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The community has encouraged users to post a proposed challenge to the Sandbox for a few days before posting to the main site, to get feedback in the interest of improving the question and and to iron out any problems before the actual main-site challenge is posted.

Should it be considered a duplicate if somebody else posts what is essentially a duplicate question on the main site during the period that the original question is in the Sandbox? In other words, do you get dibs on a challenge for at least a few days, if you post it in the Sandbox?

This situation has just arisen (you can check the main site for the two posts, since I've now moved mine from the Sandbox to the main site).

It's up to the community if you consider that a duplicate or not. But if the community does not deem this to be a duplicate, people won't use the Sandbox in the future because they'll be wary of being undercut. (I certainly wouldn't use the Sandbox again if the duplicate post is allowed to stand.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The two posts in question are Print the SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) genome and Output NC_045512, the first sequenced genome of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19, which (as far as I can tell) were posted independently of each other, as opposed to one user copying from the sandbox and posting without attribution. \$\endgroup\$ – pppery Jun 10 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pppery Yes, I purposely didn't spell out the two posts because this should be a general question as to the principle or general rule involved. I also didn't want it to seem to be personal. (My presumption is that this was simply an oversight on the part of the other poster.) \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 10 at 2:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ There was a related discussion before, but it didn't really deal with the problem of both users posting. \$\endgroup\$ – FryAmTheEggman Jun 10 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it is a duplicate: Otherwise, based on the same reason, people who post questions in sandbox made by themselves should also be considered as duplicate. I do support that these questions discussed in this post should be closed. But I'm not sure what the reason should be used. \$\endgroup\$ – tsh Jun 10 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I had the idea for a SARS-CoV-2 challenge several weeks ago. That does not give me priority over your idea. Furthermore, what should the grace period for a challenge be between the sandbox and a post on the main site? 5 days? 30 days? 3 months? a year? \$\endgroup\$ – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 10 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ The idea doesn't matter in this particular incident, because yours has a quality problem (at least in the scoring method). If you had sandboxed it and (hopefully) fixed the problem before posting to main, I'd be happy to keep both open (even if yours were posted later than Mitchell's). \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Jun 10 at 5:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Maybe 3 or 4 days would a reasonable limit? I also had the idea about a month ago, but only decided to go ahead with it recently. At that point, I did a fairly exhaustive search of both the main site and the Sandbox; if I had found anything substantially similar, I wouldn't have posted. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 10 at 5:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ And there really is a benefit to the community in posting in the Sandbox first; you get other eyes to look at it and point out possible problems, so you can improve the challenge before posting. But it takes work to prepare a quality challenge; who would bother doing that work and putting it in the Sandbox if it can be preempted right away? \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 10 at 5:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MitchellSpector The improvement you get from putting it in Sandbox is its own reward. \$\endgroup\$ – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 10 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Sure, but if it doesn't have the opportunity to get posted because some other non-sandboxed post pre-empts it, then the improvement just sits in the sandbox forever, never realized. No one would then say that that the improvement from putting it in the Sandbox was its own reward! \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 11 at 6:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MitchellSpector If there is an improvement, then you should link your sandboxed challenge under the old one and discourage people to answer the one on the main site. \$\endgroup\$ – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 11 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MitchellSpector And the non-sandboxed one is not supposed to be posted (everyone needs to sandbox their challenge first)! \$\endgroup\$ – HighlyRadioactive Jul 18 at 13:18
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The one who posted the idea to the public first gets the priority; close the other as duplicate

Here, "the idea" includes all of the relevant aspects of a challenge which matters when deciding on the dupe-ness, i.e. the task (with details and test cases) and the winning criterion. We say a challenge X is a dupe of Y if a competitive answer of Y is very likely to be competitive in X.

While one can't reliably search for the 2k+ (and still growing) posts on the Sandbox, one can (and I believe one should) at least skim through the first page (50 questions) sorted by Active (which empirically covers around a week of activity) or simply text-search on it (say Ctrl+F). This applies especially when the challenge idea is directly based on a recent event (disclosure of a genome sequence in this case).

