when something has the homework tag; attempting to shame them for asking homework questions will only cause people to use further secrecy and dishonesty, whereas if we explain to them that we are (approximately) okay with it, they are more likely to provide us with an honest answer about whether it's homework, answerers can take that information into account as they see fit, and the OP is more comfortable in general (this is how I currently see it at least).

Also, while I am fine with expressing one's opinion that answerers should not provide complete solutions to homework questions, that is something I would also prefer to leave up to the individual answerer. What even comprises a "complete" answer will vary with the OP's ability as well; what is an opaque hint for one person will solve it entirely for another. What would you have the moderators, or the community, do about this?


Added:

One thing I feel quite strongly about is that, if someone feels that an answer gives too much away, please do not flag it for moderator attention. Over the past month (for example), there have been approximately 50 flags per day. This is not an issue that requires the intervention of a moderator in any way and I would prefer to keep flags reserved for those issues.

I appreciate your zeal for encouraging people to not give away full answers to homework questions, and I support anyone commenting on such answers (or even downvoting, if you feel it appropriate). However, this seems to me to be the solution that has been effect, by default, this entire time; nothing to change there. I agree that your posting on meta about it helps to raise awareness, but I don't see this as being a long-term solution - it seems rather pointless to continually debate something solely for the purpose of it being visible.

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I realize that the answers are not just for the OP but their learning experience is. What I'm proposing is that the answerer first determine what the OP is having trouble with in terms of the question and then engage in a full answer or hint. –  Rustyn Mar 7 '13 at 7:36
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Yes, I also would prefer that answerers do that. My question is, when an answerer doesn't do that, what do you want to happen? Do you want moderators to delete their post, do you want them to be suspended? Too drastic. You're of course welcome to downvote what you see as too-complete answers to homework questions, in an attempt to discourage it, or post a comment asking the answerer to modify their post to not give as much away, but this is all already within everyone's ability. –  Zev Chonoles Mar 7 '13 at 7:40
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As far as what the community should do about this is exactly what I am attempting to do now. Discuss it, bring awareness to it and have it circulate more through the veins of the SE community. I would like people to see this thread and perhaps they'll remember it the next time they are hasty to answer. I would expect a moderator to voice up against someone who hastily answered a question before figuring out where the OP was at with the question. –  Rustyn Mar 7 '13 at 7:43
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Okay, but just to be clear, you are no longer advocating for locking all questions with the appearance of being homework until the OP tells us what they tried, right? –  Zev Chonoles Mar 7 '13 at 7:46
    
That was a bit too extreme, you're right I'm no longer advocating for that. –  Rustyn Mar 7 '13 at 7:47
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"If down-voting or commenting on inappropriate answers is what you would ideally have all of us do, I feel it should be added to math.SE etiquette." No, if you feel strongly enough that an answer is inappropriate, you should feel free to downvote it. No one else is obliged to feel the same way as you are. –  Willie Wong Mar 7 '13 at 8:35
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@RustynYazdanpour where have you seen that rule? –  Tobias Kildetoft Mar 7 '13 at 13:47
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@Rustyn: You say, "....it's a potential cheating outlet and stunts the mathematical growth of the OP." So you agree that in the end the cheater is the one hurt the most by the act of cheating. What was the HUGE problem again? You are welcome to continue to vote whichever way you see fit. In the most egregious cases I will vote the same way that you do! Earlier during my stay at math.SE I would have ideally wanted many a thing "codified" in a similar way. But it is neither desirable nor necessary to codify anything like this. My mantra: "Up/downvoting is the perfect mechanism for culling..." –  Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 7 '13 at 14:30
    
@Rustyn: Most of the time an answer in itself is worthless to the OP unless they also gained understanding. They didn't shortcut the learning process, if they didn't learn anything, right? As a teacher I can easily make sure that the effect of homework on the grade is so small that unless the student also learned something while doing homework, it will not help them in the exam. Having said that I do find mindless asking of HW questions to be in bad form, so I will downvote, if I'm feeling at all grumpy. –  Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 7 '13 at 15:49
    
@WillieWong Why is downvoting the only means of preventing this sort of behavior? There is something terribly wrong with the way things are. See Pete L. Clark's answer. –  Rustyn Mar 7 '13 at 17:54
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@RustynYazdanpour wherever did I say that? You can also leave comments and try to engage other individuals in dialogue. But you simply cannot coerce other people to take the exact same point of view as you. My previous comment boils down to: "feel free to try and convince other people of your point of view, but note that a top-down prescriptive approach will never work (since effective implementation of which will essentially require every post be moderated...) –  Willie Wong Mar 8 '13 at 9:27
    
@WillieWong I appreciate your participation along with Zev's. I've come to gain perspective about this from both of you. Thanks again. –  Rustyn Mar 8 '13 at 15:17
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