Computers Windows

Do you filter the help you give online?

I’m a moderator on the Ubuntu Forums, and we have a policy about log-in-as-root tutorials (especially logging in as root graphically), which is basically that they’re banned. We don’t let people post instructions for logging in as root graphically. You can read here about the justification for that.

It’s a little odd, though. I’m in favor of the policy, but I also know that if someone does a simple Google search, she can find instructions for logging in as root graphically in Ubuntu. So we’re not, with our policy, preventing people from logging in as root. We’re simply not helping them to do it. Does that matter?

I don’t know if it does, but I still refuse to help people do what I think they shouldn’t be doing. I filter my help. I love helping people out. The internet is a wonderful place, because I help tens, hundreds, possibly even thousands of people I don’t even know by just typing a few sentences.

If, however, I get the impression someone is trying to get me to do her homework for her, I say “Do your own homework.” Of course, I could be inadvertently doing someone else’s homework for her—someone who’s clever enough to rephrase the question instead of copying the homework question verbatim into an online forum. I don’t know if I am.

Likewise, if someone says “I forgot the password to my computer. How do I get in?” I don’t know if that person is a kid who’s trying to find out her parent’s password to get around a parental filter. And I don’t have a foolproof method of thwarting malicious password cracking requests, but I generally tell people how to reset the password instead of telling them how to crack the password (even though I know how you can crack passwords). If you reset a password, you have access, but the person who used to have that password knows you have access, since the old password no longer works. If, however, you crack the password, you could stealthily be using that person’s account without her knowing it.

Do you filter out your help? Or do you figure information is so easy to find that if you don’t tell someone how to crack a password, she’ll just do a Google search and find it herself? Does it matter who pulls the trigger or not if the trigger gets pulled?