If you don't know what kind of questions these are... well they're essentially the type asking to do their job for them. They have a task to accomplish, the task is to write a script, and they use us to write it.

Recently (for like a couple of years), SO has been pretty harsh on these kinds of questions. In fact they have a close reason for them, but how about Unix & Linux?

Do we feel alright as a "script writers service"?

Related previous discussions around the network, more or less about the topic or problems this behavior causes:

  • 2
    What's the objective? Even if we all think "OMG, WE AREN'T FREE LABOR", what do you want to get out of this question?
    – phemmer
    May 27, 2014 at 2:41
  • 5
    @Patrick discussion. That people flesh out their opinions about the topic. That's why my position is neutral in the post itself.
    – Braiam
    May 27, 2014 at 3:07
  • An example: Counting the occurrences of the string Jun 4, 2014 at 20:06

3 Answers 3


As a general rule.

If the question is a few lines of an actual script and the OP is asking for advice and guidance I'll simply echo their script back with edits/modifications made as an answer, with descriptions where appropriate.

If the question includes a 20+ lines of code "dump" with little else then I'll take one of the following actions:

  1. Investigate the OP to see if this is a one off type of question and then consider answering it.
  2. If they've done this many times, downvote them, leave a comment asking them what they've tried and consider voting to close, assuming that it fits one of our options to do so.
  3. Provide a partial answer explaining to them how to go about debugging their script, without digging in completely myself. Often times an answer to the effect of, enable debugging here, etc. to at least get the ball rolling in providing them some form of guidance so that they can ultimately either answer their own question(s) or give us further information so that a formal answer can be surmised.


One of the primary purposes of the SE sites is to provide help to others. To that end most/many of us are here to offer our expertise to others so that they can learn and grow as Unix professionals as well. There is no better way to mastering a discipline than to teach it, and so we should take each OP as that opportunity to do so, whether asking a highly technical question or with simple homework questions that they're struggling with.

But do not let them abuse your generous gift, if you feel this way then do not offer to assist this particular OP, help one of the many others that are willing to help themselves.

  • 4
    Shouldn't votes on post by independent of OP's previous track record? May 30, 2014 at 11:19
  • @BleedingFingers - I don't understand what you're saying.
    – slm Mod
    May 30, 2014 at 11:47
  • "If they've done this many times, downvote them.." shouldn't votes be independent OP's previous track record and be solely based on the merits of the question? (sorry for the confusion, I meant "be" instead of "by" in the previous comment) May 30, 2014 at 12:39
  • 4
    @BleedingFingers - yes and no. If I see an OP asking the same un-researched Q's over and over then no, it's completely appropriate to DV more un-researched Q's or Q's where they made no attempt to help themselves. As others have stated, this isn't a scripting service that we're providing here, we're here to help ppl get better at understanding Unix & Linux. These types of users are called help vampires. You can read about it here and here.
    – slm Mod
    May 30, 2014 at 12:52

This site is a wiki, not a code takeaway joint. If the questioner is not interested in putting enough effort into their question to make it worthwhile for future readers, then it should be closed.

Future visitors, the current community and the would-be questioner's employer or teacher will all be grateful for the intervention. And in the exceedingly rare case, the person looking for a drive-by answer may even come to understand the value in thinking for themselves.1

1. But I doubt it...

  • 1
    Well, to me it's more of a forum, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't search first. I'd say those posts are easy to indirectly improve, by making the person be very specific and ask for a meta/pseudocode approach. If people are starting out in a new language (especially when dealing with a new paradigm, like functional programming), I'd give some leeway. In case of Admin specific stuff ("I need a script, that does..."), I'd point the person to one of the uncountable cookbooks out there, sometimes even point to the exact solution.
    – polemon
    May 28, 2014 at 17:13

What bothers me is when people post what is clearly a class exercise or test question, and expect people to solve it for them so they can get credit.

I don't mind helping people with code they really need, particularly if I can turn it into a teaching moment to pass along knowledge. That to my mind is the beauty and value of this forum.

But if it's doing somebody's homework for them that's just wrong and I won't answer it, at least not directly and without making them think about the problem.

  • 1
    I often feel the same way, but then sometimes I think - "Hey! Free homework!" I'm wishy-washy like that sometimes.
    – mikeserv
    May 29, 2014 at 3:47
  • I hope you're not suggesting that it's fun to do somebody else's homework for them. Because ultimately that hurts the person who should be doing their own homework. What's the point of attending a class and not bothering to learn from it? Or, if they're in it to up their grade based on your work, that hurts the honest people in their class by rewarding laziness. If you like doing the homework, do it, but don't post it ;) May 29, 2014 at 21:47
  • 1
    @BobDoolittle - rather then do it for them, I try and help them understand how to do it. Obviously some ppl respond well and genuinely are looking for guidance on how to start, but there is that segment of the population that just wants a free lunch, for those I deal with them as described in my A.
    – slm Mod
    May 30, 2014 at 12:55
  • @BobDoolittle - I'm selfish, though. Other people's grades are their own concerns. In any case, my primary purpose here is to learn, and if others are kind enough to provide the learning materials necessary to do so, I might not judge them too harshly for it.
    – mikeserv
    May 30, 2014 at 14:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .