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It has come up several times recently (more than usual) that PPCG differs from most of the other Stack Exchange sites in that it's not a Q&A site. People don't come here to ask a question because they have a problem, people come here to solve recreational challenges. The most valuable contribution to this site isn't people using their free time to solve others' problems, but using their free time to think up interesting challenges for the enjoyment of others. This entire post rests on the premise that we are not by any definition a Q&A site. If you want to contest that, please start a separate meta post.

So the actual problem is that the entire site (and more importantly the onboarding experience for new users who don't look past all the standard texts and don't know about PPCG's "special" role in the SE network) is saying "this is a Q&A site, get help here if you have a problem and show what you've tried". I think that's why the "beta" label is more appropriate here than on any other ungraduated site. And given recent developments maybe it's time we actually talked about where those discrepancies are to see if something could be done about them.

Of course, every time someone brings up the "we're not a Q&A site discussion" that is always accompanied with "but SE isn't going to pour any dev hours into custom code for PPCG, so tough luck". And while it's probably true that we won't get large amounts of customisation unless this community becomes a seriously big player, there are some simple things like changing some standard texts that might not be much effort and would already greatly help improve the overall experience here. Plus, SE most definitely isn't going to spend any time on features that were never requested because we thought they wouldn't ever implement them anyway.

So the idea of this post is to discuss how the site could be improved for the way PPCG as a community uses it, and in terms of how we're not a Q&A site. The idea is to do this in the form of potential feature requests. Each answer should be one suggestion for an improvement to the site. These can be discussed in the comments and if they get some support they can get their own which can then be linked from here. By doing this "staging process" for feature requests relating to the Q&A issue, I hope that this post can act as a hub for them and we can post them in a more organised/coordinated fashion that increases the chances of us getting any of these things at some point in the future.

Note that this isn't about sorting out the gritty details of every single potential feature request like specific phrases and things like that. Those can be discussed when a corresponding feature request is posted later on. This is about suggesting which parts of the site could be improved (and roughly how), as a community brainstorming session, so we can see how they might work together and focus on pushing for the feature requests that seem most promising and urgent.

Please do not repost things that have already been asked about on meta. Existing feature requests related to the Q&A issue include:

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interestingly, we have a handful more "questions" than Puzzling does (22 pages). It's also in beta, of course, but it means PPCG isn't unique in how it uses the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s Feb 9 '16 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Draco18s Right, we're well aware of our friends at Puzzling (we even share a moderator), but the number of non-Q&A sites on SE is like a drop in the ocean compared to the "traditional" Q&A sites. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Feb 9 '16 at 22:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Taking @Rainbolt's feedback into account, perhaps it would make more sense to restrict this to new ideas for improving the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Feb 9 '16 at 23:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rainbolt this is specifically about improvements regarding the problem that we're not a Q&A site but are using Q&A software. This is specifically not tagged feature-request but discussion, because those actual feature requests are still supposed to be posted separately and linked to from here. The main idea is to collect all these closely related ideas in one place to refer to. I'm pretty sure this will ultimately have an expiration date automatically, when either SE goes about implementing some of these things or says "not going to happen". \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 9 '16 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Draco18s, Puzzling started out as Q&A and drifted a long way away from its original scope. It's a shame, because it was a more interesting site in the first couple of months than it is now. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Feb 10 '16 at 8:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer as this already has a meta post, but since, like Code Review, we're not a Q&A site with only short snippets, Should we increase our post character limit to allow substantial stack snippets? \$\endgroup\$ – trichoplax Feb 12 '16 at 4:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Question - let's assume that you folks were to be set to "graduated" status right this week. Would that be alright, or would you folks prefer that one or more of these textual-quick-fix-maybe-sorta deals were addressed before we started flipping switches? Keep in mind that privilege levels won't immediately change, so there shouldn't be too large a change to warrant concern, but thought I'd check in first if these were more of "Things to look into as part of the graduation process" or "Things to look into prior to graduation". \$\endgroup\$ – Grace Note Feb 22 '16 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GraceNote I personally assumed these would be things that happened after graduation (maybe around the time we get our design) and not before. \$\endgroup\$ – a spaghetto Feb 22 '16 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GraceNote I personally don't quite agree with Mego's order there. Of course, we don't want all of these things to be done before the beta label goes (I'm not confident that we'll ever get some of them, since they'd require substantial work on your part, and we're still a rather minor site in the network, I suppose). However, I think some things like the tour page and help centre are actually more important to the impression this site makes than getting fancy colours. Seeing how out of place some of these texts are they make the site seem more unfinished than the beta design. [tbc...] \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 22 '16 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, maybe all of this doesn't have to happen before you flip the first switches, but it would be great if some of these things could be taken into consideration as part of the graduation process. I don't see the graduation myself as that incredibly important that everything else on this list can wait. So if we could get some of those things while we're graduating that would be great, even if it did push back the graduation by a few weeks. I feel like once we have our colours people might also stop caring about these changes to a certain degree. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 22 '16 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Alright. There's the graduation process (enables elections and community ads, removes beta label, allows migration paths pending approval) and then a separate design process (actual visual design, plus increase of privilege levels). If I understand it right, the former would be fine to proceed with, but we'd want to work on reviewing the stuff in here before starting the gears on the latter, yes? \$\endgroup\$ – Grace Note Feb 22 '16 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also don't agree with Mego. To me, having the site text make sense in the context of what we do is more important than actually graduating. Sure, the regulars are used to the generic Q&A style text, but it's certainly not obvious to new users how everything translates to our site. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex A. Feb 22 '16 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GraceNote I'd be fine with that. Seems like a good compromise between acknowledging that we're graduating and giving these requests the right priority in the graduation context. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Feb 22 '16 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GraceNote For the record, I second Martin's last comment as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Doorknob Feb 22 '16 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey Martin! I agree with all the suggestions you and others have listed in the answers (excluding few exceptions on the second page). But as of March 29 2017, I don't think any of the suggestion has been implemented (I have'nt checked through all the answers; perhaps a few have been). So, is there any likelihood that the suggestion will ever be implemented? \$\endgroup\$ – Arjun Mar 29 '17 at 12:25

