# An alternative suggestion regarding Homework Questions

We want to have general reusable questions. Yet, most of the undergraduate questions are terribly local and of no use what-so-ever for future visitors.

Here's a suggestion:

How about forbidding questions that contain numbers?

This would only apply to homework-style questions, and would force users to rephrase their question in a general way, such that it is of more use for future visitors. Instead of

Hi guys, I have this production function $L^{0.3} K^{0.6}$ and resource constraint $L + K = 10$, what do I do?

The user would have to think about

How does a firm solve the problem with a given code douglas production function $L^a K^{1-a}$, where I have a resource constraint such that $L+K = X$.

Then also, with these general questions, it is much easier to spot duplicates.

• An excellent proposal. A totally irrelevant detail: $0.3 + 0.6 \neq 1$. – Giskard Aug 6 '15 at 19:23
• seems popular, enough consensus to include it in the FAQ? – Jamzy Aug 7 '15 at 4:11
• @Jamzy Ive answered/suggested an FAQ proposal, which we need to stick someplace before we start enforcing it. – FooBar Aug 14 '15 at 16:39

This seems like a fairly sensible suggestion.

We might need to be willing to provide some additional 'care' to those for whom even this modest increase in generality is too much. This could be done by, for example, editing their question for them and appending the solution for their original question as an example special case to the end of an answer.

• I strongly disagree with appending the solution for their original question. That doesn't sound pedagogical at all. Also, a little effort can be expected from visitors. Perhaps we should be explicit about requiring high school math (precalculus for US users) from visitors. – FooBar Aug 4 '15 at 12:41
• @FooBar In an ideal world I think you are right. But if someone was capable of reading the general solution to, for example, the Cobb-Douglas maximization problem and applying it to their specific example then they wouldn't show up here in the first place because they could find that general solution in any undergrad textbook and will almost certainly have also seen it in a lecture before attempting their homework. – Ubiquitous Aug 4 '15 at 16:00
• I would question whether we want to cater to people who are not able to do that. – FooBar Aug 4 '15 at 16:32
• @FooBar But in that case, surely we should just be closing these questions altogether. Because if an answer is in no way tailored to the specific question asked then the person who asked will find nothing here that they can't already find in the textbook they are supposed to be reading. My concern is not that I want to spoon feed people (I don't!)—it's that I don't want us to be in the business of producing a carbon copy of an intro to econ textbook. – Ubiquitous Aug 4 '15 at 17:06
• I agree that this is a good idea. I haven't noticed numbers being too big a problem. That said, having general solutions to questions would be much more useful than having numbered solutions. If a user asks a question which the general form is already available, close as dupe. If there is no general solution yet and the question follows the other homework related rules, I think we definitely have space for it here. – Jamzy Aug 5 '15 at 1:09
• Also, often it is relatively easy to reframe a question in the general form and encourages users seeking understanding, not just an answer to a hw question. Too often an OK question get asks and someone asks follow up questions seeking clarification and gets ignored. This could help with that... The more I think about it, the better the idea seems. – Jamzy Aug 5 '15 at 1:12

How about the following formulation, to be put into the FAQ and wherever:

General Questions The explicit aim of this site is to create a stack of high quality economics related questions and answers. High quality questions are those that are useful to future visitors. Hence, please do not ask very specific questions that are only useful to yourself. Try to keep them general instead. That way, they are also more interesting for fellow users to answer. A rule of thumb: If your question contains numbers, it is most likely too specific to be of general use.

Bad Question "Alpha and Beta, shipwrecked on a desert island, and are trying to split 100 kg of cornmeal (C) and 100 cocunuts (N). Alpha's utility function is: $U_{\alpha} = C + 0.5N$, while Betas utility function is $U_{\beta} = 3.5C + 3.5N$. If they do not agree to cooperate, they fight to death, with U = 0 for the loser. Given their physical differences, Beta has an 80% probability of winning the fight.Find their threat point!

Better Question Imagine a scenario in which two agents, Alpha and Beta, are splitting two goods, 100 C and 100 N. They have utility functions $U_{\alpha}(C,N)$ and $U_{\beta}(C,N)$. If they cannot agree on an outcome, they fight to death, with U = 0 for the loser. The likelihood of Beta winning is $P$ percent. How can I calculate their threat point?

Great Question Imagine a scenario in which $N$ agents, each with an individual utility function, have to allocate $M$ goods. If they cannot agree on an outcome, one of the agents (randomly drawn) will gain all the goods, while the others enjoy zero utility. How can I calculate the threat points?

• Perhaps a great question may also provide a description of or a link to a description of the main concept, i.e. the threat point. – Giskard Sep 20 '15 at 7:48