I'm as guilty (perhaps even more so) as the next person of this, and perhaps that's why I feel this question needs to be asked.
Often times, I'll come across a question which already has some answers - usually code-golf - which are really well-suited to the challenge requirements and winning criteria. For most cases, I would be hopelessly out-classed in the competition as it currently stands because my coding experience is fairly limited to begin with and most definitely does not include any languages designed with golfing in mind.
However, I'm still interested in the challenge and would like to effectively pit my wits against those of other people who write in my language. So, despite the fact that I cannot hope to win the challenge myself, I'll post my answer anyway.
Generally speaking, this seems counter to the regular StackExchange practice where new answers should really only be posted if they're contributing further towards the goal of the question. If someone's got a 20-character code-golf solution (albeit in another language), and mine is upwards of 100 characters with little to no room for reduction, my answer does nothing really except to add to the pile-up of losers.
This also, after a period of time, results in some challenges - even though they may have been won very early on with extremely short answers - garnering enough late-coming losers that it kicks over to Community Wiki and forces everyone who participated up to that point to lose their rep. The CW trigger is arguably a separate issue entirely, which is being addressed in other Meta posts. However, this particular behavior is a noteworthy contributor to that problem.
What should we be doing in cases like this? Should we only post an answer if it can actually beat the existing solutions? Or is posting a known-losing solution generally intended to be acceptable?
There are two cases where I think we can all agree that posting a known-losing solution is definitely not acceptable:
- Your solution is not significantly different from all existing solutions in the same language.
- For this case, comment on or propose an edit to the existing solution that is the closest match to yours.
- Your solution would not win against the best currently existing solution in the same language.
- For this case, just don't post it at all.
Aside from those two, should we still be posting losers?