34 out of the last 50 pop-cons were closed (that's from about the middle of 2015).
Should we retire popularity-contest?
To come back to it after over a year. Should we end the popcon?
Yes, keep it.
Is closing an off-topic question really that hard? If it's off-topic, it's off-topic. If it's a pop-con, then that's just an unfortunate misunderstanding of the tag at hand. If we were to remove pop-con, you'd consequently remove some of the (arguably) most interesting challenges on this site. Quite frankly, if all I get to see on this site are trivial variants on OEIS sequences, primes, quines, I don't see the point in participating. It's those few challenges that keep me going.
Particularly, Write a Programming language of Unknown Completeness. While the answers generated from it weren't 100-upvote worthy, they were quite interesting; they showed how certain conjectures could be exploited in a programming language. This remains one of my favorite challenges on this site.
Another pop-con I like is Patch the Paragraph. I feel like this site could grow from challenges like this--the correct pop-con.
Yes. Those six closed questions weren't "bad" questions, just off-topic (and one dupe). Off-topic questions in a tag don't justify the removal of the pop-con tag, neither do a majority of off-topic questions on a tag that receives little attention as it is.
I personally think we should, just like with code-trolling and underhand there was too much bad for the good.
No. Code trolling and underhanded were removed because it was a negative influence on the type of challenges and answers this site received.
We just keep closing them over and over.
Yes, we do often close pop-con questions, due to their nature. But remember: we had to close 6 (six) questions this year. Only six! And we were able to get such a nice question off of the tag. This is only "over and over" for the impatient.
If there is so much bad for the good why should we keep it.
You certainly can't justify the removal of something due to the bad parts of it.
Pretend you're a preschool teacher. Just because half the children in a kindergarten class are little miscreants, doesn't mean you should quite teaching as a whole.
Let's take a more extreme example. There have been some really bad humans in our history. In fact, there has been a lot of nasty people. If there's been "so much" bad in the human race, why should we keep it? Should we all off ourselves because there are some bad people in our midst? Or should we try and mitigate the damage of the offenders and try to learn and improve as a race?
I am thoroughly of the opinion that the pop-con is a redeemable question type. So long as we have gems from the pop-con tag, it is worth keeping.
Quoting my comments (and fixing some spelling errors):
Given that most people don't really accept answers (citation needed, personal experience), and that it's significantly hard to be the "shortest" or winning answer, there really isn't any incentive besides the hard-and-fast rules to golf your code; thus, one must usually code with the intent of enjoying it. Part of this enjoyment comes from receiving votes. If you don't receive votes for what you worked hard on, then you aren't enjoying the process as much, and can thus consider yourself to have wasted time. In this light, it's much more advantageous to treat a code golf as a popularity contest. How do you win a popularity contest? Well, there's two solid ways: do something truly incredible, or do something "for the meme". Consciously or not, code-golf is really just a popularity contest in disguise. The winning criterion is a joke made for those who are students of Jelly.
I honestly doubt that allowing the popularity will significantly affect the quality of the questions on this site. I also believe that banning the popularity contest wouldn't have much effect either. Why do I care? Because I remember a time where this site was pretty fun. The community wasn't the best, but there were folks who I really enjoyed being with and spending time with. They have, for the most part, moved on from this site. I am here still because I enjoy code golf and I enjoy developing and testing my languages. I enjoy votes, but I don't consider them the end of answering on this site. IF I did, well, I would've moved on.
There are people who have moved on because this site has grown and changed. They believe that the "fun" of underhanded and code-trolling has left the site. And it almost has. The one vestige of interest left in this site in that respect is the rare popularity contest. I doubt few still hang on to this site because of the existence of the popularity contest. I know that if it is removed, there are people who will become just slightly less interested in this site, myself included.
This second answer is a bit of a write up of my thoughts after some discussion about my previous answer. Everything I said in the last answer I still believe is true, but I would like to put this as a separate answer because it has different points than the last.
This site is for programming competitions, I think we all agree on that. But I think thats not what we are all here for. I, myself, do not like programming. I'm not really a programmer, I find it frustrating and boring to write code longer than a few lines. I do like puzzles though especially competitive ones. I have found that despite my distain for programming, this is a great place where I can participate in a competitive, concrete task, that involves not only solving a puzzle but making your solution as good as possible.
It should be no wonder that I don't like Popularity Contests, they are much more about programming in a abstract creative sense. The only goal is to make code that people like. And I don't find writing or reading code to be inherently fun, so I probably wouldn't find pop-cons fun.
