# Should (and/or are) top voted answers (allowed to) use spoiler tags

Reading this answer (see comments) or this question here on meta, are answers expected and/or allowed to use spoiler tags for the reason:

Doing a favor for those who don't want to immediately see the solution when they load the page.

- generalcrispy

and

since we'll be discussing various puzzles/riddles where knowing the solution spoils the whole challenge. That way, the answer won't spoil the puzzle for the visitor

- SF.

To me personally it seems to be a bit of a spoiler tag misuse, however just wanted to throw this up on meta so that you guys could decide (I am just a lurker here on puzzling.SE). All I can say is that the spoilers have been irritating me quite a bit. I would argue that spoilers would make sense if this would be a "help me with this puzzle"-site, however this is a Q&A site where puzzles are meant to be solved. And if this behaviour is allowed then it might be a better idea to just request SE to make it the default for all posts (to show them only on :hover) (Because allowing it would mean that some users will do it, whereas others won't, creating overall inconsistency).

• So you want spoiler tags to be all-or-nothing? – TheRubberDuck Nov 3 '14 at 19:32
• @EnvisionAndDevelop: No... I wish spoiler tags to be used for what they were meant for: To partially hide content. To give an example, if you ask: "Did Harry Potter ever marry?" (Yes, he married Ginny) vs "I just read book X and I was wondering whether Harry ever marries Cho?" (No, he doesn't (spoiler: he marries Ginny)). Here on puzzling.SE I personally can't see a reason to ever use spoilers, but that might be me, all I am saying is that whatever you guys agree on should be consistently applied. – David Mulder Nov 3 '14 at 19:54
• It's a recent trend: only three wholly-spoiler answers before 2014-10-25, ≥47 since then. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 12 '14 at 11:53
• It's hard to see what harm this "misuse" does. – A E Nov 12 '14 at 20:44
• @AE The "harm" is in the extra work it takes to do some normal browsing of the site. – David Mulder Nov 12 '14 at 21:00
• @DavidMulder: Moving the pointer on-screen seems like a very very small amount of 'work' to me. – A E Nov 12 '14 at 21:03
• @AE... haha, as somebody who has done a lot of UI design forcing a user to use the mouse all the time to navigate a site is beyond poor. Either way, read Gilles answer if you didn't and do say what you think of that :) – David Mulder Nov 12 '14 at 21:21
• @DavidMulder: it's not 'all the time' though, and it's not navigation, it's content. The benefit of concealing the spoiler must outweigh the very small marginal cost of moving the pointer, otherwise no-one would ever use spoiler tags for anything. – A E Nov 13 '14 at 10:00
• Side-point: We should wait for some form of consensus to be reached on this topic before actively trying to enforce it sitewide - some of us have already started dropping comments to that effect as if the policy was already in place. – Psychemaster Nov 25 '14 at 10:18

## I'm wholeheartedly in the group "for-spoiler-tags".

For me, the harm of "readers needs to move their mouse to see" is strongly outweighed by the harm of "accidently reading/seeing" a solution.

Someone looking for "the" answer needs to do this on a singly (accepted) post only, whereas it is (close-to-)impossible to "not look at" a solution.

Green elephant.

## Why I think spoilers are good.

It is really hard to willingly ignore facts your eyes are scanning. The problem is worse if it is a picture. Again please ignore the single picture I've placed at the end of this posting. I have deliberately placed it far below, so it should be easy. It might be tricky though, if you want to go through several answers....

Then, there is also another reason why I think spoiler-guarded answers are good. I really enjoy reading good solutions to puzzles I couldn't solve. Sometimes, the answer is nicely split into spoiler-guarded sections like: The answer is "...".
My initial reasoning was "..."
Hint XY then gave me the idea of "...."

I can go through those one by one and easily decided to take up a puzzle from there. I.e. I read the solution, but want to figure it out myself nevertheless.

A third usage of spoilers - a bit more disputable though - is that several (of my :c) ) riddles were strongly criticised for being ambiguous. I don't want discuss this opinion here, but sometimes narrowing a riddle down too much can really, really spoil it. I think it actually a very good idea to place not initially essential "restriction" facts into spoilers.

Finally, I think spoiler-tags have been created and named to indicate exactly that: Sections that spoil it for the reader. Plain-text (or image!) answers right next to the posed question do exactly that. So if one shouldn't use spoilers there, what should they be good for at all ?? Remove them from the makeup language, if they make the site so horrible....
Why do you think newspapers post the answers to their crosswords on separate pages or at least upside down? It clearly is less convenient for the reader to turn pages (or the newspaper on its head), and they still seem to do it like that for ages.

And with this, I close my contribution to this discussion. I really hope, you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, when I say: Did you notice any elephants in the room?

