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I like to quote the tooltips of the UP- and DOWN-vote buttons here:

UP: “This question shows research effort; ...”

DOWN: “This question doesn not show any research effort; ...”

I interpret “research effort” not in terms of science, but simply that the person who is asking should state what he has tried so far and with what success.

I am not happy about the “riddle-type” seeding question because they omit that part, for not giving away the riddle’s solution. For example this question, like some others, just asks for the solution, without telling what the inquirer has tried himself.

I am also not happy with the broad “tell my a bit about that topic”-type questions. An example is this one. Again it lacks any own research effort and is too broad, IMHO. Should we be stricter about the questions an try to avoid ones that are rather unspecific and not narrow?

When students came to me at university with questions about my advisor’s lectures, the first thing to ask them was: “What have you got so far?”

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  • $\begingroup$ It's very delicate. someone will ask a question, and the community's reply would be "why do you ask?!". Also, a legitimate "reason" is a simple "I wasn't able to solve this myself", and it doesn't matter if the OP tried method 1,2,3 or just method 3, or even, has no idea which method should apply. $\endgroup$ – Ran G. Mar 20 '12 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Which reminds me the well-known joke: "why does a Jewish person always answer a question with a question"? - "why wouldn't he answer a question with a question?" $\endgroup$ – Ran G. Mar 20 '12 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RanG. But if he tells me that he tried 1,2,3 and failed. Then it saves me time in answering his question, because I can skip them. It’s a courtsey towards the person taking their time to provide an answer. $\endgroup$ – uli Mar 20 '12 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @RanG. I think it is perfectly okay to ask more about the background and why he is asking what he asks. My biggest fear is that CS.SE become “Homework Central”, just drop the question and forget about it. I would like to see what he has tried so far, perhaps I can spot an error. $\endgroup$ – uli Mar 20 '12 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ In the "riddle" question you linked (which was posted by me): I clearly showed two approaches, one $\mathcal{O}(n)$ but not in-place, and mentioned that divide and conquer makes it in-place but $\theta(n \log n)$. What more "research" are you expecting to be shown? It was also clearly mentioned that it is a seeding question, so you are free to not work on it if you don't want to. As an example of how to post questions, I think it is a reasonable example: showing two approaches (prior research), leading to the question whose resolution is sought. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Mar 20 '12 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ btw, I do agree with the sentiment that some research effort would be nice to see. In fact, the seeding questions give us an avenue to post "poster" questions. I just disagree with your assessment of that particular question. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Mar 20 '12 at 20:03
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First of all, as you mention many questions have been seeding questions so far. Should we invent stuff just to make it real? I don't think so. This should end soon, though.

Secondly, upvoting constitutes more for me than just research effort. The question has to be ontopic, of general interest, well-posed, clear, unsuggestive, ... I won't vote down if any single one of those criteria is not met. If the unfulfilled become more, I won't vote and comment my concerns. Only if many aspects are amiss will I vote down.

Bottom-line, showing effort is one (important) aspect of a good question, but if it is absent the question is not necessarily bad. It is always fair to ask the OP before answering.

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  • $\begingroup$ I’m in parallel in the Mathematica.SE beta and they have no need for mockup-questions. The beta users just post their regular questions as if it was already live. I’m wondering why it is different with CS.SE. $\endgroup$ – uli Mar 20 '12 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @uli: mathematica.SE is in public beta. How many interesting, real-life questions can 10-30 active users have on the spot? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mar 20 '12 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphel I know that it has reached public beta now, however I was talking about the private part. $\endgroup$ – uli Mar 20 '12 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @uli: There is also the fact that we have a lot prior sites (CSTHeory, SO, math.SE) which are well beyond Beta and have significant overlap with cs.se, taking away some of the possible questions. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Mar 20 '12 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @uli Mathematica is an insanely focused site. CS is very broad. If we each ask questions to the best of our ability, out of a pool of a few tens of people, there's a good chance nobody can answer (and we have in fact suffered from this to some extent). Also, some subjects are difficult to explain, even when you know the answer; there is value in asking for a clear explanation to something you know intuitively but cannot put in words. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 20 '12 at 22:27

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