Most people are probably not in the same boat as I. Most people are probably here because they like programming and these competitions are a great way to program with a community. In this way popularity contests appeal to the core demographic, they are about programming. Often times they are even real world tasks, like patch the image. If you were here just for programming, popularity contests would probably be the best tag for you.
But I don't think the site is about programming.
As I opened this section "This site is for programming competitions". And I think that is the issue here. Popularity contests are not competitions and are thus out of scope for the site. The occupy this weird space where they appeal to the core demographic but ultimately fall just outside of the scope of the site.
Now's about when you might ask:
But surely popularity contests are competitions, right? They have objective winning criteria, so they are competitions?
Well here I am going to dissect something said by Conor O'Brien as a comment to my last post
Conciously or not, code-golf is really just a popularity contest in disguise. The winning critereon is a joke made for those who are students of Jelly.
I think Conor is right in some ways here. For many of us the goal of posting an answer is to gain reputation, to score imaginary internet points and to win the admiration and respect of our peers. Votes drive us to answer, golfing or optimizing are just ways to convince people to click the up vote and give you reputation. If you remove the winning criterion from a challenge, people are just going to do what they think gets the most votes. This is in essence what a popularity contest is. The only goal is to get as many votes as possible. And in that way they are no different than challenges without a winning criterion.
This leads me to believe that pop-cons are not competitions. They are about programming which is one half of the site's purpose, but they are not about competitions, which is another half of the site, that, in my opinion, is just as important. I don't think we should allow challenges that are not competitions.
This means, by the way, that we should not allow questions that are not about programming. I asked if such questions should be on topic ealier here where the consensus was, if its not directly about programming you should restructure the question so it is about programming. This seems to imply, at least to me, that questions that cannot me made into some sort of challenge about writing code are not on topic. For example here's a CMC from @DJMcMayhem where no code is required:
What's the longest English word that contains words of length 1 to N in it? For example, Path is valid because it contains words from 1 to 4 (a, at, pat, and path)
This fits all the criteria for being a contest, but it is not about programming. Answers here would just be english words not programs. This would also be off-topic. And I have confidence that if it were posted now it would be closed as such. I see popularity contests as a different side of the same coin, they are about programming but they are not contests.
To sum this up here's a Venn diagram that hopefully expresses what I am trying to convey.
Overall pop-cons are probably not bad. I don't like them but some people do like them. But I do think, regardless of their quality, pop-cons should be hosted elsewhere. A while ago /r/programming had a faux pop-con to make the worst possible volume slider, and I think that reddit might be a better home for the pop-con style.
So should we kill the pop-con? I think the answer is yes. Hopefully I've at least made it clear why I think that.
I like PPCG because it inspires creative solutions I'd never have considered, usually using techniques I didn't know about (or wouldn't have thought of). In code-golf, more often than not this is done by rearranging the order operations are done, or working out which approach can cut out the most redundant steps. Which I love. Even in Jelly where I can't read a thing, looking at the explanations is typically pretty impressive.
Popularity contests also inspire creative solutions, but instead of answers using algorithms creatively, they use languages creatively. Usually, this means a good answer in a popularity contests ends up teaching people something new about a language they like. In fact, it's almost guaranteed to be that way (almost). People are more likely to upvote answers that impress them, and using a common language in an atypical way is usually pretty impressive.
Consider this answer to outputting 42 and this answer to make 2+2=5. The first is in C and uses the literal "cut-and-paste" aspect of macros to play with the order of operations. I myself had no idea you could do math between terms in different macros. While I'd probably never use it to make six*nine equal 42, it's something I'll consider the next time my macros are acting all screwy.
The second answer is in Java, and redefines Java's definition of 4. If I went into all the reasons that's amazing I'd never finish this answer.
We also have sort of de facto popularity contest answers, like outputting 2014 without using numbers and this absolutely gorgeous answer to outputting "Hello, World!". The fact that each has so many votes means lots of people like answers like this, even in a code-golf setting. Doesn't it make sense to let people specifically state that they're looking for clever answers like this instead of force users to post that kind of answer out of place (or worse, not at all)?
In my opinion, people clearly like clever answers that aren't necessarily the shortest, and that's ok. code-golf is only half of our name. We also have cops-and-robbers threads, and although ties usually go to the shortest code, that's obviously not the point of those challenges.
I think if the only thing we're concerned about is writing short code, then sure, kill popularity-contest. But is that really all we're concerned about?
This is my opinion I know it might be a little on the extreme side of things. If you disagree with me just remember we both want what is best for the site : )
The pop-con is a good idea, it allows us to ask questions with out being confined to the problems of mathematically defining a criteria. In theory it promotes creative and interesting answers.
