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A little over a year ago, we had a discussion on meta about whether the sandbox should be migrated to the main site. The answer suggesting to do so was at +8/-4, but there were no counterarguments in the comments or the other answers (other than "there would be too many answers" which, after the Great Merge of 2014, we have seen is a non-issue).

That was quite a while ago, and it was a post. This is an actual : let's migrate the sandbox to the main site. The advantages of doing this are:

  • Users with less than 5 reputation can still use the sandbox. (This is the most convincing argument, in my opinion.)

  • The visibility of the sandbox is increased. The majority of users do not regularly visit meta, and a question that is probably going to be at the top of the "active questions" list almost perpetually is much more visible than a single line in a small sidebar box.

  • It would make more sense there anyway; meta is for discussion about this Stack Exchange site, while main is where the programming puzzling and code golfing goes.

If there is sufficient support on this meta post and there are no outstanding opposing arguments, I will migrate the sandbox to the main site (and make it Community Wiki) in one week.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The main counter argument is that people will get rep if it's not CW, so they'll have an incentive not to delete their posts. Last time we tried making the sandbox CW there was significant opposition to the change. Also, I'm not convinced that a post floating around the front page is more visible than a featured meta post. I'm on mobile right now and will write up a full answer later. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jun 29 '15 at 11:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ For the category "least compelling argument ever": I like to look at the sandbox sorted by activity and challenges sorted by score. Right now I just leave meta on 'active sort', but with it on main I'll have to flip back and forth. FWP \$\endgroup\$ – Geobits Jun 29 '15 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBüttner There was opposition, but it was not excessively strong. I don't think making the sandbox CW would cause too many problems, at the very least. \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Jun 29 '15 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Less than 5 reputation? Can be collected in less than 1 day with 3 good edit suggestions. Are you sure someone can provide useful contribution to sandbox prior the minimum participation on the site required for 5 reputation? \$\endgroup\$ – manatwork Jun 29 '15 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @manatwork It's not particularly friendly to say to a brand-new user who is spending their valuable time to contribute their effort to our site "want to post a challenge? you should use this sandbox, but oh, first you have to complete these three arbitrary tasks and then wait until they're approved because reasons." The sandbox existing at all is enough added complexity already, especially considering that unlike other Stack Exchange sites, a user posting a "question" does so purely to contribute to the site, not to get help/an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Jun 29 '15 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ As someone who opposed the sandbox being CW, I can confirm that I would happily retract that opposition to see the sandbox on main - there is then a good reason for it. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do we know enough about the hotness calculations to know whether a main site sandbox is likely to stick in the network hot list? \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Jun 29 '15 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Will the sandbox be migrated, manually copied or restarted on main? Will that decision affect its HNQ status? \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doorknob, old time netiquettes suggested to accommodate with the atmosphere after subscribing, before starting to participate and interact. I think I'm a bit old fashion. (Or it's not just the fashion…) \$\endgroup\$ – manatwork Jun 29 '15 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @manatwork could you expand on that? Do you mean the sandbox should be closed to new users? I'd rather they put their inexperience into practice in the sandbox than elsewhere on main. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doorknob the opposition was quite strong, considering that the votes were roughly the other way round when I made the change. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jun 29 '15 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor Interesting point. I'm not sure for how long the amount of answers would offset the age of the post (although it's already quite old); I'll see if I can figure that out. \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Jun 29 '15 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Peter I'm pretty sure the age factor will be significant enough to keep the sandbox off the HNQ, but the formula is on MSE so we could work it out. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jun 29 '15 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Search is good and bad: It will no longer be necessary to search both main and sandbox separately, but excluding the sandbox or main will now require a custom search. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ The opposition to the sandbox being CW is now diminishing. Anyone who wants to change their vote but is locked in could leave a comment asking for an edit so they'll be able to. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 14:30
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The Sandbox really does not belong on Main and should stay on Meta

Let me review the arguments made for moving the Sandbox to main (from the question):

  • Users with less than 5 reputation can still use the sandbox. (This is the most convincing argument, in my opinion.)

The reputation requirement has been removed. This point is no longer valid.

  • The visibility of the sandbox is increased. The majority of users do not regularly visit meta, and a question that is probably going to be at the top of the "active questions" list almost perpetually is much more visible than a single line in a small sidebar box.

