Now I know that duplicate questions are bad, but because this is a programming puzzles site, should there be a time range after which puzzles can be asked again?

Reason one is that new users who missed out on old questions may enjoy solving them, and old users might enjoy attempting to improve their old answer or writing a new one in a different language, as long as there is a long enough time range between the questions.

Reason two is that after a while, we will run out of puzzles to ask, and then the site will die.

At the minimum, there should be 2 to 3 years since the last activity on the old question to allow a duplicate question, but what do you users think about allowing duplicate questions after a certain time limit has passed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What would stop people from just reposting their 2-year-old answer? \$\endgroup\$ – marinus Jan 7 '14 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess nothing, but the new users would have a chance to do the puzzle too. \$\endgroup\$ – user10766 Jan 7 '14 at 3:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ But they can just add their answer to the old question. That'll also raise it to the top again so more people can do it too/vote for the answers. The questions are never closed after all. \$\endgroup\$ – marinus Jan 7 '14 at 4:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have a point there, even though most people won't dig for them. \$\endgroup\$ – user10766 Jan 7 '14 at 4:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ But when a duplicate question is closed, a link to the original question is added, so people won't have to dig. \$\endgroup\$ – marinus Jan 7 '14 at 4:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't see how that will help, unless duplicate questions are being closed regularly, but I can see that my idea wasn't very good. Thanks for the feedback. \$\endgroup\$ – user10766 Jan 7 '14 at 4:42

A straight duplicate seems unnecessary, but a near-duplicate wouldn't necessarily be terrible. Do an old one with a new twist, or a more complicated scoring-system. Or more expanded, or more limited.

A priori, I think such a thing is possible to make work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this sounds like a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ – user10766 Jan 7 '14 at 16:13

I'd like to advocate a more flexible policy for closing duplicates. As is, duplicate and near-duplicate questions seem to be closed as a hard rule. Of course, we don't want the same question repeated over and over. But if the new question is much better than the old one, closing it is a needless loss in quality for the site. I'd like for the duplicate policy to be more flexible, and allow a repeat of a question if the new one is significantly better than the old.

A weird situation comes up when a well-posed question is upvoted, starts getting quality answers, and then is suddenly closed because someone discovers an old link to a similar question. Is this really serving the community interest? It's sad when someone posts a well thought-out, exactly-specified, test-cased question, and it's closed because the same challenge was posed in a question from 2011 with an ambiguous two-sentence spec and only a few mediocre answers.

With the current policy on duplicates, that challenge can never be posed again. Anyone who was not on the site at the time misses out on that topic forever. A good question that was ruined by an loophole never gets a second chance.

At this point, someone is sure to object, "But you can just answer the old question or edit it to improve it!" I think that this is a romantic view that it's simply not realistic.

If you answer a question from many years ago, chance are barely anyone will see it. You might as well submit it to dev/null. Likewise for edits to improve an old challenge. Yes, there are some old questions that pop up perennially, but in most cases, that question and your answer or edits will fall off the front page and be forgotten. It'a vicious cycle in that even those who see it and are tempted to participating don't so as not to risk investing time in something that nobody is likely to see.

A new question is like a community agreement to focus attention on that challenge. The fun of the site is golfing/coding with other people -- commenting, upvoting, making improvements. It's a social experience. Why do people post answers rather than just leaving the code they wrote on their computer? That's the same reason answering or editing an old question just isn't the same.

Moreover, old questions are often not up to the quality standards of modern ones. Submitting an answer to an ambiguous or flawed spec is unsatisfying. Editing an old spec to be more precise or close loopholes is unfair to existing answers. Adding a bounty doesn't get fix this either.

If there were another mechanism to resurrect old questions and improve them, with a social agreement to focus on that question for a time, I'd be all for it. But as is, if someone does the service of making a better version of an old question, intentionally or not, I think we should not throw away effort that by closing it as a duplicate.

(I also want to endorse this post by Ryan as to the lack of harm of closing duplicates.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ If your goal is to farm rep, then by all means vote to keep every post open. If, however, your goal is to challenge yourself to solve problems in as short a code as possible, then who cares that you might or might not get an upvote? The want is the challenge, not the rep. Note also that the main page (codegolf.stackexchange.com) shows all posts (with score > -3) that have been edited or answered, so chances are the many of us who watch that will see the new answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 29 '14 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KyleKanos I think the accusation of rep farming is totally unfair. People want to participate in challenges with other golfers; that's the point of the community. Of course the point is the challenge, but you too choose to post your golfs rather than leaving them on your computer for your private satisfaction. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Aug 29 '14 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please read my comment again. I am not accusing anyone of farming rep, it is part of the dichotomy that I see (either you want the rep & should vote accordingly or you want the challenge and vote accordingly). \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 29 '14 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KyleKanos I'm confused then. What do close votes have to do with rep? \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Aug 29 '14 at 2:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want more rep (farming), you don't want closed questions because it means less opportunity to get said rep. If you want challenges, then it doesn't matter that you answer an old post (and get little/no rep) but it's in your best interest to eliminate duplicates. That's just my take on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 29 '14 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ The scenario you pose is the exception, not the rule. My thoughts on it are expressed in more detail elsewhere, but basically it's a lose-lose situation. However, to the more common case where the dupe isn't an obvious improvement over the older question, you're overstating your case. "Anyone who was not on the site at the time misses out on that topic forever" is just not true. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Aug 29 '14 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are four ways to bring attention to an old challenge: chat, bounty, posting your own answer, and posting a dupe. Only the last one has broken incentives like encouraging people to repost their earlier answers in the hope of farming more rep. And if it's community agreement and the social aspects that you're looking for then drumming up interest in chat is a better solution than posting a dupe. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Aug 29 '14 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ryan: I did read the post, so I'm well aware that rep farming wasn't mentioned (so your statement is superfluous), but it was my first thought when I read this post. I also don't say anything about how someone wanting the challenge should vote, so please do not try putting words in my mouth. My point is that there are duplicates and only people interested in farming rep want to keep it open instead of going back to the old one (xnor even says, chance are barely anyone will see it. You might as well submit it to dev/null. Likewise for edits to improve an old challenge.). \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 30 '14 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ryan: So it appears your saying that all of these points are just a cover for wanting to farm rep. this is how I am interpreting the positions here. By wanting new copies of the same challenge, you want the exposure to earn more rep, rather than wanting the challenge of stripping down your code as much as possible (or in some cases, learning a new language). I honestly do not see how you can argue that your position is anything but this. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 30 '14 at 13:38

