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Related: A Better Help Center

Our current help center is lacking in a number of ways (see the linked post for more details). Therefore, this is a Community Wiki post meant for collaboratively editing the /help/on-topic page and improving it, to be optimally geared towards new users.

For minor edits, simply edit the body of this post. For major suggestions that you do not wish to apply yourself without prior community input, add an answer below.

The initial text in this post is simply the current text of that page (which is the only help center article we can edit), with a few minor copy edits done by me.


Programming Puzzles & Code Golf is for programming contests and challenges. We welcome questions from beginners and experts alike.

All challenge questions on this site should have:

  1. A clear specification of what constitutes a correct submission, so that it is possible to indisputably decide whether an entry is valid or not. Test cases are highly encouraged.
  2. An objective primary winning criterion, so that it is possible to indisputably decide which entry should win.

These questions are surprisingly hard to write well. It is advisable to follow a standard template and to post them first and get feedback in the meta Sandbox so that flaws can be fixed before someone posts an answer which exploits them.

All solutions to challenges should:

  • Correctly implement the required specification.
  • Make a clear effort towards the winning criteria in use. For example, an entry to a code golf contest needs to be golfed, and an entry to a speed contest should make some attempt to be fast.

Non-challenge questions that are are related to solving programming puzzles or a particular type of challenge are also on topic. However, if you have a general programming question, it should be asked on Stack Overflow or a different Stack Exchange site.

More information specific to code golf can be found in its tag wiki. If you would like an in-depth description of a specific tag, simply click the "learn more" link on the tag's page to access the tag wiki.

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?". Please look around to see if your question or challenge has been posted before. It’s also OK to participate in your own puzzles.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Programming Puzzles & Code Golf, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area 51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.


Revision Notes: (putting this here so the changes are more visible and can be discussed more readily)

  • Calvin's Hobbies - Revised silly tautological opening sentence.

  • xnor - Changed "Be a serious contender for the winning criteria in use." to "Make a clear effort towards the winning criteria in use." As is, literally taken, nobody may post a code golf solution longer than existing one, nor anything in Java, because "really?".

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Current excerpt:

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.
  • "Tips for golfing in some language"-type posts are an exception to this rule. Such posts are community wiki and do not collect reputation.
  • These questions are surprisingly hard to write well. Help may be available on the Puzzle Lab chat or the meta Sandbox, and the use of these resources is encouraged.

Suggested replacement:

All challenge questions on this site should have

  1. A clear specification of what constitutes a correct submission, so that it is possible to indisputably decide whether an entry is valid or not. Test cases are highly encouraged.
  2. An objective primary winning criterion, so that it is possible to indisputably decide which entry should win.

These questions are surprisingly hard to write well. It is advisable to follow a standard template and to post them first in the meta Sandbox so that flaws can be fixed before someone posts an answer which exploits them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This has been merged with the main post along with Rainbolt's suggestions, and the help center article on the main site has been updated as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Aug 31 '14 at 15:49
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We should mention some of the most common standard loopholes which are no longer funny or give a link in the on-topic page. If the loopholes implicitly apply to every challenge-type question, then we should mention them here. I realise this only applies to answers, not questions, but this page should serve both.

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This is the first draft of a major edit to make this page more self-contained. My vision for the "On Topic" page is that visitors can read this page and leave with a pretty good idea of what we do here.

Some main additions:

  • Short summaries of the different types of challenges on the site, with links to several more tag wikis.

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Programming Puzzles & Code Golf is for programming contests and challenges. We welcome questions from beginners and experts alike.

All challenge questions on this site should have:

  1. A clear specification of what constitutes a correct submission, so that it is possible to indisputably decide whether an entry is valid or not. Test cases are highly encouraged.
  2. An objective primary winning criterion, so that it is possible to indisputably decide which entry should win.

These questions are surprisingly hard to write well. It is advisable to follow a standard template and to post them first and get feedback in the meta Sandbox so that flaws can be fixed before someone posts an answer which exploits them.

All solutions to challenges should:

  • Correctly implement the required specification.
  • Make a clear effort towards the winning criteria in use. For example, an entry to a code golf contest needs to be golfed, and an entry to a speed contest should make some attempt to be fast.

The majority of programming challenges can be grouped into several broad categories. This is not an all-inclusive list of challenge types.

  • Code Golf is the most common challenge type. The goal of code golf is to write short solutions for a given puzzle. More information specific to code golf can be found in its tag wiki.
  • Fastest-Code (tag wiki) is a type of challenge that involves writing fast programs to solve computationally-intensive tasks.
  • King of the Hill competitions (tag wiki) are those in which the contestant programs directly compete with each other in a game.
  • A Popularity Contest (tag wiki) is one in which the winner is determined by voters. Popularity contests must still meet quality standards.

Most other programming challenges are labelled as code challenge along with other tags. If you would like an in-depth description of a specific tag, simply click the "learn more" link on the tag's page to access the tag wiki.

Non-challenge questions that are are related to solving programming puzzles or a particular type of challenge can also be on-topic. One type of non-challenge question are tips about specific languages. If you have a general programming question, however, it should be asked on Stack Overflow or a different Stack Exchange site.

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?". Please look around to see if your question or challenge has been posted before. It’s also OK to participate in your own puzzles.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Programming Puzzles & Code Golf, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area 51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.

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