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Should we consider planning to move Code Golf to our own site outside the Stack Exchange network?

Reasons to consider leaving

This post was spurred by recent events, but it's been in my mind for a while. Stack Exchange has been losing community trust for years. If you haven't followed main Meta and its many controversies, a few good starting points are Dennis's resignation yesterday, this SO Meta post on the site's direction, their aggressive ads, and their unilateral TOS changes and relicensing. More and more, I feel uneasy associating with and monetarily benefiting SE through my participation.

In more practical terms, I'm not confident that Stack Exchange Inc. will remain financially solvent and keep their servers running in the years to come. Large layoffs in the past, new VC funding forcing aggressive monetization, and a just-appointed new CEO make me uncertain for SE's future.

Separately, having our own site could free us from limitations of a format designed for Q&A and let us implement features tailored to challenges and code golf. Consider the flaws of SE we've had to wrestle with, like FGITW and HNQ encouraging boring challenges and trivial solutions, fostering a culture that led ais523 to delete their account.

Planning for the future

Should SE die in body or in spirit, I'd very much like our code golf community to keep going. And were this to happen, I think we'd be in a much better position to have put some thought into plans to migrate off site in advance.

I don't take a suggestion to move lightly, or even necessarily favor it myself at this point. Stack Exchange has provided us with loads of support, infrastructure, and publicity. They have graciously treated us as a real SE site even though our challenge-based format is a round peg in their square Q&A hole. They recently made us a custom site design and supported our unusual renaming. We may not fully appreciate how much SE provides until we have to handle it all ourselves, especially for us non-mods who aren't privy to sensitive issues being resolved discreetly behind the scenes.

An effort to build our own site, Axtell, has made amazing progress but has gone on hiatus. Perhaps it could be revived with renewed interest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hope we don't have to, but I fear we do. \$\endgroup\$ – flawr Sep 30 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it even be a possibility? As in, moving a community usually results in splitting a community and the amount of hardware, technical know-how and spare time involved is quite large. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Sep 30 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've lost count of how many times ais523 deleted and re-created an account... \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Sep 30 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hopefully this doesn't get taken as a sign of disloyalty from the corporate parent... I hope StackOverflow takes this as the call to change that it is rather than a reason to discontinue the community. \$\endgroup\$ – Beefster Oct 1 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm just following if a new site is completed. Axtell is closed? \$\endgroup\$ – HighlyRadioactive Oct 3 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mast I don't know. In terms of making and running a site, I think our community is in a relatively good position to try. Our now-former mod Dennis made and maintains tio.run, and I had mentioned community project Axtell which I think had a workable demo with a decent feature list at some point. But again, I really have no sense of what would go into running our own community site. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Oct 4 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a Discord server or something that could act as a sort of escape pod for this community should this site be taken down before a new site is built? \$\endgroup\$ – Beefster Oct 4 at 2:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ ^ Regarding my previous comment: if there is not already an escape pod, I would be willing to create one if I get a few volunteers to moderate. I don't exactly want to be a moderator, but I'm happy to contribute. \$\endgroup\$ – Beefster Oct 4 at 3:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Beefster There is a discord server already: discord.gg/hqRTjjT it's not very active. \$\endgroup\$ – DJMcMayhem Oct 4 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand nothing, what would be my behavior? I continue to post or not? \$\endgroup\$ – RosLuP Oct 20 at 8:10
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It wouldn't be a move

Rather, the new site would be another community (built on the experience of this). Users of the new site would not necessarily be the same we now have on this site. The current Code Golf site would not cease to exist just because we created another one. Many users would be in both communities at the same time. So, I don't see that hypothetical situation as a move, but rather as a coexistence of the two sites, possibly competing with each other.

There's also the issue, noted by @manatwork, of potential cross-duplicates between both sites. Would we close a challenge as a "duplicate" because it already exists in the current site?

There are issues that would need to be sorted out first

Moving to creating an alternative site is a lot of work, and (as pointed out in the question) running it will raise some issues. How much financial support does it require? How to get visibility? Does it have to have employees, or can it be run on a volunteer basis only?

