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I have seen questions on StackOverflow that sometimes scare me and usually involve money. Every once in a while someone comes along and ask question about how can I implement this bank system, or I have a project for [insert critical task here] and I need to know where to start. I know there is not much we can do about this situation and a lot of these post get closed anyway, but what if that person is really working at a local bank in your area? Obviously we should strongly discourage them from continuing on with the project but maybe have some point of reference to point them to to help discourage them from taking on the project until they grasp the skill set required? I think I would be able to rest easier knowing that someone who asked such a question decided not to take the project because they get valid answer with references before the post is closed. I would like to point out not all questions are bad because some of the posters actually have basic security knowledge and are doing research plus everyone has to start somewhere.


This would worry me

implementation of bank management system

This is not bad

Developing financial application

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Ask what organisation they work for and clear out all your accounts with them post haste. – random Apr 14 '11 at 14:58
first one looks like homework to me though. – YOU Apr 14 '11 at 15:03
It's up to the boss to detect such low skill in his employee. And if the direct manager fails to detect it, it's up to his own manager etc.. etc.. when the whole chain fails, it's scary indeed. – Shadow Wizard Apr 14 '11 at 15:10
Somewhat related (not dupe):… – squillman Apr 14 '11 at 15:11
@squillman Thats a good question and a good suggestion. If questions like that were flagged in a way so that people finding such novice questions can see they have a lot to learn and should consider an alternative project/career. – Joe Apr 14 '11 at 15:15
@Joe but to what end? What would flagging the questions help? It's not our job to convince people to choose a different career. – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 15:54
... and now please excuse me, I am programming a control system for a nuclear power plant in PHP 4, and I have to be done by tomorrow morning. – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 15:55
@Pekka You're too late. I just finished mine in ABAP and am releasing to market tomorrow. It's gone through plenty of ahem quality control tests. – squillman Apr 14 '11 at 16:06
@squillman I'm going to beat you, work extra fast and release today! I can still supply a patch in a few weeks' time for what I can't finish today. I already have a deal with Tepco and Vattenfall. I'm sorry but you're too late. Call me if you need a job. – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 16:07
@Pekka Damn you. I would have made trillions. I still might. Everyone knows that SAP is in dire need of a nuclear control module. – squillman Apr 14 '11 at 16:10
@squillman trillions? Damn, I think I didn't play my cards well. I sold the thing for $550. Plus $50 for a security certificate I made up. $30 for a 1-year support contract. Oh man! – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 16:11
My question is not for the homework question or even focused on a career path change but let's say user #2 who wants to run a nuclear reactor with comes across user #1 post which has been closed because question is open ended. What if user #2 sees references to real time computing, system critical processes, security documents white papers etc that are required for such a task and that php is not feasible. Now both users have answers and can make a decision on their own to continue with the project or not. This approach is intended to inform users and not recommend a career – Joe Apr 14 '11 at 16:16
@Pekka Hah, your marketing prowess is far inferior to mine. I SHALL RULE THE EARTH! Better hire some basis guys... – squillman Apr 14 '11 at 16:16
@Joe the thing is what @jzd says: They could well be homework questions. But you can always ask the asker what they are up to. In fact, that is a good idea in many cases. – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 16:17
@Pekka I'll bet your piddly little PHP thing doesn't have one of THESE attached to it, either!… – squillman Apr 14 '11 at 16:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. I think most of the questions like your scary examples are homework type projects.
  2. If they are real-life projects, then based on the question I doubt the project will get accepted and implemented, if it even gets completed.

Either way, if you are concerned I would suggest leaving a comment to the asker, but I doubt that the asker has much ability or motivation to change the situation if that is their job.

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"Once it goes up, who cares where it comes down, it's not my department says Wernher von Braun."

--Tom Lehrer
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I think it might be worthwhile to learn more about these projects. Your assumptions about them may be incorrect.

This is a big planet. Even within the IT industry, there is more than one way to run a project. The fact that you're hearing newbie questions about such projects does not necessarily imply that the newbie is the sole developer working on the project, or even an important developer on the project.

I recently spoke to someone who told me about an environment in which graduates with a Masters in CS were basically being spoon-fed the work that they should perform. Like, "Create a form. Name it Orders. Create the following text boxes, each with the designated label in front of it. Add Ok and Cancel buttons at the bottom. See me when you're done and I'll show you how to double-click the buttons to generate click event handlers".

The developers we're concerned about might simply be asking larger questions in order to get a leg up on their peers. They might literally have no idea how complicated the project is. If this is the case, then these are the developers we should be encouraging - they're not just sitting around waiting to be told what to do next.

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This is a very good point to bring up. Leads me to focus on another part of my question, should these post so be closed soon for being open ended or should there be an allowance of time to probe and ask the OP what their intentions are? Homework? Self-Education? Nuclear Power Plant Control System? etc. This way there is a relevant answer for that person as well as anyone who follows, even if it gets closed or locked afterwards. – Joe Apr 14 '11 at 19:40

No you shouldn't, it's not your place or your responsibility. I believe we are here to answer questions; what gets done in the big picture shouldn't be any of our business. =)

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So ethics don't matter? – Michael Todd Apr 14 '11 at 17:29
@Michael: not really, it's very simple, people ask questions I answer them. What they do with my answer I don't really care – Andreas Bonini Apr 14 '11 at 18:24
Your answer is...disheartening. I think we should all act like professional practioners of our craft and ensure that we're not giving information to others that could be used unscrupulously (or cause unintentional problems). To each his/her own, I guess. – Michael Todd Apr 14 '11 at 19:19
@Michael note that this is not about questions related to criminal activity, but (real or perceived) incompentence. I second very much what @John Saunders has to say on that. – Pëkka Apr 14 '11 at 19:25
@Pekka Fair enough. "Who cares what they do with our answers," just sounded wrong. I understand that that attitude is fine in this case. – Michael Todd Apr 14 '11 at 19:44

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