As explained in our policy on serious contenders, this answer is not a serious contender because it is deliberately crafted to get a low score (the only way it could win is if there were no other entries). Several others seem to agree.

As per our policy on invalid/unacceptable answers, I flagged the answer with a custom moderator flag on January 27, 2016. It was marked as helpful:

helpful flag

However, nearly 2 years later, the answer still hasn't been deleted. This goes against our policy, as far as I can tell: if it is a non-serious answer, leaving it as a broken window that signals that making other non-serious answers is acceptable.

Why is this answer still around? If it is actually a serious contender, then why was the flag validated? The mixed signals are causing confusion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe this will shed some light over the issue. Alternatively, I think mods wait at least 48 hours after the first warning before deleting the answer; a lot of times it's forgotten (speaking empirically). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Similarly, the top-voted answer on the site is not a serious contender either (IMO), it doesn’t even remove unnecessary spaces and such. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr. Xcoder
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:05
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @EriktheOutgolfer The OP does not have the final say just because they are the OP when it is a matter of site-wide policy and quality. \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:05
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I see 1 comment on that answer for it being deleted. I count at least 4 that are in favor of leaving it up... \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not even summing all the comment votes (since some people presumably voted on both), the highest voted comment in favor of leaving it is triple the score of the lone comment proposing deletion. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Riker "I like this answer" is not a valid reason for overriding site policy. Why even have rules if users can ignore them? \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego site policy is "delete non-serious answers". Face it, the majority of people disagree with your assessment of it being a "non-serious answer". IMHO, policies like that should run as majority votes. The majority of people disagree here. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Riker There is no conceivable way that the answer could possibly contend with other, serious answers. The only way it could conceivably win is if no serious answers were posted. By our definition, that makes it not a serious contender, and therefore should be deleted. The undue adolation it received is a slap in the face to those who actually put effort into their submissions to get a better score, but ended up receiving much less recognition (in the form of votes) for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego the reason it got so many votes was likely because of the attention it received after having its validity called into doubt. PPCG is subject to "the meta effect" too. And it's honestly not that far from some more "serious" answers, see the java one and the HTML one. However inefficient, an average of the pixels is still a valid method. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Riker This question isn't just about whether or not the answer is a serious contender (which I still hold that it is not, and you haven't disputed any of the points that I have raised about our definition of serious contenders) - it's also (mostly?) about the inconsistency of enforcing the policy (validating the flag, but not following through and deleting the answer). \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego that's because I'm writing an answer, almost done. Also, it looks to me that the mod who validated the flag appreciated the notice, but decided not do to anything about it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego You might want to edit. I'm re-reading the question, and it appears to be discussing the validity of the answer, not the mod flag issue.. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Steadybox Answers posted prior to a policy being formed (or in this case, a vague policy being clarified) aren't immune to the policy. \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ If this answer counts as a "serious contender", then I have to wonder what wouldn't count. \$\endgroup\$
    – xnor
    Jan 10 '18 at 19:02
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ ... what about locking the answer, prevent any more upvotes? \$\endgroup\$
    Jan 11 '18 at 8:31

Why was the mod flag marked helpful, but the answer not deleted?

The most likely answer to that is because it was "helpful". The single comment proposing deletion for that answer was by a mod. The mods likely appreciated the notice, but they couldn't do much about it, since the community had pretty clearly voted in favor of not deleting it. See the comments on the answer.

@AlexA. I disagree. This is a valid, if simplistic solution. I doubt there would be any call to remove it if it wasn't so highly upvoted or if it were only one of a couple answers. – Calvin's Hobbies Jan 27 '16

[...] it doesn’t invalidate the approach and it’s most certainly not a joke answer. [...] Konrad Rudolph

Personally I think this is a fine answer, well within the spirit of the question. – Nathaniel Jan 28 '16

There is only one comment in favor of deletion on the post, and it has very few comment upvotes compared to the rest (11 vs 38/15/25).

Site policy is based on the community consensus.

