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  1. #1
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    Homework - Clarification

    As some may be aware, there was a minor kerfuffle in the last 24 hours in a thread the root cause of which was, imo, a difference of opinion on what constitutes a request for help being related to homework or not.

    Personally I agree in principle with not providing free code to blatant requests for code related to homework, especially if the op has not provided their code showing they are making an attempt. But since there is no way to be 100% certain whether a request is for "homework" or not it boils down to individual opinions on whether it is or not.

    Personally, if an op provides code showing they are making an attempt I don't have an issue with providing code - complete or partial solutions - and I give the op the benefit of the doubt regarding whether the request is homework related or not because of the uncertainty.

    After a bit of PM tennis in which I asked the 2 moderators who contacted me over the issue who decides on what is homework or not, one replied that he and the other moderators decided and the other replied saying that there is no way to be 100% sure and that we need to exercise "common sense" which to me means form our own opinion.

    So in fairness to all members and in the hope we will all be on a level playing field from hereon can any moderator please

    1) post a link or list the criteria (I haven't been able to find either) they as a group are using to decide what is homework or not in their adjudications.

    2) clarify whether a request coming from someone who is teaching themselves, from a textbook or whatever, and not actually enrolled in some sort of course (where grades are given for work) is included in any criteria in 1)

    I feel that if the status quo remains then the likelihood of a similar inadvertant clash as a result of differing opinions on what is "homework" is still there.

    Thank you
    Last edited by bullant; 03-15-2011 at 07:16 AM.

  • #2
    The fat guy next door VIPStephan's Avatar
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    In most cases it’s easy to say if someone is just posting their homework assignment and even if they are posting “their” code it doesn’t mean that they have put any thought in it. But even if they have put thoughts in it, my point is to not provide complete solutions, especially if it’s obvious that they are trying to complete an assignment (be it voluntary or not) but even if they are just sitting over a regular problem. People should learn for themselves and we should only provide the hints they need in order to make progress (that’s at least my opinion). Of course, sometimes it’s not a big deal to provide the complete solution and if your common sense told you it wouldn’t be a problem in that certain case then fine, but if you’re drawing the resentments of multiple users, especially by your reaction to criticism, then you should think about it rather than get all worked up on the definition of “homework” or whatever. Common sense also includes learning from and adapting to the customs of a certain social group.

    In any case, there is a general rule of thumb in life if conflicts arise: The wiser head gives in.

  • #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by VIPStephan View Post
    In most cases it’s easy to say if someone is just posting their homework assignment
    What criteria do you use? I, for one can't tell with 100% certainty one way or the other.

    Also, what if the op is self teaching from a text-book, or whatever, and not actually enrolled in a course where they have access to teachers and other students for help? If their work will not be assessed by anyone why are they being barred from receiving code.

    How do you asses whether someone is an enrolled student or self teaching?

    This is the only forum I have come across where a few people take not helping people asking for help with homework so seriously.

    I freely give code to people visiting my website whether it's homework or not as long as they provide code first and I don't have any problems on other forums doing the same there.

    If nothing else, kicking up a fuss over something relatively trivial is reflecting poorly on this forum on other websites - but that's not my problem.
    Last edited by bullant; 03-15-2011 at 12:31 PM.

  • #4
    The fat guy next door VIPStephan's Avatar
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    Please read what I wrote. It doesn’t matter if something is a school homework or self study, it doesn’t help the person to learn if they get the code delivered on a silver plate. It’s not that we (as in the members that are more helping than asking for help) try to withhold the solutions for them, we just want them to think for themselves.

    Surely, there are different opinions about how far help can go. However, you are repeatingly arguing with well respected long-time members and moderators (I’m talking about Kor, for example) and while they aren’t impeccable I would rather stick to the common practice they have established as a community of helping members if I were in your place. After all, I haven’t experienced any problems with this practice on these forums before either so the decision if it’s the community or you that’s kicking up a fuss is relatively clear to me.

    The thing is that now you’re in a pretty tough position to (re)gain respect here so if I were you I would rather keep the fingers still in one or another thread since you’re under strict observation and each of your replies is being watched with suspicion anyway (not by me but at least by those you have argued with). I don’t know if you can set things straight again at all but please try to be responsive to criticism without questioning everything that is said to you. And if you feel uncomfortable here you’re free to go (not that I’m asking you to go, I’m just telling you). You won’t get far with starting fights, anyway.

