Produce the number 2014 without any numbers in your source code is our highest-voted question. It regularly inspires newcomers to pose similar challenges, which get heavily downvoted with the poster pointed to Do X without Y.

I can't blame a new user for using this question as a model. The top questions are a natural place to look to see what a site is about. Imitating success seems like a safe option to a newbie unsure of their challenge-writing skills. We must look rather capricious to them to pile downvotes on their question while the original was heavily upvoted. It's a rather poor first welcome towards the newbie.

Can we do something about this broken window?

One option is a historical lock, which "preserves older content that was very popular when it was originally posted, but is now off-topic or otherwise out of scope for the site it is posted on."

Questions can be historically locked when:

  1. The post is Off-Topic or Not Constructive, and
  2. The post is stellar, in spite of its off-topic nature, and
  3. There are a large number of views, upvotes and inbound links on the post, and
  4. The post is contentious; e.g., it has been closed and reopened at least once, or deleted and undeleted at least once

I'm not sure all of these apply.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I fully agree that challenge is a broken window, but I disagree with using a historical lock. That's for challenges that were formerly on-topic but are now off-topic. X without Y challenges aren't off-topic per se, just something PPCG regulars have noticed produce low-quality challenges. \$\endgroup\$
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 23:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ As far as the bulleted points go, I'm fairly sure #4 doesn't apply, and #2 is really subjective. That being said, I'd still be in favor of a lock. \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 23:53
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I really feel the broken window argument has caused more damage than benefits. How about just adding a disclaimer in that question, without locking it? \$\endgroup\$
    – jimmy23013
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 0:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @jimmy23013 I like that idea. It warns off potential copycats without restricting future answerers. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 0:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The list of questions includes highly voted closed questions, so closing won't remove it from the top of the list. This makes me even more in favour of jimmy23013's suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any way to arbitrarily change the vote count on the question (e.g. setting it to 0 by moderator fiat, without changing the asker's reputation)? Challenges which were historically highly voted but wouldn't be considered good questions nowadays are likely to have artificially inflated scores because being at the top of the list tends to attract people who can upvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – user62131
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 3:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think a historical lock can be applied, since #4 does not apply at all, per the revision history of that question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any way that it can be made mandatory to use the sandbox if a user has a rep of e.g. less than 500? This would allow new users to post whatever they want and get constructive explanations rather than downvotes. I guess it may work similarly to the privileges system - 500 rep allows you to post directly on main. It would also catch a lot of other questions that need improvement and not just Do X without Y. \$\endgroup\$
    – ElPedro
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


Add a disclaimer:

Note: New straightforward "Do X without Y" questions are not considered novel anymore and may be closed as duplicates of this question.

But I think it should be worded better.

Or as DJMcMayhem suggested:

This question was well-received when it was posted, but challenges like this, asking answerers to Do X without using Y are likely to be poorly received. Try using the sandbox to get feedback on if you want to post a similar challenge.


  • Is calculating the determinant / computing a mathematical expression / recognizing a goat without using builtins doing exactly that a "Do X without Y" question?

(I edited in the disclaimer. This is now -- xnor)

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I think I'd prefer Questions like this one are difficult to get right. If you feel like you have a novel idea, please post it in the sandbox. It doesn't introduce new PPCG-specific terminology, and redirects them to the sandbox, which we want anyways. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanMerrill I think this is a case where the sandbox wouldn't help because such questions generally can't be edited to be well-received without totally changing them. I imagine that if such a question went to the sandbox, the poster would be told "don't do this". \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 5:36
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ How about This question was well-received when it was posted, but challenges like this, asking answerers to "Do X without using Y" are likely to be poorly received. Try using "the sandbox" to get feedback on if you want to post a similar challenge. with relevant links. \$\endgroup\$
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 6:12
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Doing something without builtins is doing X without X; the exclusion is usually a natural one to prevent a reasonably hard challenge being won by some language with an unexpected builtin. This is completely different to doing X without Y, where the basic task is trivial in most languages and some artifical rules are put in place to make it harder. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this answer because I think a disclaimer is the way to go, though I prefer DJMcMayhem's wording. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 8:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what now? It seems like there is a consensus since this answer is +15/-0 and it's been up for a week. Should we have a moderator add the notice? \$\endgroup\$
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried to rewrite the notice a few times but only get confused. It seems that "do X without Y" is too general and I'm not sure how to define the part we don't like exactly. \$\endgroup\$
    – jimmy23013
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 4:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a noble-sounding and well-intended answer. Except, people don't give a darn about the sandbox. The only time you will see something's wrong with your question is when you publish it and you get 4 downvotes without a single comment explaining why. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ How about "Although this challenge was welcomed as novel back in 2014, new Do X without Y challenges will usually get downvoted for lack of originality. Nonetheless, if you feel your challenge idea offers an original and fun take on the genre, feel free to post it in the sandbox. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @LevelRiverSt, the builtins issue is completely different. \$\endgroup\$
    – edc65
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 21:42

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