Who are you?
Hi there! I'm Alex. I'm
a moderator pro tempore an elected moderator on this site.
Why are you here?
What brought me here
Once upon a time I was working on a project for my job that involved learning a new programming language. However, no one at the company knew that language, so I had no one to go to for questions. So I joined Stack Overflow.
My participation on Stack Overflow steadily increased and I became completely hooked on the Stack Exchange network. One day (14 December 2014, to be specific), while looking at an R question on Stack Overflow, I noticed a post called Most common number on the Hot Network Questions sidebar, from some site called "Programming Puzzles & Code Golf." So I took a look at the question. "I know how to do this," I thought to myself, "this is just asking to find the mode of a list. Easy peasy, lemon sqeezy." So I made an account on the site and posted my answer. "Alright, that was fun," I thought. "Well, back to Stack Overflow."
A few days passed and I found myself checking out Programming Puzzles & Code Golf again. I answered. More days passed, I posted a couple more answers. I wasn't actively engaged, but I was having fun writing short code.
My activity on the site gradually picked up. And then it really picked up. I became addicted to writing short code. Code golf went from being a casual little activity I'd do occasionally to an actual passion.
Why I'm still here
"What sparked that passion?" you may ask. Well, I'm a naturally curious person and I love problem solving. Solving a programming challenge is nice! But what really got me into it was learning more about my favorite languages to find clever methods for getting the most out of every character in the code. Indeed, I've learned more about my favorite languages by golfing than I ever have from work, school, or anything else.
And now here we are. I've visited the site for 335 consecutive days (and counting) and I was appointed as a moderator on this most wonderful of sites in August of 2015. I can hear you saying, "Good lord, 335 consecutive days?! WHY?!" Well, it's fun! But it's more than that. It's instructive. I can't recall a single one of these past 335 days where I haven't come across something new and exciting on the site.
Our place in the Stack Exchange network
It's no secret that we're kind of a black sheep in the Stack Exchange network. While the other sites are for questions and answers, ours is for challenges and solutions. That's not to say that this isn't a good home for us though! Consider this excerpt from the "about" page:
Founded in 2008 by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood, the company was built on the premise that serving the developer community at large would lead to a better, smarter Internet.
Are we serving the developer community? ABSOLUTELY!
We provide a different kind of service to developers: A place for them to stretch their brain by solving new and varied tasks, and to hone their programming skills by learning how to shorten their code. I would call this our purpose as a Stack Exchange site.
The role of code golf on this site
In my opinion, code golf is what makes the site what it is. It's what makes us unique. We compete with sites like r/codegolf and Anarchy Golf to be the go-to place for code golf.
Code golf isn't all we are; we have other challenge types based on a variety of scoring mechanisms. But it's our bread and butter.
How we can innovate
I don't think that deviating from our golf-centric roots is necessarily the answer. However, I think we can continue to innovate by making a concerted effort to find new, intellectually stimulating problems and formulating them into challenges.
I've been pondering a way to include a challenge type for those who want to participate but don't want to golf. I don't think popularity contests are the answer. Perhaps we can find new scoring mechanisms for code-challenges that have a lower barrier to entry than code golf. While something like a "free code" challenge (i.e. post whatever you want as long as it solves the problem) might draw a lot of varied traffic, I think it would go against the our rules of objectivity that we've worked hard to build and enforce.
Our elevator pitch
This is what I usually tell people:
Code golf is a type of programming challenge where you solve a task with the shortest amount of code possible. CodeGolf.SE is a site on the Stack Exchange network for posing and competing in these challenges.
Note how I only mention code golf. This is because, as I said, it's what makes us unique. I could say we're a site for programming challenges, but what is some rando in an elevator going to remember, "generic programming challenges" or "shortest code to solve a challenge"?
I think if we can continue to bring good, fresh content to the site, we'll continue to thrive. But I know that whatever the future brings for our little site, I want to be a part of it.