I would like to help my fellow professionals and amateurs more on StackOverflow, but it's become impossible to find questions worth spending time on beneath the inundation of "teach me to program" questions, like this one: https://stackoverflow.com/q/19017578/8946.

"Teach me to program" questions and those essentially like them, along the lines of "solve this for me" are easy to spot. If it looks like homework, smells like homework and is phrased like homework, should it just be closed outright with a "We don't do your homework for you" reason? Even if it's not actually homework but rather, "do my job".

Is it time to say enough's enough and refine the purpose of StackOverflow for actual and specific problems encountered by professionals and amateurs, closing obvious "teach me to program" questions outright?

This is not a duplicate as suggested - this question asks is it time to reverse the decision on the broad class of "teach me to program" / "do my job for me" questions and outlaw them.

  • 4
    Good question, but aren't we already doing that? In the example you provided it was closed fairly quick. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:14
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    I don't think we are with nearly enough rapidity or ruthlessness, and I think it's past due to explicitly rule out these questions - SO used to be the go-to place for actual programmers, and it's devolved from there to being well on it's way to becoming yahoo answers for coders. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:16
  • Yea, you're right in that sense.. I am using all my closing votes each day due to questions like these.. How do you propose we limit this activity? We could simply say 'only programmers allowed' but that won't be effective. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:19
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    I kind of oppose the framing of this as exclusive to homework. Why is "do my homework for me" any worse than "do my job for me"? If anything, I'd say the latter is worse, but people seem to get all up in arms and obstinate about refusing to help people trying to do their homework. I'd say judge the question and ignore whether the task was assigned by an instructor or a manager... I mean, we did banish the homework tag for a reason.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:20
  • searching for dup...
    – apaul
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:21
  • I agree with @AaronBertrand Homework questions aren't always necessarily bad - but most of them are. The bad questions are the 'do this for me' demonstrating minimal effort. I'll help if I see an effort being made. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:24
  • @Aaron, I would include "do my job for me" in the "teach me to how to program" umbrella. The key differentiation is whether the question display a grasp of the basics of programming. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:25
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    @SoftwareMonkey but most people, in my experience, don't take that stance until the word homework jumps out at them. Then they don't feel like the person deserves the time of day, while another person showing the same effort but not mentioning homework gets all kinds of help. So I guess my suggestion is to detach the notion of homework from your premise.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:26
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    I find it interesting that you provided an answer to the question, given your stance.
    – chue x
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:27
  • 1
    I took pity on the guy and gave him a pointer; that doesn't mean I think it's a valuable use of my time. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:29
  • The dup I pointed out contains your point of view, meta.stackexchange.com/a/10826/217863 it also contains the counter point meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10811/… and a very popular balanced answer meta.stackexchange.com/a/10812/217863
    – apaul
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:34
  • @SoftwareMonkey might want to remove that homework tag to match your revised question Sep 26, 2013 at 2:06
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    @AaronBertrand I disagree with you that "do my job for me" is just as bad or worse than "do my homework for me". In most situations, employers care mostly about the solutions that their programmers get, and it wouldn't hurt anything if the solution came from SO. On the other hand, professors do care where students' solutions to homework comes from, and if it was known that the solution was from SO, the student would likely be subject to academic discipline. Sep 26, 2013 at 14:22
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    @PeterOlson well you are, of course, entitled to your own opinion. Mine is that people who are getting paid to do a job should not be sub-contracting that work to a community, whereas people who are doing homework may have absolutely no interest in the subject matter and are just trying to pass a course. When either writes a well-formulated question that demonstrates prior effort, they're a wash, but when either posts a gimme-teh-codez question, I have more sympathy for the student than the employee.
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Sep 26, 2013 at 14:54
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    You may find (yes, pimping my M.P.SE post) Open letter to students with homework problems which looks at the problem of homework questions from a different direction (that in giving the answer, we skip possibily important steps that may be necessary for the next assignment or class).
    – user213963
    Sep 26, 2013 at 19:23

5 Answers 5


If you see a bad question, vote to close it. And downvote it. And write the submitter's userid on a brown paper bag and set it on fire, while chanting curses.