But there is a problem. That problem is that votes don't really measure anything. The intention is that votes would represent cleverness, creativity and good work, but they don't. It seems that the only thing votes are consistently able to measure is how quickly an answer was posted. I asked a pop con myself, which I have seen hailed as a "good example of a pop-con" by more than one user. Here it is, take a look at the answers, not only are they mostly rather low quality (all of them pretty much do what I suggested a good answer would not do) but there is not much meaning to how they are ranked. If this is a "good" pop-con then why is there any question if they should exist?
We have decided as a site that Fastest Guns in the west is not a winning criteria, so why should a criteria that is very heavily influenced by it be valid. Fastest Guns in the west does measure something while Popularity contests only tangentially measure a number of things.
I often see users complaining about the broken voting culture on this site, primarily influenced by the HNQ. People complain about high quality answers not getting enough votes and low effort, quick answers getting way too many votes. I feel this way myself.
It baffles me to see so many complaints about how inaccurate and broken voting is and to simultaneously ask questions that are scored entirely based on voting. If good answers are not getting votes elsewhere why would we expect them to on a popularity contest?
It is my belief that scoring should encourage people to craft the most interesting highest quality answers, using clever techniques and knowledge of the subject area, and it is also my belief that the popularity-contest does not do that.
If the voting culture is bad why would we want a challenge that revolves around voting culture?
I know that it may be extreme but I just want to say that I think it is for the best :)
Some stats. 34 out of the last 50 Pop cons were closed. That reaches into Jul 23 '15! Think about how many. Only 2 were dupes the rest were just closed. That is 68% close rate. Some of them should be closed but are just older and the VTC was different.
When someone FGITW a post with a optimized answer it often turns out badly. Why do you want a challenge that FGITW is often the best way to win? The challenge is more about luck then about skill. It is just a fact that the earlier answers (even by a day) will get many more upvotes then other answers. As Pop-cons often have easier challenges some of the better answers are instantly in the 2nd or 3rd page. It doesn't really show the real skill.
I personally find the voting culture annoying. A one byte answer by Jelly gets 66 upvotes while my and many other answers remain at 1 upvote. Even with the same length and the same lack of clever code but since Jelly is "cool" and it was posted fast it ends up with many more votes. It is really out of wack (now I understand that people can vote how they want) and having entire challenges around a "broken" culture makes the very challenges "broken".
Anyways, thank you for your time reading this. I know it was a decent read but just remember that I really care about this website and hope everything turns out fine!
Wheat Wizard made some good points in his follow-up answer.
Most people are probably here because they like programming and these competitions are a great way to program with a community. In this way popularity contests appeal to the core demographic, they are about programming. Often times they are even real world tasks, like patch the image. If you were here just for programming, popularity contests would probably be the best tag for you.
As stated above, popularity contests could appeal to a large group of users. Wheat Wizard continues to argue that while many like pop-cons, they are off-topic. But that's not true: no one tells us what is off-topic, but we ourselves decide it here at meta.
I know that there are also many who don't want to see pop-cons, and that is fine. Simply don't open or answer pop-con questions, if you don't like them. Not liking is not a reason to ban the fun for all.
Yes, some answers are low-quality, but is that really a reason to ban all questions? Bad answers should be down-voted, but I don't even think that they should be deleted.
When the code-trolling question were forbidden, it was argued that they create negative reputation for the site. I agree that code-trolling was kind of stupid, but most popularity contests are not: majority of them are clever and inspire users to create beautiful answers.
Popularity contests are a great way to show creativity and skills. Allowing them is not away from anyone, and does not harm anyone. Code-golfers can golf and so on.
We should encourage people to make pop-cons, even if some of them end up to be bad. The more we create them, the more easy should it become. I would like to see in future that both new and experienced users ask pop-con questions with low threshold.
Some people would say that the title of this site should be shortened to
Programming Puzzles & Code Golf. They have a good point because 95% of the questions here are code-golf, and the second most popular type of question, code-challenge, are usually just a variant on code golf with scoring that is not purely based on byte count (usually
So if you agree that the main spirit of this site is code golf, maybe we need to apply the golfing philosophy to make popularity-contest suitable for this site. Some questions require human judgement to discern the best answer. To respond to the comment, "Popularity contests aren't competitions," are pie-baking contests, where tasters vote on their favorite pie, not competitions?
To make a long story short, all I'm suggesting is placing difficult byte-count limits on pop con questions, in order to bring the golfing spirit to pop cons. Some say that this overly disadvantages non-golfing languages, however those have more access to libraries, which are often much needed in pop cons.