# Is code trolling getting out of control?

I don't have anything against code-trolling. I think it's a creative idea and a nice break from other, more serious, questions. But I also think it's going a little bit out of hand.

I'm beginning to have difficulties finding new serious puzzles/challenges, while the flood of questions is rising dramatically.

Should we do something about it? Is this wanted behavior?

• The whole notion of "Lets make a puzzle out of a lazy Stack Overflow questions was just asking for that kind of abuse. And people have been upvoting them. ::sighs, shakes head, goes in search of strong drink:: – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 29 '13 at 6:19
• “I'm beginning to have difficulties finding new serious puzzles/challenges” – Me too. But not anymore. I added code-trolling to the Ignored tags list. (Before voting an answer I prefer to check whether the answer has something original. With 3++ pages of answers that is quite difficult. So I decided to stay away completely.) – manatwork Dec 29 '13 at 14:08
• Well, I am sorry for everybody that did not enjoyed or is not enjoying. I could not imagine that the result would get so much attention and visibility. But yes, it is way out of control. Anyway, this site got some change now and will need special attention to moderation, lets try to channel this to the positive side and improve codegolf as a whole. – Victor Stafusa Dec 29 '13 at 15:03
• I think this phrase of code-trolling will be a flash in the pan. It was a question that simply exploded to become wildly popular, and there will always be a time where something that's wildly popular invades the rest of the medium it's in like a fad. – Joe Z. Dec 29 '13 at 16:03
• I also apologize if I set anything off by producing the first "mimic". I just had my own idea for something and wanted to expand the category a little. – Joe Z. Dec 29 '13 at 16:07
• @JoeZ., as a general rule, when a question inspires you to create a variation you should make a note of it and come back to it in a couple of weeks. Otherwise you get what we've seen in the past couple of weeks with quines and then "code-trolling" (in scare quotes because the troll, if anyone, seems to me to be the question asker): a batch of 5+ closely related questions which rob any variety from the front page. If a question is non-trivial enough to be worth posting then a really good answer takes a couple of days, so a flood of similar questions is pointless. – Peter Taylor Dec 29 '13 at 18:17
• @PeterTaylor Duly noted. – Joe Z. Dec 29 '13 at 19:01
• I think people will get the hint when there is a "code-trolling" tagged question entitled "How can I stop code-trolling questions from getting out of control?" – Eliseo D'Annunzio Jan 9 '14 at 2:35
• The "flash in the pan" theory may be right. As of right now... the latest 16 questions... no code-trolling. :-) ? – Darren Stone Jan 20 '14 at 2:15

I would argue that if code trolling isn't off topic then it should be. It's an activity more suited for chat than for this site: it's an opportunity for people to show off their "wit" rather than their skill in coding to a spec while optimising against a particular criterion. I would quite happily delete all questions in the category.

• Just keep Victor's original as "of historical relevance" :-) – J B Jan 2 '14 at 12:16
• Disagree. I just think it's a new thing that needs the rules to keep being refined to assist in moderation. I enjoyed writing this answer and I think dissecting the pathology of it provides more educational value than a lot of "sincere" answers. It's just a matter of doing it right. But don't kill new art forms when they're just emerging. – HostileFork says dont trust SE Jan 4 '14 at 6:36
• @Dr.Rebmu, I'm more worried about killing the site. The only lesson people will actually take home from your answer is that this site is about writing bullshit for the sake of writing bullshit. – Peter Taylor Jan 4 '14 at 9:57
• @PeterTaylor We live in a time most of us are getting pwned, even by our own government. Being able to read code with a critical eye and describe exactly "what's wrong with this picture" is an important skill. To me a good answer for this topic is something that appears to work, but contains a bug which might be the kind that could appear in a hack. Sneaking something in that informed auditors (in this case, CS profs) should catch. It's a puzzle-writing contest vs a puzzle-solving contest; but yes, it shouldn't devolve into just being joke writing. – HostileFork says dont trust SE Jan 8 '14 at 18:33
• @Dr.Rebmu there is a special place in hell for code trollers – caird coinheringaahing Jun 15 '17 at 21:46

I agree that is has been overstretched. People are quick to try to mimic a successful thread, but don't have the "inspiration" required to write a good puzzle. To be more specific, they are deciding to write a code-trolling puzzle before deciding what the puzzle is going to be about.

