Where is the sandbox?
The sandbox is located on this meta post. Sandboxed challenges are posted as answers to this question.
Why should I use the sandbox?
You might be thinking, perhaps, why would you stage questions on the sandbox instead of posting them directly?
To answer this, let's see what could happen if you post it directly:
- If your question is incomplete, it will probably be quickly closed and ruined.
- If your question has a hole in the specification, answers could exploit it, spoiling the fun of your question.
- If people think that some point of the question is unclear, they will complain about it in comments and downvote your question. If you are unlucky, your question might get closed.
- People might complain that your question is overly restrictive, overly open, or simply disagree with its rules or scoring system.
- You might edit your question and fix the problems pointed by those people, but answerers will complain about changing rules and some downvotes already received will not be removed.
- If your question has some point that is unclear or vague, some people may misunderstand it and post some bad answers, leading to unnecessary arguments, downvotes and frustration.
The sandbox is intended to mitigate all those problems.
How does the sandbox work?
- You get an idea for a nice question for this site.
- You post an answer to the sandbox. Your answer to the sandbox should contain the question that you are proposing. It is ok if your question is still incomplete.
- After you post it there, people will give suggestions to improve your question and point out potential problems.
- You fix the problems, improving your question.
- When people agree that it is good, they will upvote it here in the sandbox; you should wait until a sufficient number of people seem to support your proposed challenge via voting and commenting before posting it on the main site.
- Now that you know that most of the problems are worked out, you post it in the main site.
Furthermore, the sandbox allows you to suggest improvements for questions from other people too. Upvote other people's questions when you think that they are ready.
When you post your question on the main site, edit the sandbox post to include a link to the challenge, removing everything but the title and the link. This is to keep the sandbox more compact and reduce the scrolling needed to view other proposals. Furthermore, delete the post. (You should edit it anyway, because high-reputation users can still see deleted 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.
How should I review proposals?
You can contribute to the community by reviewing proposals to help them get ready for posting. Here is some advice to make your reviewing more productive and more helpful:
- Sort the sandbox by active (even if it means switching back for other questions). The sandbox has grown very large over time, but when sorting by activity, only the first page or so will be relevant for reviewing. Everything else is posted and abandoned. So this allows you to get a quick overview over new or recently edited challenge ideas.
- For clearly incomplete challenges, the author will usually ask for feedback, so try to answer their questions and help them fill the missing gaps. If it is already clear at this stage that there are severe problems with the proposal, which are not likely to be fixed by completing the spec, inform the author so they can fix the problems before wasting effort on the challenge.
- For apparently complete challenges, here are a few points to check when reviewing proposals. You should basically go through the close-vote reasons for challenges, and make sure that the idea won't fall victim to them when posted in the current form:
- Is the challenge new? Otherwise, point the author to an existing question their idea is a duplicate of, so they can consider differentiating their proposal appropriately.
- Is the challenge reasonably scoped? If there are too many possible (valid) answers to a challenge, or the challenge would preclude many interesting (more narrowly) scoped challenges in the future, it is probably too broad.
- Does the challenge state objective criteria for validity of an answer as well as the score of an answer.
- Is the specification clear (about input, output, the problem, all edge cases) and free of contradictions?
- Does the challenge need more test cases?
- If there are no more problems with the challenge and it could be posted as it is, upvote the proposal. There are exceptions to this rule: some author might want to gather general interest in a problem before putting work into finalizing the spec or a necessary control program. If this is stated, you should use your votes accordingly.
How long should I leave a question in the sandbox?
In general you should leave a question at least 72 hours to ensure that the people who check it fairly regularly will have a chance to see it and comment.
Typically, a net score of +3 or higher means that your post is ready to be posted over to main, but this isn't a hard and fast rule, merely a recommendation. The more downvotes your post has, even with a net score of +3, the less likely your challenge is to be ready.