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homework assignment answers

 
Ranch Hand
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Why is it that so many people post the coded answers to questions which are clearly homework assigments or from people absolutley beginning in programming, much less Java?
I personally feel it is better to provide a hint and direct them to the documentation where the answer can be had.
When I was a boy the phrase "RTFM" was common to see on bulletin boards (message forums).
And after having done so if you still needed help and posted a question it was quite clear from the wording that you had done at least some research.
 
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Because the ranchers that answer it can finally answer something that is posted! I always go insane when I see it on other forums I post on. New way to cheat the school system. The best is when the student posts the pdf of the exact homework, got to love the email to the ole prof!.

Eric
 
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Originally posted by Ed Ward:

When I was a boy the phrase "RTFM" was common to see on bulletin boards (message forums).



That's one thing that distinguishes the Ranch from other forums. You'll find that the moderators try to prevent people from handing out free answers to obvious homework questions, and we try to lead people to their own answers using the Socratic method when we can. But the number one rule here is Be Nice, and "RTFM" ain't nice.
 
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When I was a boy the phrase "RTFM" was common to see on bulletin boards (message forums).



heh... when I was a boy, there weren't bulletin boards...
 
Ranch Hand
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Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
"RTFM" ain't nice.

Yes, we should always be polite and add "please" or "thank you". How about RTFMP?

 
Wanderer
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Re: RTFM - Nowadays we can just give a friendly suggestion to try Google.
 
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Originally posted by fred rosenberger:
heh... when I was a boy, there weren't bulletin boards...


In my day, bulletin boards were usually a cork-like material onto which people attached paper "bulletins" via thumbtacks. Those were exciting times.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
Re: RTFM - Nowadays we can just give a friendly suggestion to try Google.



The Hacker's Dictionary cites "STFW" as the modern-day equivalent to RTFM. "STFG"? Sounds like the working title for "Enterprise."
 
Jim Yingst
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I was thinking it would be more like GTFA, where A = Answer. Google works well in the verb position. Or HYTG, Have You Tried Google? Neither of those sounds like a ST series though.
 
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Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:

Be Nice, and "RTFM" ain't nice.



Sometimes something that's not nice in the short term is better for the person in the long run...
Telling someone to Read The Fine Manual will help them figure things out for themselves rather than having to constantly come back and ask more questions about trivialities.

It's also a way to be nice to all those other people who'd otherwise have to work with that person after (s)he gets a degree they don't deserve and do their work for them next to their own in a real job.

It's ballancing shortterm niceness against longterm niceness as well as being nice to one person against being nice to a far larger group of people.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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I didn't mean that there's anything wrong with directing people to the documentation. But there are youngsters here to whom it's never occurred that there is complete HTML documentation for all the API classes. Providing the URL therefore helps them a lot.

So you can say "Here is the documentation for the AbstractList class; it says that the sequence returned by subList() includes the element at the first index, but excludes the element at the second index. For future reference, I think you'll find that it's faster to consult the online documentation with this kind of question than it is to ask it in the Saloon." But we don't want anyone to just say "RTFM, newb!"

And before you laugh, there are an awful lot of sites out there where that's exactly what you get.

Note that our FAQ section on How to answer questions at JavaRanch includes a page titled LetThemDoTheirOwnHomework.
 
Jeroen T Wenting
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I know, especially Linux groups are notorious for that kind of attitude.
In fact I've seen people told to "read the f*ing manpage" when asking how to use the man command...

We're less elitist here I think.
 
Dave Lenton
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While I was at university, it seemed as if a large majority of the students really couldn't be bothered to do any research into their assignments. Often we would cover the basics of a topic in the lectures, and then the assignment would involve progressing a bit beyond the basics to get anything more then the lowest grade. This was quite a reasonable idea - it meant students either had to experiment or research in order to get a good grade, and this proactive approach would probably lead to the topic being learnt more.

What would actually happen is that most of the students would complain to the lecturer that they hadn't been taught enough to do the work, and often would be handed part of the answer. This was particularly annoying to the people who had already put some work into the assignment.

Even when these students were actually attempting to do some coding rather then complaining, they didn't do any research or experimentation. Unless the answer was immediately obvious, they would spend their entire time in the computer labs pestering other people for the answer. It was strange - they had the largest ever collection of information that mankind has put together available at their fingertips, and yet they were wasting time asking fellow students the answer. It seemed a very inefficient way of solving the assignment on their part!

Anyone who had actually finished the assignment had to either spend all their time fending off requests for the answer, or avoid the lab entirely. There were some who didn't - a couple of people I know would finish the work and then spend a lot of time showing other people how to do their assignments. While this seemed nice of them, it probably didn't help the other people actually learn anything - pointing them in the direction of some online tutorials and API pages would have been better in the long term.

I did think I was in a university with a lot of apathetic students, but perhaps it average in that respect.
 
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Originally posted by Dave Lenton:
Unless the answer was immediately obvious, they would spend their entire time in the computer labs pestering other people for the answer.


