For the mod election questionnaire, I asked about a hypothetical situation:

A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

Besides conflict resolution, the issue is -- who has the final say on a challenge? Can the poster stick with an unpopular but legal decision? If they say, "downvote all you want, I'm keeping it how I want", should our community or moderators be able to override that?

I believe we don't have a real, recent consensus on the matter of challenge ownership. ... It would probably be good to have a clearer picture on the question of challenge ownership though, and we should probably discuss this some time on meta — ideally before the above situation occurs. -- Martin Ender♦

Please consider the answers of the former mod candidates , which show a lot of thought put into this issue.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you think it is also worth discussing what should be done in situations where the community and the user are at odds in this thread? I feel if we don't we'll need one after this one is "decided" but due to the way meta works we could wind up with disagreeing consensuses. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2017 at 3:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FryAmTheEggman Not sure, let's see how the answers turn out. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Jun 23, 2017 at 3:44

4 Answers 4


For starters, I'll quote what I said in the election questionnaire:

There is an important consideration here: does the edit improve the quality of the challenge enough that it's worth invalidating answers? Closing a loophole that allows the challenge to be trivially solved is (usually) good. Disallowing the use of a language or set of languages is (usually) bad.

With that in mind, I'd lock the question to prevent further edits until the situation can be resolved. I would then create a chat room for the OP and the editor, explain and link to relevant site policies, and moderate a discussion between them so that they can reach an understanding. Once everything has been cleared up, I'd edit the question in the appropriate way (either keeping or discarding the contentious edit), and unlock it.

Should the OP and the editor not be able to reach an agreement, I believe the best course of action would be to have a meta discussion about it, so that the community could weigh in. Once a consensus has been reached, the challenge should be edited to match the consensus (if needed), and unlocked. Should the edit war continue, re-locking the challenge would be appropriate, as well as other disciplinary actions towards the offending users (e.g. a suspension)

While I believe that challenge authors have a significant amount of authority over the content of their challenges, they do not have absolute authority. When there is a dispute between the author and the community, the community should win the dispute. Ultimately, PPCG belongs to the community, not to individual users, so the will of the community should trump the will of an individual if the community has consensus. This is the philosophy that we follow for our meta policies.

As always, major edits to challenges that completely change the challenge should be avoided (by both the author and the community), but minor edits that improve the challenge (e.g. fixing spelling and/or grammar issues, adding or improving test cases, removing offensive or flamebaiting content) are acceptable and encouraged.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Ultimately, PPCG belongs to the community, not to individual users" - this sums up the important distinction to me. If an individual user has a difference of opinion over whether free hand circles in the spec should be red or blue, I'd want the challenge author to take priority over that user, unless the community indicates otherwise with meta consensus. This means the challenge author will hardly ever be overridden for trivial changes, only for ones that are meaningful. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2017 at 21:32

The questionnaire you linked had me taking a cautious stance:

This is a tricky one right off the bat. My personal opinion (which I've only really expressed in the mod chatroom and which I've been meaning to bring up on meta) is that the community should be able to (and should) outweigh the poster of the challenge on certain issues. Clearly if the OP self-vandalizes the question, the community has this right—but how far does this go?


My personal opinion? This is comparable to the first question in that it's a question of whether the community should be able to override the original poster of a challenge. Accordingly, my own view is similar: yes, to a certain extent, experienced users should be able to overhaul a new user's challenge. (The problem then becomes: to what extent? That's a discussion for meta.)

That was over a year ago, and accordingly, my opinions have changed. But before I go any further, I'd like to make it clear that this is still my personal opinion as a normal user of PPCG, and as a moderator I will continue to make decisions based on community consensus rather than my views in particular.

The reason I want to make that clarification is that this viewpoint could be somewhat contentious. While I previously said, or at least implied, that there should be explicit limits to the extent that the community can overhaul challenges, I now propose that all challenges be treated as collaborative community efforts in which the original author has little to no special formal privilege.

Already the tone of this post is starting to sound evocative of the "Stack Exchange mission"—the idea that the purpose of Stack Exchange Q&A sites is to build a repository of questions and their answers rather than to help their users directly. And in the past, I might have run with that idea, but as has made itself clear many times over, we are very much not the typical Q&A site.

So if we're trying to intentionally distance ourselves from the idea of the "standard" Stack Exchange site, why else do I want to retain the concept of posts' being a collaborative effort for challenges? (Obviously I'm not arguing that solutions to challenges should be freely editable by anyone, but one could claim that solutions already are built collaboratively in some ways in that comments are very frequently used to suggest improvements.)

The reality, as I see it, is that we have nothing to gain by arbitrarily granting extra formal power in deciding the rules and terms of a challenge to a particular user. On the contrary, there are a plethora of reasons against denying this power from the entirety of the site community: the challenge can be edited to fit in with site-wide standards that are difficult to objectively quantify (unnecessary I/O restrictions or language-specific challenges, for example), and ideally (although I concede that this might not always be the case) the challenge will end up in a state that best reflects the interests of the community as a whole.

