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A lot of stack exchange sites require that the asker demonstrates that they have made some prior effort to solve the problem themselves before asking the site.

Should we do the same?

If so, what level of effort should we require, and what sort of proof should we accept that this effort has been expended?

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  • Lack of research effort is more of a motivation to downvote (as the hover text says, "does not show any research effort") than a reason to get rid of the question itself. And even there, note the word "any" - you're hoping people will have done a bit of research (e.g. they googled it), not necessarily that they've spent serious time and money on it. – Cascabel Feb 3 '15 at 1:24
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No. If a question is clear and answerable, it should be answered.

Not all questions need a historical context or a show of prior efforts. If a bit of background context makes a question clearer, the author should provide it. But when a community makes that a site-wide requirement, too often it becomes overdone when communities feels compelled to enforce these rules everywhere, regardless of merit.

If a question can be made clearer by providing more context, you can easily ask the author for clarification in a comment. With a bit of thoughtful guidance, you create a pleasant end-user experience for all. But when every other question is rubber stamped with "What have you tried?", it can start to look a bit forced and unnecessary, and even a bit harassing.

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  • I fail to see how directing an asker to follow the rules of the site constitutes harassment, but otherwise agree. – Nick Udell Feb 2 '15 at 15:44
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    @NickUdell Because when users are forcing an unnecessary requirement on the author because "that's the rule", it starts to look harassing to anyone else looking on. – Robert Cartaino Feb 2 '15 at 16:10
  • when it is "the rule", at that point the community have deemed by consensus that is is a necessary requirement. – Nick Udell Feb 2 '15 at 16:25
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    ...and that is what I am arguing against; adding a "requirement" that isn't necessary because it will be applied to all cases regardless of merit. – Robert Cartaino Feb 2 '15 at 16:25
  • Indeed, in your main post, and I agree that it shouldn't be a rule here, however the ensuing argument in the comments is specifically regarding the statement you make at the end of your second paragraph. Your statement is predicated on prior-research already being a rule (because otherwise the situation you describe would not come about and you would have no reason to mention it), and therefore I argue that when it is a rule, at that point the community have deemed by consensus that is is a necessary requirement, and requiring an asker to follow the rules cannot be sanely seen as harassment. – Nick Udell Feb 2 '15 at 16:32
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    Equating "it's necessary" with "because it's a rule" is way too circular for my taste. And with that thought, I'm out. – Robert Cartaino Feb 2 '15 at 16:42
  • I apologise if I have not been clear. Rules are defined by the community, whose purview it is to determine whether a rule is necessary or desirable or not, which is what we are doing in this very meta post. I am confused that you think it circular the very process you are using to help decide a ruling. Instead of answering my question, you held up an unrelated scenario in which the community have not agreed upon the rule (and therefore it is unnecessary), and yet the rule is somehow in place. This is where my confusion stems, and why I would like a clarified answer. – Nick Udell Feb 2 '15 at 20:07
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It's generally pretty obvious when a question would have been trivial to research beforehand (or could be improved if the author had researched it a bit before hand). At least at first, we should play it by ear and let the community decide on a question by question basis.

Hard rules about things that are potentially subjective are a bad idea IMO. If the question is a good fit, and clearly defined, it's probably okay (even if it could have been solved by a quick search).

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  • On the other hand, could subjectively-enforced rules without clear definitions be seen as unfair by those who fall afoul of them? – Nick Udell Feb 9 '15 at 9:15
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It will depend. You can say NO when the answer seems to be clear and thoughtful. In the answer, the reader should be able to assume (and maybe see) that:

  • There was research done/knowledge is acceptable

  • Information is clear and useful

  • It's long enough to provide sufficient information to answer the questions

  • It's not a copy-paste answer

You can request the proof of prior research (that means YES) if the reader assumes/sees that:

  • There is not a lot of information

  • Just a couple sentences long (unless that is sufficient)

  • Information is debateable

  • It looks like its an exact replica of a section in a website

This should be the key points for readers to look for when searching valid and proved answers. I hope this answers you question!

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