In light of this recent question on main (now migrated to meta), here is a question I've been meaning to bring up for a while: should we broaden our scope to allow questions about challenge writing?

I think there's a lot to be said for it. It would probably provide unique content that you can't find anywhere else on the web (but could be relevant to people external to the community, since programming challenges are written in many places), and definitely aligns with the interests and expertise of this community. It could also help improve the quality of our own challenges if we educate each other on how to write better challenges (and thereby complement the sandbox). Also, while we're not a Q&A site I think there's no reason that we shouldn't make use of our Q&A heritage when we can.

Just to clarify, even if we say that we want to allow challenge writing questions in general, that doesn't necessarily imply that the question I linked above is or isn't a good example of that. If we do want to allow challenge writing questions, we should probably define a clearer scope of what sort of questions that would include (only specific questions about specific problems in challenge writing, like other SE sites would accept; only tips-like list question like we have for answering challenges etc.).

There is of course also the possibility to allow them on meta, but meta is about the workings of the community, whereas writing programming challenges is a concept that is completely independent of the community.

One more thing: if we do allow them, I expect them to get something like a tag so that everyone who feels that they dilute the challenge content can easily ignore them, so they can be easily filtered out in searches, as well as specifically searched for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re the last paragraph: While challenge writing in general is not meta, how to make challenges fit here probably is. It might be a fine line to walk on some questions, so it's something to keep in mind if we go forward with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Geobits Apr 5 '16 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Geobits Indeed. There's one precedent for using meta and some of it's answers are very general and some are specific to this community. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Apr 5 '16 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If we are going to have answer tips on the main site, then I'd argue for challenge tips to be on the main site. However, if that is the case, we should migrate our Things to Avoid question to main. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Apr 5 '16 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the question in question has since been moved to Meta, so it might be better to edit that phrase to say "this recent question which was originally on main" to clarify \$\endgroup\$ – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Apr 5 '16 at 18:42

Yes, on main, but...

We should treat them like regular Stack Exchange questions.

  • Does it ask for a potentially endless list of answers, or cover so much material that you could imagine writing a book about it? If so, it is too broad.
  • Does it solicit opinions? If so, it is primarily opinion based.
  • etc.

We treat challenge questions so differently that I think we sometimes forget how to treat normal, non-challenge questions.

But we already have a bunch of tips questions that are too broad and primarily opinion based!

Yes, I know. It is regrettable that we allowed so many broad questions full of high-quality content to mature before we matured as a site. I would love to see each of those questions broken down into many narrower, answerable questions. For now, we should leave them alone until a group of folks with extra time on their hands can rectify the situation. And avoid making the situation worse.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Our new moderators will have a bunch of extra time on their hands to rectify the situation. Isn't that right, candidates? \$\endgroup\$ – mbomb007 Apr 5 '16 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is essentially what I tried to write, but you said it better. \$\endgroup\$ – Zgarb Apr 5 '16 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zgarb I've had more practice arguing about tips questions :P \$\endgroup\$ – Rainbolt Apr 5 '16 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ How would this apply to "tips for golfing in [X language]" questions? Those benefit from being broad, by allowing a large number of answers that together make up a more complete answer. I think challenge-type questions are similar, and getting too specific is less helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Apr 5 '16 at 19:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mwr247 Broad and narrow questions both have their advantages, but the general consensus is that broad questions don't belong on Stack Exchange. Tips questions are the exception to the rule. They are built in a way that is useful for our community, and aren't very searchable by Google. If I wanted to know how to alias member functions in Python, I think I would want to find How do I alias member functions in Python? before I find Tips for golfing in Python. \$\endgroup\$ – Rainbolt Apr 5 '16 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, think about asking "Tips for learning Java" on Stack Overflow. Would you advocate that? Why/why not? \$\endgroup\$ – Rainbolt Apr 5 '16 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you be OK with questions about writing challenges for other code golfing site? These likely have different standards and culture from PPCG. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Apr 6 '16 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xnor Can you give an example of a question about writing challenges for a code golfing site that has absolutely nothing to do with our site? If you can, then I'll give you a more direct answer. If a question is so deeply embedded in some other site's culture that our community can't answer it, then you have to ask yourself, "Is this really a question about challenge writing?" \$\endgroup\$ – Rainbolt Apr 6 '16 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rainbolt For example, "When posing a challenge on Anarchy Golf, how can I choose test cases to rule out answers that work for most but not all inputs? Is it OK if some heuristic approaches slip by?" \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Apr 6 '16 at 3:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor I'd rather see that as a general question, not specific to Anarchy Golf. I think it would be just as applicable on any challenge site. \$\endgroup\$ – Geobits Apr 6 '16 at 4:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Geobits You mean something like "If I'm writing a challenge where a solution is considered valid if it passes all the test cases, ..."? \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Apr 6 '16 at 5:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor Right, something along those lines. I'll admit to not knowing much of anything about Anarchy Golf (or other golfing sites), but I imagine for any of them, you'd have to pass all test cases to be considered valid (assuming there are test cases given). \$\endgroup\$ – Geobits Apr 6 '16 at 5:07