Edit: The title of this post applies only when both users have posted to main. Otherwise, we do have a policy on abandoned sandbox posts:

What should we do with abandoned proposals?

All content on Stack Exchange is licensed under CC BY-SA, so legally you are allowed to claim an abandoned idea yourself to make it ready for main and post it. However, doing so you should follow a few rules of courtesy. The following process has been agreed on:

  • If a challenge proposal was not edited or commented on for a month, you can leave a comment that you would like to take over the challenge, get it ready for main and post it.
  • If the OP does not reply within two weeks, telling you that they still intend to post the challenge themselves, you are free to proceed with the challenge as you see fit.
  • Don't repost, just edit the existing post.

You can use the following standard comment to express your interest in a challenge:

This challenge proposal has been inactive for over a month. I would like to take ownership of the challenge and make it ready for posting. Please let me know within the next 14 days if you have any objections and would still like to finish and post this challenge yourself.

While posting to main right away is not a recommended action even in this case, we may extend the 2-week implied consent rule, like "the challenge is OK to be kept open if the sandbox poster doesn't claim its ownership within 2 weeks".


That is, when the challenge in question is actually close enough to be considered a dupe.

If the challenges are not actually a dupe, handle them by their quality separately

In this particular case, the two challenges have the exact same task, but have different winning criterion (one is simple code-golf, the other is code golf with a special byte-counting rule). They are arguably close, but probably not enough so for a dupe. Assuming the sandboxed one has better quality (I don't say foolproof, but it's still better to sandbox than not):

  • If the two challenges are not actually a dupe and of good quality, both can be kept open without problems.
  • If the non-sandboxed one is of poor quality (e.g. unclear, which is usually the reason of being poor quality), I suggest to cast close votes with that reason, not as a dupe of the other.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would there be merit in requiring posts to be in the Sandbox for, say, 3 days before being posted on the main site? (I would defer to more experienced golfers as to whether 3 days would be the right duration or not.) A rule like that would have solved this issue without the attendant unpleasant controversy. Maybe it's overly rigid--I'm honestly not sure. But posts really do benefit from exposure in the Sandbox first; imagine this case without the priority issue: the other poster would have gotten feedback on the problem with the strange scoring scheme and could have adjusted it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 10 at 4:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MitchellSpector I don't think there should be a ground rule like that because the time taken to make a challenge good/clear enough varies greatly. I have no problem with experienced authors writing a rather simple challenge without even going to the sandbox, but IMO more complex ones (be it the task or the scoring method) should still be sandboxed for at least a couple days (proportionally increasing with the complexity at hand). \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Jun 10 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tend to agree. It would still be nice to have some rule that resolves this sort of thing objectively, avoiding unnecessary confrontation and bad feelings. And we should encourage Sandbox use. If we allow people to bypass the Sandbox and post a challenge which is substantially similar to one that has been in the Sandbox for just a couple of days (and which took a bit of work to put together nicely), who would put any time into a Sandbox post rather than just go directly to the main site? And then everybody loses the benefit of the Sandbox improving the quality of challenges. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 10 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Were there any good challenges that were created via the "process" for stealing inactive challenges from the sandbox (you can see I hate the very idea of it)? If not (I can't recall any), it can be removed, reducing the amount of self-contradictions. \$\endgroup\$ – my pronoun is monicareinstate Jun 14 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ "In this particular case, the two challenges have the exact same task, but have different winning criterion (one is simple code-golf, the other is code golf with a special byte-counting rule)." <-- From my experience, the "heavy lifting" was already made on another post, so, essentially, they are the same. Based on the answer given by Martin Ender (former moderator), if the challenge is "close enough", it is a duplicate. The "special byte-counting" doesn't make it a different challenge, as code can be re-used without any significant changes. \$\endgroup\$ – Ismael Miguel Jun 16 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reminds me of the Conway Sandboxing war. The next time I saw you posting a sandbox I would go like "This challenge proposal has been inactive for over a second. I would like to take ownership of the challenge and make it ready for posting. Please let me know within the next 1 second if you have any objections and would still like to finish and post this challenge yourself. Also, I hate Bubbler." \$\endgroup\$ – HighlyRadioactive Jul 18 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HighlyRadioactive No, that case is different. I showed you the concrete idea first and I said "I'm working on it" before you posted (with a line of silly joke) to the sandbox. If you wanted to take ownership, you should have acted more seriously (at least tell me that you really want to post it, and post it without joke). \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Jul 19 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bubbler My comment is, of course, a joke too. Just like my sandbox post. \$\endgroup\$ – HighlyRadioactive Jul 20 at 4:50
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The improvement you get from putting a challenge in Sandbox is its own reward

