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Dog's avatar

Would Fluther get off the "content farm" listing faster if we allowed homework questions? (Please see all details)

Asked by Dog (25056points) January 28th, 2012

We allow any question no matter how silly it might sound out of respect to the asking party. It was nice when we began allowing questions that were easy to Google but we are now deemed a “content farm” by Google. But unfortunately, when a question is asked that is remotely academic, the user is now often accused of being a homework cheat and flags fly as well as harsh comments.

Regardless of whether the question is indeed homework, the user often leaves due to a hostile environment.

Why not respect users of these questions too?
** I am thinking that such questions would certainly index higher in the Google ranking. **

Why not allow the questions but be polite and flag/remove direct answers?After all- it is in our guidelines that we do not give direct answers to homework questions.

Why not gently guide the user who asks for a direct answers that “We cannot tell you the exact answer but perhaps they should check out (insert resource)

Could it really hurt to encourage more students to seek a gentle nudge when we are scraping the spammer depths as a web site?

Am I totally off in my thinking here?
We have amazing minds here. Brilliant people and scholars. Surely we can help without snark and can give positive and gentle hints for the most obvious homework questions?

What do you all think?
Would Fluther possibly turn a profit and secure itself with such questions bringing in future scholars and those who are just pain curious?

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23 Answers

Judi's avatar

Sounds good to me.. I’m not quite sure how fluther makes money, but if they can do it better with a little tutoring, why not? Maybe it should have its own category?

deni's avatar

Is it really worth it? I, like @Judi have no idea what Fluthers financial situation is like or how sites like this even make a profit at all, but most users who ask homework questions aren’t here to stay, and are 16, and only waste our time. I don’t really particularly see how allowing those will benefit the website, instead I think that it would just cloud up this awesome web site and litter it with a bunch of stupid questions that are, of course, nothing more than homework. Oh right silly me, there are no stupid questions….except that there are. Stupid, and cheat-y.

SavoirFaire's avatar

We already do allow homework questions, it’s just that a lot of users seem to not realize this (and thus act accordingly). I agree that we should be more polite to people who ask questions that are perfectly within the guidelines—regardless of how this affects our Google ranking.

Dog's avatar

@SavoirFaire While many remain, according to my mod archives several are removed as obvious homework questions.

@deni I politely disagree. Sure there are those just looking for a quick answer who wont return, but the intelligent discussion of these topics instead of snark would be searchable and would be attractive to anyone seeking to learn more on a topic, student or not. Also sometimes all the user needs is a gentle hint and I believe they will return again knowing that this is a good place to be prompted toward helping oneself. Shouldn’t Fluther be a site for everyones questions?

I just do not see how it can hurt. The worst thing that happens is that we do not answer. A lot of questions go unanswered. There are a lot of orphans. If people do not know how to help they just ignore the question and move on like any other topic.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dog I suppose what I should have said was: “Fluther’s policies already do allow homework questions.” I don’t know how old the current policy is, but the only ones I can remember us removing in recent times for being homework questions were those that were either looking only for the answer or independently bad questions.

Dog's avatar

@SavoirFaire I totally agree. I could have worded my question better in that respect.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I don’t really know enough about how Google decides who’s a content farm and who isn’t in order to comment on that part of the question.

However, I would definitely be for more homework questions. Some homework questions are just looking for a quick, straightforward answer, but a lot of them aren’t. Some are looking not only for the answer, but an explanation of the answer, and how to get to the answer, and at least to me, those are the questions in which you aren’t so much doing someone’s homework for them so much as teaching them to do it for themselves next time. Others aren’t explicitly stated as homework questions, but some users think the only reason someone would be asking is for homework reasons, and accuse them of being homework questions. Which is sort of sad, because they’re often also the type of questions that many jellies would so love to answer and discuss. In fact, I often don’t ask questions on here because, even though I know I’m not asking for homework purposes (or it is homework related, but I’m also genuinely curious and trying to learn), I don’t think people will believe me and it’ll just be accusations of trying to cheat. So maybe it should be more of a policy shift, where straight answers without any explanation are discouraged, but answers with explanations – even if they provide the technical answer in the explanation – are encouraged.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I don’t know if that will work, but maybe it will. It seems to work for Wikipedia. Giving a “homework” like feel, I mean. That site isn’t always recommended as a source to cite (which is a good thing), but there are people use it as a starting point for research.

This site does have a pretentious feel to it (I’m not trying to be mean) ... That’s turned me off from it before. So, yeah, I’m totally on board with advising people to have respect for people who ask questions instead of treating them like they’re idiots who don’t deserve to talk. Thankfully, most of the users are nice, but there are still people who seem to take pleasure in being unpleasant. I know we’re human beings and we’re not all perfect. I’m not talking about people who do this once in a blue moon. I’m talking about people who do this a lot. It seems like it’s totally acceptable to be rude to people without being provoked, as long as the rudeness is “within the guidelines”.

augustlan's avatar

We do remove HW questions that flat-out ask for the answer, but I really wish folks would just flag those questions for us instead of being snarky to the asker about it. A little respect goes a long way, you know?