Main is much more active than Meta. At this time of writing, the last modification to any post in the Sandbox was 2-3 hours ago, and it is the fourth question on the front page of Meta. A question from the same time frame would be #16 on the front page of Main. The Sandbox, if it were on Main, would definitely be bumped up to the top often, but it would be pushed down quite rapidly too.

Besides, this is no guarantee that new users will actually use the Sandbox. The majority of new users don't actually look around and get a feel for how the site works. I would think that, if anything, a new user would be much more likely to be confused because the Sandbox is so different from everything else. The vast majority (I think) of users who post well-received challenges use the Sandbox, and any user that posts a poor or could-be-better challenge typically gets a link to the Sandbox, so I think we just need to keep doing that. That's how people find out about the Sandbox and the (positive!) peer pressure makes them use it.

  • It would make more sense there anyway; meta is for discussion about this Stack Exchange site, while main is where the programming puzzling and code golfing goes.

Actually, I would consider this to be more an argument for keeping it on Meta. There is lots of discussion and no programming, puzzling, coding, or golfing going on in the Sandbox (or at least, very little). See the paragraph below for more.


Arguments for keeping the Sandbox on Meta

  • Meta is the right place for the Sandbox.

On my home site, Christianity.SE, a perfectly valid use of Meta is to ask something like "Would it be acceptable to ask this question: X?" (One, two, three examples.) In my opinion, the Sandbox fulfills precisely this purpose. It's where users can ask "Is this a good question for the site? Is it an appropriate question for the site?" and get feedback on their ideas before posting them on Main.

  • The Sandbox is featured in the sidebar

I don't think anyone has brought this up, but consider this: because the Sandbox is a post on Meta, it is (relatively) prominently displayed in the sidebar near the top. If we moved the Sandbox to Main, we would lose this.


So what should we do?

I think the biggest problem with the Sandbox is that Sandbox posts get little attention. This is not a technical problem; it is a behavioral problem. I seriously doubt that moving the Sandbox to Main will fix this. It might even get worse because then there would be more posts and probably not as many people reviewing them (proportionally, not necessarily absolutely).

I have a suggestion: lets encourage one another to review Sandbox posts. Every day, look through the ten most recent (by creation or modification) and vote up, vote down, or comment. We have a great spread of time zones that our users live in, so I think this would work pretty well.

I volunteer to lead this effort if it means the Sandbox stays on Meta.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The use of the Sandbox cannot be enforced no matter where it is. Likewise efforts to encourage use can apply to the Sandbox wherever it is. So these points are not part of the issue here. And I doubt many people would be confused about the Sandbox if we clearly explained in its body how it is unique in the context of PPCG questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin's Hobbies Nov 15 '15 at 2:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The point about the Sidebar link is valid. Are you sure a similar link can't be done for Main posts? What about keeping the meta link but redirecting to the Main Sandbox? (a messy solution I admit, but tenable) \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin's Hobbies Nov 15 '15 at 2:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Calvin'sHobbies: If there was such a feature as pinning a question, that would suffice. But I've never seen or heard of such a feature. I don't see any other place in the sidebar where a Main question could be pinned. Another possibility would be to put a bounty on it, so that it's in the "featured" tab, but that would just cause more problems. Regarding redirecting from Meta to Main, that's not particularly appealing to me either. It is indeed messy, and I don't think it would help very much. \$\endgroup\$ – El'endia Starman Nov 15 '15 at 2:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've talked about a potential solution, where we have semi-regular "sandbox reviewing" events. I think events will work better than an "every day" thing, as people will quickly get burned out and/or annoyed. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Nov 15 '15 at 5:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ "I don't think anyone has brought this up..." except in the top comment on the question itself. ;) "Also, I'm not convinced that a post floating around the front page is more visible than a featured meta post. I'm on mobile right now and will write up a full answer later." +1 \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Nov 15 '15 at 9:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBüttner: Wow, I missed that. Thanks for pointing it out! :) \$\endgroup\$ – El'endia Starman Nov 15 '15 at 18:05
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The Sandbox does not belong in Main

It does not belong on main because it isn't in the scope of the site. The Sandbox is basically a concentrated and pointed discussion about what makes a good question taken case-by-case. This is the primary reason it belongs in Meta, and all other reasons are largely irrelevant in my opinion.

However, there are two disadvantages you listed that need consideration:

  1. That Rep is required to post in the Sandbox
  2. That the Sandbox is not visible enough.

To address the first problem, I would love it if we could get the reputation requirement removed for the Sandbox, and if that isn't possible, all of Meta. (I consider the Sandbox important enough to remove the rep requirement for all of Meta).

