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In the help section What topics can I ask about here? education, certification and homework are listed as off-topic.

I believe the ban of certification and education questions was meant to cover questions about the content, usefulness, difficulty, etc of particular certifications or degrees. I believe it was not intended to ban technical or theoretical questions that someone might have when he is studying for a course or for certification.

Whether NE.SE should help people solve homework assignments is a topic of it's own, but I agree that questions where it is obvious that people are asking for people to do essential parts of their homework assignments should be banned.

IMO, a question should not be banned however, simply because the person asking came up with the question during his education/certification; for example while writing a report, cramming for an exam, listening to a teacher in class, reading the assigned material for a class.

I think the rules should be about the same as for how parents should help their children with school. Parents should not do the homework of their children. But if a child is writing a report and have difficulty understanding a particular topic, after they actually tried to figure it out for themselves, then of course the best thing in order for the child to learn the topic is if the parents help. If the teacher said something in school that did not quite make sense, of course a child can ask his parents about that, and they should help.

So, exactly what is meant with education, certification and homework being off topic?

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Questions about protocol theory (protocols in the OSI layer 1 to 4) are on-topic for NE.

What is not on-topic are things like questions from exams. We have seen conflicts with the theory taught that will pass the class, and what actually happens in the real world, which is what is on-topic here. People do not want to be responsible for someone failing because the real-world answer conflicts with what the instructor is teaching, which is often not what happens in the real world.

The difference between on- and off-topic may be subtle. For example, given a specific question about spanning tree with a diagram and question from the class, we would probably close the question as off-topic, but if you ask a question about an aspect of spanning tree to clarify your knowledge of it, that would probably be on-topic. Let's say you have a diagram of switches, and there are numbers on it, and the question is to calculate the spanning tree values to determine the root and designated ports. That would probably be off-topic, but a question that asks how to calculate such things in general would be on-topic. Basically a contrived question from a class is off-topic, but the theory about how to do something would be on-topic.

There are also idealized protocols taught in some classes for which there are no standards because the protocols only exist in theory or are experimental. Real-world protocols, e.g. TCP, often use parts of the idealized protocols taught, or they use modifications of the idealized protocols, but we do not know what the instructor needs because there is no standard to which we can point to say that this is the way it is for an idealized or experimental protocol.

We certainly want to help you increase your knowledge, and we are willing to help you learn about "professionally managed networks in a business environment," but your instructors are the primary resource for questions about classwork.

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    In addition to Ron's excellent answer: The main reason this clause was added, is to prevent this site from being flooded with mostly identical homework questions, for example about IP subnet calculation. – Teun Vink Jun 27 '19 at 11:15
  • @Ron Maupin: Interesting idea to ban questions from students because supposedly there is such a big gap between theory and practice. Is there a place where I can read more about this? I am genuinely interested in seeing an example of what you mean, and to see in which way what I learn in school is not even valid outside of school. – Mads Skjern Jun 27 '19 at 19:53
  • For example, we get a lot of question (closed and deleted, now) that ask us to subnet something for the OP. The way to ask it is something like this question. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:00
  • Those subnetting questions should be closed IMO, but first of all because they are duplicates (though with different actual numbers), and secondly if it is obvious that it is homework. However IMO they should not be closed simply because the person asking is a student, even if he writes that he is, and therefore your example is not a good one when arguing for a general ban on education and certification.. – Mads Skjern Jun 27 '19 at 20:10
  • @MadsSkjern, we also get questions for things like Selective Repeat ARQ/Selective Reject ARQ and Go-Back-N ARQ, which are not used in business networks, but TCP has some feature of those protocols. While is is useful to understand such concepts, they really have nothing to do with the mission on NE, which is, "Network Engineering Stack Exchange is for asking questions about professionally managed networks in a business environment." – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:12
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    "However IMO they should not be closed simply because the person asking is a student, even if he writes that he is..." That is not how it works. A question is closed based on the question asked, not that a person is a student. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:13
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    @MadsSkjern, "...arguing for a general ban on education and certification." That is not what the ban is. The question I linked above is certainly an education question, but it is a question about how to do something, not a question from a class, test, or homework. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:15
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    @MadsSkjern, we will answer questions about how to do something or how something works (assuming the question is not too broad, or the subject or answer too large for this type of site), but we will not answer an "education, certification, or homework" question for somebody. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:17
  • @MadsSkjern, there are hundreds of sites on the Internet that cater to network education questions. NE is different, we cater to questions and answers for network professionals, but we do have some leeway for those looking to expand knowledge of network engineering, just not formal education questions. Server Fault is the same way, and their education question ban seems much more rigid than we have on NE. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 20:24
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    I really don't share your perception of education as something that is so different from the world of professionals, so that probably it's best to keep the two worlds segregated. To me it's a bit like if a school calls a network professional (which I have encouraged my school to do) and asked him to come and give a presentation, and then he answers, no, we deal with real world problems and you deal with something not so real, so I don't want to risk obstructing your idealised world view, so it's better if we don't mix. – Mads Skjern Jun 27 '19 at 20:53
  • It is what the community of professional network engineers decided when proposing this site. They simply did not want to wade through a bunch of those questions when looking for answers because there are a glut of sites for those types of questions. It is simply not why this site was created from Server Fault. – Ron Maupin Jun 27 '19 at 21:06
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Is a question off-topic, just because it is asked by a student?

No, certainly not.

I believe the ban of certification and education questions was meant to cover questions about the content, usefulness, difficulty, etc of particular certifications or degrees. I believe it was not intended to ban technical or theoretical questions that someone might have when he is studying for a course or for certification.

You would be wrong. This has been covered on meta before multiple times, here for one of the earliest examples on meta, although there were other discussions before

IMO, a question should not be banned however, simply because the person asking came up with the question during his education/certification; for example while writing a report, cramming for an exam, listening to a teacher in class, reading the assigned material for a class.

I think we all would agree that closing a question simply because the person came up with the question during such activities isn't appropriate...if they are asking about the concept/theory to understand what they "came across" during the activity and can provide a good question (not too broad, not opinion based, etc).

To most of us, this is no different than when the server person in the IT department is tasked to upgrade the xxx on the network and has a question about what they are doing.

However, the actual questions from homework, certification, testing, interviews, and so forth are not considered on topic and they should not be.


Homework/certification questions are often contrived learning situations that have very little application to the real world. Their intention is often not to provide a real world solution to how something is done, but rather to force a student into learning the concepts and theory.

Subnetting questions are one of the easiest examples to come up with as they occur so often. In the real world, a professional isn't going to create a /27 subnet for that group of 23 computers/users as that makes no sense (no room for growth, changes, etc). They also aren't going to carve up a /24 block into seven various sized blocks to accommodate all those little subnets for user devices in the vast majority of situations.

These types of questions also may require specific answers that are applicable only to the context of the question. One example is "how many layers in the TCP/IP network model"? Depending on the context, the answer is either four or five (Cisco in particular always refers to it as five for it's testing/certification).

Or these types of questions may include historical trivia or background for reasons of teaching that don't apply to modern networking in any sense. The prime example here (as regular visitors will likely know) is classful networking. This is still taught quite heavily, but classful networking is long dead and will never return. References to it do not apply in any way to networking today.

While there are many reasons for not allowing these types of questions, I will only give one more. Our community is filled with professionals that work on networks daily. These types of questions are often ones that are not "interesting" to these users in any real sense and are often asked by visitors that do not become regular members of this community. If the community caters to questions that do not provide value to our regular members and continue to bring them back, they will choose to spend their time elsewhere. This community will no longer exist as it was envisioned/built by those members.

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