Recently there has been a bit of debate as to whether this question is a duplicate of this question. So I though I would bring it to meta where we can have a constructive conversation, not only about those particular questions, but about questions like them in general.

Here is roughly what is happening so you don't have to read through the questions to get the idea:

The original question is a really hard question, at the time when the second question was asked it was unanswered (it has since been answered however). The second question is a lot more permissive it generalizes the task and scores answers on how close they are to completing the original task. That means that any answer from the original challenge will score a perfect score on the newer challenge.

This by the letter of the law runs afoul of our consensus on duplicates:

[W]hen we assess whether a challenge is a duplicate of another, we should ask ourselves "Can answers from one question be copied over to the other with little or no modification and still be competitive?"

However this is a tiny bit unsatisfactory for a couple of reasons:

  1. The newer question is a lot more approachable. Having a lower bar for entry users can compete without having to solve the really difficult challenge that was the older one while ambitious users can still compete at the higher level. This seems good for our site, and thus it seems detrimental to close the newer one as a duplicate.

  2. Some answers on the newer question can not be beaten by answers from the older challenge. Because of the difficulty of the older challenge it may be impossible to answer it in some languages that may be usable for the newer challenge. Since we view contests as being separated by language these answers would be competitive, perhaps even unbeatable, on the newer challenge but not allowed on the older challenge. It seems like we should have a place for these answers and the old question does not provide that.

So while these two specific questions are of no huge importance to the site it would be nice to have a general policy for this sort of conundrum.

I am not asking how the current policy applies to this situation. There have been some minor details pointed out about how the challenges are different, but for the sake of this question on meta I would like to assume that they are in fact duplicates under the current policy, and ask whether the application of the policy is good here or if we should amend the policy in some way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Point 2 doesn't seem to follow the consensus on duplicates. If some answers on the newer question cannot be beaten by answers from the older challenge then the answers on the old challenge are not competitive in the new challenge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Poke What Point 2 is trying to say is that some languages can't easily answer the harder challenge. The near-impossibility of writing an answer to a specific challenge in a specific language does not stop a hypothetical answer to that challenge in that language from being competitive were one to be written. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2019 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pppery Not just that some languages can't easily answer the harder challenge but that it may be mathematically impossible to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Aug 8, 2019 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Still irrelevant. If a question can't be answered in a certain language, then the statement that answers to the question in that language can be copied over to the easier question while remaning competitive is true by virtue of stating a property of all members of the empty set. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2019 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pppery Well I think that there is a big difference from possible but hard and not possible. You are correct that, as I mentioned in the original post, by the current consensus they are duplicates, however this question is not asking for clarification but rather asking as to whether an exception should be made for these sorts of cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Aug 8, 2019 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ And I was responding to Poke's upvoted comment saying they weren't duplicates under the current policy, and then your disagreement with my response, not the original question. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2019 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ The guide to judging duplicates is useful but subjective (due to the interpretation of "little modification"), even when applied to existing answers. It doesn't seem to make sense to try to apply it to hypothetical answers. In this particular case, both challenges cater to different answers and answerers, so both add something to the site, and I see no reason to close either. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2019 at 1:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting that having a different scoring method makes the two challenges more distinct. The two scoring methods are not as distinct as golf and fastest code, but the overlap does not lead to all answers to one being superseded by the answers to the other. The best answer to one challenge is also the best answer to the other challenge, but only for some languages, so I still wouldn't vote to mark either as a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2019 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @trichoplax Any interpretation of "little modification" is irrelevant, because answers to this possible duplicate can be copy-pasted literally verbatim and get a near-perfect score. The fact that the challenges may have different audiences (which I disagree with) does not mean that answers can't be directly copied, which is the policy for duplicates and thus itself a reason to close. The best answer to the stronger challenge, where present for a language, is always very-low-scoring in the weaker challenge which makes it unambiguously a duplicate under the current policy. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2019 at 1:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the huge scoring difference is the biggest problem with the inspiring example: The newer, general question has a scoring so coarse that it essentially obliterates the difference between a good and a bad answer to the old one. In other words, bad answers to the old question also become perfect answers to the new one. The duplicate policy is missing a converse criterion and this question pair unusually exposes it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2019 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


The purpose of the policy is that I shouldn't be able to reuse the same answer to multiple questions. It avoids negative effects including:

  1. Accusations of rep farming by submitting the same answer multiple times
  2. Accusations of stealing someone else's answer from the first question
  3. A multi-bump effect where whenever I improve my score I have to edit two answers and in so doing bump two questions.

In my opinion, the appropriate way to handle a situation where hard question A has been unanswered for a couple of months and I have an idea for easier variant B for which answers to A will be unbeatable is to engage the author of question A and propose that they edit it to variant B, if necessary using their original scoring criterion as a tie-breaker.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In this case, though, the original challenge was posted by a deleted user. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2019 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pppery, in that case I can propose the change on meta and see whether there's community support for it. (Technically that's also an option if the OP wants question A to be unchanged: by posting your question you grant the community the power to edit it. We tend to be reticent to take over someone's question against their will, though). \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2019 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. The weak version of the challenge is written better, since more answers will be allowed. \$\endgroup\$
    – mbomb007
    Sep 13, 2019 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Assuming consensus in favor of this is shown, I wouldn't object to merging the two challenges (including the necessary moderator action to merge to two answers), which I in fact prefer slightly to the weak version being closed as duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 13, 2019 at 22:01

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