I question the premise that you can't find things to earn rep for answer because they are 'hidden' by a deluge of bad questions. Yep, we have some bad questions. But you may be suffering more from our deluge of caffeine-fueled answerers, who snap up the good questions before you get to them.


Hang on a second. We've been down this road before. You're venturing into WSOIN (What Stack Overflow Is Not) territory here. We all know how that ended...

I thought we already reached a consensus on how homework questions were viewed here, and the culmination of that consensus explains a bit about the aftermath/what the community feels.

These sorts of questions were wild and prevalent quite a while back when this policy was still rather tentative, but now that it's well set in stone that even if it's a homework question, it has to be good - these sorts of questions are closed quickly. That's a good thing. It means less of those types of questions lurking around, and allows the better questions/answers to rise to the top.

Questions that are blatantly "teach me how to do X" or "I need help, show me teh codez" are already closed on sight by many people with that privilege. Accounts that routinely do this are often question banned. How much more strict do you need to be?

Could you point to a specific deficiency in which we are nurturing those sorts of questions here? I'm not sure I see the issue here.

  • Well, sure, if we want to continue to drive away experts in droves because it's simply not worth the time. And in my experience the vast majority of questions on SO are of that caliber. Sep 26, 2013 at 1:34
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    I don't see any case or evidence that indicates that experts are being driven away because someone's AP assignment is due in two hours, and they had to turn to SO. Granted, those sorts of questions are a waste of 45 seconds, but my question still stands - is this really an issue? Can you point to cases in which this is being actively encouraged? I'm really not sure what the problem is, since the community's proactive enough to clean these sorts of things out.
    – Makoto
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:36

It isn't the fact that the question pertains to homework that is the concern here. The issue is that the original poster has apparently not spent any considerable amount of effort trying to approach the problem himself (or at least he's not shown any evidence of it). From my experience, it does indeed seem that homework questions usually go hand in hand with a seeming lack of effort on the part of the OP, but the two do not have to be synonymous. I would have no problem if the question you linked provided the problem statement, and then additionally told us "I've tried A, B and C and have encountered problems X, Y and Z". The way I see it, such an amendment would accomplish two things: 1) show us that the OP does indeed have a "minimal understanding" with regards to the question he is asking, and 2) make the question less broad, and more definitively answerable. The new question, while still in essence about homework, could very well be on-topic and appropriate for SO.

You're definitely correct in saying Stack Overflow isn't for doing your homework, but I do believe it can be a resource for aiding you with the specific issues you might face when attempting that homework yourself.

  • Yes, you are describing a "teach me to program" and/or "do my work for me" question, which is what the question is about. They invariable look like "homework" even if it's a professional's "homework". Sep 26, 2013 at 1:33

These questions are already off topic

I would like to help my fellow professionals and amateurs more on StackOverflow, but it's become impossible to find questions worth spending time on beneath the inundation of "teach me to program" questions, like this one: How do I print a given letter in a triangle shape using for loops?.

You'll notice that question has already been closed. The close reason is the following:

Questions asking for code must demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. Include attempted solutions, why they didn't work, and the expected results. See also: Stack Overflow question checklist

It has been closed because it is a question that asks for code, and we have an expectation that questions in this category are not "code pls" questions. The author must have already attempted something, and provide something to indicate there's a good reason why they're here.

So, the "do my job" questions you're talking about are already not accepted, and get closed.

  • I'm a bit concerned we're getting into a "wag the dog" scenario with that close reason... It's based around the observation that questions asking for code but showing no desire to learn how to write it themselves are frequently closed - it wasn't intended to discourage folks from asking questions as they learn, or mandating the closure of any question asking for code.
    – Shog9
    Sep 27, 2013 at 0:43

I like the idea of coming here to practice / improve my knowledge in select areas. If I choose to answer your homework, at least someone is learning from it.

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