Maybe it's due to my bad English, but I don't understand why some questions on SOF are considered to be offensive.

For example: there was one guy who had a "homework" question. And a few seconds after asking the question I saw comments calling it "offensive":

Well, that's pretty blatantly homework and, thus, blatantly offensive.

Then another user tagged the question as homework and that seemed to calm those leaving comments.

Could someone please try to explain this to me? Specifically, why an offensive question is acceptable when it is homework?

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Post a link to the question you are talking about. –  nb69307 Jan 31 '10 at 22:38
Presumably, he's talking about this one:… –  Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '10 at 22:53
@Michael: how did you know which question I was talking about that fast? I needed much longer to re-edit my question ... ;) –  Vokuhila-Oliba Jan 31 '10 at 22:56
@Vokuhila-Oliba: I'm just that good. Also, I had the same reaction you did. –  Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '10 at 22:59
It means someone got their knickers in a twist over a homework question not suitably disclosed. –  random Jan 31 '10 at 23:05
@random: In my opinion the guy is simply asking for help. But the whole thread is very harsh and I don't understand the reason why. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Jan 31 '10 at 23:11
Probably on an hour or day when the people were fed up with users asking about homework and not being upfront about it. If it was homework. –  random Jan 31 '10 at 23:22
I am wondering about the -2 downvote. Have I asked the wrong kind of question, - e.g. an offensive question ? –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 1 '10 at 20:00
downvotes on meta could mean a basic disagreement with your post, in addition to the default interpretation of "unclear or not useful". best not to take it personally. –  quack quixote Feb 2 '10 at 1:29
@quack: as so many people obviously disagree with the question: would you vote to delete the question if you are in my place? –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 2 '10 at 8:30
vote to delete? no, absolutely not. i think it's a good question to ask, and a reasonable discussion to have. like i said, don't take the votes personally. –  quack quixote Feb 4 '10 at 10:02
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The original title asked a perfectly valid question. The original question however, sounded like an assignment pulled straight from someone's homework with no effort made to understand it much less figure out how to solve it. I suspect this is the source of the disgust evident in the comments.

The OP has since returned to clarify his goal. I've edited the question to reflect this...

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And if the asker had phrased it in a way that it was corporate paid work, and not off a bid site, there would be no harsh feelings at all. –  random Jan 31 '10 at 23:33
@random: hard to say... SO might not have reached that point yet, but I've certainly known forums where on-the-job questions that appeared lazy or poorly thought out were bashed at least as ferociously... (maybe that's what you meant by "bid site", not sure - but i don't think tacking "this is for my paid and corporate-type and totally not Rent-A-Coder-affiliated job " onto the question would have helped). –  Shog9 Jan 31 '10 at 23:38
It's all about the phrasing of course. –  random Feb 1 '10 at 0:04
Ah, gotcha. Yeah, if it sounds like the question is being asked by the person posting it rather than copied verbatim off of an assignment, folks are usually far more accommodating. @ran –  Shog9 Feb 1 '10 at 0:07
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See the many questions elsewhere on meta for discussions on homework policy. Here's one from the faq.

Personally, I think people are way too quick to pull the spam and offensive levers. Those words mean something specific to me, and most questions and answers closed as such don't satisfy those definitions. It'd be nice if the trilogy had a not a question, and cannot reasonably hope to ever be one close reason, but save that, I tend to leave those posts alone.

Other people, the word offensive means something completely different to them. In my mind, I think I've been offended maybe a handful of times in my life. Other people, they're offended daily. It's a very subjective word in English.

Not everyone agrees. Note that the question was closed against a different reason - that means only one, maybe two, people voted to close as offensive. That's the beauty of a voting system - it takes more than one. If a majority thought it was offensive, well, maybe they're on to something.

EDIT: I see that you answered the poster's entire homework. Frankly, it's your kind of responses that make people dislike homework questions on SO. You've helped him cheat, and you haven't helped him learn at all. You may have helped later readers, and that's your answer's only saving grace.

(but I'm not offended.)

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There is the "not a real question" close reason whose tooltip states: "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous and vague, and cannot be answered in its[sic] current form." It doesn't go quite as far as you ("cannot reasonably hope to be one"), but it's nearly there. –  ChrisF Jan 31 '10 at 23:10
@ChrisF: there are some questions that could be answered if the OP just put a little more effort into it. And there are others that are complete garbage. I'm not really complaining - it's not a major loss. –  Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '10 at 23:13
@ChrisF: fwiw, "its" is correct there. It's a possessive adjective, analogous in usage to "his". Only when it represents a contraction for "it is" do you need to add an apostrophe. –  Greg Hewgill Feb 1 '10 at 0:48
@Greg - I'm always getting that wrong, even when I double check! –  ChrisF Feb 1 '10 at 8:53
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I'm not specifically talking about this question, but:

I find that any question that is basically plz-send-teh-codez is offensive, as the original poster is basically telling the people looking to answer their question that:

I don't value your time, and I value my time so much that I'm not even going to begin to attempt to build this thing myself. Therefore, write me the code, for free, even though you probably get paid to do this during the day.

Any question that personifies that statement, I wholeheartedly feel should be downvoted and closed.

But once again, I'm NOT talking about the specific homework question you are talking about.

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@Chacha: "I don't value your time". If I don't have the time to answer such a question then I simply don't submit an answer. If I like to submit an answer then I do! –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 1 '10 at 20:37
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Someone was leeching off SO to get the SO people to do their homework for them.

