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I'm aware that this phenomenon is nothing new, as OEIS Challenges have been around since the beginning of this site. And I also don't think OEIS challenges are necessarily bad. In fact, many of my favorite challenges on this site are just those.

But in the past year, I've noticed a large uptick in the number of "here's a curious OEIS sequence, golf it!" questions. These sorts of questions briefly introduce the concept of the sequence, and then ask users to generate them. These can make for fun challenges, but I fear that they make for an easy reputation farm and clutter the front page with identical looking challenges.

Are my concerns valid? And if they are, are there any ways of encouraging more well-thought out OEIS based challenges?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that a problem? // Given that the number of users to the site is increasing, this one may just be proportional. \$\endgroup\$ – user202729 Mar 3 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user202729 May not be a problem, but a decent number of recent OEIS questions have been super low effort. Not to mention the group of new users who refuse to use Sandbox and continue to post poor questions, although that problem falls more under caird's meta question. \$\endgroup\$ – Don Thousand Mar 3 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be a good addition to the list of things to avoid. \$\endgroup\$ – Redwolf Programs Mar 3 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ OEIS questions are by in far a lot better than a lot of other challenge types I am seeing frequently so they are welcome in my book. \$\endgroup\$ – Wheat Wizard Mar 3 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing to note is that, more often than not, a challenge idea comes from elsewhere (counting structures, special recurrence relations, etc) but it just happens to also be on OEIS. Also, if the task defines a sequence not yet on OEIS, it gets added pretty soon. \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Mar 3 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably related: Contributions made to the OEIS (I think it's missing many recent updates) \$\endgroup\$ – Bubbler Mar 3 at 23:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like OEIS challenges are actually less common now than they were a few years ago \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Mar 4 at 23:43
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This isn't a bad or new thing

Repeatedly over the years we've had periods of time where most of the front page was filled with challenges along certain themes. Just from my memory alone, and were at one point both very popular, and to a lesser extent so were semicolon-# and I ___ the source code, you ___ the input and many others.

Unlike a lot of these, OEIS "themed" challenges are likely to be of a decent quality without even trying. So long as the OP can adequately and clearly describe how the sequence works, the challenge writes itself.

Personally, I disagree with your view that

These can make for fun challenges, but I fear that they make for an easy reputation farm and clutter the front page with identical looking challenges.

If someone writes a challenge that is clear and unique by our standards, who cares if it might be an "easy rep farm"? Rep farming is a problem if it leads to low quality, low effort posts that are detrimental to the site. These might be low effort questions, but they're certainly not low quality, and they require more effort to write than a lot of the "I X the source, you X the input" challenges.

Until these challenges start all having titles like "Golf OEIS sequence AXXXXXX", the front page is generally going to stay pretty varied. And if challenges do start getting posted with boring title, encourage some creativity in title writing.

However!

Just because these challenges are often easy to write doesn't mean they can't be improved. Having posted a number of questions myself, I'm starting to get bored with the default sequence I/O rules, so in a recent challenge I switched it up a bit. There are many ways that authors can adapt their question beyond just "Here is a sequence. Golf it",\${}^*\$ and I encourage people who want to write about that "cool new sequence you just found" to think creatively about how they could make their challenge stand out more.


\${}^*\$Some examples are:

  • Turn it into a , or it's cousin criteria: "Largest term calculated within a minute"
  • Switch up the task beyond the standard or rules. Calculating the next term, given the previous, can allow for some very creative solutions for the right sequence. Examining overlaps between 2 related but distinct sequences (e.g. Fibonacci and Lucas numbers) again, leads to creative approaches.
  • Relate your sequence somehow with and , or some other non- winning criteria. This typically works best if the reason it isn't is something to do with the sequence, so isn't always applicable.
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