Collaboration and Sharing
In line with MIT’s policy on Academic Integrity, and with the collaboration policies of 6.009 and 6.031, here are our expectations regarding collaboration and sharing of work.
We encourage you to help each other with work in this class, but there are limits to what you can do, to ensure that everybody has a good individual learning experience. This section describes those limits.
Problem sets (PS, AS, RS)
Problem sets are intended to be primarily individual efforts. You are encouraged to discuss approaches with other students but your code and your write-up must be your own.
You may not use materials produced as course work by other students, whether in this term or previous terms, nor may you provide work for other students to use.
It’s good to help other students. But as a general rule, during the time that you are helping another student, your own solution should not be visible, either to you or to them. Make a habit of closing your laptop while you’re helping.
It’s fine to use material from external sources like StackOverflow, but only with proper attribution, and only if the assignment allows it. In particular, if the assignment says “implement X,” then you must create your own X, not reuse one from an external source.
It’s also fine to use any code provided by this semester’s 6.813/6.831 staff (in class, readings, labs, or problem sets), without need for attribution. Staff-provided code may not be publicly shared without permission, however, as discussed later in this document.
As they type lines of code, they speak the code aloud to the other person, to make sure both people have the right code. INAPPROPRIATE.
In a tricky part of the problem set, Alyssa and Ben look at each other’s screens and compare them so that they can get their code right. INAPPROPRIATE.
Jerry already finished the problem set, but his friend Ben is now struggling with a nasty bug. Jerry sits next to Ben, looks at his code, and helps him debug. OK.
- Jerry opens his own laptop, finds his solution to the problem set, and refers to it while he’s helping Ben correct his code. INAPPROPRIATE.
Louis had three problem sets and two quizzes this week, was away from campus for several days for a track meet, and then got sick. He’s already taken two slack days on the deadline and has made almost no progress on the problem set. Maria feels sorry for Louis and wants to help, so she sits down with Louis and talks with him about how to do the problem set while Louis is working on it. Maria already handed in her own solution, but she doesn’t open her own laptop to look at it while she’s helping Louis. OK.
Maria opens her laptop and reads her own code while she’s helping Louis. INAPPROPRIATE.
Maria has by now spent a couple hours with Louis, and Louis still needs help, but Maria really needs to get back to her own work. She puts her code in a Dropbox and shares it with Louis, after Louis promises only to look at it when he really has to. INAPPROPRIATE.
Note that in the examples marked inappropriate above, both people are held responsible for the violation in academic honesty. Copying work, or knowingly making work available for copying, in contravention of this policy is a serious offense that may incur reduced grades, failing the course, and disciplinary action. Copying, or helping somebody copy, may result in an F on your transcript that you will not be able to drop.
You should collaborate with your partners on all aspects of group project work, and each of you is expected to contribute a roughly equal share to design and implementation.
You may also use material from external sources, so long as: (1) the material is available to all students in the class; (2) you give proper attribution; and (3) the assignment itself allows it. In particular, if the assignment says “implement X,” then you must create your own X, not reuse someone else’s. Finally, your group may not reuse designs, ideas, or code created by another group, in this semester or previous semesters.
Public sharing of work
People often want to share their code publicly, e.g., on Github, in order to show off a portfolio of code they’ve written to potential employers.
The policy for public sharing of 6.813/6.831 code is described below.
Copyright for the starter problem set code is held by the 6.813/6.831 course staff, and does not allow redistribution of derived works without prior permission. Your solutions are a derived work, so you may not distribute your problem set solutions publicly. This means you cannot post the source code on Github, in a public Dropbox folder, or on a public server accessible to others.
Keep in mind that when work on an individual problem set is copied, both the provider and the consumer of copied materials are violating academic honesty standards, as described above.
For group projects, before you can post any code for public distribution, all authors of the code must agree to public distribution, and their authorship must be acknowledged.
Authors means anyone who worked on the project at any time. Projects are a team effort, and code ownership is shared.
Agree means all authors must be asked whether public distribution is OK, and they must answer yes. In our example, if Alice wants to post any part of project 2, then Bob, Carol, Morris, Nancy, Ollie, Patricia, Yolanda, and Zach must all be asked and answer yes.
Acknowledged means the names of all authors appear either in a comment at the top of each source file, or in a
README.md(or other prominent README file) at the root of the project. If you used Git to develop your project, and you’re posting on a site like GitHub, then keep the commit history. This history demonstrates each person’s individual contribution, and shows off your software development process.
These rules are derived from the standard practice for open-source code projects, in which it’s necessary to clarify the origin of all the code and obtain Contributor License Agreements from all identified contributors. You should follow this standard ethical practice of the software development community even for your own projects. If you were to publish code from a hackathon where you worked with other people, then you would make sure all the authors agree and are appropriately acknowledged.