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After reading other posts on meta, I've discovered something that most of you probably already know. What we are as a community is leagues away from the defined intention of the community. Most of what I see (and contribute) on Puzzling is puzzles of every sort. When I look at the definition document:

http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/45128?phase=definition

I see that all of the example questions were about puzzle solving rather than being puzzle solving itself.

We've created a new monster. Should we kill it with fire or nurture it? I love where we're going and most of the community seems to, but I'm not sure if it's even acceptable (with the powers that be) to change these things. If we are going to commit to this change, what are the rules to define it? The community have loosely agreed on some de-facto rules, but we need to unite them in one place to enforce them effectively.

It's great that we're discussing what's acceptable and what isn't, but I think we need to centralize the discussion so that we keep the bigger picture in mind. I'll post a few example rules of questions not allowed under the new format and we should add to them if we agree that the change is happening, but we also need to discuss the overall shift. Who are we?

Rules for creating/posting puzzles:

  • Puzzle must contain all information needed to solve it.
  • Puzzle's solution must make much more sense than other suggested answers given the puzzle criterion.
  • Puzzle must not be abandoned without a solution.

Rules for attempting to solve puzzles:

  • Any answer must carry accompanying reasoning.
  • Both answer and reasoning must be hidden by spoiler tags.
  • The correct solution is less important than the correct reasoning.
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's important to clarify the difference between "the solution" to the puzzle and "the answer(s)" posted on our SE site. One answer could poorly express "the" solution, while another answer could expertly describe an "incorrect" solution. I think this distinction is important to the redefining of this site as well as your 2nd and 3rd bullet points. $\endgroup$ – TheRubberDuck Nov 21 '14 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. I've amended the question to reflect your point. $\endgroup$ – Travis Don Kindred Nov 21 '14 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ If the community likes where the site is going, why change it? Why fix what's not broken? $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 22 '14 at 3:42
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On the general principle that we need to shape the community, I agree.

On a side note, it does happen that when an actual site starts, people realize that the scope set out by Area 51 isn't quite right. For example, Science Fiction & Fantasy came out of Area 51 as Science Fiction only, but got rescoped to include fantasy (and all speculative fiction, in fact) pretty much from day 1 of the private beta. Scope can even evolve over time — Information Security was renamed from IT Security well after graduation (the scope was never really restricted to information security though, there were application security questions ever since the early days), and after four years the site still hasn't settled regarding physical security topics such as lockpicking. Now what I've never seen is a complete change of character after 6 months (excluding one of two cases of explicit merging or splitting of sites). And a complete change of character is what Puzzling went through: brainteaser-type challenges went from being off-topic to dominating the site.

Now regarding your specific rules, I agree with some but not all.

Rules for creating/posting puzzles:

Puzzle must contain all information needed to solve it.

Yes, absolutely. If you can't answer a question merely by reading the question and having the requisite competence, then the question is not well-formulated.

Puzzle's solution must make much more sense than other suggested answers given the puzzle criterion.

That's a good stab at getting winning criteria, but it isn't an objective winning criterion, so I don't think it's enough of a guideline.

Puzzle must not be abandoned without a solution.

Why? If the question is a solve-this challenge, the onus is on the answerers to come up with answers. Asking for methods to solve a puzzle that you found somewhere and didn't manage to solve should be on-topic.

Rules for attempting to solve puzzles:

Any answer must carry accompanying reasoning.

Yes! It's the path to the solution that's interesting, not the solution in itself.

Both answer and reasoning must be hidden by spoiler tags.

Yeeech, no. No. Absolutely not. If an answer has something to say, it should say so. Don't hide the content.

Hiding the solution and leaving the detailed explanation in plain sight can be ok.

The correct solution is less important than the correct reasoning.

Yes, as above.