This improvement is what helps Sandbox challenges become better than main site challenges.

Up/downvoters should decide the merit of the pre-empting question

If a challenge in Sandbox is better, someone should link to it and discourage other members from upvoting the main site challenge.

In this case, both challenges had the same idea with very similar rules.

Just because an idea is abandoned in Sandbox doesn't mean it can't be improved and re-posted to the main site.

Stealing should be discouraged

Challenge answerers should avoid answering a challenge they believe was stolen from an active Sandbox entry

A challenge with no answers is not fun to read.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer feels self-contradictory; you're simultaneously saying "please discourage upvotes and implying that posting the question in the first place is OK. \$\endgroup\$ – pppery Jun 13 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ppery I'm advocating for a quality-based approach according to the opinions of voters. What is allowed and what is right is different. \$\endgroup\$ – noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ Jun 13 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The improvement you get from putting a challenge in Sandbox is its own reward" -- Not if the challenge never gets the chance to go on the main site because it got pre-empted after just a couple of days by a challenge that bypassed the sandbox. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 14 at 5:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ "If a challenge in Sandbox is better, someone should link to it and discourage other members from upvoting the main site challenge." and "Challenge answerers should avoid answering a challenge they believe was stolen from an active Sandbox entry" -- This is unrealistic. People will answer whatever questions are on the main site, because they don't want to miss out on answering! That's one reason questions get closed while questions are being ironed out. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 14 at 5:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Just because an idea is abandoned in Sandbox doesn't mean it can't be improved and re-posted to the main site." -- I have no problem with abandoned Sandbox posts being revived and brought to the main site (with appropriate credit to the original Sandbox poster). But the Sandbox post in question was only there for a couple of days; it was in no sense abandoned. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 14 at 5:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @noɥʇʎԀʎzɐɹƆ I'd like to add that I think the purpose of this discussion is to try to get some clear-cut rules to prevent unneeded conflict. I'm sorry that you and I "met" under these unfortunate circumstances. We must have something in common because we came up with such similar challenges at about the same time. I look forward to future interactions with you on CGCC, and I wish you the best!. \$\endgroup\$ – Mitchell Spector Jun 14 at 5:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Stealing: this is unobservable. In many cases it's very hard to to tell stealing from coincidence \$\endgroup\$ – Luis Mendo Jun 14 at 11:47
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I am posting this answer for voting purposes, to show the ridiculousness and/or insufficiency of Bubbler's proposal.

The sandbox challenge should be able to block the main site challenge.

I've posted this challenge. Sandbox for Proposed Challenges

I believe it is interesting. However, I have not put in the work to scrape the data needed for someone to implement the challenge.

Under Bubbler's rule, even if someone did scrape the data from the N

Even if I left Stack Exchange, the main site cha

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    \$\begingroup\$ You truncated your answer mid-sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – pppery Jun 14 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ We do have a policy on abandoned proposals. (Search for "What should we do with abandoned proposals?") TL;DR: Other users can refine your sandbox post and move it to main if you leave it long enough without activity. If you do leave it that long, it will be buried under multiple pages of other posts, and my proposal doesn't block other users from posting that. \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Jun 14 at 23:25

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