We have recently had this question and this one.

Both questions practically contain an answer within the question and ask "is this correct". Assuming the answer they give is correct (like in the example above), what should we do?

  1. answer it with "your solution is correct"
  2. close as "not a real question/too localized"?
  3. leave it open, with no answers?
A possible 4th option where appropriate (not great for the two examples though) would be to edit the question and make the answer component an actual answer. –  Luke Mathieson Feb 18 '13 at 6:18
Yes, we even have check-my-proof. –  Raphael Feb 18 '13 at 9:11
See also this older, related question. –  Raphael Apr 30 '13 at 8:38

2 Answers 2

Such questions as you reference are almost always bad, but it can be hard to nail down why. It sometimes seems as if you have to know the answer before you can know whether the question is a good one.

Here is what definitely works for SE:

  1. A question that states a problem, a proposal for solving it and a focused question about a specific aspect of the proposal that is unclear.
  2. A pair of question and answer that are of general nature and thus likely to help others.

If neither applies, we usually have some variant of "this is my attempt on the latest exercise, please check it before the TA so I can get maximum points!" (assumption on my part). This is bad, although the problem is subtle.

  • If the attempt is wrong good answers can be given, pointing out the mistake and proposing (hints for) fixes.
  • If the attempt is correct, nothing can be said but "yes, it's correct".

The second case is a problem. Even if the OP can not know the case applies, they could have phrased the question so that it can not occur. Therefore, I suggest we shoot down all questions that are not 1. or 2. without hesitation (as NARQ).

If a questioner wants their work checked, they should be able to pinpoint their doubt and providing a question that allows meaty answers either way (i.e. for "yes" and "no" answers). This, for example, would be okay:

So I got exercise problem A. Here is my attempt: [...]

I am unsure about step (*). It seems to hold because of X, but how do I take care of Y?

Whether the attempt is correct does not matter, answers have explaining to do either way.

+1 I think too localized is more suitable as closing reason: "This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, see the FAQ." –  Kaveh Apr 23 '13 at 4:46
General check my solution/answer type question definitely fall in this category, they are unlikely to be helpful to any other person. Another way to fix these questions can be to remove OP's own answer and ask the OP to post it as an answer not in the question. –  Kaveh Apr 23 '13 at 4:47
@Kaveh Right, "too localized" applies. I'm not sure about telling people to post as answer as a general rule; I feel like that should only be done if the proposed answer is apparently correct (at least not obviously flawed) and the question is not too localized in itself (e.g. the 233th "build an NFA for this language" question without any distinctive features). –  Raphael Apr 23 '13 at 6:49

On math.SE these are sometimes accepted, tagged with proof-verification But you need to have more than just an answer to qualify. As you may expect, it's an obvious target for people posting crank proofs to famous conjectures, but those get mega-downvoted and closed/deleted quickly enough there.

I see there's a here, but the name is a bit unfortunate because checking only the answer is sometimes what a machine can easily do. Insofar I haven't seen this problem here [to the same degree], but on SO, EE.SE and math.SE there's sometimes a burst of "check my answer to this Boolean/propositional minimization problem", usually from newbies who haven't yet learned that such problems can be solved (and thus the answer checked) by standard software. Hardly anyone wants to be the typist for such problems... See nasty reaction on EE.SE for example. Yeah, it's true that one can also check at least some kinds of proofs via a computer (via Coq, HOL, and what not), but that's way more intricate than what some kinds "check my answer" questions involve... So I would suggest raising the bar to "check my proof".

On the other had, physics.SE has much tougher stance on such issues:

It's not enough to just show your work and ask where you went wrong. If you just need someone to check your work, you can always seek out a friend, classmate, or teacher. As a rule of thumb, a good conceptual question should be useful even to someone who isn't looking at the problem you happen to be working on.

Perhaps another distinction along those lines is that the aforementioned physics.SE policy encourages the use of a [homework tag] (at point 4), while a similar tag on math.SE was burned down.

It seems to me that the practice on CS.SE falls somewhere in between math.SE and physics.SE.

True. What was your intention with this answer, make a new proposal or give context? I agree more with Physics than the others (see my above answer), but we don't use "homework" as a classifier (see our policy). –  Raphael Feb 19 at 10:58
@Raphael: I guess it ended being a kind of "thinking out loud" of where the line should be drawn... but I can't say I came up with a definite conclusion. On M.SE I was recently told that almost any such "check my work" question is good. Obviously every user has a personal standard, but what's more interesting is that the community-average standard differs significantly between SE sites. –  Respawned Fluff Feb 23 at 21:56

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