This question is regarding this post: https://photo.stackexchange.com/revisions/94624/1

and in part, this one as well: Are homework questions on or off topic?

I'm looking at this from the perspective of growing the community. The person that asked the question only has the one question in history - and doesn't participate in any other SE.

While I understand the effort that has been put in to create the rules and link other questions, etc, I also get the feeling that putting a question out there, receiving downvotes, and a barrage of "improve this, this, and this" may be overwhelming to the point of turning them off of SE entirely.

In an effort to help a newcomer learn to formulate a question - how much editing could be done?

For example, it would first be very easy to state that the question should be a singular question, and so trim it from 3 questions to 1. Let's assume we trim it to include only question #2:

2) If the settings are the ones below How should the settings in camera be adjusted to make it a bit sharper next time? decrease ISO, increase shutter speed, increase ISO and shutter speed or decrease shutter speed?

We can then coach to rewriting the question to form something more along the lines of:

I don't understand how exposure impacts sharpness in the photo. Assuming the image is too blurry, should I increase/decrease ISO or increase/decrease shutter speed to get a sharper image?

Granted - this question is most likely a duplicate - but I would hope that in showing the new user how to pair down a complex thought into a simplistic question allows for a better experience entering the SE community, in addition to helping them find the knowledge that they are looking for...

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In general, editing if possible to make it a viable question is good. Editing to make a question that will still be closed anyway is a waste of time since the users' experience will still be that their question was closed.

The problem in this case was multi-faceted. I tend to agree with scottbb about handling each of the individual questions to avoid a dupe being the best course of action, however one of the first rules of editing a question is not to edit it such that existing answers are no longer valid.

Unfortunately, in this case, two users had already made high quality answers to the generalized point that would cover all 3 questions and unfortunately would be a dupe if edited to match the answers.

We couldn't simply edit it down to one of the three questions because the answers prevent it. We couldn't edit it to be a generalized question as it would be a dupe and then be directly closed after the edit. Really, the ideal would have been to split the question prior to the initial answers and then answering it as unique questions that are not duplicates, unfortunately this isn't how it played out and trying to unscramble it at this point is difficult at best and impossible at worst.

It may be possible to merge the question to move the answers and then try to undo the merge link so that it can be updated as a different question, but I'm not sure that last part is possible and it pretty badly will break if it can't go all the way through, particularly if the OP doesn't come back and would then require deleting the question entirely (though the answers would have been moved at that point, so maybe I'll revisit it to try).

As another related point, it's also important not to over-edit a user's question to the point it no longer resembles the question they were trying to ask. If it's unclear what they are asking or the question really needs to be generalized to make it a good fit beyond small modification, it's probably best to work with the user on making sure their purpose is respected.

  • Ok, looks like merging, then unlocking allows for it to be unwound. I have edited and re-opened. Two of the three I didn't really see fitting that well, so I went with the third which can probably be answered ok. – AJ Henderson Dec 4 '17 at 21:30
  • Just wondering: in the case of the specific question on main, or perhaps any similar question, is there any harm in placing an editorial comment at the beginning or end of the question, along the lines of, "Note: This question is (appears to be?) a homework or test question. Please write answers with an eye towards guiding the reader towards the solution, rather than simply giving the solution away." If OP comes back and says it isn't a test question, then the note can be removed, no big deal. But perhaps that style of note might encourage more exploratory answers. Thoughts? – scottbb Dec 5 '17 at 0:41
  • @scottbb I'd more favor a tag than an edit. An edit will interfere with search a lot more than tags will. I don't know if we want to bother with a homework tag given the rarity of homework questions though. A comment could also be another option until we decide to have such a tag or if we don't want such a tag. – AJ Henderson Dec 5 '17 at 1:09
  • I think the main benefit of the note/comment would be an indicator to potential VtC that although the question would mostly be a dupe (topically), it deserves to stay open for the exploratory and educational nature of its answers. Having said that, in the larger scheme of things, I agree all around on your points. – scottbb Dec 5 '17 at 1:14

New user experience is something that StackExchange is working on. The first phase (now concluded) allowed first time users to pair with an experienced user to ask their first StackOverflow question. The second phase was recently launched and provides a template to help users structure their first questions. Recent StackExchange podcasts discuss the process and I am sure there are blog posts and SE-meta discussions as well.

Anyway, the simplest way to improve new user experience is to be generous with upvotes. The question that prompted your question had two good answers before being closed and then modified and later reopened. Why wouldn't a question that elicits two good answers be worth an upvote?

Upvotes don't cost anything and are orthogonal to flagging. It's why dupes can have upvotes and why their answers can have them as well.

Regarding that specific question (and assuming it's a homework question),

  1. I agree with your assessment that it should be split into 3 questions.

  2. I disagree that each individual homework sub-question should be rewritten. I'm okay with homework/test questions written exactly as posed, as long as the question is tagged [homework], and as long as the community resists the urge to just do the homework for them, instead giving answers as guidance or tools to guide the questioner to conclude their own answer to the question.

  • My thought in helping the OP to rephrase is to help them to identify and communicate the concept that is posing an issue. I don't really mind the homework question being posted as-is, but it doesn't help to identify what concept within the question is fuzzy for OP. This process could and should take place in comments - with the result that the main question is updated to clarify. Or is there a better way? – Hueco Dec 4 '17 at 21:42
  • @Corey I don't feel that's necessary to do in the question. I would just encourage (through comments) the OP to explain what they think the answer is. In essence, asking them to "show their work/thinking" as much as possible. The answers ideally should just frame the issues, pros/cons of each answer's implications, etc. But ultimately, SE isn't ideally geared towards homework help, IMO. The reputation system, coupled with the high degree of "knowitalls" who love to show everybody their knowledge (I'm certainly one of them), too easily can lead to answers that give away the solution – scottbb Dec 5 '17 at 0:14
  • @Corey Or is there a better way? Good question. When it comes to answering homework-style questions, I wish we could enforce answer styles that look like they came from the Ask Dr. Math forums. But SE isn't built that way, so we have no way of "moderating" answers prior to publishing, to make sure they are guided coaching, rather than have somebody pipe in with the answer, without really exploring the issue and leading the questioner to discover the right answer. – scottbb Dec 5 '17 at 0:14

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