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  • $\begingroup$ I love this. Especially identifying: "Yes! It's the path to the solution that's interesting, not the solution in itself." $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 22 '14 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with just about everything (including the stuff that disagrrrs with me). Puzzle abandonment is a big issue for me. I don't mean that an answer must be posted with the question, only that the correct answer must be marked correct and that puzzles with no activity must be edited every week or two to add a hint. Otherwise, it's worthless and unsatisfying. On the issue of spoilers, I agree that the way it is suggested in the post of only hiding the key parts of the answer is best. $\endgroup$ – Travis Don Kindred Nov 22 '14 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @TravisKindred If we apply “Puzzle must contain all information needed to solve it” then abandonment isn't a problem. But it can be difficult to enforce it — for example when the intended answer turns out not to fit the question as asked. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 22 '14 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ The correct answer still requires confirnation. Only the simplest puzzles are deciphered completely on the first try. There's usually reasoning there that hasn't been uncovered. $\endgroup$ – Travis Don Kindred Nov 23 '14 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding puzzle rule 1: There are, however, puzzles that are explicitly meta. Those require puzzle solvers to do research in order to solve the puzzles. According to this rule, such puzzles would not be allowed, even though there's a dedicated tag for them IIRC. I do agree, however, that meta puzzles aren't fun if you can't even tell in what direction to start. $\endgroup$ – Egor Hans Jan 16 '19 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @EgorHans None of the rules I propose would forbid meta-puzzles. I never claimed that a question should be answerable without research: that would be silly. Many of the meta-puzzles on this site are problematic, not so much because it's too hard to tell how to start (that makes them badly written puzzles, but not bad questions on the site), but because the chain of reasoning is so tenuous that many unintended solutions are plausible. In any case, note that this here is my answer, not a site policy, and it's from the early days of the site when it looked very different from today. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 16 '19 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ Ah OK, I've been reading "contain all information needed to solve" as including "answerable without research". Thanks for the clarification! $\endgroup$ – Egor Hans Jan 19 '19 at 10:00
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One issue is that riddles don't themselves lend themselves very well to the format of SE and a SE that is dedicated only to the question of how to make good riddles or puzzles is too narrow and won't survive. Also, there are quite a lot of puzzles on math.SE and probably other SE sites. I think it's a question of giving these people a new home and then adding those who like to talk about making puzzles and riddles and those who like posing and solving riddles.

If you ask a puzzle on math.SE or cs.SE or similar there is a good chance people will downvote it for not having a serious purpose. There are quite a lot of these people and they should be welcomed here.

However, we do also need clear and enforced rules for what makes good questions and answers. We need people to work actively to improve questions and to tell people who post guesses as answers or answers with no explanation what they are doing wrong and how they can do it better.

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    $\begingroup$ "riddles don't themselves lend themselves very well to the format of SE": I disagree. Riddles (and more generally puzzles) that are thought-out and have a verifiable solution make great Q/A questions. So long as answerers cooperate, we can benefit from various answers explaining a single solution differently (e.g., one uses rigorous math, another uses intuitive real-world analogy, etc.) or answers that present alternate but verifiably fitting solutions. $\endgroup$ – TheRubberDuck Nov 21 '14 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ @EnvisionAndDevelop I agree that if we can get what you describe in our treatment of riddles that would indeed be very positive. My concern was for the one off trick question that once you have seen the answer is no longer of any interest. These are somewhat ephemeral and so not ideally suited to the SE format $\endgroup$ – Lembik Nov 21 '14 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ “If you ask a puzzle on math.SE or cs.SE or similar there is a good chance people will downvote it for not having a serious purpose” — is there? Can you point to examples? I don't follow Mathematics much, but I do follow Computer Science, and I don't recall questions being downvoted for being puzzle-type — but then I don't recall many puzzle-type questions. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 22 '14 at 2:06
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On Puzzling, you can ask questions that you already know the answer to. The purpose of doing so is to share the beauty of a puzzle with others. This purpose is inherently social, and I think the emerging culture reflects that.

By contrast, on a site like, say, Mathematics, you don't ask questions that you already know the answer to. That's simply not what those sites are for.

In fact, I wonder if any other stackexchange site has users regularly asking questions they already know the answer to.

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