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On Stack Exchange there are theoretical, practical and fun sites. I'm wondering which aspect chiefly motivates people to contribute here.

Specifically, does skill at code-golf and other programming puzzles have practical benefits -- are there transferable skills that would be useful in job interviews or when applying for, say, a university course? Alternatively, do people come here to relax and express their creativity--perhaps with no thought of developing other skills?

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Programming Puzzles & Code Golf is different than the other Stack Exchange sites in a number of ways. The general purpose of the site isn't practical per se; it's to have fun and be creative, unlike the other SE sites, which are about getting answers to questions.

That said, participating in challenges here is actually a good way to increase your knowledge of a language and build your skills. For example, I've learned quite a bit about several languages by experimenting and finding the most concise ways to solve a problem in code golf competitions. And as Optimizer pointed out, we also have fastest code challenges, the principles of which are useful in practice.

Many of the users who frequent this site have even created their own programming languages, which is certainly a nontrivial task.

Creating challenges is also a good way to build spec-writing skills, which obviously has practicality in the workplace, as well as general writing skills, as Calvin's Hobbies pointed out.

We're a diverse community with many varied interests, but what we have in common is a desire to have fun doing something we enjoy: programming. What we do isn't always directly relevant to work or school; we do it because we like it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ not to forget that the site is not all about golfing. Fastest code/algorithm has real and practical applications. While you might not directly use any of the fastest code in this site, but the concepts are useful. Also, you can treat the site as a wiki (especially with the new catalog questions) of basic programs in all languages. Now, is a wiki helpful? \$\endgroup\$ – Optimizer Oct 4 '15 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Optimizer Excellent points! \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Oct 4 '15 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd also point out that making challenges can help you become a better and more precise writer. (I feel it has helped me at least.) \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin's Hobbies Oct 5 '15 at 7:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ alex-is-wrong I invented the trivial language whose construction is indeed trivial: It has no commands. (Turing incompleteness suspected.) \$\endgroup\$ – flawr Oct 7 '15 at 9:15
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I would say it has lots of benefits in everyday life because what we basically do here is training to think outside the box, which is a very useful ability in general. It's less about sharing knowledge, and more about keeping your brain flexible. At least for me it is. And it's fun too, of course.

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In my ~93 days of contributing to the site. I Programming Puzzles & Code Golf has more of a fun / creative aspect but I wouldn't say it ends there. It encourages creative-thinking, and making the most out of what your language can do (which tends to be heavy abuse).

Being able to shrink your code as short as possible may not just help reduce the byte count but provide shorter algorithms. You discover new features, which help you in everyday life when writing code. Sometimes when code golfing you'll code an algorithm that might run in linear time or run just faster.

I'd probably be lying if I said most people didn't come here for fun or green internet points (essentially non practical purposes). It's a creative, and (for me at least) have fun squeezing every byte out of your code.

Since I've joined code-golf, I've been writing more efficient, better code too. While writing with one-letter variable names may just seem obfuscated, you're also creating more short, and concise code.

Then again, they're many other types of challenges, some just requiring out-of the box thinking, and others for real-world practical purposes. So while code-golf may not directly have any practical benefit. It'll help you become a better programmer and really understand your language.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I'd probably be lying if I said most people didn't come here for fun" > I thought most people came here for green internet points?? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Fatalize Oct 7 '15 at 8:46

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