  • #5
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    For me, the extended definition of a homework is simple: a post which has nothing but the literal specification of a project. All the specifications of a project, and no code at all. And no questions related to a problem or another. And no effort to isolate a problem or another. That shows me that the OP (usually a lazy student) has not even the slightest idea what is all about, but he expects a miracle
    Last edited by Kor; 03-15-2011 at 08:50 PM.
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  • #6
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    As a general rule, I don't give a whole working code snippet to people who haven't shown considerable effort first. If it's about a real life project, I won't do their work for free, and if it's about learning, I won't spoil their opportunity to figure it out themselves.

    That approach makes the decision whether something is homework or not a non-issue.

    In the thread we are talking about here, the OP hasn't shown any effort: The code he posted looks like it might be working, but it obviously doesn't meet his requirements, so that's a bit suspicious. A quick google search reveals that his snippet is copy-pasted, for instance from here. Also, he didn't even bother to figure out what would be the right question to ask, so there's no questions at all, just a statement that goes along the lines of "this snippet I found doesn't exactly do what is asked from me, and I have no idea what to do about that".

    For me, that's a clear no-reply.

    It probably should also be pointed out that, while posting homework assignments violates forum rules, it's not against the rules to answer to such a thread with a solution, like you did. It's frowned upon, though, so don't be surprised to get a few comments about that, especially if, like in this case, that solution undermines another member's more educational approach.

  • #7
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    There are some people in the forum with 500+ posts and are not ready to learn from their simple mistakes. They repeatedly ask the same question, without any search or even recalling/referring their own threads.
    The Dream is not what you see in sleep; Dream is the thing which doesn't let you sleep. --(Dr. APJ. Abdul Kalam)

  • #8
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    Personally, and this will probably get me lambasted by some of the moderators here, I don't have a problem with you asking for help on your homework provided you
    a) made an attempt to solve the problem yourself, and
    b) know enough about your problem to ask a specific question to get the answer your stuck on and
    c) don't ask for a complete solution.

    Picking up on what is a homework assignment or not is pretty easy. Those questions typically are something like...

    I need to create a program that asks the user to enter 5 numbers and displays the average
    It's easy to pick up because they're not "real world" problems, they're excersizes designed to emulate real world problems. So, with that said, if someone posted the above, I would ignore them.

    However, if someone posted the above, then followed it up with something like...

    I'm using PHP and I have the following code. I can get the total, but the division isn't working correctly. Do I have the syntax wrong? I'm not getting any errors, it just displays 0 every time.

    //enter some snippet of code here
    OBVIOUSLY the OP in that case understands the problem, has made an attempt to solve it, and knows what the specific issue is. I think, as a learning forum, it's an obligation to help out in that situation.

    As an Adjunct, I frequently tell my students to come here to ask for help, many do, and let me tell you, I've gotten some in-face feedback on the whole "no helping with homework" issue. My typical response? "There are just some members that are too hung up on it, ignore them and keep asking".

  • #9
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    I agree with bcarl on this. If the poster has at least actually formulated actual specific questions, I don't have a problem with helping them with a homework assignment. I say this because in order to ask specific questions they had to actually think about what they need to do and understand what they don't know how to do.

    I know some people refuse to help people at all if it is a homework assignment and that is their prerogative but that shouldn't stop others.

    The computer programming forum is where homework assignments first showed up in frequency 5 or 6 years ago and since then it has maintained this policy: http://www.codingforums.com/showthread.php?t=53446 It has worked well for years, plenty of people have gotten help with homework assignments and it hasn't been an issue.

    As a forum in general that is a place of learning, if someone posts as an example some code and says it is generating a specific error and they don't know why, if you post a fixed version of their code it is important to explain what you fixed. There are people that will at times just post the fixed code without any explanation and while that solves the posters immediate issue, if it happens again they haven't learned what they need to look for to solve it. Sure they could diff the two code snippets and see but the person fixing it could also share their knowledge. This applies regardless of if it is a homework assignment.
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  • #10
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    Thank you for the responses and I agree in general with the vast majority of what you all say but imo it still boils down to individual opinion, in the absence of any strict criteria, as to whether a request for help is eligible for any, let alone full, code or not.

    Take this thread as an example.

    In it the op asks for help to find the factors of numbers and makes no real attempt, imo, to solve the problem and yet is given a full solution in post 3 which I assume is deemed to be ok by the moderators. Imo having to write code to get the factors for a number is a typical common homework exercise but no-one but the op can say with 100% certainty if it is or isn't in this case. Personally, I would have liked to see more code from the op before I offered my solution in this case.