For the second problem, I definitely think that the sidebar notice needs more emphasis on the sandbox. Furthermore, if problem #1 is solved, we could also have some sort of popup appear to first-time askers ensuring that they have posted the question in the sandbox.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. The main argument in favor of moving the sandbox is circumventing the rep requirement, which should be removed altogether. \$\endgroup\$ – Dennis Jun 30 '15 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm with you that the rep requirement should be instead removed altogether and the Sidebar should be made more visible. But we've been told that site-specific modifications are unlikely to be done, so unless these feature requests are granted, I think the lesser of two evils is to Sandbox to Main. That Sandbox belongs on Meta as a matter of classification should be secondary to the practical benefits of removing the rep barrier and increasing visibility. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Jul 2 '15 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xnor I believe that emphasis in the sidebar is done site-by-site. There's already a link to the sandbox there. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Jul 2 '15 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xnor I believe you make good points, nonetheless. While I personally think that classification is more important, I think your comment deserves an answer here. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Jul 2 '15 at 21:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Keeping the Sandbox on Meta for the sole purpose of classification is a petty silly argument in my opinion. Our site will not collapse if we have one anomaly, one impurity, one Main post that is not a challenge. In other words, it's alright to keep a knife in the bread drawer if that makes slicing bread easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin's Hobbies Nov 15 '15 at 1:30
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Reputation

There are two sides to this argument:

Losing rep

The whole point of a sandbox is that you can put your rough ideas and see if it's liked or not, so as not to lose rep on the main site. If people downvote your sandbox post on the main site, then you will lose rep and you may as well post your draft as a question.

Gaining rep

As Martin Büttner said in the comments, if you gain rep for good drafts, then people may be less likely to delete their answers to carry on harvesting the reputation. This could end up with us having the problem of a cluttered sandbox again.

Another problem is that because you get twice the rep for an answer rather than a question, you may get people drafting questions put never posting them because of the extra rep gained.

Conclusion

Overall, I am against transferring the sandbox to the main site.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that it shouldn't move to the main site, I don't think that rep is a strong enough argument. We could easily change our policies that sandboxed answers simply should have comments from X different people, instead of needing 3 or more upvotes. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Jun 30 '15 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rep won't be a problem if the sandbox is community wiki. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jul 4 '15 at 15:16
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It's clear there is strong feeling in both directions - let's find out

There are arguments supporting both sides, and good arguments both ways. I can't guess which would actually be better.

Let's have a 1 month trial to see what unexpected benefits and drawbacks show up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the argument about where the sandbox belongs is misleading since the idea of a sandbox doesn't fit with the SE approach either way. I'm interested in having a trial run to find out what will be most useful. \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Jun 29 '15 at 16:56
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The Sandbox does not belong in Main...but so what?

We can make one exception to the rule of "what belongs in Main" for the Sandbox (that is a user defined rule after all). It's not like putting the Sandbox on Main will bring in a slew of other questions that are technically off topic.

If the Sandbox gets more attention then question quality can only improve. Presumably the Sandbox will get more attention on Main rather than Meta, just as Doorknob said.

The only other issue I see with this is that people would gain/lose rep unless the Sandbox was a community wiki. I see no real issue with simply making the Sandbox a community wiki then. As explained here:

Voting on a community wiki post (up or down) does not affect any user's reputation.

and

An answer posted to a community wiki question will also be community wiki.

So no one would gain or lose rep from any votes to their Sandboxed questions. This means that users with good Sandboxed questions don't get loads of extra rep for their questions and (probably new) users with bad Sandbox questions would not lose rep.

So I vote that the Sandbox be migrated to Main from Meta.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Despite the fact I posted an opposing answer, it looks like the disadvantages I listed aren't going to go away, so I'm all for making an exception. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Nov 15 '15 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanMerrill To be fair the rep requirements on Meta were removed, but the arguably more important issue of Sandbox visibility remains. \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin's Hobbies Nov 15 '15 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I said in a comment on the question (and as El'endia pointed out in their answer), I believe that moving the sandbox to main would actually decrease it's visibility as compared to the Featured Meta Posts link. Regarding the option of making it CW. The Sandbox used to be CW for a short while and it was met with very strong opposition (the meta post supporting the change got large amounts of downvotes after the change, and the opposing view got upvotes, such that the change was reverted). \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Nov 15 '15 at 9:42

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