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The Copy & Paste Generation

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I won't lie, NickDMax completely took my thunder. He reached right up into my metaphorical cloud and took it. He took the proverbial wind out of my sails. What about? This topic of this thread.

Some back-story:

There have been a slew of threads within the last few days (weeks perhaps?) that have been nothing short of:

Quote

plz gief code kthxbai


I imagine the end of semester is a large catalyst in this occurrence. One line, one post wonders aren't too bad; a simple posting of the rules or thread lock and they're gone, and will probably end up on your software engineering team (I kid! I kid!), but the second group of these people really bother me. These individuals post code, but then ask for someone to explain it to them, fix their [compilation] errors, or clarify if they met a certain requirement.

Example 1:


In this thread, the person posted some templated C++ code [Linked List of sorts] and asked how to iterate through/traverse the list. RED FLAG! If someone has a solid enough understanding of C++ to not only write a Linked List, but a templated one, traversal of the list is the least of their worries. Upon further discussion, (I encourage you to read the whole thread) I pointed out several compilation issues that arose when sample implementation was introduced (these errors were absent if one just compiled the header by itself). Relatively easy to fix if you've ever done a lot of work with templates. Did the poster fix the suggestions and come back with the updated code? NO. They opened a new thread with the same error prone code with the reasoning that the other thread was too long. (Yeah, right).

This is the classic copy/paste situation. It doesn't even have to be done from one source. An assembly of copy pasting without figuring out how each piece works. This type of stuff is exactly why I wrote the indepth looks at various data structures.

Example 2:


In this thread, the person posted code asking if it met certain requirements. Specifically, if there is an extra method that takes arguments [parameters] and are variables used with the smallest scope possible. In order to effectively judge that criteria one must understand what a method is, what parameters are, and especially what variable scope is. How was this written if these concepts were not understood?

Programming is similar to mathematics in that everything is built upon previously learned concepts. Can't learn how to multiply or divide until you've learned how to add or subtract. Can't know how to use methods with parameters until you've used regular methods. Can't understand scope unless you understand the creation and destruction of variables. The list goes on and on.


As a programmer, software engineer, hobbyist, or whatever title you bestow upon yourself, you must be able to work your way through a problem from start to finish. You must be able to research on your own. You must be able to acquire and retain new concepts. Getting that quick answer for free might help your current situation, but where will that leave you years down the road? What have you learned? What do you remember? In regards to research, there are instances where "I'll Google it" is an acceptable answer. But not for every single thing. Especially fundamentals. Being able to work your way through a problem is not just a computer science/student issue, it's a problem with my whole generation. Instant gratification coupled with laziness is the culprit.

Give an person some code and they'll be set for a day, teach a person to code and they'll be set for life.

23 Comments On This Entry

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JackOfAllTrades Icon

04 December 2009 - 10:32 AM
Bravo, my dear man, bravo. It's picking up, like you said, because it's the end of the semester and the chickens have come home to roost. The wheat is about to separated from the chaff, and I firmly believe we do NOT want to buff up some of the chaff into wheat, such that the process is short-circuited and the end result is delayed. Sorry, I ran out of clichés.

I'm finding it more difficult to not be honest and just say, listen...save yourself some time, and maybe money, and switch tracks. If you're not grasping these simple tenets of programming, you're DOOMED TO FAIL if you stay on your current course. Or worse, you bluff your way through and end up in my programming team (as you *kidded* about, but it's certainly happened...I've been bitten by it, although more on an SCM end than development). The link in my sig says it all, and I wish more people would read it.
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erik.price Icon

04 December 2009 - 01:38 PM
I find it amusing that every Sunday night, those kind of posts tend to pick up, as students realize that they need to do (or beg someone else for) a project
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Dogstopper Icon

04 December 2009 - 02:03 PM
I agree! Great article and so true! The flow of "plz giv me the codez" has increased greatly. I'm almost posting the code tags issue or the rules issue more than I actually feel like I'm helping. Great article KYA, and I hope it raises awareness to those who just joined the site and to serve as an example of what not to do.
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JackOfAllTrades Icon

06 December 2009 - 08:48 AM
Heh, thread #2 came back with another question just like it. Dolts.

I wanted to point "her" here, but I figured the irony would be lost on "her".
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Toxicterror Icon

07 December 2009 - 07:42 AM
hahahah i loved the second example :D
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Anarion Icon

12 December 2009 - 09:41 AM
Thank you KYA for mentioning this situation... just wondering how these people think about programming when they want to choose their major? clicking some goddamn buttons and a program comes up? LOL
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KYA Icon

12 December 2009 - 01:54 PM
That would be sweet. If you ever find some, I'd like a few magic buttons myself.
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optix212 Icon

10 January 2010 - 08:12 AM
@Anarion

Alot of these people don't even have programming as their major. Take my friends mom for instance, she majored in Business Management, but in order to complete her major she had to take a semester of programming. Well, she had no interest at all in programming, but she still passed it by teaching herself the basics. So, what I'm trying to get at is that maybe not everyone of the people saying "code plz thx ih8mylfe" are actually majoring in programming, but it is still a good thing to implement learning by yourself, and not just having things handed to you. That kind of philosophy can stretch out farther than programming, and can help with pretty much life itsself.
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prajayshetty Icon

14 January 2010 - 03:19 PM
wow i like this thread
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Simple_Condolences Icon

15 January 2010 - 01:29 PM

optix212, on 10 Jan, 2010 - 07:12 AM, said:

@Anarion

Alot of these people don't even have programming as their major. Take my friends mom for instance, she majored in Business Management, but in order to complete her major she had to take a semester of programming. Well, she had no interest at all in programming, but she still passed it by teaching herself the basics. So, what I'm trying to get at is that maybe not everyone of the people saying "code plz thx ih8mylfe" are actually majoring in programming, but it is still a good thing to implement learning by yourself, and not just having things handed to you. That kind of philosophy can stretch out farther than programming, and can help with pretty much life itsself.


