Every time I post a question to the main site, it always seems there is something that I missed when posting it. How do I catch these issues?


4 Answers 4


Use the sandbox

Even for the most experienced challenges writers, catching all open questions and potential issues of a challenge can be difficult. That's what the Sandbox for Proposed Challenges is for: get help from the community to catch these things before going live on the main site.

As a rule of thumb, I saw that you used the sandbox once before, but sandboxing your challenge for less than two hours isn't terribly effective, as almost nobody will have seen it by then. I suggest waiting at least until your proposal has dropped of the first page (sorted by activity) or until a week has passed, whichever happens earlier.

  • \$\begingroup\$ im not a very patient guy 🙃 \$\endgroup\$
    – rigged
    Dec 22, 2017 at 14:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @bushdid911 Patience is a virtue :P It takes a while to get accustomed to the details of this site, and you need to be patient with others' suggestions to get better at writing good challenges. After writing a bunch of challenges, you eventually won't even need the sandbox anymore once you've gotten the hang of it :D \$\endgroup\$
    – hyper-neutrino Mod
    Dec 22, 2017 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HyperNeutrino That's not entirely true. The sandbox still provides valuable feedback on issues that are specific to your challenge. You may have misinformation about your topic, or you hadn't considered a brute force solution that you would have wanted to disallow, or there's some edge case you hadn't considered. Sure, perhaps another run-of-the-mill kolmogorov-complexity might not need it, but most posts do. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 22, 2017 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanMerrill You're absolutely correct. I phrased my point a bit incorrectly; I mostly meant that after getting the hang of it, some challenges you can skip sandbox (like what you said with the kolmo challenges). \$\endgroup\$
    – hyper-neutrino Mod
    Dec 22, 2017 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I have a challenge idea that I consider too simple to need the sandbox, I sandbox it anyway just in case. It's worth it for the times it turns out I overlooked something. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 12:15

Use the FAQs

In addition to Dennis' answer to use the Sandbox, we also have two FAQs related to challenge writing --

Things to avoid when writing challenges

Things to consider when creating a challenge


Write more questions

As it is with many things the best way to get better is to practice, and question writing is no exceptions. Every time you make an error or a misstep you learn to avoid it.

There is a lot that other users can do to help you, in the sandbox, in chat and through the FAQs, but there is also a great value in getting the feel of a fun clear question. Forming your own intuitions and systems for writing and proof reading questions can be extremely valuable.

Read more questions

It's practically a cliche at this point, but they say that to become a better writer you ought to read more. And I think this is true of questions as well. Reading more questions will also help you build the same skills as writing questions.

This works especially well if you spend time to think about how the question works. Here is my checklist for reading challenges

  • Try the challenge. Even if just a bit try the challenge to see how it feels when you are solving it.

  • Form an opinion. Do you like the challenge? What parts do you like what parts do you think are bad?

  • Ask yourself "How would I write this challenge?" You don't have to write up a whole draft but thinking about this can help you to get practice at writing challenges.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is excellent advice. I'd add a similar point: reading through the feedback that other people's sandbox posts receive is a great way to accelerate that learning process. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 12:18

I would agree with all of the sandbox suggestions and would add to leave your challenge there until there is at least some feedback. May be 2 days or may be a month. There is no rush to put the challenge live and waiting and getting it right can save a lot of downvotes. There is no rule that says we have to go to the sandbox and give feedback but many of the more experienced members have helped me there with previous challenges. I thank them for that. I have also written (not particularly golfed) reference implementations for all of mine. This helps me understand any ambiguities in what I am asking. Works for me and hopefully will help you too.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I know a lot of people find it difficult to wait a week for feedback when they are keen to get on with posting a challenge. One way I deal with this is moving on to draft another sandbox challenge while I wait for feedback on the first. I see no problem with having a number of sandbox posts, posting them to main in the order they become ready, rather than in their original order. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 12:21

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