There are good reasons why duplicate questions should not be allowed in a Question and Answer site. If allowed, the information would become fragmented and people looking for answers would only see part of the answers available when searching.

The Programming Puzzle site, although built on the Stack Exchange platform, has different goals. Programmers create clever puzzles as questions and other programmers compete with solution posted as "answers". Does it matter if we have a similar or duplicate puzzle on this site? If somebody invents Monopoly and we have a great game, are we concerned when the game is brought out 6 months later for another game? We may worry that solutions may be a copy from the previous session, but is that a problem? New players will present new solutions and new ideas. The site loses nothing by revisiting a puzzle.

If the new puzzle has a few changes over the older puzzle, older solutions may be refined and adapted to the new requirement, or new solutions crafted from scratch. In either case the site will stimulate more clever solutions.

You may ask, why not just offer a solution to the old puzzle? Puzzles and their community seem to have a lifetime of a few days. After a week or two, new solutions will not be seen by many programmers as the community have moved on. When the monopoly board is brought out again, players that enjoyed the last round and new players can join in again in building clever solutions. But perhaps exact duplicates should still be discouraged. Some fresh twists in the Monopoly rules would motivate some new thinking on the solutions instead of just a copy and paste operation.

The Stack Exchange platform allows marking questions (puzzles) as duplicates and there is a culture of discouraging similar puzzles, but this a feature we should use sparingly on PPCG.


I know this has an accepted answer, and that kind of points to the flaw I see in the current system as set.

I've encountered a few older challenges that have accepted answers. To me, that means the challenge poster has declared a winner. No one else has a chance to win that challenge. That acts as a deterrent to people who would want to post for the sake of competition. I would propose that any challenge with an accepted answer be closed or deleted after a period of time. That allows people to recycle the question. Let newer people to the site try their hand at answering the question.

As it sits now, I see the current system as an "old boy's club" where you only have a chance at making a name for yourself if you started with the Challenges and Code Golf site. Questions are retained to both idolize the winners and ensure they keep the precious points, at the cost of allowing others to fight for the same challenge.

Deleting a challenge with an accepted answer is a good way around the issue of duplicating answers. I cannot go and get the answers from a deleted post. I have to challenge myself.

Ultimately, I look at it like this:

Jane posts the challenge "Walk to the corner and back." A month later Bill posts "Walk to the corner and back, backwards" A year later Joe posts "Walk to the corner and back on your hands."

All these are similar. Any response to Bill or Joe could be posted to Jane. Some responses to Jane could be posted to Bill or Joe. Therefore, Bill and Joe are considered duplicates., and they shouldn't be. They introduce a new aspect to the challenge that some people might want to consider. Walking to the corner and back is too easy, but I don't have the balance to walk on my hands. I'll try the backwards option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "To me, that means the challenge poster has declared a winner." A good challenge author, if he is still active on PPCG, will review new submissions and change the accepted answer accordingly. "I would propose that any challenge with an accepted answer be closed or deleted after a period of time." If they are closed they can still act as a source for copying solutions to new challenge, while preventing people who want to answer them from doing so. If they are deleted, we lose very good content. (And high-rep user can still repost old solutions.) [cont.] \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Dec 19 '14 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ "As it sits now, I see the current system as an "old boy's club" where you only have a chance at making a name for yourself if you started with the Challenges and Code Golf site." I've started being active on this site only 9 months ago, which I think invalidates your point, if you look at the rep leaderboard. Likewise, Doorknob (who is even a mod now) joined the site 2 years after its inception. Only very few users "from the beginning" are actually still active. "I cannot go and get the answers from a deleted post." As I said, you can't, but high-rep users can. [cont.] \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Dec 19 '14 at 22:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for the final paragraph, I'm not sure how it relates to the problem. That is about close duplicates, which is always a borderline issue. But in any case, I think it's always better to try and make your new challenge a bit more different than closing or deleting old challenges. We've collected some really good content over the years, and I don't think there's any benefit in getting rid of it. And at the end of the day, remember that the green checkmark is only worth 15 rep. If your cool new answer to an old challenge gets you 2 upvotes, that's already better than that! \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Dec 19 '14 at 22:31

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