A couple of minutes ago this question of mine was reopened. I initially closed it as unclear because after seeing the answers I feel that what is and isn't acceptable as an IO format is unclear. Specifically I don't know what qualifies as "reasonable" when it comes to string representations of lists. Some string formats that would usually qualify as reasonable completely trivialize the task. It's not clear to me when a string format stops being reasonable, and I don't want to disallow string formats all together. To be clear I don't think the word "reasonable" always makes a challenge unclear. There are plenty of cases where the IO can say "reasonable equivalent" and it's no issue in my opinion. Most challenges there is IO format that's fine and IO format that's cheating and there's not really any murkiness between them. It's just here specifically I believe that there is an issue.

I'd really like to have the question closed so that no new answers come while I figure out what I want and what I mean. I'm not even sure this can be put into objective criteria. But it's not closed, the community reopened it. As I see it I have a few options:

  1. Leave it alone, allow people to interpret "reasonable" however they feel. Something I feel sort of ruins my challenge.
  2. Leave it as is until I get my ideas sorted than edit the challenge making some answers invalid.
  3. Use my mod powers to hammer it closed again.
  4. Edit the question now to make the un-clarity more obvious, and hope that it gets closed again.

None of these seem at all like good options.

So my question is really what action should I take? Is there something I haven't considered?

  • \$\begingroup\$ In this specific case, I'd recommend editing the challenge to restrict I/O to arrays/not strings. But, as I don't have a general answer to the question posed, I'm not happy posting an answer \$\endgroup\$ Oct 9, 2022 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


I think now the milk is spilled and the only reasonable approach is leaving the challenge as is, even though you may consider it ruined. The community thinks it's valid; some interesting and uninteresting answers popped up - as always.

Maybe consider posting your future challenges more frequently to our Sandbox, where such problems are more likely to be caught?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If the community thinks it clear why would they think differently in the sandbox? This answer seems to contradict itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Oct 10, 2022 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WheatWizard - I meant that the problem of whether it's clear or unclear may be resolved in the sandbox, not in the main site with closing and opening the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – pajonk
    Oct 10, 2022 at 17:21

I would recommend a different strategy: Leave the current question as-is (or potentially make the input format even more permissive), and later post a new question once you have figured out the requirements that you think make for a better challenge. If the current version of the challenge is "ruined" and the new version that comes later is "good" then I think they would have to be different enough to not be duplicates.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A question cannot be deleted as long as it has an answer with a positive score. Aside from moderator deletion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wheat Wizard Mod
    Oct 7, 2022 at 22:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, I'd consider two challenges with the same task, but with differently permissive I/O formats to be essentially the same duplicate challenge \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2022 at 22:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I guess that makes this a pretty bad answer to the question. I did check whether I was able to delete my own questions, but I guess I was wrong anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2022 at 23:05

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