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Sometimes users ask questions that basically shift the research and development work of a particular project or product into the hands of the community.

This problem is somewhat related to not being specific enough, but bears another issue: acquiring free labour from the community without giving something in return.

It's a problem that isn't new, not even on StackExchange. But I recognised it on Arduino SE too.

It goes without saying that SE is a platform where people get to ask questions. Oftentimes without knowing in advance what is involved in finding an answer. We all sometimes need a pointer to a solution or can make great use of someone else's experience.

But some questions have a certain smell that the poster would rather have others magically come up with a production-ready solution to their complex design ideas – and implement them too.

How should we deal with questions that basically just ask for free engineering work?

  • +1 - There was one blatant question that caught my eye recently, I forget if it was on SE Arduino, Pi or Robotics, that asked for some code to be written for the OP and then to be emailed to them (they provided an email address!). I flagged it and it has, fortunately, been removed. Another one, that comes to mind was a question that tried to get a software team together that could deliver a project. That question went the way of the first... :-) – Greenonline Mar 31 '16 at 19:15
  • Is this an example of a "outsourcing labour for free" question? arduino.stackexchange.com/questions/22660/… – jantje Apr 3 '16 at 12:12
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You might have mentioned getting help with homework, and college assignments too. :)

On the face of it, this site is designed to answer specific questions, and when it is used like that, I see no problem if the question is being used by an engineer in some company, a high-school kid, or someone doing a thesis. Of course, this is in addition to hobbyists, and others who simply want to learn.

However overly-broad questions, like "I have an assignment to monitor heart rate - please provide the code for me ... oh, and a schematic" can simply be voted-to-close as too broad. This is asking for work to be done, not to have a question answered.

If there is doubt, asking for them to clarify what they have already tried can soon wiggle out people who are serious, from those trying to avoid work. For example:

  • What have you tried already? However see this: “What have you tried” epidemic. So don't post a comment "What you you tried?" on its own. It isn't helpful.
  • Where did you get stuck?
  • Please post your current code, even if it doesn't work
  • Please post your schematic
  • Please post links to your (proposed) hardware

We are not really supposed to answer shopping questions, or about which device is "best" to buy. These are too subjective.

Without being too snaky about it, we can also see what research they have already done. Sometimes I say "I see Google returns 100,000 results on a search for Arduino +yourIdea - in what way did those hits not help your project?".

  • While I agree with this answer in general, it's the too-broad vs. work-to-be-done difference in particular that I'm contemplating about. A question asking for free labour really isn't necessarily too broad (and vive versa). Voting to close is a way to deal with the problem, but a rather subjective one as long as there aren't any tangible criteria. In the end I feel that the too-broad reason would be used inflationary – and the underlying issue still wouldn't be addressed. – sekdiy Mar 22 '16 at 9:44
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    I think the simple answer is that we don't provide "free labour" - we answer questions. Thus "asking" for code to be written from scratch isn't a question that has a reasonable answer. However asking why a certain function doesn't turn on an LED is a reasonable question. – Nick Gammon Mar 22 '16 at 20:13

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