That's fairly offensive to me, who actually had to learn that sorta stuff.


As an aid to understanding, I would like to provide further information about US code of conduct; in particular, the codes of conduct held at my University. I expect this to be generally the code of conduct of respectable academic institutions world-wide, modulo penalties.

In general, the goals of these codes is as follows(this is in general and I may have missed a few big points, specifics may not always apply):

  • To ensure that one student does not gain an unfair advantage in a competitive situation
  • To ensure that all students who pass the degree have a base level of knowledge, i.e., it's not been taken from other people and the student himself does not know it. Passing students who have cheated degrades the value of the degree.
  • To ensure academic integrity; such lying is not tolerated in the academy: everyone has a proper citation and proper attributation.
  • To ensure that student abilities are accurately and properly evaluated.

In particular, it should be noted that a student in a class has a different goal than a developer in the workplace. The student is being evaluated on his knowledge and critical thinking; his goal is to learn. The developer is being evaluated on his ability to push product out the door to the specified quality requirements; his goal is to make product.

This difference engenders a different rule of conduct for using code and asking questions, which is reflected in the student codes of conduct.

source 1

Any assignment that was created by another student that you are turning in as your own work is considered cheating. Purchasing papers from websites or other students on campus is academic dishonesty, the equivalent of cheating and/or plagiarizing

source 2

Cheating is the unauthorized use of information or study guides in any academic exercise. Any form of academic deception or any action that attempts to defraud could be considered cheating. The methods of cheating are varied and well known by students and instructors.

source 3

Plagiarism is an especially vile form of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism may include 1) the direct copying of another’s writings, with or without minor rephrasing, without citing the source, and 2) not indicating directly quoted passages when the work is cited as a general source. Academic honesty is governed by the Student Code of Conduct. All suspected instances of academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Students. Sanctions, including receiving a grade of "F" for the course, may be imposed.

Plagiarism will NOT be tolerated.

Be sure to cite sources to support and lend credibility to all of your writing. Please be very zealous in citing sources for your ideas when you write. UI instructors now have at their disposal several powerful and sophisticated web-based instruments for detecting plagiarized text. Even a sentence or two plagiarized in a document is a form of scientific misconduct. It is very tempting and easy to copy text directly, but it works against the educational process and is a form of theft.

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I disagree. Nowadays it is quite common that people use online resources to get their homework done. And SOF is an online resource too. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Jan 31 '10 at 23:20
@Vokuhila-Oliba: what exactly do you disagree with? It may be common, but it is right? In all educational systems I'm familiar with, the question you linked to would be considered cheating. People in general don't like cheaters. It's a psychological thing - it rubs people the wrong way, even if the cheating doesn't harm them directly. –  Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '10 at 23:23
@Michael: meanwhile all that seems to be a big misunderstanding to me. You think the guy in the SOF question is cheating. And I think the guy in the SOF question is asking for help for his homework - using online resources. But not cheating - that's what I think. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Jan 31 '10 at 23:31
@Vokuhila-Oliba: it looks like the OP posted his entire homework question, word for word, into the linked question. No sample code, no work so far, no requests for clarification. I can't speak for your educational systems, but in mine, this is, objectively, cheating. As in, you fail the assignment and go speak with the dean cheating. –  Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '10 at 23:35
@Michael: Ah, Ok, I see it now. Must have been blind. Excuse please. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Jan 31 '10 at 23:46
@Michael: That is exactly how I read it. I worked as a TA in a US university; I am familiar with academic standards of conduct, having detected their breach and enforced them. The referenced post, as initially asked, was a clear attempt to breach the standard of conduct expected of academic work. If I was teaching this semester and noticed that post by a student under my instruction, I would bring them up to the appropriate authority. –  Paul Nathan Feb 1 '10 at 19:14
@Paul: I did not study in the US and did not know that the US universities are such stringent on external help. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 1 '10 at 20:32
OT: What does "Someone was leeching off" mean ? Could you please try other english words? Or maybe there is someone who translates it into german? –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 1 '10 at 20:42
"In computing and specifically on the Internet, being a leech or leecher refers to the practice of benefiting, usually deliberately, from others' information or effort but not offering anything in return, or only token offerings in an attempt to avoid being called a leech. In economics this type of behavior is called "Free riding"..." –  Michael Petrotta Feb 1 '10 at 22:15
"The name derives from the leech, an animal which sucks blood and then tries to leave unnoticed." - –  Michael Petrotta Feb 1 '10 at 22:16
@Vokuhila-Oliba: Added information for you. –  Paul Nathan Feb 2 '10 at 1:23
re: clear attempt to breach standard of conduct. that's assuming the poster would have turned in a resulting answer as his own work, which cannot be proven (at least by us). (yeah, i worked as a TA as well.) –  quack quixote Feb 2 '10 at 1:37
@Paul - good edit. I'm frankly surprised that the OP doesn't share this view; I'd thought it was universal among at least western schools (the OP implies that he's from Germany). Vokuhila-Oliba, are you in school? Would you care to describe the policy you're familiar with? –  Michael Petrotta Feb 2 '10 at 3:28
@Michael: The only policy I know of is that plagiates are strictly forbidden. But it is 15 years ago that I have finished my final examination in computer sciences and the university might have changed the policy meanwhile. And online resources where not such a big place of enlightenment 15 years ago. –  Vokuhila-Oliba Feb 2 '10 at 8:19
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