This is not to say that code-trolling is a bad concept, just that mimic questions (which always come after a success) tend to have less ingenuity. That, and the sheer number of them gets annoying.

Now, I think this is a temporary problem which will go away in a few days. Between now and then, however, we can simply downvote/close any particularly bad ideas.

Also, there are now tons of new members who are not accustomed to this site. They don't have a good "feel" for what makes a good question, which can cause problems. This is an opportunity to educate and recruit!

• Don't forget editing to make the titles less repetitive. – Shog9 Dec 29 '13 at 3:44

In addition, @PhiNotPi 's wonderful answer, I think we need more strict guidelines on how code-trolling questions should be written. Perhaps these as a few starting requirements? (Some of these may already exist as criteria)

• Novelty - A question or topic should not be repeated unless there is a significant difference in interpretation. I.E. Answers to a previous question should not be able to be copy-pasted into the new question with only minor modifications.
• Clear Winner - There should be clear and simple rules explaining how a winner should be determined. If is applied, there should be a clear indication of what qualities make a good answer.
• A statement of what can and cannot be accepted. While each question may warrant variations, Here are a few examples:
• No trivial solutions, like print("the code");
• No malicious code, like rm -rf /
• Difficulty - There should be at least some challenge. A question asking to print a string backwards is not enough of a challenge to be remotely puzzling.
• Open to interpretation - The question should be somewhat vague, or allowing for (possibly deliberate) misinterpretation of what the OP wanted.

I like code trolling, but I think a que would be great so that we only get one per day. I also think we should add the requirement that all trolling questions must have been posted first somewhere else.

• The "taking actual questions from SO" idea occurred to me, too (and I'm sure others), but I think that would only have the effect of educing the latent nasty snobbishness of these questions. I think it better to keep them invented, light-hearted, and interesting challenges than push them into venting sessions for SO users. – jscs Dec 31 '13 at 7:13
• @JoshCaswell, the point of this site is not to be a place for SO users to vent. – Peter Taylor Dec 31 '13 at 8:37
• @PeterTaylor - yes, I believe that's what JohnCaswell was saying. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '13 at 18:52
• @PeterTaylor: Exactly; I didn't say it was. The code-trolling genre looks to me like it has potential, but definitely not if it's just a way to make fun of people, even in absentia. – jscs Dec 31 '13 at 19:53
• One per week would be enough to me. – J B Jan 2 '14 at 12:18

The code trolling questions scratch an itch for me. I'm more of an enterprisey, use-lots-of-patterns-and-architecture programmer, so they offer code puzzles that give me a chance to exercise the aspects of programming that I enjoy. I'm much more likely to post code trolling questions and answer them than I am to enter the more established types of contests and would be sad to see code trolling questions go away all together.

That said, I know I'm not a regular user, nor am I the type of programmer who's attracted to the established golf and obfuscation contests that are well-established on this site. I don't want code trolling questions to go away completely myself, but I understand that each SE site sets its own boundaries. If the established community here decides that code-trolling questions are off-topic, I'll accept it.

• I think you can swipe out the first 2/3 of this answer. – Shoe Jan 1 '14 at 20:58
• I think one thing that I do want to communicate is that since I'm not a regular user, I'll be sad if code trolling questions go away completely, but I understand that each SE site sets its own boundaries. I'll edit my answer to make that more clear. – Kevin Jan 1 '14 at 21:00

Clearly, the only solution is codetrolling.stackexchange.com.

• making an area 51 proposal rn – InitializeSahib Aug 9 '16 at 23:05

I think it's all just good fun and don't see a reason to kill it off. As @manatwork pointed out in his comment on the question, if you really get sick of it just Ignore the tag.

• I am ignoring the tag, but that just means that I see massive semi-transparent gaps on the front page. It doesn't solve the real problem, which is that the site fills up with crap and new visitors think that that's the expected quality of the site. – Peter Taylor Dec 31 '13 at 19:07
• In your preferences you can check the “hide ignored tags” checkbox to get rid of the semi-transparent stripes. But I agree, this is not a solution. – manatwork Jan 1 '14 at 13:54

It's just Follow the Leader. To answer the question, it probably is, as it increases the activity on website.