Recently, browsing questions of PPCG, i have found a lot of questions that are simply for the purpose of offloading their homework assignments, due to lasiness or easiness of this platform. For this reason, i believe we should ban homework questions. Any input?

Some examples:

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    \$\begingroup\$ Much fail. Very misunderstand code-trolling. Wow. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 4:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry to tell this, but you were trolled. And you may call me the biggest of the trolls so far. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 5:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Those were all parodies of stack-overflow questions. They were meant as jokes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 14:16

5 Answers 5


I think that, as a general policy, if we see a challenge that is clearly homework, we should leave it open without complaint (perhaps even upvote it or leave compliments on the excellent question), but any requested language should be ignored and all answers should be written in Befunge or Brainfuck.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Definitely. Answer homework questions with esolangs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Justin
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I vote for Haskell, Golfscript and J. Unless it's a Haskell class, of course. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 5:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JanDvorak If it is, I hope this is the text book. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 5:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JasonC We don't even need to use brainfuck or befunge. Poorly obfuscated Java is enough. When you reach 2000 points of rep, you can see my deleted answer here showing this: codegolf.stackexchange.com/questions/20979/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 5:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonC Don't judge a book by it's a cover! (The bad English in this comment is intentional.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NigelNquande youtube.com/watch?v=PPCsj7RT-Yg (tangentially related) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonC I'm not sure what that's got to do with the price of beans in Bali, but thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 20:39
  1. Student posts homework question
  2. Student receives answer in esolang (like GolfScript) or extremely convoluted answer in standard PL (i.e. golfed JS, with globals and all sorts of Boolean abuse and all)
  3. Student receives nothing of value to turn in, members of PPCG get to enjoy a good challenge

This is a non-issue.

(Now, if the challenge requests a specific language, we can simply edit it to make it language-agnostic, since most golfs are anyway.)

Also note that all your linked questions are , meaning that said student would receive a zero at best if they turned it in. (I mean, really, just look at some of those ridiculous answers)


Can you provide some examples?

In general, I agree with the principle of the top answer to StackOverflow's discussion of homework questions.

However, because our site works differently, perhaps we should treat homework differently.

The SO position is: it's OK to ask, but show some prior effort, and it's OK to answer, but try to lead the questioner in the right direction instead of giving a fully-formed answer.

This latter point is the difficult part for PPCG, because to have a valid answer to a challenge here you need to submit a complete, working program. There's really no way for us to avoid handing them a finished assignment without compromising the mission of this site.

So I lean toward banning homework questions when it seems obvious that they are looking for someone to do their assignment for them. E.g. if their request is language-specific, that would be a red flag that they have to write something in Scheme or Java or whatever for class. Or if it has the kind of silly constraints that indicate an arbitrary aspect of a class assignment.

However, I'd be open to accepting homework questions when the questioner honestly tells us it is such, and lets us know what language(s) they are doing the assignment in. We could have a standard policy to submit answers to such questions only in languages the student is not allowed to use. Thus, they can learn from some of the algorithms and methods employed in solutions without having the work done for them.

I am curious to see some of the recent examples you have found, because I think it will add to the discussion to be able to talk about "Is there such a thing as a good homework question vs a bad one? What makes them different?"

Edit to Add

Ok, the examples of what you're looking at are not only enlightening, they have me convinced that this entire topic is one epic troll of the Meta forum on your part.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A Java/C++/C# student would be very unlikely to figure out a BF, GolfScript, Whitespace... program. I can't usually read the Perl and Ruby programs either. \$\endgroup\$
    – user10766
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user2509848 Yes, but they could specify a language \$\endgroup\$
    – TheDoctor
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheDoctor I know, I almost asked this question yesterday. The point is, these solutions would most likely NOT let them learn programming techniques unless they already knew these languages good enough, in which case they would already know these techniques. \$\endgroup\$
    – user10766
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 0:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you look in the tag wiki for code golf you'll find a list of "good" and "bad" properties for such challenges. It requires that the question poster "be able to answer the question" and suggests a reference implementation. Asking for one--really pressing for it--is one way to determine if the asker is just fishing to get some coding done. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 1:10

I don't see any issue. You may find an interesting problem in the homework, and why you shouldn't be allowed to post it. It's not that those questions would help the student, unless the student can change {32|}%"*"%.|(:w;{:x,),{:^[x>.1>]{.[^w=]\+}%{^x<\+w=},},},n* into something readable in the programming language the teacher wants. You may as well write it yourself (but I think that decoding is fun, and it will actually teach you something), instead of decoding the code golf, which probably uses slow, but short algorithm that nobody would use in real programs.


I think that any question that requests a common language without having a very compelling reason should just be edited into a language agnostic question.

That said, I hope most of us recognize the tag for what it is :)


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