But all I've done so far in terms of addressing the original question—"Who has the final say?"—is answer with "not the OP." Inevitably there will be disagreements, not just between the OP and the community but among the members of the community as well. (In my view, the former should be treated no differently than the latter.) The question presupposes that in these cases, an absolute authority has to be established to resolve the conflict.

I don't necessarily think this is the case. I think that collectively, we have enough common sense to judge the suitability and overall opinion of a given change and act accordingly. This is already basically how meta consensus works, and the outstanding culture of suggesting improvements on answers that is already in place only further goes to show how good at collaboration the PPCG community is.

So no, I no longer think there should be explicit limits on the extent of the community's reach in terms of editing challenges. There should be soft limits, based on common sense guidelines as well as all the complexities of PPCG "standards" that can't practically be codified or even put into words. This is also why I keep saying that the OP shouldn't have any extra formal privilege—in practice, of course the OP's opinion is going to be treated differently for trivial questions that don't really matter or details particular to the challenge.

Sorry for the rant/wall of text, but as I mentioned way back in the questionnaire, this is a topic long overdue for discussion and one that I've kept quiet about for quite a while.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This may end up opening a huge can of worms: It is very possible for edit wars to be much more common as people try to standardize and update challenges, which leads to a worse overall experience for the OP. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2017 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm almost with the "OP has no extra privilege" idea, but not quite as far as you're suggesting. If there's some minor arbitrary decision I make in my challenge, I don't want someone editing it the other way on a whim because their opinion is as important as mine. I know this violates the unspoken common sense of the community, but if there's nothing written that say not to do this, then a new user who isn't in touch with community norms can't be pointed to something to tell them to stop. I'd rather have a written fallback that formally says the OP has a little extra privilege. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Jun 23, 2017 at 17:05

As long as the post is signed with the OP's name: the OP

Maybe it sounds a bit harsh, but I don't want to see my (user)name in prominent position under any post that I don't agree with. Yes, on principle. It should be mandatory to make the post a community wiki before deciding against the OP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A CW on the question makes all answers CW, right? That would be bad for the answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Jun 23, 2017 at 17:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor: didn't know that. CW is not an option then. My main point still holds: Don't change a post that is signed with the OP's name to s.th. he/she doesn't like. \$\endgroup\$
    – nimi
    Jun 23, 2017 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer covers a specific case. If a change causes offence to the challenge author, then there will be meta discussion and I would expect the community to reject the change in most cases. In cases where the majority of the community does not consider the change offensive, and considers it important to make, then this answer doesn't seem to apply. I wouldn't expect the community to approve changes that are a significant change to the author's intent. This doesn't give individual community members the right to override the author - only the community as a whole. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2017 at 21:21

The Asker

IMHO, the person who asks a question is the one who:

  1. Gets rep from the question

  2. Went to the trouble of asking the question, and

  3. Has special powers over the question (can delete or close the question at any rep level),

Therefore, they should have the final say over what goes in the question (even if it isn't as good as suggested alternatives) as long as it conforms to site policy and meta consensuses (eg. Be Nice, objective winning criteria, etc). Therefore, they should be the ones with final control over the question.

That being said, however, if your question could be improved, please do accept the improvements, or your question is likely to be heavily downvoted/closed.

So, in conclusion, given that the person who asks a question gets/loses rep from it, went to the effort of writing the question, and has special control over the question, they should be the one with final control over the question, with the caveat that the question conforms to site policy and meta consensuses.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem I see with this is that it makes it quite easy to permanently make the site worse; simply ask what could be a good question, but with some details that make it obnoxious, and refuse to change them. The question can't then be asked correctly because it would be a dupe, nor can it be fixed because of the rule you're proposing that the asker has the final say. \$\endgroup\$
    – user62131
    Jun 23, 2017 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying there aren't any problems with this. This is just my take on this issue. However to address your specific problem, questions with obnoxious details tend to get closed (usually as off-topic, or unclear), despite the fact that they shouldn't, just because they annoy everyone. Then, they can be asked again without being a dupe, and without the obnoxious details. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gryphon
    Jun 23, 2017 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that they usually get closed, I don't think that they should be closed. They should remain open and fixed. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2017 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying they should either, but it does happen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gryphon
    Jun 23, 2017 at 20:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ais523 if someone is deliberately sabotaging the site with a flawed question, in principle we could post a new question under someone else's name, and close the original as a duplicate. The community has the right to do both these things, as the content of the challenge is CC-BY-SA, although I wouldn't expect this to happen except in extreme circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2017 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that "with the caveat that the question conforms to site policy and meta consensus" means that this answer is saying that the challenge author can be overridden by the community on meta, just not by an individual editor. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2017 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank-you, @trichoplax. It does look like this isn't going to be the consensus, as it has 4 downvotes, but thanks for defending the proposal anyways. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gryphon
    Jun 27, 2017 at 23:06

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