As we all know that a lot of homework questions are posted on Stack Overflow. Few just post the question as such without even trying and few genuinely try something and post a specific problem. In the case of second scenario, we should help the OP as the OP has tried his homework and is genuinely stuck somewhere.

My question here is, to what extent are we supposed to help the OP?

Let's consider a scenario. The OP is supposed to do something with arrays and for loops to remove duplicate elements and the OP seems to be getting an ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException for some reason. There is a constraint that the OP can't use java.util classes as its not allowed. But when the OP posts a question here, there are many answers which suggest the OP to use a Set. Agreed that using a Set solves the problem in no time, and its the best solution for this kind of problem, but shouldn't we actually address the OPs actual problem of ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException and try to help fix that, instead of just asking the OP to use a Set.

Isn't that the challenge to try to solve the problem with the given constraints in place? By removing that constraint out, we are not trying to help the OP at all. There have been so many situations where the easiest solutions are of no use, as the OP can't use them due to some constraints. What should be done in such a scenario? Just ask the OP to use a Set and not actually help the OP fix his ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException problem.

Please have a look at this question which has an answer posted by me (now deleted). If you have a look at the comments section, the last comment of the downvoter was the one which prompted me to post this question. For people who can't see the deleted post, here an excerpt from that comment

If it's HW and he's not allowed to use Set - that's his problem, SO was not meant to help people with their homework.

I would love to know what others feel about this?! Because I've seen people giving different solutions to the OP, if it was a post by someone working in a project(and not a homework question), having certain constraints on the usage of certain libraries.

  • Frankly, the real discussion should be about answering questions which come with constraints, of which homework questions are just a subset. Any "professional's" question which has some sort of constraint imposed does not automatically get ridiculed/closed. The same should extend to homework questions. – asheeshr Oct 16 '13 at 4:32
  • @AsheeshR - Actually non-homework questions with constraints are given solutions considering the constraints. Its just that when people see a homework question, they tend to neglect those constraints. Its kind of like a biased thing. I've seen that happen a lot of times. – SudoRahul Oct 16 '13 at 4:34
  • @WesleyMurch: That question doesn't appear to address question constraints. – user102937 Oct 16 '13 at 4:36
  • Constraints should always be honored, homework or not, but IMO they should be questioned if they seem dubious or self-imposed. Unfortunately "it's homework" allows valid but nonsensical constraints. – user159834 Oct 16 '13 at 4:37
  • @RobertHarvey Third bullet under "Answering and moderating homework questions". – user159834 Oct 16 '13 at 4:37
  • @WesleyMurch - Its a very nice answer. Great find friend!:) But unfortunately few people don't consider the constraints of a homework question and that makes me real sad. Specially the comment that my downvoter friend posted. Really gives out negative vibes to me. – SudoRahul Oct 16 '13 at 4:41

Your downvoter friend who posted the comment is incorrect... homework questions are perfectly acceptable here, and they should be handled based on the constrants that are given in the question. Lots of programming problems come to Stack Overflow with some lame constraint imposed on them by their Pointy-Haired Boss, but we don't turn those questions away just because their PHB is clueless.

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  • Is there a way we could let the users know that we must honour the constraint the OP has and try to post answers accordingly? We can, ofcourse, add a tip at the end asking the OP to use the easiest solution, if someday, the constraint is lifted. – SudoRahul Oct 16 '13 at 4:44
  • Refer them to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10811/…. Cite the third bullet in the first answer under "Answering and moderating homework questions" – user102937 Oct 16 '13 at 4:45

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