I don’t think it would affect our Google ranking much (if at all), though. We’ve already done what we can to fix that (de-indexed the Social section, removed the ‘no follow’ command from the links), and I don’t think a few homework questions here or there matter much.

CWOTUS's avatar

Once they get their homework done, a lot of young people seem to need a lot more than “just homework” help, too. I think I generally try to encourage their participation (since no one I know IRL seems to want or need my advice any more, and I do like to give it away), and I already attempt to give “guidance” answers on homework questions anyway, if I see them before they’re modded off.

If we’re serious about this, we should also make some kind of direct solicitation to ESL schools. We always seem to get a lot of participation in the “how do I say…?” threads. I especially enjoy helping foreign students learn “American English” as an aside to the “British English” that’s often taught non-native speakers. I like helping British and Australian English speakers in the same way.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I would like it if people always added a “this is homework” statement somewhere in their question if it is homework, and say “this is NOT homework” if it looks like homework but isn’t. This might put an end to remarks asking if it is homework. For example, I almost always add “This is NOT homework” as the last sentence of my math questions, and I have never been accused of asking homework.

Mariah's avatar

While I agree with some of the other uses that I don’t want Fluther to become overrun with homework questions, I like answering homework questions and wouldn’t mind at all if we became more accepting of them. That said, I don’t think the rules should really change – I definitely don’t think we should be allowed to flat out tell a kid the answer to their homework, especially without explaining how to arrive at that answer.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@PhiNotPi Or we could just assume that if it doesn’t explicitly say it’s homework, someone is just really that curious and interested in discussing/learning about that thing.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

@CWOTUS Oh, I like that idea… of having an ESL section or a way to tell when something is an ESL question. I can see people using sites like this to help them practice writing in English. I’m not sure if other Q&A sites have this option, but I definitely think such a section would make this site stand out, especially if it was frequently used.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@Aethelflaed New users might not realize that they have to say that it is homework.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@PhiNotPi They don’t have to say it is homework. Each person can choose what details they do or do not put in each and every time.

Dog's avatar

I just do not get why it is such a big deal to some jellies.

Why look for someone to kick and abuse because they are looking for answers?

Yes I understand that they are sometimes looking for a shortcut and quick answer but not all of them are. I also know Jellies well enough to know they can give help without giving outright answers. We are a very educated collective. We have knowledge to share. WHY look for a reason to post negatives?

With trolls and spammers I understand the frustration all too well. But these users are asking questions that a thousand other students will be searching for in the next month. Why not humor them and give hints? What is the joy in hand slapping? I just do not get it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Dog Maybe some of it is that we have this idea of academic integrity that we hold to very high esteem (perhaps a little bit too much, when compared to other things), but what exactly constitutes academic dishonesty is often an ill-defined thing, and we almost never provide students with clear-cut definitions and boundaries as to what is and isn’t acceptable. So a lot of students think they’re asking something totally ok, because hey, they’d ask their parents this, and then someone else with a totally different idea interprets it as an attempt to cheat instead of seeing it as a difference in definitions.

Having said that, given the lack of vitriol that users get over almost all other non-violent rule-breaking (political opinions not included), it does seem excessive. Someone who’s looking to put in a space heater even though their lease says they can’t won’t get much, if any, resistance.

Plus, some people just seem to like showing that they know that you are breaking the rules.

Dog's avatar

@Aethelflaed Understood, but we each have a choice and we have proven as a collective that we will not give a direct answer but can help instead. If we suspect the user is working unethically we can simply steer them back where they need to be gently which can teach them a HUGE life lesson.

We literally can help these users equip themselves to succeed!

We can empower them!

augustlan's avatar

@johnpowell Crap. I thought it was gone. :/

fundevogel's avatar

This probably couldn’t happen anywhere even remotely soon (if at all with our founders off cavorting on Twitter) but if we are in favor of providing homework help it might be nice to have a section just for homework. It would provide direction to students as to how to best frame their questions and would make it easy for everyone else to know what kind of question they’re dealing with and answer or ignore according to their preference.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fluther answer not the real one
We have amazing minds here. Brilliant people and scholars. Surely we can help without snark and can give positive and gentle hints for the most obvious homework questions?
But who would the snarky sharks feed off of if the water was not chummed with people asking academic type questions? That is why we specialize in cacti related questions of not the ”he loves me, or she loves me?” ones. Content farming is a byproduct of the seed that were sown.

Actual answer
It might have been nice to have had a button for those types of questions as with General and Social. However, most of those who belittle anyone from using social media to get answers to questions did so in their day, but it wasn’t called social media because it may have not existed yet, but they called it socializing in the halls, lunch rooms and libraries. The only thing that has changed is the reach of the net. I think those seeking info to help them answer the question should not be treated as lazy, or crooked as if they are trying to get the answer without working or cheating in some way.

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