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Given that the better SO does its job the better a resource it is for cheating on homework, should it have an API for teachers/instructors/professors to use to detect it?

I'm thinking of something where someone can upload a code file and get links back to any high probability matches posted on SO.


Edit: It seems I was ambiguous. I'm not proposing that teachers upload assignments of even a system that finds where students ask about an assignment (that's not plagiarism) but rather a system for detecting if a student turns in code they plagiarized directly from SO.

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Good edit @mmyers -- that's one of my pet peeves :-) –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 18:36
    
I did not know it's could be "it has" –  jmfsg May 20 '10 at 18:57
    
"It's been a long time since grammar classes, @Downvoter?" –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 19:09
    
There may be an easier way to solve this: StackOverflow could produce a downloadable file which would contain all the code samples used on StackOverflow - then people could something on top of this data. It's such a niche interest, it should probably be running locally rather than on SO servers. –  Tom Morris Jun 6 '10 at 22:57

3 Answers 3

Google already seems to do a pretty good job of that. Is there any added value to your proposal?

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I agree. Instructors already have Anti-plagiarism resources/databases/applications that they are given access to and taught to use, and are very good at what they do. –  rlb.usa May 20 '10 at 19:26
    
One stop shop? Unless I'm missing something, there is no place you can upload a batch of files to Google and ask it "do you know of any place that big chunks of one of these kinda match?" Yes Google does well for a line or two, but 30+ files? –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:24

I'm gonna go with "no" on this one. It'd be an extremely niche feature that very few teachers (if any) would actually use.

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The niche of teachers that it's targeted at (CS) kinda self select for be predisposed to use that kind of thing. –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:26

I have a fundimental disagreement with:

the better SO does its job the better a resource it is for cheating on homework

If SO is doing its job, homework questions will be tagged as such, or downvoted/closed. The community seems to strongly discourage cheating already.

Besides, we're not responsible for policing students. There's a wide variety of sites which could be used to get answers to homework questions, teachers/professors would have to upload the code not just to SO but a number of other sites. @ire_and_curses is correct, Google would be a much more efficient resource for a professor to use.

If you were proposing a website where all professors could upload their assignments and students' code, and it would constantly search for the code on forums, now you have a solid idea...

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Heh, I'dn't've thought you'd make an "it's" mistake on the same place you state it's a pet peeve of yours. –  Grace Note May 20 '10 at 19:04
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I did that to see if you were paying attention... really... ;-) (Hey I never said it's not a pet peeve when I make the same mistake!) –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 19:08
    
I like it, ignoring the fact that any line of code that is less than X long will inevitably look identical to everyone elses. There are only so many ways to do things in programming, and chances are a lookup would provide too many false positives. –  Tyler Carter May 20 '10 at 19:28
    
if(SO's Job == answering questions people post) I agree; if(SO's Job == having answers to most common and many not so common question) Tagging, down voting, etc does exactly zero re turning in old question as there homework; –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:30
    
SO's job is to be a community maintained knowledge base designed to help developers. The key as it relates to your question is the "Community maintained" part -- the community should police itself and delete any questions which are blatantly homework, and possibly cheating. –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:33
    
@BCS: Sorry -- after re-reading, I think I misunderstood your comment. You're saying that a question previously asked and answered would provide the answer to a homework assignment? For example, a student might find the answer to assigned yesterday in a question asked by someone else months ago? –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:35
    
Yes. Teacher: "Write q-sort" Student: "Google for SO/copy-paste/profit" –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:40
    
@BCS: I think that's just far too difficult to combat. How can we aim to be an open resource for programmers similar to Wikipedia yet at the same time be closed? What about the thousands of other results Google returns? Sorry, I just don't see this as feasible... –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:45
    
What makes a good really good SO question: non trivial, reasonably real world, reasonably generic. What makes a good HW question; non trivial, reasonably real world, not to much extraneous details. I expect the intersection of those is fairly large. –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:46
    
@BCS: Most of the homework questions I've seen are clearly homework. And besides, if they're homework, the teacher probably understands the students might collaborate, read their book, search online, etc. It's not our job to police that. If teachers want to be sure students are answering questions without using any resources, well, that's what exams are for. –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:49
    
I would in no way condone anything that would reduce how open SO is. However if it was know that plagiarizing from SO was trivial to detect, fewer people would risk it. The ONLY thing I'm interested in is finding where students plagiarize SO answers to legitimate non-homework questions. –  BCS May 20 '10 at 22:49
    
Please note: I am not in any way advocating plagiarism -- I'm just saying that the feature you propose for StackOverflow.com is far too narrow to be of much benefit, and thus carries a small ROI. –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:50
    
@BCS: I do see your points, and like I said, if you were proposing a service like CopyScape which scours the entire internet, but geared towards teachers, then I'm all for it (and would happily help with the code ;-) –  The Unhandled Exception May 20 '10 at 22:52

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