This question has been put on hold as too broad by 5 people:


Honestly I cant see anything wrong with the question, and the 8 answers it has already got backs that up.

I have seen very similar questions on this site which have not been put on hold.

Is it just because the person asking the question is a new user or is there any real justification here?


Here are two other "underhanded" questions that have been asked previosuly on this site. The only requirement for one of them it to "produce a word" and the other is "write a line of code". These questions have votes of 24 and 25.

Produce an unexpected word

Write a line in program that looks useless

Also, why does it even matter if a question has too many possible answers? Isn't the point of this site for the users to answer the code challenges that they themselves find interesting? Why do questions have to be policed in such a way that prevents other users from choosing their own questions to answer? This is not stack overflow.


2 Answers 2


Here's a summary of the entire body of the question:

Write a function that returns zero but looks like it returns something else.

I fail to see how that is anything but far too broad.

  1. The challenge is literally "do anything, as long as it returns zero." That's like asking "Write some code. Do anything you want. But make sure it returns zero." Just tacking on an tag isn't going to make it any better.

  2. The challenge could basically be rephrased as "Return zero. " So, should "Print 'Hello World' in the least intuitive way possible" and "Repeat the user's input in the least intuitive way possible" and "Create a file in the least intuitive way possible" and ... be okay?

  3. The 8 answers it has already only further proves that it's too broad: it could be answered by any code at all as long as it returns zero and looks vaguely like something else.


It's hard to write an question which belongs on this site. See previous discussion: Has underhanded been getting too much like code-trolling?

The first question which you mention has already been in a tug-of-war which saw it closed and then reopened without substantive changes. This is a symptom of a long-running struggle for the identity of this site.

Isn't the point of this site for the users to answer the code challenges that they themselves find interesting? ... This is not stack overflow.

This site started out as a spin-off from StackOverflow because of a similar struggle there. Code golf questions had been accepted on SO, but there was a push to narrow its scope, and the compromise solution was to create this site as somewhere for the pro-code-golf members to continue.

So the earliest discussions on meta about the scope of the site borrowed from SO: see e.g. What should be the rules for questions on this site . That's the origin of the FAQ text

All questions on this site, whether a programming puzzle or a code golf, should have…

  • An objective primary winning criterion, so that it is possible to indisputably decide which entry should win.
  • A clear specification of what constitutes a correct submission. Test cases are highly encouraged.

The more traditionalist wing of CG tries to hold the site to these criteria. There are a number of other users who appear to regard them as obsolete. (I say appear because they tend to be less vocal on meta and chat, so I'm not certain what their argument would be). However, I don't think many of them are quite as radical as to baldly claim that "If it's fun, it's on-topic", which seems to be what you're claiming.

And then there are the drive-by members who see a question on the network-wide list of "hot questions", come in to vote and answer, and maybe remain part of the site community or maybe are never seen again. They don't really know what this site is about or what is on- or off-topic, and I suspect that many of them have formed the impression that this is a site where anything goes. This hot-question drive-by effect results in highly-voted questions which the traditionalists are convinced are off-topic, but some combination of the less traditionalists and the drive-byers who've picked up quick rep by answering the hot question vote to reopen.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the detailed background. The number of votes and answers on all of these questions would suggest that there is a demand for them. Of course i can see that they are very basic and not the same quality as other questions on the site, but my view would be that if there are users on the site that want to answer them then whats the harm (related point - I don't see why 'possible duplicate' matters either but I have also seen this on this site) \$\endgroup\$
    – rdans
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ryan, taken to its extreme, the policy that "If someone thinks it's fun, it belongs here" will give you 4chan. This site is part of the StackExchange network: it's not 4chan, or even Reddit. The precise nature of what constitutes quality on this site is up for debate, but I believe that the principle that we aim for quality is not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 18:36

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