35 Answers 35

7
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Explicitly allow questions requesting help / advice in golfing code

Golf is not on topic at Code Review. We should make it clearer that questions requesting help for golfing substantial / non-trivial code (for varying definitions of trivial) are on-topic, because it's been voted on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We have chat for that. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Feb 29 '16 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego SO has chat for Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array?, too \$\endgroup\$ – cat Feb 29 '16 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what the relevance of the post you linked is. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Feb 29 '16 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego my point is, just because questions that have answers can be asked in chat, doesn't mean that it can't be on topic \$\endgroup\$ – cat Feb 29 '16 at 21:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your link is irrelevant because the question asked is on-topic for SO. PPCG is for programming puzzles and code golf. Asking "help me golf this code" is not within the site's scope. The closest we have is the tips questions, which are about general golfing techniques in various languages. If you want to ask "help me golf this code", don't do it on main or meta; do it in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Feb 29 '16 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego Just FYI, these currently are on topic, we just don't get a lot of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Mar 8 '16 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems a bit off-topic for this question. \$\endgroup\$ – CalculatorFeline Jul 8 '17 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CalculatorFeline What? \$\endgroup\$ – cat Jul 8 '17 at 19:05
5
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Customize the How To Ask box further

We're still getting a bunch of homework questions and interview riddles. I think the phrasing on the How To Ask box could be tweaked to make it abundantly clear that this is not a Q&A site:

PPCG's How To Ask box

I suggest we:

  1. Remove the bolded question at the top. I think a large number of users submitting “bad” asks read this question and think “oh, this is/could be conceived as a puzzle, so it's welcome here.” I don't think the phrasing “programming puzzle”, which is generally agreed to be a little misleading, should be in this box at all.

  2. Replace it with something like We’re not a traditional Q&A or homework help site. in bold and red, so it will catch the eye of anyone submitting their first question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ At this point it's probably a good idea to turn this into a separate question right away. That would make it easier to get feedback on the exact change and then point a CM towards the request. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender May 14 '18 at 12:15
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Have a difficulty rating on challenges

I'd love it if the community could vote on challenges based on how difficult they think the challenge is, along with sorting/filtering based on difficulty.

This will likely never get implemented, due to the complexity it adds, but it would really make the site seem more like a "challenge" site, and not just a site with a bunch of challenges.

(I know, difficulty can be highly subjective, but the average rating would still serve as a good estimate)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Number of answers serves as a good approximate measure of how easy a challenge is. If a question is easy, it'll nearly always get a ton of answers fairly quickly. \$\endgroup\$ – user62131 Dec 2 '16 at 22:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ That really only works for challenges with a low difficulty, and has both false positives and negatives. There are tons of questions with a few answers because they are low quality and/or uninteresting, not because they are difficult. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Dec 2 '16 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to draw attention to this Puzzling meta post, as a precedent (as well as this one) \$\endgroup\$ – Sp3000 Dec 2 '16 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the the puzzling post isn't relevant. I agree with much of doorknob's post, but I think that a person is rather good at judging whether the challenge is difficult for them to complete before they answer it. The rating would simply be the aggregate of those thoughts \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Dec 3 '16 at 0:34
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Create a separate, meta-like site for the sandbox

This could be a site that you could move posts to and from (like meta). Users would first post in the sandbox site, and they would have the capability to move something to the main site by clicking a button. Answers would be disabled(?)

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-6
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Remove the Title length limit

Since we aren't asking questions, it doesn't really make sense that our titles have a minimum length. Let's remove it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Challenge titles should still be somewhat informative. I've occasionally been annoyed by the limit as well, but in general I think the limit is a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Nov 18 '16 at 17:02

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