He's right. Along with this though, there are also plenty of high school students who are taking things like AP Computer Science(Java) and AP C# and such to help boost their GPAs before college and just to have a more diverse resume. Just another thought but still, you're very right that there shouldn't be any Codez plz. kthxbai. type threads.

- Zach
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stauffski Icon

21 January 2010 - 03:16 PM
I remember the good old days in high school... Someone would ask if they could borrow your code.

Borrow My Code!?!?!? That's asinine, code is practically someone's signature. You can tell who wrote it. And then they thought it would be fine if they just changed the variable names... HA!

My favorite part was when someone asked if they could borrow the code for the final exam... blasted idiots.
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PlasticineGuy Icon

12 February 2010 - 04:56 PM
When I learn from tutorials, I unconsciously change their code a bit to fit my style more. I think this helps to ensure I have a good understanding of the code.
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MentalFloss Icon

19 February 2010 - 02:37 PM

PlasticineGuy, on 12 February 2010 - 03:56 PM, said:

When I learn from tutorials, I unconsciously change their code a bit to fit my style more. I think this helps to ensure I have a good understanding of the code.


Yes, absolutely! Doing this is a great way to fully understand the material in the tutorial. It's no longer monkey-see, monkey-do. It's monkey-see, monkey-improve. This lends itself to increased comprehension and retention. Definitely the right way to go.
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erburrell Icon

12 April 2010 - 09:33 AM
I just read this, and it is a very interesting article. As a newbie to programming in C#, I have asked quite a few questions on the forums. I do try to search the internet first, and see if I can find a decent answer before I post. I will say that when I find tutorials out on the web, I use them quite a bit to try and understand the coding. One thing I do not do is copy and paste the code. Even if I am following the tutorial straight through, and building their program, I retype every letter to help myself understand what I am doing. In addiiton, I try to build a seperate related program of my own and follow the tutorial in lock step. This helps me transfer the information from the tutorial into a different program, thus reinforcing what I learned.

I am by no means a quick learner, a fact to which many of the experts on this site can probably attest to, but I do try to do my own work. :)

Ed.
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xmodz Icon

14 April 2010 - 06:59 PM
:surrender: ...

OMG that was profound KYA!
amazingly written, absolutely true.

This post really enlightens me :^:
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Bmxguy34 Icon

04 May 2010 - 05:40 PM
Good article but I believe its mainly due to the person that is teaching you programming. If you have someone that can teach you the concepts and fundamentals of programming in whatever language it may be, you should have no problem picking it up. Yes, there are people that are lazy and just want to copy and paste the code. I'm new to programming and I'm taking an introductory course that seems unreasonable to someone that hasn't programmed before. If I had a professor that was a little better at teaching the techniques I may not be looking for help on the internet, but instead im struggling to teach myself with a book and figuring how to implement codes.
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CDWitte Icon

12 July 2010 - 09:47 PM
I'm here, at this point where I thought my schooling had failed me. I have been taught how to code console applications with cookie cutter Labs that usually end with me displaying "Hello World". Then I have learned all the concepts in another class about encapsulation, inheritance and polymorphism. Yet again a class on how to model a database in Visio. I thought I had useless knowledge. I'm now taking classes towards my Masters and guess what I programmed this week... A simple calculator program, This is the first 3 weeks of an 8 week class. I have yet to learn what I need to know (Mind you this is after 4 years of schooling): how do I connect my code to a database, what should I use XML for, what language should I use to do what and why.

I have spent the last 2 months teaching myself and have discovered so many things: looking through this site, using Google, copy and pasting code. Then setting breakpoints and stepping through the programs. I'm still at the point where getting a job in programming scares the hell out of me, what if I can't do it. That is why I am putting my full effort into learning everything I can now. This is truly what I have always wanted to do, it has been my dream job.

After I examined how I came to this place, I realized that I have failed myself it was not my schooling. Like you say I come from the copy paste generation. One of the reasons that I hardly learned anything is because all the labs, that I did were easy. I was able to copy the code right out of the lecture. I was not only harming my own knowledge, but when I did get my degree I realized that I knew nothing about programming. This is all because I took the shortcuts, never went above and beyond. I never took control and did extra exercises from the books, I just complained about how easy it was.

I hope someone young in their first year of school will read this and realize that your grades are not as important as what you learn, don't do the minimum. Don't come on here asking for someone to finish your work. So for this calculator program that I complain is too easy; I will make it harder and add extra functions, that are not even in the description. Hopefully I can push myself to the limits.

Also I would like to thank all of you experienced programmers for helping us with what might seem like silly questions, but to me these forums, and a few other books and online sources, are a godsend.
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trixt.er Icon

16 August 2010 - 03:14 PM
Well said my good fellow.
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udiggit99 Icon

15 October 2010 - 02:35 PM
I must concur with your post/declaim. Having basically failed my first programming course in school. My frustration lied with my professor. At the eime I never really considered my methodologies, research tactics and problem, solving skills as the culprit. This holds true for any subject you learn from economics to physics.
BRAVO!!!
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Khanguy Icon

25 October 2010 - 09:02 PM
I think the best thing about this is " Give an person some code and they'll be set for a day, teach a person to code and they'll be set for life" at the end
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