If the community decides something is allowed, then it's allowed. That's the way Stack Exchange works. The majority vote in this case is that the answer doesn't fall under the ruling of "non-serious answer". Here is a breakdown of the "serious answer" rules.

Breakdown of points in the linked meta

A serious contender is a submission which makes a serious effort towards optimizing the submission's score within the chosen language(s) and other choices (such as algorithm choice or optional restrictions/bonuses taken).

Does it fit this? It's debatable. It does use an algorithm that makes an attempt to solve the challenge. It's definitely inefficient, but such is life. That algorithm was not very well suited to the challenge. Just because it's a bad choice of algorithm, and it was known to be such, doesn't necessarily mean it's not allowed. IMHO, that's like banning Java from a challenge, simply because it has no chance of winning.

In code challenges, deliberately crafting a solution that gets a poor score.

I don't think it was deliberately crafted to have a poor score, but OP definitely knew it wasn't going to win. But again, IMHO, just because that algorithm is horrible doesn't mean it's not allowed. See the "banning Java" argument in the last paragraph.

In short, if the only way a submission could win a challenge (either overall or within its set of choices for language(s), algorithm(s), and/or other relevant categories for the challenge) is if no other solutions were posted, it's almost certainly not a serious contender (like the linked submission above).

This says right there:

win a challenge, within its set of choices for [...] algorithm(s)

For the algorithm of "best answer that finds the average color", this answer definitely made an attempt. The OP even edited when another user commented with a tipoff that a different color was a tiny bit better.

Note that this does not exclude using a more-verbose language or lengthier approach in code golf, since submissions in all programming languages are welcome, and different submissions in the same language are acceptable so long as the differences are non-trivial.

I see no reason why code-golf should be special here. If our current site policy is to allow duplicate answers (short of plagiarism of course), including ones in the same language with different lengths, by those rules a less efficient algorithm should be allowed.

TL;DR: The community disagrees with your assessment that the answer is "not a serious contender". The moderator presumably saw your flag, and presumably appreciated the notice, but declined to do anything about it.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO, that's like banning Java from a challenge, simply because it has no chance of winning. - That's addressed in the definition of a serious contender. Choosing a deliberately inefficient approach is not being competitive. The solution's author even said that it wasn't meant to be competitive. There is a difference between "a less-efficient algorithm" and "an approach that has no chance of being competitive". \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego well, java has really no chance of being competitive in 90% of challenges too. I don't really agree with what you're saying. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps because you are not really reading what I am saying? The serious contender policy makes a concession for less-than-optimal approaches (like Java in code golf). It does not make a concession for blatantly terrible approaches (like brute force in fastest code). This falls under the "blatantly terrible" category - its score is orders of magnitude worse than serious approaches. \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 18:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego it's actually not. It's around 116% of the largest other approach. It is around triple most good approaches, but that's kinda to be expected (a wide range). \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '18 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so "orders of magnitude" is an exaggeration. Still, it's very clearly much worse than other, serious answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user45941
    Jan 10 '18 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO, that's like banning Java from a challenge, simply because it has no chance of winning I strongly disagree. Java (or brain-fuck/flak, C++, whatever verbose language you pick) can still put a lot of effort into shortening their answer. And there can also be crappy answers that put in no attempt at golfing in Jelly. This answer of mine is relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – DJMcMayhem
    Jan 10 '18 at 19:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 from me. I really like your comparison between excluding languages and excluding algorithms. There are certainly challenges where there are multiple answers in the same language but one algorithm has a lower bytecount. In this case the algorithm was "pick a color". At least the answerer picked the best one thus optimizing the algorithm \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Jan 10 '18 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think "it is competitive in its algorithm class" is a fine argument, but it opens the very subjective question of what makes an algorithm an acceptable approach. There are plenty of algorithms that make no attempt to solve the problem, and plenty of algorithms that do an excellent job, but in between there is a wide grey area. I think this is one of those things that is going to remain steadfastly subjective. \$\endgroup\$
    – trichoplax
    Jan 25 '18 at 21:30

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