I was looking at this question, and noticed while it does lay out its task rather clearly it doesn't really state what the winning criteria is. I scrolled down to the tags expecting that it was a and the author had forgotten to mention

Shortest answer wins!!

or some equivalent statement. However I noticed that it was instead tagged . I had to take a double take for a moment, because the tag wiki for popcons states:

A clear specification of the goal that must be achieved. Questions like "do (this) the most creative way" should be avoided. Creativity should be the tool, not the goal.

I've seen many people on this site closing questions as off-topic for stating a goal that was too close to be as creative as possible, while this question lacks a goal altogether. Here is an example of a well specified question with a goal that was closed for lacking an objective winning criterion

What gives? Why is this challenge considered on topic while questions that, in my opinion, have much weaker violations are routinely closed?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry.. what? The winning criteria is VERY clearly stated. Does the function return the name of the parameter used when calling it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Poke That fulfills the validity criteria requirement, I agree there 100%, however there is no "goal" as outlined by the tag wiki. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that not the rest of the writeup? The author clarifies how this can and cannot be achieved. "There must not be a..." "the program must..." \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The goal is "Print a Variable's Name", not "Print a Variable's Name as creatively as possible" \$\endgroup\$
    – Stephen
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Poke The author does specify what valid programs should do and how that can be achieved, I do not disagree there, but they do not even at all suggest how answers should be graded, i.e. what the difference between a valid answer and a good answer is. I'm not even arguing that this question should be closed, just that it is being treated differently from other pop-cons. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's the entire point of a popularity contest... The voters aren't robots who need a specific checklist to go through when they want to vote on an answer; they vote on the one that they like the best. This type of challenge lends itself to problems that aren't solvable by a certain algorithm. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well if that's your argument then you're opening a big bucket of worms because this community is very divided when it comes to pop-cons. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Poke For reference here is a closed challenge that was a lot more specific about what answers should do, that was closed as lacking a winning criterion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ related related related related \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:40
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect it would be closed if there weren't a bounty on it (it makes it impossible to vote to close). \$\endgroup\$
    – Dada
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've posted a bounty for a solution to the lack of consensus on popularity contests. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


Close it!

A very short answer, but I don't think anything else is necessary.

There's nothing special about that question, and it should be closed due to the lack of an objective winning criterion.

The question about whether or not pop-cons are a good thing is an entirely different discussion. Personally, I would like more challenges, but the current consensus is that such questions should be closed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Where is that consensus? \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Poke, I didn't mean that there's a consensus that all pop-cons in general should be closed. I meant that pop-cons such as the one in question here should be closed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 17:27

A different kind of animal

The problem I'm now seeing is that there are those who think that pop-cons need both a method to determine if an answer is valid at all and a method to determine which answer is the best. This follows with most other tags on the site. For example an answer to a code golf question is valid if it does what is expected and it's better than another answer if it does this task in less bytes. Pop-cons are different because it leaves determining what answer is better to the voters. The reason may end up being that the particular answer has a really nice long description even though the solution is trivial. The reason may end up being that it was posted first and has a lot of upvotes already which attracts more votes (this happens on all challenges; not just pop-cons). Whatever the reason is, that's just how it goes with a popularity contest in general.

popularity - the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people.

There's no reason why something is supported in that definition and there shouldn't be one for challenges of this type. If I like a dumb mspaint rendition of the mona lisa more than someone who put time into coming up with a creative solution, that's on me and not the challenge writer.

This challenge in particular

Why hasn't it met with the same fate as so many pop-cons before it? I can't objectively answer that but I do have some ideas.

  1. It has enough support by people who find it interesting. This challenge has been closed and reopened at least once.
  2. The voter does not need to judge the output in order to determine if it's valid or not. It's very clear-cut if an answer works and with tools like TryItOnline it's relatively easy to test.
  3. The challenge is not in the same genre of an existing challenge. To help describe this I'll use an example. We have a challenge to generate cracked soil which was well-received. This challenge to make the composition notebook pattern was not. Maybe this was just because something like it had been done before and wasn't as interesting this time.

We as a community have these discussions over and over again until it gets tedious and things get put on hold. This happens with signal vs noise in chat, starring in chat, pop-cons, and a few other things.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Downvoters, please feel free to comment about what you disagree with. A straight downvote and dip doesn't really help with the problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted because I don't think this is really answering the question. This answer feels more like your opinion on popcons than a discussion on the particular challenge. I think your list is a bit of a response to the question, but I don't feel like it is really very constructive. It feels more like reasons the question is popular rather than reasons that the question should be open. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @WheatWizard Those are the reasons, in my opinion, why it is open. I think it should be open because it does have objective winning criteria. I also think your example should be re-opened for the same reason. I wasn't trying to be inconsistent in my reasoning. I was specifically talking about the main challenge you outlined. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 17:09

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