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***** 3 Votes

"I just want some ideas." What that really means.

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So, I have a tradition of complaining about bad types of posts:

Now I'm onto a new one that I've been seeing more and more lately. Probably because we've been using the "gimme teh codez" macro to shut down the "do my homework for me" threads with some frequency.

The threads I'm complaining about today are the ones opened/closed with "I don't want you to write the code for me , I just want some ideas or some directions," or some variation thereof. That's a direct quote from a thread posted today in C#, but I see them almost every day, in almost every forum.

Now, it seems innocent at first glance. Hey, they're trying to abide by our rules, right? Wrong. Wrong, because it's usually an attempt to disguise the fact that they're already breaking the rules.

I'll quote the post in it's entirety:


I really need an ideea with this problem. I want to go through a 2 dim array and in the process i need to reduce the dimension of it. For exp I have an multidim Array of [256,256] and I need to reduce it to [64,64]. For this I need to calculate the average of squares of 4 elements. For exp [0,0]+[0,1]+[1,0]+[1,1]/4 will be the first element in the [64,64] array, [0,2]+[0,3]+[1,2]+[1,3]/4 will be the second element and so on.

I don`t want you to write the code for me , I just want some ideas or some directions

That's the whole post. From what they've provided, clearly there's been no effort made at all. No code posted, no effort shown. That usually should mean no help given, right? I mean, it's our biggest rule, "We won't do your homework for you!"

Well, in this case, they're trying to cover for that by saying they just want "ideas", not "code." As if it's so easy to separate. Handing someone the logic they need to complete their homework isn't much better than handing them the code. The logic's the important part! Who cares if you can write code in X language, if you can't get the logic correct!?

This is a point that many of these help vampire students might argue. They'd probably admit that giving them the code would be cheating, but they'd think the logic is the simple part, and writing code is the hard part. That's flat-out wrong; a misconception brought about by simple assignments and unfamiliarity with a language (or programming in general). The logic is the important bit, the code is just the expression of that logic. The programming logic of a problem is like a handwritten draft of an essay. It contains all the important pieces. The code's like the typed final draft. It didn't really bring anything new to the table, it's just the polished and useful expression of the original draft. So, is it cheating if I write your draft for you to edit? I say "yes." I may not be typing up the final copy you're turning in, but if I just hand you the draft to edit, I've still done the hardest part of your work for you; the part that's the most beneficial for you too.

My point is, look at the actual substance of the post. What makes this any different than someone who asked us to actually do their homework? Nothing but that one sentence. And that sentence is there as a cover; as a way to get you to do their homework without them explicitly asking for it.

Think about it before you answer one of these threads next time.

16 Comments On This Entry

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30 November 2011 - 09:55 AM
Love it. Going on my new 'reply to homework' post. Wish I could +1 ya for this!


30 November 2011 - 10:19 AM
I have been a member here for a short time, but can honestly say that I find this insulting. In my experience with asking for code help, I have posted the code I am having issues with, and I get help with that code. Other posts are simply "what am I supposed to look for" and have been met with "show the code". Not everything has to be in code...if you tell someone to use google, did you bother to mention what they are supposed to google for? A lot of times, and I am referring to my experience here, that is all that is needed. Often there is no code because someone doesn't understand the logic of how exactly everything is supposed to work, and google has failed because of some off-term the user didn't know existed in the first place to look for.

I'm not trying to insight a riot here, it's just that I have used the term "I don't need any code" because I just flat out did not understand what to look for myself...I do try to go into specific details about what I am trying to accomplish, and I guess that is what has gotten me more help with issues like this than those that don't. I personally have learned a lot from the users here who actually point me in the right direction for what is supposed to be looked up.

Perhaps your post applies to some people, but not all who might not fully understand the programming language, are beginners, or those who just not do programming as a 9-5 job.


30 November 2011 - 11:35 AM
Recoil, I think Curtis has a problem with people who won't do any work for themselves before asking for help. If you "flat out don't understand the logic," you can at least demonstrate what you have tried to do to understand it. As he says about his example, the poster has made no effort to solve the problem on his own, either at the logical or the implementation level. And if you would like us to "bother to mention" what you are supposed to google for, you might mention what you tried googling that failed to give the result you wanted. I personally would be glad to make a few suggestions in that case, including "some off-term" that someone might not know about.

Excellent post, Curtis, IMHO.


30 November 2011 - 12:30 PM
@Recoil: I agree with BobRodes here. There is a difference with having a targeted idea of what you are looking for and asking for specifics, and basically dumping an assignment with simply "help, I don't know where to start."


I do try to go into specific details about what I am trying to accomplish, and I guess that is what has gotten me more help with issues like this than those that don't.

This is Curtis' point entirely. Effort isn't necessarily limited to code, but putting some effort into research, logic, etc., to solve your problems. As you've seen, this leads to better help and better results for you than those who don't do this. :)

Curtis Rutland 

30 November 2011 - 12:35 PM
Thanks for clearing that one up, Bob. That's pretty much what I'm going for here.

We can usually tell the difference between someone who just needs a nudge in the right direction, and someone who's setting themselves up to have their homework done for them.

But honestly, there's usually no good ways to answer questions like this. I suppose I could say "make another matrix of the correct size, use nested loops that go from zero to half the length of each side, and for each iteration, perform this calculation: ([(i*2),(j*2)]+[(i*2),(j*2) + 1]+[(i*2) + 1,(j*2)]+[(i*2) + 1,(j*2) + 1]) / 4, and store the result in the new smaller array at [i, j]"...but how much does that help? If they get it, I've cheated their way into solving their problem. If they don't get it (which they probably won't), I've confused them and set them back. And there's not some resource I can point to and say "you should look at this!" because it's not something simple or common that people do all the time.

