This is a converse to this question, and similar to this question from meta.scifi.

The point of many of the questions on Puzzling.SE is to provide people with interesting and challenging puzzles, many of which require a lot of thought to get to an answer which is 'obvious' once you see it. Many people come here in order to look at such puzzles and think about them until they find the answer for themselves. The point of spoilertagging in answers is so that such people don't scroll down and accidentally see the answer without having had an opportunity to work on it themselves. But some users are against spoilertagging and sometimes post answers in which the solution method is visible and un-spoilertagged.

Should this be allowed?

In the question I linked to, the answerer is a relatively inactive site user, with only 3 answers and no questions. (However, in the past he has been very active in editing other people's answers to remove spoilertagging.) Other users with more rep and/or more experience have tried to edit his answer in order to spoilertag the essential idea of the solution, but he rolled back the edits so that the solution method is still visible. One of the mods suggested I take the issue to meta, so here it is. My opinion is that leaving the answer as it is would be against what the site is all about, but I'd very much appreciate other people's views on the issue!

  • $\begingroup$ For the record, I said "go to the relevant meta post," not "post a duplicate." $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 29, 2014 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin - This is not a duplicate of the other meta post (which I've linked to). And I never said you suggested I post a new question. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2014 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ If it's not a duplicate, that's because this one assumes the opposite of the other's conclusion. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 30, 2014 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ I've rolled back the answer exactly once. $\endgroup$
    – jscs
    Nov 30, 2014 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also, although I think my editing is entirely beside the point here, please note that I've curtailed that activity since asking about it on Meta and finding a distinct lack of consensus. It would be nice if you didn't phrase this as if I was trying to destroy the site. $\endgroup$
    – jscs
    Nov 30, 2014 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Josh I read this and immediately thought this was trying to make you look bad! As long as people know what's behind the spoiler without looking it's fine. $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Nov 30, 2014 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JoshCaswell - Apologies for my inaccuracy; I've now edited the question. $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2014 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ "What should be done if someone insists on posting an un-spoilertagged answer?" Burn the witch! Burn her!! And if the answer was wrong? Burn her anyway!!! $\endgroup$
    – tjbtech
    Dec 1, 2014 at 2:56

2 Answers 2



Disclaimer: This is about spoilers in answers. I am not saying anything about spoilers in questions.

TL;DR: I am strongly for spoilers in answers and strongly against not using them.

Why is not posting spoilers bad?

Except when the answer clearly does not spoil anything at all, not adding spoilers is disrespectful to those who do not want to read already existing answers, IMHO.

The "Post Your Answer" button is at the bottom of the page! so there is no way to post an answer without scrolling. This makes claims like "just do not scroll your page" invalid. (And the first answer might show up on the screen anyway if the question is short enough.) Further, the first answer is the one with the most upvotes, so it probably has the answer or at least a big part of it.

Spoilers serve to not reveal information that would make a a puzzle frustrating. If you see that, there is no way to unsee it. I do not have a MIB neuralizer!

What about previously defined policies?

Some people will cite badp's policy about spoilers:

This is not a network policy, but it's my 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.
  • Your answer must make sense without spoiler protected paragraphs. 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.

But we have two issues here. First, as he said, this is not a network policy; it is just his own personal policy.

And second, the most important: IT HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT. This is for fiction and literature sites. So you would not read that Snape kills Dumbledore. And even if you already knew that, you might not know that he does that because Dumbledore asked him to, and he was a double-agent for Voldemort. What!? Did you not like me posting this in plaintext? Now you see the purpose of spoilers!

But if you somehow think that this could be contextualized here and become a policy on this site, lets see this answer from Anna Lear on the very same question:

Literature moderator here.

Literature SE does not yet have a formalized spoiler policy. The issue has never come up yet.

As Michael Mrozek said, there is no network-wide policy. I don't know if Literature will ever develop one, but for now common sense applies: if you are asking about something that can ruin the book for someone, mark it as a spoiler. I don't think this is gonna be a huge issue for Literature, since it should be fairly easy to avoid questions about specific books or authors if you're worried about spoilers.

Let's focus on this part:

if you are asking about something that can ruin the book for someone, mark it as a spoiler.

Again, this is out-of-context, but let's force it a bit and contextualize and adapt it to fit here. What this would turn into? Something like this:

If you are answering something that can ruin the question for someone, mark it as a spoiler.

And answering a question on this site would almost always ruin it for someone. So USE THE DAMN SPOILERS!

So, what to do?

My personal policy (and this is not meant to be taken as a site-wide policy) is this:

When I see someone:

  • Not using spoilers.
  • Clearly spoiling the fun, at least for me.
  • Insisting on not using spoilers after being asked by some other user.

Then: I click the f*ing1 downvote button, regardless of whether it was a good answer or not!

As I already said, I consider not using the spoiler to be a disrespect to the readers, so I will behave like this from now on.

People say that an answer with just a spoiler is useless

Useless why? Useless how? Just because you need to hover your mouse over it? This is a red-herring (and a very badly-crafted one). The answer is there and the content is there. Being useless or not does not depend on using spoilers or not, it depends on the actual contents, including the contents of the spoiler.

Or maybe it is useless because there is no way to know what the answer is about without reading the spoiler? Well, that is exactly the purpose here! The very reason that the spoilers are there is so that you do not know the answer unless you really want to! And this in no way makes the answer either more or less useful.

There is no such thing as defining usefulness as a function which does not account for spoilers. This is ridiculous!

1: It reads as freaking.