Yes, but on meta

Because questions about writing challenges are more like questions about PPCG than challenges, meta makes more sense for these type of questions than main. Given that this question is present and well-received on meta, there is precedent for questions about writing challenges belonging on meta.

I believe that main's scope should be challenges and general tips questions (like "Tips for golfing in X language" and not "Tips for golfing this specific answer"). Any questions about main-site content go on meta (such as challenge-writing tips questions).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would be interested in a reason (or several) why putting them on main isn't a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Apr 5 '16 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBüttner I gave one: "Because questions about writing challenges are more like questions about PPCG than challenges". \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Apr 5 '16 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a reason why it might fit on meta, not why it wouldn't fit on main. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Apr 5 '16 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Our help center says that main is the place to put them. Non-challenge questions that are related to solving programming puzzles or a particular type of challenge are also on topic. codegolf.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic \$\endgroup\$ – AdmBorkBork Apr 5 '16 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimmyD A question about writing challenges is not related to solving programming puzzles or a particular type of challenge. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Apr 5 '16 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego Questions about writing specific challenges aren't, but it does say "...or a particular type of challenge...". A question relating to how to write a type of specific type of challenge (king of the hill, for example) seems to fit that criteria perfectly. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Apr 5 '16 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mego Then again, I see what you mean when taken together. That phrasing is confusing... \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Apr 5 '16 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I mentioned in chat, I interpreted that text as solving programming puzzles or [solving] a particular type of challenge. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Apr 5 '16 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Chat transcript -- chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/240/conversation/… \$\endgroup\$ – AdmBorkBork Apr 5 '16 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBüttner I'd find such questions weird weird on main because they'd likely implicitly be about PPCG, not challenge design in general. Other golfing sites have different standard and cultures, and I doubt answers would address those. \$\endgroup\$ – xnor Apr 6 '16 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xnor As long as questions are clear about whether they're about writing challenges in a specific context or not, I don't think there is going to be a problem. Many users in this community do have experience with other programming challenge sites/communities/contests and would be able to answer questions about specific other sites as well, should they be asked. And like Geobits said in a comment on Rainbolt's answer, I also think many questions will be generally applicable (or at least to a range of similar challenge contexts). \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Apr 6 '16 at 7:02

They should be allowed on main, but only with a narrow scope

Because challenge creation is an integral part of the PPCG community, I think we should allow questions about it on the main site. I see PPCG as a place for not only posing and solving challenges, but collaborating and learning how to to pose better challenges and/or solve them using fewer bytes. Also, challenge writing is not easy. Allowing these types of questions on the main site could potentially lower the threshold for writing good KOTHs, fastest-codes and code challenges, which require much more effort to create than pure golfs. Questions about KOTHs may also have applications outside PPCG, like game development.

That said, I also think we shouldn't allow overly broad questions such as the one linked above (after all, we are a Stack Exchange site, and our model favors focused questions). Instead of "How to make a good KOTH", one could ask "How can I compensate for first turn advantage in a turn-based KOTH with randomized turn order", or "How should I score a code challenge in a way that combines speed and accuracy over a test battery". Defining an acceptable scope would probably need another Meta post.

Finally, questions that are speficically about PPCG (like ones that only apply to a particular challenge here) should of course be only allowed in Meta.


Yes, they should be treated like language tips

Language tips benefit from being on main, and are about collecting general "best practice" suggestions for different languages. Because challenge rules can vary so extensively, these don't always help in every case for every submission in that language. But we still consider them a valuable resource for improving submissions.

Challenge-type tips should be treated the same way. This is a site about creating and answering code challenges and programming puzzles, and challenge writers would greatly benefit from general tips towards the type of challenge they are creating, even if all of the advice doesn't always apply to every situation (just like language golfing tips).

As before, specific questions to a particular challenge or challenge idea is still in meta's scope. But if it's asking for tips in general for a variety of challenge, this feels well within the scope for what main is about.


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