So really, there's not a good answer to this. If you're earnestly asking for help getting started with a project, we already know you don't want code handed to you. You don't have to explain. If you're trying to get handouts and look like you're not trying, however, the best way is to act like you don't want it, but acting confused until someone gives it to you anyway.

Sorry if it offended you, but this is my experience from the years I've been on forums.


30 November 2011 - 12:46 PM
I'm still learining, but from what I understand, the logic, the algorithms, that you make to implement what you want doing is just the code lacking a few statements and syntax. I've asked for help before with things like using case statements, becasue the help documentation was flying waaay over my head. But putting up a problem with what amounts for a few seconds of thought, then asking other people to expand on it for you is bone idle imo.


30 November 2011 - 01:13 PM
I can agree with the clarifications. I do understand the example given in the initial post, however feel it generalizes anyone who can properly look stuff up, just have no clue what to look for in certain cases.

I can honestly say that since I began on these forums 2 years ago, I rarely ask for assistance now because of the help I have gotten in learning what to research and where...I + rep where it is given because I really do appreciate the direction someone can point me. I have found it is better for me to make test projects off of examples that I have found for whatever I am doing in order to better learn from the examples.

But I feel that if a user has given no code to correct, like in the example, then none should be given back. Instead the user should be given what they asked for "some ideas or directions": a better understanding of arrays and matrices.

I honestly get irritated when asked for code: Example of what I am referring to...

But eventually like in the post find what I am looking for...that's the point I was trying to make is all, not everything should rely on code just because someone doesn't understand what term to search for.

Curtis Rutland 

30 November 2011 - 01:27 PM
Well, there's also a difference there (the person telling you off isn't staff or expert). But I hear you. I am generalizing...because it's a general problem. Unfortunately, generalizations are...general.


30 November 2011 - 01:48 PM
This has been brought up before in a forum leaders private forum or something so I will tell everyone a similar answer here.

I am not at all against people asking for no code but a general idea or direction. This is not the same as a gimme teh codez question and we should try to avoid lumping it in with those. Sure they may sometimes try to glean some additional "secrets" to their homework but I figure as helpers we should simply give them what they ask here... a general idea. A few short sentences on how to think about the problem. No code samples, not step by step procedure.

I had responded to that exact example and what I suggested was that they think about the data structure for their "squares". Telling something to think about something, pose thought provoking questions of your own and possibly giving some key words can help someone without showing them the exact way. You can tell someone that an array or list might be something to investigate answers the question, gives them a direction to start but doesn't show them code or steps to follow.

One of three scenarios will happen when you give them these thought provoking ideas and directions...

1) They ask more specific questions in which case you can then say "show us the code you have come up with"

2) They thank you for pointing them in the right direction and they leave to google... possibly to return half way down the line when they are stuck on some syntax.

3) They attempt to get you to do something for them in which case you can close the thread or toss in the gimme teh codez.

Not all help is going to come in the form of "I have a problem here and I need help with it." Sometimes they come in the form of "I just need clarification on what they are asking for"

Just my thoughts on it. :)


30 November 2011 - 05:10 PM
I am sometimes guilty of this, both when asking for help and giving it out. Thanks for putting on this perspective on this thing, I will now think twice when someone asks for ideas. ^^

Curtis Rutland 

30 November 2011 - 06:13 PM
The main thing I want people to take away from this is to actually look deeper at what's being asked for. Sometimes, it's legit. Other times, it's just a "gimme teh codez" packaged up a bit differently.


01 December 2011 - 05:39 AM
Don't get me wrong here, I agree with you that giving logic is as bad as giving out code, but I think these type of threads should be read carefully and not dismissed as easily as "Gimme teh codez".

Some of these threads read to me like "I need help grasping this concept, but I don't know how to explain what I don't understand". These people need to be troubleshot (not just shot), prodded with questions, to get the information you need (but they don't know you need) to help them.

I have had a bad experience on another forum, last year when I was starting off, that I no longer visit where a moderator pegged me as asking for someone to do my homework for me in this manner. As I wasn't doing homework, merely researching to expand my knowledge I was royally ticked off at the time. I was confused over a concept and my train of though was incorrect, which is what I needed help with.


01 December 2011 - 07:25 PM
what? so..ok..let me get this straight..people are not to ask for help unless they have a basic understanding of the coding and have also attempted to do it and then can only ask for help if they need help with syntax on already created code or program flow on already created code? is an idea that might make things a bit better because I know, atleast for me, sometimes I enjoy trying to do these peoples challenges..betters me as a coder.

why not create a forum specifically for questions and posts such as that so we who might want to take part have a chance to do so..


08 December 2011 - 09:30 AM
I agree with his point. We should not have to do homework for others. However, what about a special forum where we could help such ones. I wonder if maybe that would work. Of course we would not give them the code, but we might help those ones. In my opinion it is fun to help others with their problems. Now I would only do so if they did the following in their postings:

1. Put code they have tried
2. Include what they think they should do to make it run
3. Not be too demanding.


20 January 2012 - 01:54 PM
@ATC3 - isn't that basically the system that exists now? Well theoretically since the original posters have to be told about 1 and 2 - frequently.


15 May 2012 - 12:01 PM
Coming back to this after tlin posted a link to it. @Recoil, I can see where you found the post in your link irritating too. Since the reason that we get upset with help vampires is that they want us to do their work for them, it would seem that we at least owe a well-written problem statement the benefit of a perusal and a targeted response rather than a stock request for code. Then we're the ones who aren't going to the trouble, when someone else has.
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