If we really want to start planning for the site, we probably need to deal with these (boring) issues before getting into the programming and technical aspects. Because if those issues can't be solved there is no point in creating a new site.

I don't see it as necessary, at least for now

Clearly, the way the Stack Exchange community has been treated by the Stack Exchange company is... far from optimal to say the least. And we could start working on a site design just in case things get worse. But as of today I don't think there's a need or motivation for that. I dislike the events mentioned in the question (and I hope to have Dennis back as a mod after things are sorted out); but overall I feel pretty happy here, in the current site, with its awesome community.

If things get worse (and I really hope they won't), then we would have the motivation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Without HNQ I think a large part of the community may not have joined codegolf.SE. Visibility is a real problem indeed. \$\endgroup\$ – Sanchises Oct 1 at 7:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sanchises Actually that's how I knew about PPCG back then \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Oct 1 at 8:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ “It wouldn't be a move” — Indeed. Even if members move, the challenges will stay. Then would we allow old challenges posted on the new site too or would we reject old challenges as already seen on CGCC? \$\endgroup\$ – manatwork Oct 1 at 9:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @manatwork, the challenges are licensed under CC-BY-SA. A fork wouldn't be able to sensibly transfer votes or rep, but it could transfer questions and answers. And account association could be managed by asking users who claim an account to edit a verification code into their PPCG profile. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Oct 1 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor Account association is actually much easier - SE is an OAuth provider. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Oct 1 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego, oh, I thought they'd ditched OAuth completely a year or two ago. Maybe they only ditched letting you use other providers. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Oct 1 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ archive.org/details/stackexchange \$\endgroup\$ – ngn Oct 1 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor Transfering questions and answers? I can see it now... "This site's content is under CC-BY-SA 3 or 4, we're just not sure which parts are which." \$\endgroup\$ – Ørjan Johansen Oct 2 at 2:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd personally vote for all-new questions. Yes, we'd get a "duplicate" quine challenge, and many identical solutions, as long as the challenge and answer weren't copied/pasted from here, we'd be fine. And if they were copy/pasted, they can attribute. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Oct 2 at 16:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that there isn't a need now to start a new community. Still, it seems SE is less than stable and we'd be best to think about fallbacks in advance. As you say, making a new site would require first settling some kind-of boring questions, and I think it would be hard to motivate this if it's not clear the end result would get any use. I'm tentatively up for waiting to see if (when?) things get worse. What concerns me though is how quickly things on SE could blow up -- just look at the recent kerfuffle -- compared to how slow building a new site would be. I don't have a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Oct 4 at 1:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor I totally agree. Very well put. And I have learned a new word, "kerfuffle" :-D \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Oct 4 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LuisMendo snafu would also fit. \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Oct 4 at 13:48
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After seeing the updated COC, I'm going to contribute as little as possible. I still sometimes need to find existing answers, but I refuse to contribute answers or content to a website under such leadership.

I'm up for finding/creating a better community.


Most Important Post I've found so far

  • This contains the comments that the moderator (Monica) made before Monica was fired. It shows just how messed up SE is that they fired a mod for that. In addition, the question itself shows how inadequate SE's response is, and the other answers provide more insight as to what we as a community whole want to see from SE.

Relevant News Story


Stack Exchange has does a decent job so far in helping us out with our custom requests and designs.

Unfortunately, their recent controversial choices and leadership seem to be in conflict with the best interests of its users. We don't desire a thought-police Question/Biased Answer site where they can change content licensing when they want. We need a site that reflects our desires for transparency, trustworthiness, and level-headed moderation, a place where competing views may all be voiced and discussed without fear of being shut down because it's not the "right" one.

If we as a community can agree that this site no longer meets our needs, then perhaps it is time to move.

Personally, I think we can wait another week or two to see how Stack Exchange responds, since they haven't yet, but after that we should maybe hold a referendum or meeting or debate or something.


This issue seems to be complex.

To some, it's an issue of minority rights. To others, it's about the CC-BY-SA update and its (non-)legality. To many, it includes what happened in the past. And to most, it makes people mad or upset in one way or another [citation needed].

