Currently it seems it is not so clear what happens if person B posts a challenge that is a duplicate of another challenge person A had already sandboxed.

While any user contributions on SE are licensed under CC BY-SA can legally be copied and altered if attribution is provided, I still think it is impolite and disrespectful to "steal" (i.e. post without consent) something that someone else has already put effort in, even if you came up with the same idea yourself.

We do have a policy on using abandoned sandboxed questions, where consent is assumed if there is no objection within two weeks.

This leaves us with the question: What do we do with challenges that are dupes of sandboxed posts and were posted without the consent of the author of the latter?

Should they be closed? Can they stay open? Is there another alternative?

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ In general it's possible for multiple people to have the same idea so we'd need to make sure the challenge is actually stolen from the sandbox rather than the same idea by a different person. Aside from that this comes down to an "issue" of approval in the sandbox not being required to post challenges. Really the problem goes back to the fact that we're using a Q&A site for challenges. For normal Q&A you don't care if someone posts your question because it will be answered. Even if you take ownership of an abandoned sandbox post you should likely repost to the sandbox and link to the original. \$\endgroup\$
    – Poke
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Poke Since we require people to first search for duplicates (and close them if there are any) I think the same should apply for sandboxed post: People should also check the sandboxed posts for duplicates. In that sense this includes "the same idea by a different person" as we also treat it that way on main. \$\endgroup\$
    – flawr
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 16:00

3 Answers 3


Assume good faith - do nothing besides inform the user

The general rule on stack exchange sites is to assume that questions are asked in good faith. I do not think it is likely for anyone to maliciously post content from the sandbox on this site since they have very little to gain. Therefore I would usually assume this was an accident and just inform the user of what happened. We can suggest they delete and move to the sandbox, or take action in crediting the other user, etc. but I don't think this needs to be handled as strongly as the case of posting duplicates.

I think this case differs significantly from the case of duplicates in a few ways. The most important is searchability. Posts on the actual site are (usually) of high quality and contain several helpful searchable benefits like tags and links to other related questions. Sandbox posts, on the other hand, often do not contain tags, and even if they do, they are not as easily searchable.

Sandbox posts are also frequently unclear, and likely have no solutions posted yet. This makes the question of determining whether a challenge is a duplicate even more difficult. Frequently challenges are left open until enough responses show degenerate relationships to other posts that the community becomes confident enough to close it. For these reasons, I think it is unreasonable to hold users to the task of determining if their post is a duplicate of one that has been sandboxed.

Of course, if a user performs this unreasonably often, or if the copying appears egregious, then the flag tool is waiting to signal for our friendly neighbourhood mods to nuke it from orbit politely handle it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What if the user is aware of the sandboxed challenge? (E.g. if they mention it in their challenge, or commented on the sandboxed challenge?) \$\endgroup\$
    – flawr
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 7:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @flawr I'm not sure that really makes much difference, since I think a user that did that would have posted it either: because they thought their post was sufficiently different, or they are totally ignorant of how the site behaves. The case where the user is directly malicious and does this anyway (not a very good idea) is still something that should be flagged. The other two only warrant a comment in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 14:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 from me. I think if the challenge is copied word for word, or code is stolen from a KoTH controller or something like that is completely different than someone posting a challenge that happens to be similar to a sandbox post. The sandbox has literally thousands of posts in it, so posting an answer in there and abandoning it doesn't give you carte blanche to say no one can post a challenge similar to that ever. \$\endgroup\$
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DJMcMayhem It is not the case that a sandboxed post can't ever be used by anyone else again: We agreed that if you want to use someone's idea you can ask them and that even if they do not respond the consent is implied after two weeks. \$\endgroup\$
    – flawr
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 10:05

What do we do with challenges that are dupes of Sandbox challenges?


The Sandbox functions 100% on the honor system with CC-BY-SA, but there is nothing that can actually be done if someone doesn't utilize the Sandbox "correctly." (for various interpretations of "correct")

Close as off-topic? Nope, it's actually very on-topic. Close as duplicate? Nope, there doesn't exist another challenge to target. Close as unclear or belongs on SO? Hopefully not.

What can you as an individual do?

Some things. If the challenge still isn't ready, close as unclear. Don't participate on the challenge if you feel compelled to maintain morals. Discuss with the author of the challenge in chat and educate them to your opinion. Discuss with others. Etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that there is nothing we can do - closing is something we can do to disincentivize something like this. The current selection of closing reasons shouldn't be the thing holding us back. (One could e.g. make a place holder question as a dupe target specifically for cases like these.) \$\endgroup\$
    – flawr
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 17:47

Close the challenge - Reopen after two weeks if author of sandboxed post does not object

As @trichoplax mentioned, there is a gray zone, e.g. when the the post in the sandbox is just a rough idea, while the post is a fully specified challenge. What I suggest here covers cases where there is a challenge in the sandbox that has already had some effort put into it.

If we would not close those questions we would on the one hand tolerate this behaviour but on the other hand also disencourage the use of the sandbox.

In line with the policy about abandoned sandbox posts, I suggest we close the challenge and notify the author of the sandboxed post. If the author does not object within two weeks, the challenge can be reopened. This is also what we would do if the sandboxed post was just a regular post on main.

Otherwise the challenge will remain closed. If the author decides to post the challenge then this post can be used as a dupe target for the closed challenge.

If you as an author do have a challenge in the sandbox that you do not intend to post, you can also mark them and explicitly say that they are free for anyone to take (see e.g. here), and if it is ready to be posted you can also include them in our Secret Santa.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm in favour of this approach where it is practically the same challenge (I'd much prefer this to downvoting someone who unknowingly happened to post the same challenge). However, I'd expect lots of grey area cases where a challenge sounds dissimilar to a sandboxed post but meets our criteria for being a duplicate. This approach may still sometimes appear fair, but in some cases may not. For example, if I post a rough idea for a challenge in the sandbox and then forget about it for a couple of years, and then someone posts a much better specified complete challenge, it may seem unreasonable \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 18:39

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