I currently encountered this question: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/314774/unix-script-to-pass-variables

It made me wonder how questions that are "very low quality" should be handled.

Currently there is a flag for "very low quality" answers:

This answer has severe formatting or content problems. 
This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed. 

The question I encountered seems quiet obviously just a copy/paste of a homework question looking for an answer they can simply copy/paste. However it doesn't seem to actually violate any of the help center criteria https://unix.stackexchange.com/help/asking. I see no issue with questions relating to homework, but if the asker is not willing to put any effort into resolving their question I take issue with that.

The closest it seems is:

Why do I see a message that my question does not meet quality standards?

* Any background research you've tried but wasn't enough to solve your problem.


How do I ask a good question?

Search, and research

Obviously some questions like these make it past the quality standards filter, and most would agree it's a "bad" question, but it is certainly possible to answer (it is specific, on topic, and not opinion based).

I feel that the lack of effort on the asker's part is reason enough to close the question (had they done some research on their own they would have found the answer).

The alternative in this case is to go looking for a duplicate, but I doubt it would help anyone, the question is downvoted/closed so it'll be at the bottom of search results for that tag, and the asker will likely ignore anything but a working solution handed to them. This just means extra work searching for an appropriate duplicate with little benefit.

I think that the "very low quality" flag also has a place for questions, with text like:

This question has severe formatting or content problems. 
This question demonstrates a clear lack of effort, 
is unlikely to be salvageable though editing, and might need to be removed.

I assume the community agrees that questions like these are a waste, provide little benefit to future users, and should simply be closed. As it stands the current close flags are a bit ambiguous (the closest being "Off-topic" which isn't really true, or "Duplicate" which may not be true, or puts work on legitimate users with no gain). I don't think that people should be discouraged from asking questions simply because they relate to homework, but they should be discouraged from asking questions without trying to find the answer themselves.

1 Answer 1


Off-Topic allows you to craft your own reason. That allows you to accomplish three things:

  1. provide specific feedback to the asker about why their question is being closed where one of the canned responses is inadequate or ambiguous
  2. signal to the people in the review queue the exact rationale for the question being marked for closure
  3. (perhaps) discourage people from "helpfully" providing answers to questions that really should be closed

This last point is (increasingly) important because the last thing that this community needs is to encourage the sort of drive-by help vampirism that is increasingly prevalent here as the site attracts more search engine juice.

These questions are of no value because they are almost always duplicates, but the sort of people that paste their homework are also the sort of people that lack the inclination to search themselves.

They are also not the sort of people that will ever contribute anything else to the community, so the argument that they should be gently steered towards the help pages or other documentation is flawed (if they were inclined to read documentation they wouldn't be pasting their homework here).

So, in short, there is no actual or potential benefit to this community tolerating their behaviour. Use the custom field of the Off-Topic close reason and make it clear that homework is assigned for a reason, and it isn't to drain the goodwill of open source communities.

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