Lucky you. You were witnessing the continuing growth of the population of "Mutt"s.
Where do These People Get Their (Unoriginal) Ideas?


Here's the simple algebra. Let's say (as the evidence seems to suggest) that if we interrupt a programmer, even for a minute, we're really blowing away 15 minutes of productivity. For this example, lets put two programmers, Jeff and Mutt, in open cubicles next to each other in a standard Dilbert veal-fattening farm. Mutt can't remember the name of the Unicode version of the strcpy function. He could look it up, which takes 30 seconds, or he could ask Jeff, which takes 15 seconds. Since he's sitting right next to Jeff, he asks Jeff. Jeff gets distracted and loses 15 minutes of productivity (to save Mutt 15 seconds).

 
Trailboss
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I think that being nice is not so much a boolean as it is a real number.

When a topic is new to me, I try the manual and google and posting questions. Granted, usually the answer is out there, somewhere, but I have not found it yet. And sometimes the author (book or web page) thinks the provided order is the right way to learn something: A B C D E ... only I'm confused about A, and I do not yet know that the answer I seek is E.

For many java greenhorns, the answer is the API - but they don't know it exists yet.

The world of software engineering is huge. And the first few steps can seem overwhelming.

I hope that anytime any of us ventures into new territory, we find patient, decent people that will help us.
 
Jeroen T Wenting
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nothing wrong with patience and lending a helping hand.
But quite a few people aren't interested in learning, only in getting an ever increasing number of quick fixes to get them through yet another homework assignment until they either fail when presented with their final exams (and will have wasted years of their time and ours, plus tens of thousands of dollars of their parents' and the taxpayers' money) or happen to by some miracle pass those exams and end up someone's colleague who will then have to suffer through the same for potentially years in the workplace.

For everyone involved it's in the long run better to be rather tough on such people and tell them to find the answer for themselves (with maybe some hints as to where the answer may be found if you think they will actually pay attention and not just move along and ask somewhere else instead).
 
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Personally, I am astonished on how complex some of the homework questions sometimes are, when compared to the level of skill of the poster. This implies that either the poster had taken a course that is much more advanced than they are capable of, or... that the poster had years of "getting through yet another homework assignment".

In the second case, it may be a lost cause -- as noone is going to retake years of courses.

Henry
 
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Posting for quick homework help is a lot like posting for quick interview help. If you fake the interview, whatcha gonna do on Monday? I recently noticed one poster has authored a book of Java interview tips. Memorize this book and then ... what?
 
Jeroen T Wenting
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It's exactly the same, except the effects are often more shortlived.
The company will find out the fraud if you faked your resume and be able to fire you (and possibly sue you) for it.
If you got a degree you don't deserve by cheating on homework and exams they can't fire you for fraud (you do have that piece of paper after all that says you're qualified) so they're stuck with you for the duration of your contract (if you manage to cheat your way through the probationary period).
 
paul wheaton
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Originally posted by Jeroen T Wenting:
nothing wrong with patience and lending a helping hand.
But quite a few people aren't interested in learning, only in getting an ever increasing number of quick fixes to get them through yet another homework assignment until they either fail when presented with their final exams (and will have wasted years of their time and ours, plus tens of thousands of dollars of their parents' and the taxpayers' money) or happen to by some miracle pass those exams and end up someone's colleague who will then have to suffer through the same for potentially years in the workplace.

For everyone involved it's in the long run better to be rather tough on such people and tell them to find the answer for themselves (with maybe some hints as to where the answer may be found if you think they will actually pay attention and not just move along and ask somewhere else instead).



I think you left out the student that works through college - or gets loans. Or ... all the other ways that folks get through college.

Some folks do indeed look for the shortcut. I think being harsh to them is not the answer. Helping them to understand is the answer. If they get nasty, we can just ignore them.

If they bother you, ignore them. If you feel you need to be harsh, please find a different site to do it. I prefer that things always be smooth here. After all, this is a friendly place for java greenhorns. And these people just haven't figured out how we work yet.
 
Jeroen T Wenting
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the student who has to pay his own way usually is determined and wants to learn (not saying that those who don't have to pay their own way are always lazy).

Yes we can just ignore the ones that don't want to try, but ever more often they get agressive when you do ignore them...
And what one person calls harsh, another may not. When you tell someone to do his own work when he reproduces an assignment verbatim IMO isn't harsh. But that person frequently will take offense at that, and will often get agressive.
 
paul wheaton
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And here lies the beauty of being the owner of the site: I get to decide what "smooth" means.

We've had a lot of people come through that got a little nasty at times. But we were patient and helpful. Those people eventually came around and some are now staff.

I think it's okay to say "I'm happy to help you learn, but I don't feel comfortable doing your assignment for you." I've seen a lot of different people have a lot of different ways of saying this.

In summary: Don't harsh my smooth!

--------

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely is kinda neat.
 
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