• I didn't see any elephants. Something trampled me though. Note that I do not advocate not using spoilers: what I don't want is answers where there is nothing useful. If two answers are identical except for the spoiler-hidden part, they're hiding too much. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 26 '14 at 17:06
• @Gilles If an answer show something that would spoil the fun of people trying to solve the question, it is much worse than it being hidden. Your argument about "there is nothing useful" is baseless, it is exact for the reason that there is something useful that the spoiler is there, to not show it unintentionally. If there is nothing useful, then the spoiler is uneeded. Hiding too much is not the problem, just move the mouse over it. Showing too much is the big problem, because once you have saw it, there is no way to unsee. – Victor Stafusa Nov 26 '14 at 17:29
• @gilles: I think one can only decide this on each particular riddle, not in general. In some, answer posts would reveal to much, in others a good mixture of hidden/unhidden would work. My feeling is, the "nuisance" of spoilers is not big enough to justify strongly enforced rules/instructions. – BmyGuest Nov 26 '14 at 19:03

I don't think it's necessary to forbid spoiler markup.

In brainteaser-style puzzles, there is often an essential idea that makes the answer obvious (often, the answer itself contains this idea); seeing it before thinking of it yourself thus "spoils" the puzzle. For that reason, I think it's perfectly acceptable for people to use spoilers to hide some or all of their answer. The spoiler markup doesn't even contain the word spoiler; it's just ">!". In any case, I'm not sure it's a problem to have people "misusing" the spoiler tags. If you feel one is totally unnecessary, you can edit it out.

I don't think it's necessary to require spoiler effects.

Puzzling.SE, while a great place to come to see a variety of puzzles, isn't actually meant to be a puzzle repository. There are many questions on the site where spoiler tags would not make any sense, such as those discussing puzzle creation or solving strategy. Even in questions with a "solve this puzzle" format, there's not always an "aha!" fact that spoils the question; sometimes the answer is a paragraph of explanation that it's hard to accidentally read, and so there's no need to hide it all.

In the cases where the answer would spoil the question, it's usually not that big of an issue. There are workarounds, like this user script, and it's not generally all that hard to avoid scrolling and seeing the answer. In the cases where spoiler markup would be beneficial, someone can edit the answer.

• For those who want to have answers hidden I think Empuzzler is the right solution. And my problem with them is just that it requires extra actions (moving my mouse over each answer) where there reasonably doesn't seem to be any reason to. And what I meant with consistently is that right now for examply only the highest voted answers are using spoiler tags... which only makes sense for users who sort by votes. If you sort by date it makes no sense that some random answers require you to hover over them to see... – David Mulder Nov 4 '14 at 4:30
• I think the reason highly-voted answers use spoilers is because they often are the right answers, and more people have noticed and edited them to use spoiler markup. That's not a measure of consistency overall, it's just a product of answers that come first getting more attention. Ideally, everyone would act consistently. However, I don't think there is (or should be) a strict rule regarding its use. If you think an answer should use spoilers differently, I think the proper response is to edit it to fit. – TheRubberDuck Nov 4 '14 at 14:36
• A personal note here - any edit to any of my posts which consists of just adding spoiler markup where the editor deems it suitable will be rejected with extreme prejudice. – Joe Z. Apr 14 '15 at 16:58

I specifically include the disclaimer

Puzzlers are politely encouraged to place answers in spoiler blocks to avoid spoiling the fun for other readers.

at the end of a puzzle if there's a unique correct solution.

It's often difficult to read through a question while constantly averting one's eyes from any solutions posted below it. Having answers in spoiler blocks is a nice compromise. The only effort needed on behalf of viewers who want to immediately view the solution(s) is a bit of mouse movement. Spoilers can also be locked "visible" by clicking on them.

For puzzles that invite more than one solution, I don't include the disclaimer.

• Yeah, that's my general theory with a spoiler tag. Instead of always including the disclaimer, you just slap a tag on it and people figure it out soon enough (or modify answers without spoilers to comply). – Joel Rondeau Nov 5 '14 at 18:29
• @JoelRondeau: I didn't even know that a spoiler tag existed, and I wouldn't have guessed that's what it was for. If that's its purpose, I'll start including it in questions where the disclaimer appears. I notice that many of the tags on puzzling.SE don't have associated descriptions. Perhaps a high-rep user reading this could make a half-day project out of putting some in. – COTO Nov 5 '14 at 22:35
• One doesn't exist. I'm suggesting that we create one for this purpose. Had I not found this question I was about to ask my own to suggest we create one. – Joel Rondeau Nov 5 '14 at 22:44
• @JoelRondeau: "spoilers" is a uniquely problematic word in that it's a contronym. To many, "spoilers" refers to the content of the spoiler block rather than the spoiler block itself. Hence a "spoilers" tag could be interpreted to mean "we allow spoilers" or "this question has spoilers" instead of the intended "please conceal answers in spoilers". Tags like "spoilers-please", "no-spoilers-please", "spoilers-only" all have the same problem. Something like "spoiler-blocks-please" might work, presuming "spoiler block" is a common enough term. – COTO Nov 5 '14 at 23:02
• Although I agree with everything you're saying, what I'm wondering is if we picked one and tried it out, how long would people be confused? If the answer is "a couple of weeks", that might be fine. If the answer is "many new user are annoyed by it and it's driving them away", then we kill it. – Joel Rondeau Nov 6 '14 at 3:14