    Take another example

    In it the op asks for help to build code to generate mutiplication tables after posting his/her attempt at it. Sure, this could be a homework exercise or it could be part of an e-learning web application similar to the one I was involved with a few years ago, so inthis case I had no issue with providing a full solution after which I was questioned by another member if I went to far. Imo I didn't.

    So, as I posted earlier or elsewhere, since there is no way to tell with 100% certainty if a request is homework related or not, I give the op the benefit of the doubt on that question and I have no problems providing full or partial code if I am convinced the op has made a genuine attempt at solving the problem. Imo, in the absence of strict documented criteria defining what is homework and what is not, that is a safer option to the option of letting everyone form their own opinion on what is homework.
    Last edited by bullant; 03-16-2011 at 01:47 AM.

  • #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bullant View Post
    Take another example

    In it the op asks for help to build code to generate mutiplication tables after posting his/her attempt at it. Sure, this could be a homework exercise or it could be part of an e-learning web application similar to the one I was involved with a few years ago, so inthis case I had no issue with providing a full solution after which I was questioned by another member if I went to far. Imo I didn't.
    This was not his/her attempt at it — please read my previous post. Of course no one expects from you to research the origins of posted code before replying, but it's also understandable that Old Pedant, having interpreted the situation correctly and trying to get the OP to at least do some of the work themselves, felt stepped on his toes and commented on your reply. In light of that, your indignant retort was a bit out of line.
    Last edited by venegal; 03-16-2011 at 02:28 AM.

  • #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by venegal View Post
    This was not his/her attempt at it — please read my previous post. Of course no one expects from you to research the origins of posted code before replying, but it's also understandable that Old Pedant, having interpreted the situation correctly and trying to get the OP to at least do some of the work themselves, felt stepped on his toes and commented on your reply. In light of that, your indignant retort was a bit out of line.
    The relevant word here is "interpreted" and in a way you are supporting my point that we are left to form our own opinions on what is homework.

    Sure, Old Pendant's interpretation/opinion is that the request is definitely homework related but imo or according to my "interpretation" the request could very well be related to an e-learning web application and not be homework related at all. Only the op knows with certainty if it is homework related or not.

    So in keeping with my policy to give op's the benefit of the doubt regarding whether their request is homework related, as long as the op makes a genuine attempt to solve the problem, and again imo the op does in this case, I don't have a problem providing code as I did in this case.

    Imo my response was not out of line because I am no more accountable to him/her as he/she is accountable to me - but that is another issue and we can discuss the pros/cons/merits or whatever in another thread if you like.
    Last edited by bullant; 03-16-2011 at 02:52 AM.

  • #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bullant View Post
    as long as the op makes a genuine attempt to solve the problem, and again imo the op does in this case
    I can only repeat myself: The OP has not made a genuine attempt; he copy-pasted a snippet from some website that didn't meet his requirements and requested it to be fixed.

    If, after realizing that, you still think that it was a genuine attempt, the only advice I can give you is to not trust your judgement in this respect and ask a moderator, if in doubt.

    And, of course, the general advice to stay out of off-topic discussions and quarrels, which take up many man hours that could be put to better use.

  • #14
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    ok no problem

    In the absence of any proof all I can say is that your opinion is that he copied it from somewhere and my opinion is that he may or may not have.

    I choose the latter, safer option because I don't want to leave myself open to rightfully be labeled a blatant liar if I was proven wrong.

    Since this is only 1 of many forums and since many posters use a scatter gun approach to getting help I will continue to provide code as I see fit on my website and on other forums where I post where this issue is not taken anywhere near as seriously by so few.

    Unless you feel someone else might have something useful to contribute to this thread, it can be closed from my point of view.

  • #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by bullant View Post
    In the absence of any proof all I can say is that your opinion is that he copied it from somewhere and my opinion is that he may or may not have.

    My first post:

    Quote Originally Posted by venegal View Post
    In the thread we are talking about here, the OP hasn't shown any effort: The code he posted looks like it might be working, but it obviously doesn't meet his requirements, so that's a bit suspicious. A quick google search reveals that his snippet is copy-pasted, for instance from here.
    My second post:

    Quote Originally Posted by venegal View Post
    This was not his/her attempt at it — please read my previous post.
    My third post:

    Quote Originally Posted by venegal View Post
    I can only repeat myself: The OP has not made a genuine attempt; he copy-pasted a snippet from some website that didn't meet his requirements and requested it to be fixed.
    Are you suggesting he may have written a piece of code by himself that didn't meet his requirements, but in some freak coincidence is a verbatim copy of some code from some tutorial? Or are you just trolling me?


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