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I think that sometimes SO users are too insistent and rude about the tag.

If you see question Linked List Structure in Java, the user Thomas rudely demands for the new user to tag the question "correctly" and also "explains" what SO is not:

If you post homework here, please flag it as such (did it for you this time). We're not a homework/assignment solution service so people should get a chance to decide whether and how to help in such cases. – Thomas

The asker is even in the right track with his proposed solution and I think this type of feedback will just detract him/her from returning to stackoverflow.

Is this kind of behavior desirable in our site? Or am I just exaggerating with my point of view?

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See Definitive answer regarding retagging homework questions and Is homework an exception?; for the second link, note the answers by Will and Jeff in particular. – Pops Jul 19 '11 at 14:53
@Popular I agree with the tag, and with the retagging, what I don't agree with is with the way some users demand the tag and the way that some users demean the students about their homework question. – Marcelo Jul 19 '11 at 15:02
+1 I'm guilty of that myself (I try to be nice about it, though), but I can't help but wonder how the OP feels, especially when it's not actually an academia question. – Mehrdad Jul 19 '11 at 15:18
up vote 25 down vote accepted

No, I don't think this is okay. I've seen people just go and add the homework tag to someone else's question just because they think it "seems" like a homework question. I think that's quite unacceptable.

It's extremely difficult to accurately judge whether something is a homework question, or if it's actually something that someone is working on for [what is the opposite of homework? work? what if it's a project for fun? see the problems with this tag already?].

It can be a little bit offensive to people to tell them that a problem they're actually having and need to come up with a solution for "sounds like homework". Maybe, but just maybe that's because homework sometimes reflects real-world situations that people will actually need to be able to solve. (Yes, a lot of times it doesn't. I take issue with those types of assignments. But that's quite besides the point here.)

Not to mention, I still think this a meta tag, and one that's not particularly useful in categorizing content. If someone wants homework-style answers, they should include a sentence in the body of the question along the lines:

This is a homework assignment, so I'm looking for hints, not complete solutions.

Otherwise, who are we to care and police whether students want to cheat on their homework? Why is it acceptable to give a completely written solution to a professional database administrator expected to know how to write SQL (and in a situation where bosses probably think the DBA wrote the code), but not acceptable to give that same solution to a student?

It's the student's own responsibility to act in accordance with standards of academic integrity, and the responsibility of that student's academic institution to verify that they do so and hold them accountable if they're not. It's certainly not our responsibility to do that as their fellow users on Stack Overflow.

It's quite possible for a conscientious student to receive the complete solution to a question, and still take the time to figure out why that is the correct answer and learn something from the assignment. That's really the point of homework anyway, isn't it? And it's just as possible for a dishonest student to copy the [incorrect] answers from elsewhere on the Internet. SO isn't the first or the last Q&A site to exist, and we're certainly not the only place that students can come to cheat on their homework. Let's hope we're setting ourselves apart as the place people come to get good, accurate, and useful help, not where we think it's our job or duty to decide how students should approach their own homework assignments.

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+1: certainly some good points. I think that most of the complaints really come from questions that are: (1) written verbatim from the homework assignment, and (2) that no effort has been evidenced within the question. The first point immediately demonstrates the student's inability to understand the question (IMO), and the 2nd point is the result of the first - if the student/OP doesn't understand the question, then there will be nothing to show their efforts ...again, my opinion based on general observation. – IAbstract Jul 19 '11 at 16:15
I totally agree with @IAbstract. Homework questions pasted verbatim into the question field (e.g. "Write a program that does x") are a personal pet peeve. – Chris Frederick Jul 19 '11 at 17:33
@Chris Shouldn't we flag those as "Not a real question"? – Marcelo Jul 19 '11 at 19:03
@Marcelo Not necessarily. They're still questions, albeit poorly-worded, that the author was too lazy to rephrase properly. – Chris Frederick Jul 19 '11 at 19:10
@Chris: That's the wrong answer. I realized later that I didn't address that type of question specifically in my answer, but I rationalized that with exactly Marcelo's line of thinking. Those are not real questions and should be closed, rather than tagged as homework. There's nothing particularly "special" about homework questions that differentiates them from other types of real questions, and that's the point my answer is driving at. This isn't a "plz-give-me-teh-codez" site, whether it's homework or not. You need to show what you've already tried. The example in the question did this. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 23:11
@Cody Okay, that makes perfect sense. Thanks for clarifying. – Chris Frederick Jul 19 '11 at 23:20
I disagree with this attitude toward academic integrity. Like it or not, community response is vital in establishing standards. When the SO community says "hey, it's up to you whether you cheat, we'll help you either way," it sends a message that it's all right for students to post homework questions on SO. Yes, I am a university professor. :) – John Clements Feb 13 '12 at 23:04

I have a problem with the nagging, but not with the tagging. Regardless of whether it's a meta tag, the homework tag can be used effectively in filtering questions. I will add the tag if it's obviously homework and ask, nicely, for the OP to tag as such if there is some doubt. A lot of the hostility towards homework questions would be removed if the OP would simply tag it as such, allowing those with homework in their ignored tags list to filter them out.

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It seems silly to me to have a tag just so that people can filter it out. That same argument would justify a [newbie] or [beginner] tag that experienced users could filter out to lower the perceived "noise", but that's been repeatedly denounced. I'm curious why [homework] should be different. And more importantly, why you'd want to ignore well-asked homework questions (assuming, of course, that poorly asked homework questions should be simply closed/deleted, like all other poorly-asked questions in your favorite tags). – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 23:14
@Cody - didn't say that I filtered them out, just that it was useful for that. I think it's also valuable, especially when the question isn't obvious, to help understand how to answer. – tvanfosson Jul 20 '11 at 3:02

Yes, I think that tagging questions as "homework" serves a useful purpose, especially if it's done with a note indicating that the OP can remove the tag. Like it or not, the SO community has a role to play in establishing community standards, and in communicating ethics.

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