Given that the community seems to be in favor of allowing specific puzzles as questions (at least for the time being,) I think we need to give a little thought to how we should think about voting on answers to these.

To be clear: votes are yours to give - I'm hoping we can come up with suggested community guidelines, but no one's going to tell you you have to vote a certain way on any given post.

Guidelines on how to vote on answers for individual brainteasers is complicated a bit by a couple of things:

  • Puzzles that are not original have a known, existing answer that many users likely already know; it'd be better if something other than being first drove voting
  • Original puzzles which have non-binary criteria ("what solution has the highest percent likelihood of success) may have an unknown best answer
  • Sometimes different approaches, requiring different amounts of work can generate the same (correct) solution
  • Sometimes the answer is a known truth (most probability problems), and the most interesting part is how simply you can explain why it is the case.

I tossed my thinking below, but really just wanted to open up the conversation.


My Suggestion:

Remember that the most important thing in how we approach this is to ensure that the most useful answers wind up on top.

I'd think we'd want to rate answers based on the following order.

  1. Correctness. This often just means, "yes, it passes the binary test", but in optimization problems, any solution with a higher success rate should obviously outrank one with a lower one.
  2. Simplicity or Elegance of solution. Solutions that require lower-level math or techniques (assuming similar time to solve) are generally better.
  3. Clarity of Explanation. The Monty Hall problem is a great example of where the way you explain it is the most interesting part.

I initially thought that 2 and 3 were sort of the same thing, but it felt slightly clearer to separate them. If you disagree, feel free to edit or leave a comment - I was on the fence.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with keeping 2 and 3 separate. You can have a conceptually simple or elegant solution explained poorly, and likewise a more complex solution explained clearly (at least to those with the requisite background). $\endgroup$ – Kevin May 22 '14 at 2:42

If challenge-type questions are welcome here at all, which is still being debated, then answers should explain the solution.

An answer that just states “the solution is 42” without explaining why is junk. It doesn't have any use except bragging that you know the solution. We should downvote such answers (regardless of correctness), or quite possibly have a policy of deleting them.

The tooltip on answer voting buttons reads “This answer is (not) useful”. This generally translates into correctness and clarity, and I don't see anything different with solve-this-puzzle questions. If the explanation is correct and clear, upvote. If it is strongly incorrect or very unclear, downvote. If it's lacking altogether, delete.


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