I'd like to discuss the close reason post notice for when a question is closed for being off topic under the translation/transcription/proofreading reason following the discussion in chat.
I'd like to discuss 2 main points:
Editing it to sound less harsh and more helpful
Issues I think "prior research effort" may be causing
This is the current post notice:
Questions asking for translations, transcriptions or proofreading are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not to provide a bulk translation service nor to proofread your translations or transcriptions. See: We don't do translations
The meta link not only explains our policy on such questions, it also suggests alternative sites to help solve translation requests.
However, I feel that the link is not inviting enough to be clicked on. Right now it feels like it is saying "it is off topic, here's why" which doesn't sound very helpful to a person that is new to the Stackexchange Q&A site format and is just innocently trying to find a quick and/or simple solution.
So, what if we edited it to convey "it's off topic, and here's where you can go instead" :
... ... For our site's policy and alternative solutions, see: We don't do translations
I feel that by making that link more inviting, it may help mitigate the problem I'm about to point out below (translation requests turning into proofreading requests), since we can include explanations or suggestions to help improve such questions in that meta post. (Because the close reason blurb is at most 400 characters long and we can't fit it all on it so I think the meta post is a good place to put such information)
Now for the second issue. I think "prior research effort" may be the best phrase we can come up with but it doesn't stop the problem I'm about to illustrate.
I feel that many translation questions end up on this path:
- Asker posts a translation request
- Comments are left to encourage user to make "their own attempt" at the sentence
- Translation request is updated with a customary "own attempt"
- Question is now essentially "I want to convey ~, my sentence is ~, is my sentence correct?" which is a proofreading request and still off topic as defined under the close reason.
- Question gets closed or stays closed, asker feels he didn't receive any help.
There are two ways I think translation questions eventually turn out. The first kind just gains a constructed sentence to fulfil the "prior effort" criteria and the user asks if it's correct or not (which is not entirely unlike proofreading). This generates answers of this type: "your sentence is good", "your sentence is bad", "use this sentence instead".
The second kind has a useful answerable question. The asker not only constructs a sentence, but lists the alternative words or phrases that were considered, and asks why these words/phrases were appropriate or not appropriate. Or, the asker sets up a specific problem he faces by explaining the context or circumstances that require him to respond in a certain way. This generates answers of this type: "you can't use this because...", "you have to use this because..."
Here's where I appeal to the community for discussion on this topic:
- How can we edit it to be helpful? Do you think it is fine as it is?
- Do you think the current phrasing "prior research effort" is useful in preventing translation/proofreading and translation→proofreading requests? Can we improve it or is it fine as it is?