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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for this answer! It's good to see I'm not the only one who feels this way :-) (although I tried to phrase the question as neutrally as possible). $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2014 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ "there is no way to post an answer without scrolling" - If you're posting, you should already know what (you think) the answer is. We're a Questions-and-Answers site, not a guess-and-check site. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 30, 2014 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin. For me at least, when the question is not very hard and I have a rough idea for a solution, even if incomplete, I roll to the bottom and start typing the answer, heavily rewriting it sometimes before posting it. And that very process of writing it (even if it is a partial answer) helps me to find the actual solution (or give up entirely). But I have to scroll down it before that, otherwise I would need to write the answer somewhere else and copy-and-paste it only when finished to avoid seeing to much, or use some weird script, or people could just politely use the spoiler block instead $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2014 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ Spoilers are actively hostile to folks looking for an answer. Furthermore, spoilering your entire answer just increases the chances of someone posting a duplicate. I would consider mandating spoilers to be an abuse of the feature, not to mention just plain rude. $\endgroup$
    – Shog9
    Nov 30, 2014 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Victor You should absolutely be checking what's already posted before posting an answer to see if you're posting a duplicate answer, too. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Nov 30, 2014 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ Victor, "When I see someone: Not using spoilers. Clearly spoiling the fun, at least for me. Insisting in not using after being asked by some other user. Then: I Click the freaking downvote button! Regardless the fact that it was a good answer or not." Could you spoiler dumbledore and snape? Or at least warn that it's coming up? XD $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Nov 30, 2014 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Shog9 I did not said "spoiler protect everything". I said "use spoilers" and these two things are very different. Further, I am not mandating nothing to no one. I just said what my personal policy is and I explicitly stated that it is not meant to be taken site-wide. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2014 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Thanks, my participation is still way less than what I wanted it to be. Figuring out the answers are hard, and I seldom finds an answer to anything. Further, I posted few questions, but I am trying to create the part 2 of the escape the dungeon. About other people participation or lack of participation, I prefer to say nothing, or could risk to be inside a useless flamewar full of ad-hominem attacks. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2014 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ @warspyking That was exactly the point. XD. I won't spoiler protect it, so I may be able to get a downvote for Snape and Dumbledore. But if someone downvotes me for that, he/she would be agreeing with me at the same time. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2014 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ I keep reading that, because SE is a Q&A site, the point to puzzle on here is to get an answer. ...Just - no! What could possibly be the point of looking up brainteasers and their corresponding answers simultaneously?! This is original content whose purpose is to challenge readers to find the answer independently. I suppose, one may consider the significance of already-posted answers to be three-fold: solution checking, acquiring rep, and discussion. But the whole point of puzzles is to have fun, and it's hard to do that when you're given the solution immediately. Thanks, @Victor. $\endgroup$
    – tjbtech
    Dec 1, 2014 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, the folks who complain about having to hover over a box to read its text really get my goat. I mean, is that a joke? I'd love to know who these people are who somehow derive pleasure from reading puzzles without trying to solve them on their own. And if it's eventually decided the brainteaser and/or riddle format isn't for SE, so be it. At least there will have been a consensus of some sort. But I will be left deeply disheartened. I think SE is the perfect platform for puzzles as such, even if it's not in the traditional vein of SE content, and I am enjoying it greatly. $\endgroup$
    – tjbtech
    Dec 1, 2014 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ Why on earth does this not have more upvotes and even not accepted? This answer makes sense and should be exactly how it works. $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Dec 1, 2014 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @warspyking This is a very controversial topic. Some people sincerely really thinks that this is the correct. Some other people sincerely really thinks that this is the wrong. Some people really do not care or do not choose any sides. In the end the only result is an impasse where nobody changes his/her mind, regardless the number of meta-topics, votes, comments, discussion, flame-wars, or whatever else might happen. Already saw this happening before many times... $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2014 at 4:45

We have no site-wide policy about spoiler markup. The topic has already come up several times:

Since there is no consensus, it is up to each post author to decide what they will use spoiler markup for. Therefore:

  • If an answer does not use spoiler markup, and you think it should, you may comment and argue that the answer should hide more. You may downvote the answer in an effort to make it drift towards the bottom of the page and thus be less visible. You may not edit the answer against the wishes of the author.
  • If an answer uses spoiler markup, and you think it's overused, you may comment and argue that the answer should hide less. You may downvote the answer in an effort to make it drift towards the bottom of the page and thus be less visible. You may not edit the answer against the wishes of the author.

The amount of activity of the answerer is a strawman argument. Having more reputation does not allow you to impose your preferences on others. You would be right to do this if your opinion was backed by a community consensus, but it isn't.

I won't detail my opinion of spoiler tags again; refer to the existing threads on the topic. Do note that viewers who really want to avoid possible spoilers at all costs can use the Empuzzler extension. I'll just comment on one point:

leaving the answer as it is would be against what the site is all about

This is completely wrong. You seem to think that this site is a site to challenge other people to solve puzzles. It isn't. This site is a questions and answers site which is part of the Stack Exchange network. Our aim is to

build a library of detailed answers to every question about the creation and solving of puzzles.

Making answers harder to read is by no means part of that goal.

  • $\begingroup$ Since Gilles has been a member for far longer than rand al'thor and Victor (as well as me), and has more rep than Victor, his opinion must count for more. $\endgroup$
    – jscs
    Nov 30, 2014 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ I have received only one downvote on the answer under discussion, and a (to my mind unwarrantedly) large number of upvotes. The consensus on the ground does not seem to support the contention that the answer is "against what the site is all about". $\endgroup$
    – jscs
    Nov 30, 2014 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JoshCaswell No, my opinion doesn't count more because I've been here longer or because I have more reputation. It counts more because my arguments make sense. $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2014 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, Gilles; I forgot my "turning the OP's argument around on him" tags on that comment. I strongly agree that rep, etc. are completely beside the point here. $\endgroup$
    – jscs
    Nov 30, 2014 at 20:26

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