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Consider this: I have an idea for a challenge, such as "Find the optimal foos such that the bar is greatest." I also realize that I could alter it slightly and add a more interesting twist to it: "Create an animated GIF that shows the bar approaching the greatest value as the foos change."

I don't want to simply post the second challenge, because some people don't know how / want to make animated GIFs, and that would ruin the challenge and the fun and they wouldn't participate. But I also don't want to throw away the second idea entirely, because it adds an interesting touch.

How should I proceed in this situation?

  1. Post the first challenge, but subtract a fixed amount from the character count (for example) if one also completes the second challenge.
    • Avoids near-duplicates so you can't copy most of the logic from challenge 1 and use it in challenge 2
  2. Post the first challenge, then post the second one a little while later as a "part 2," so to speak.
    • No dilemmas about how to fairly calculate a bonus
    • The first question is less complicated and beginners and less advanced users can attempt it, while people looking for an extra challenge can participate in the second one
  3. Something else.
    • ?
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    \$\begingroup\$ 3. Post the first challenge and offer a bounty on the nicest GIF. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Sep 13 '14 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Empirically it seems that people who include animated gifs tend to get lots more upvotes anyway, so I'm not sure that it even needs a bounty. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Sep 14 '14 at 6:52
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I'm in favour of follow up questions

I'd like to see the community welcome follow up questions - for example "Flux capacitor golf part 2". I like simple unambiguous challenges and I like being able to see answers that are all solving the same challenge. This way the votes reflect people's opinion of the answer, rather than which sub-question is more appealing. It's also easier to follow the answers when they are all aiming for the same goal.

Allowing follow up questions means that descriptions can be kept short. Part 1 doesn't need to be summarised again in part 2 - the link to it will suffice since it's within the site. People who haven't yet tried part 1 can use that as practice and introduction before trying part 2.

I think there are plenty of potential questions which could be interesting but would take more introduction than is reasonable for a single post. Being able to build on previous questions allows building up a larger concept gradually. If this means we can have access to a wider space of potential challenges then it helps with the problem of gradually running out of ideas. It also encourages a culture of revisiting old questions so that new users arriving can improve the quality of answers across all our questions, not just the recent ones.

Problems are inevitable

I fully expect there to be some problems with follow up questions, but I don't see that as a reason to exclude them. I'd like to see people encouraged to post questions which have follow up questions, and encouraged to post follow up questions to other people's questions. The inevitable problems that come with anything new can then be raised on meta and decisions made as necessary. We would still need to highlight duplicates but I welcome genuinely new challenges that depend on a previous question.

Part 2 judged as a stand alone question

In some cases the part 2 question may be regarded as too subjective or off topic. I think this is just more reason to encourage follow up questions. This way the part 2 can be closed if it is not a good fit to the site. Currently an off-topic part 2 can just be included as an afterthought in the same post and as long as part 1 is on-topic part 2 will escape closure. Upvotes, downvotes and close votes are all more meaningful if separate questions are kept in separate posts.

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I think that to discuss this properly needs a better example. To the example you give I would say: if you're worried about people being dissuaded by the difficulty of making an animated GIF, don't ask for an animated GIF. Ask for output in NetPBM and provide a one-line ImageMagick script to convert it to an animated GIF.

Without a good case to discuss it, the obvious solution to me seems to be to use the existing process we have for getting feedback on a question idea: post a single answer to the Sandbox:

Optimise foos

I have an idea for a two-parter. I would envisage posting Part II about one week after Part I. In addition to things which aren't clear, please comment on whether you think the two parts are sufficiently distinct.

Part I

...


Part II

...

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