CC-BY-SA 4.0

I think we can all agree that SE doesn't have the right to upgrade our content from 3.0 to 4.0.

About mod removal and CoC

Having glanced at some of the new SE meta posts, it seems that a mod was removed because the director thought they might in the future violate an upcoming change to the Code of Conduct. This is not appropriate.

Personal view (TLDR, freedom of speech is important): I think that people should be able to object to being forced to use specific pronouns. It's not misgendering if someone uses your username online instead of your pronouns, because we are all (relatively) anonymous users online. You have the right to ask for someone to refer to you a certain way, but you shouldn't have the right to force someone to say what they don't agree with. While it may make you feel more welcome by receiving affirmation, it makes the other user feel unwelcome. Respecting differing views is important, and quite frankly, if someone is using a name/username/alias to refer to a user instead of pronouns, that is a good compromise. I rarely use pronouns to refer to users on SE because I don't know anyone here personally.

So in summary, I agree with Monica, and if Stack Exchange starts policing speech as "hateful" that is not hateful, but is rather just disagreeing with their views, and begins firing mods without a discussion or chance to work through the problem, it shows they care more about their power and ideals than about the entirety of their user-base.

In the meantime, I have deliberately not been checking the review queue. I have not been golfing much lately, but I was visiting the site and meta nearly every day, and more than 12% of all reviews on meta are by me.


(Sorry for bumping, but we are still processing what is happening, so I will edit this as new ideas are brought forth.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of holding a meeting/referendum to discuss the future of this site. It would be great to hear the input from all of the community, and not just the opinionated "power users". \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Sep 30 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Isn't this meta Q&A a good place to have that discussion/meeting/referendum? People can make proposals and vote on them \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Sep 30 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego Agreed. I would personally rather see SE fix their leadership and policies than feel like this isn't a good community anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Oct 1 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego I like this idea and I agree we should try to get broader input. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Oct 4 at 1:49
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Someone should just post "Replicate CodeGolf" as a challenge and we'll end up with the most efficiently coded online community in the history of the internet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We don't have a big tradition of writing efficient code here... \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Oct 8 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LuisMendo just tag it code-challenge fastest-code :) \$\endgroup\$ – Value Ink Oct 9 at 4:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ We'll just have the contents of CodeGolf.SE because FGITW. \$\endgroup\$ – MilkyWay90 Oct 9 at 11:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MilkyWay90 but outsourcing to an online site is forbidden in the standard loopholes?? \$\endgroup\$ – Value Ink Oct 9 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ValueInk it is? Only network connections aren't allowed, but you could just copypaste \$\endgroup\$ – MilkyWay90 Oct 9 at 22:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MilkyWay90 ah, fair enough. I would say it's copying another answer, but the original source code is technically not an answer to the question haha \$\endgroup\$ – Value Ink Oct 9 at 23:48
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Previous communities around code golf have failed

If one visits http://reddit.com/r/codegolf one can easily see that the community is dead. Planning like this is planning for failure. Let's Lay down groundwork for more success in the future, as well as moor independence from stackexchange.

First, we need a line of communication. I have met a few very amicable people on SE that I communicate with professionally. I recommend doing the same. Get an email maybe or two. If everyone gets 3 emails, it's unlikely anyone will be left behind. Alternatively, we could use a service such as slack to communicate.

Regardless, the medium needs to be professional, minimalistic, and easy to use. Even a telnet server should do.

Secondly, we need to archive. No doubt SE will be happy to remove old sites. This may be far far off, but we need too do so. Archive questions, answers, votes, comments, usernames. Archive all users, all questions. Each challenge shouldn't take up more than 1 MB to store. CSS archives would also be handy.

Thirdly, we need to remember. Most communities lose steam simply from not participating. We need to encourage eachother to participate, learn, and observe. If we don't, it's a fade into obscurity.

Finally, it would be advantageous for us to join an existing community than to create a new community. It's been shown time and again that online communities move into existing niches, very rarely does an exodus populace carve out their own new hole in the internet.

That's my tips I haven't studied anthropology, sociology, or any sort of people movement, this is just what I've seen work from a personal perspective.

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