More of a cautionary tale than a question...

I posted this question over my lunch hour earlier. (Briefly, generate some type 4 GUIDs using the cryptographic random number generator.)

I wanted to avoid "easy answers", so I came up with some rules. One of those easy answers was to grab 16 bytes of randomness and to drop in the six fixed bits, so I added the rule that random bits can't be wasted.

That rule would require that a fraction of a byte would need to be loaded from the random number generator (too hard) so I specified that the solution should output four GUIDs. That would allow the program to load a whole number of bytes and use some bit-fiddling to arrange them into four GUIDs.

So, with my "perfect" challenge in place, I posted it with my rules. No problem?

Trouble was, my rules probably seemed a bit too arbitrary and so were ignored. I had to later edit the challenge to explain why I made these rules. Only one of three answers posted as I type this actually conform to them.

tl/dr: Don't assume people will understand why you've put a rule in place.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Why shouldn't people obey the rules of the challenge anyway? After all, the entire question is arbitrarily created by the asker to create an interesting challenge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Οurous
    Jun 23, 2014 at 23:44
  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ @Ourous I'll still downvote answers that don't follow the rules (whether or not the rules seem arbitrary). The point is that if you explain them, you'll have less answers that blatantly ignore them. That means less downvotes and invalid answers. Less moderation required and less negatively voted answers is a good thing, IMO. \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Jun 24, 2014 at 16:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ But the rules are all that matters. The first winning criterium is always "follow the rules", and that should go without saying. If a question says "Print the word BLACK, but you can't use any of the letters B, L, A, C or K in your source", do people complain that the rules are restrictive, and it's much easier to forget about them? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr Lister
    Jun 27, 2014 at 7:16


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