We already have a policy on questions from ongoing competitions. This meta question is about them; its accepted answer proposes borrowing the policy used on math.SE, which basically says that if
- a question comes from some sort of contest, AND
- the contest is still going on, AND
- the contest has a definite end-date, AND
- the contest's questions are publicly available
... then the question isn't permitted, because we have no interest in being a competition-cheating service, and it typically be locked until the contest is over.
This policy serves us fairly well. But we get a lot of questions for which those criteria don't all hold, but where it still seems like the person posting the question is hoping to use the good people of PSE as a resource for some kind of cheating. Examples:
- "I applied for a job and the application process involves solving some IQ-test-like questions. Please tell me the answer to this one so I can make my potential employers offer the job to me instead of someone else who's better at the things they think their employees should be good at."
- "I got set some mathematics homework and am not interested in actually learning anything. Please tell me the answer so I can satisfy my teacher without having to think."
- "I want to join a high-IQ society but don't actually have a very high IQ. Please tell me the answer to these questions so I can get in anyway."
- "I am applying to a university and they sent me some puzzly questions. I want a place at that university to go to me instead of someone cleverer. Please tell me the answer to this question."
(These questions may or may not actually be good tools for employers, universities, etc., to use, but that's not our concern here.)
Our existing policies filter out some of these questions.
- We require proper attribution for non-original questions, which makes it a bit harder for people posting such questions to conceal where they're from and what they're for.
- Sometimes the application process (or whatever) does quality as a limited-time public contest, so the existing policy does the job.
- Sometimes the question comes from a source whose creator has explicitly asked for the questions not to be discussed online and we have a policy about that.
But often that isn't so, and I would prefer unscrupulous people not to get an advantage in job-seeking, college entrance, etc., just by being willing to get other people to do their work for them. (Also, the questions are often not very good puzzles; the existing voting machinery can deal with that, but it's nice if the chaff never gets into the system in the first place.)
There's been some discussion, before, about the special case of trying to get help with homework. Of the concrete policies suggested there, "homework questions should be closed as off-topic" was the most favoured, but the single highest-voted answer is one that says (I paraphrase) "meh, not a big enough problem to be worth worrying about right now". (That was several years ago, and opinions now might be different.)
One difficulty with "no cheating" policies is that it may be difficult to tell whether a given question is an attempt at cheating. Sometimes the questioner will tell us outright. (Again, the attribution requirement helps with this.) But if they claim the question is their own creation, there's not that much we can do. I don't know how common this is. (It isn't common in the cases I know about, but of course if someone convincingly pretends that their question is original then no one will know they're trying to cheat.) I don't know whether the difficulty is any reason not to have a "no cheating" policy. (It might be, if the effect of that policy would simply be to make cheaters lie more.)
Should we have some further policy that attempts to discourage "cheating" questions and/or allows us to close them when they appear? If so, what exactly should it be?