What if we added a spoiler tag? So when you post a puzzle and your preference is that users post their answers with spoiler markup, you attach the spoiler tag to the question.

• What makes a tag better than a manual disclaimer? – TheRubberDuck Nov 5 '14 at 20:14
• The fact that it's always going to be identical (or we'll end up merging multiple tags), and the fact that you don't have to go find your disclaimer to type it out again. What makes it potentially worse is the distinct possibility that people will ignore it. – Joel Rondeau Nov 5 '14 at 20:16
• Yeah, I often don't pay attention to tags, but I always read the whole question. But I suppose tags are faster and easier to add. – TheRubberDuck Nov 5 '14 at 20:17
• Yes. I was thinking quicker and more consistent. There's also the question of whether people would search on a spoiler tag. Don't know the answer to that one. – Joel Rondeau Nov 5 '14 at 20:20
• This is a meta tag. Despite that it's quick and simple and consistent. Not sure where I sit on this usage... – doppelgreener Nov 12 '14 at 23:47
• Nice link. I wasn't sure if I liked my idea. Now I am against it. – Joel Rondeau Nov 13 '14 at 0:49

I fully endorse badp's spoiler policy.

• Your question must make sense without spoiler protected paragraphs.
If the spoiler is the whole point of your question, don't spoiler protect it.
If the spoiler is the whole point of your answer, don't spoiler protect it.
• Your title must be easy to Google for. If that means spoilery, so be it.
If there's a spoiler in the title, don't mask it.

The third point makes sense on sites like Gaming and Science Fiction and Fantasy but not really here. The gist of it is: a reader must be able to find out what is in a spoiler block without reading that spoiler block.

In particular, if a post consists solely in a spoiler block, the spoiler block is useless: there's no way to know what the answer is about without reading the spoiler. I agree that this is a complete misuse of spoilers. When you have a question where all the answers are fully in spoiler markup, all the answers look the same… If someone wants to see a riddle question and doesn't want to read the answers, they can read the question without reading the answers, spoiler blocks are useless for that.

We should have a policy that a post must be readable without exposing spoilers, and that spoiler blocks are only for extra information.

An example of a good use of spoilers is when a question is about understanding why a solution to a puzzle works. In the question, state the puzzle, explain the general technique used by the solution, use a spoiler block for the details of the solution, and ask the specific question you meant to ask. That way, readers can read the question and still solve the puzzle by themselves if they want to.

This SEDE query lists the posts that consists solely of a spoiler block as of last Sunday (SEDE is updated weekly). At the time I write this, there were 50 such posts, which is amount 3% of the answers. I haven't tried to estimate how many posts have no useful text outside of a spoiler block (or even something like two paragraphs in spoilers and nothing else).

• For most of the questions on Puzzling, which are the asker posting a puzzle/riddle and people posting answers, I disagree with you wholeheartedly. If a post consists of solely a spoiler block, then it isn't useless. It's actually really useful - for those who want to see the answer to the puzzle, they can, but for those who want to scroll through and look at comments or something like that without getting the full answer, they can. That's exactly what a spoiler is for, hence the name. It prevents people from spoiling the riddle or puzzle in question. – mdc32 Nov 17 '14 at 2:09
• @mdc32 What's the point of scrolling down if the a answers are hidden and you aren't going to reveal them? You'll only see blank spaces and incomprehensible comments. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 17 '14 at 6:10
• @Gilles Well for one thing, screen sizes aren't the same, and since you can't say your post won't at some point be at the top, somebody with a large screen might see it without scrolling. – Michael Nov 20 '14 at 1:22
• @Michael This has nothing to do with screen sizes. If you don't want to read answers, don't read the bottom of the window. You don't need spoiler markup to hide all answers. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 20 '14 at 1:30
• @Gilles Well sometimes you want to read the comments at the bottom. Like this :) – QuyNguyen2013 Nov 30 '14 at 20:49
• @Gilles Answers may be in the form of large images, lists, numbers, or some other format that naturally draws the eye. Saying "just don't read it" is essentially asking people to reprogram their brains. – singletee Jan 5 '15 at 20:58