-11
$\begingroup$

While it is somewhat out of form to edit a question with these kinds of notes, this is designed to clear up potential confusion.

's tag wiki reads:

Indicates that a request (usually a feature request) has been considered, but will not be implemented. Generally speaking... / ...the community will come to consensus that the request is unnecessary.

This is what has happened here.


There have been countless questions recently that don't live up to Stack Exchange's quality standards. We have a responsibility as members of the Stack Exchange network site to live up to the quality standards SE expects. We need to do something to fix our question quality. This is that something.

What is Stack Exchange for, and why are we here?

Stack Exchange is a site for "Expert Answers to Expert Questions." It is a resource people go to in order to find answers to real questions that they face. Our primary purpose for being here is not to have fun playing games and solving puzzles with each other; it is to create an expert knowledge-base about puzzles and puzzle-related questions. We are here to expand the ability of the internet to address questions related to puzzles and the art of problem solving. Whatever our site policies are, they need to help facilitate this ultimate purpose. If you disagree with this, then Stack Exchange is not for you. These are not our philosophies, they are our content host's philosophies. We abide by them. All SE network sites must fulfill this purpose, otherwise the site will cease to be.

What does PPCG mean for Puzzling.SE? The answer to this question is pretty simple: absolutely nothing. We cannot and should not model ourselves after PPCG. PPCG is a massive exception to the Stack Exchange philosophy, and becoming a copy of PPCG for puzzles simply isn't an option. Structuring arguments around "that's what PPCG does" is fruitless, because we cannot and will not be them.

In one of the blog posts of yore, there were listed three rough criteria for question quality:

  1. Works with the Stack Exchange philosophy
  2. Is accepted by the community
  3. Teaches you something that makes you better at puzzling

Questions should aim to fulfill all three of these criteria. Questions that don't are problems.

Oh, and a small foreword: the Area 51 stats are not that important in determining the overall health of a site. Let's stop using them as a justification for saying everything is alright and we don't need to change. It's not going to get us anywhere besides closure.

Questions that are simply challenges have a LOT of issues

We will list the major ones briefly here. These are broad, general categories which do not necessarily apply to each challenge question, but are all grossly prevalent.

Stack Exchange is intended to make the internet a better place, by acting as a repository of useful and relevant information, and by being a resource for those who wish to learn. This is not something challenge questions accomplish. Puzzles-as-challenges don't accomplish or in any way assist the ultimate goal of creating good, lasting, searchable information. We want people to come to this site for information, and we want to help understand concepts and ideas in puzzling.

These questions don't assist this goal. Even new users who read a challenge question aren't really helped by it if they can't solve it themselves.

Challenge questions invite lateral thinking answers. Contrary to what some might say, this is a problem. These answers are fun, but provide no lasting value and are designed solely to work around the question at hand. The community seems to support them, but that doesn't make them good. They're just silly for poking holes in a question where clearly holes were not intended to be poked.

Challenge questions result in many subjectively-correct answers. Okay, sometimes they don't, but almost always they do. Answers that are subjectively-correct aren't helpful, because the OP has to come back to the question and say "this is the answer I was thinking of." Ultimately, nobody has learned anything, and we haven't gained useful answers - only things the OP didn't happen to think of.

Even if the answers are right, they're all still just guesses. They can rarely, if ever, be more than just guesses.

Challenge questions are either unsearchable, or rehash the internet. If a challenge question is original, it is unsearchable. Nobody will ever find it; it has no lasting value, and it is highly likely that because the OP already knew the answer, nothing was learned. If a challenge question isn't original, it's already out there on the internet, and there's no point in rehashing it here.

Challenge questions consistently have terrible, terrible titles. Titles are used everywhere on the Stack Exchange network to determine what the content of a question is. Search engine optimization is performed on question titles. It's come up before that questions that are puzzles can't have descriptive titles, and this is a serious issue. Our titles must be descriptive of the contents of the questions. This isn't a choice we can bypass - it's a quality requirement. If we can't accomplish this goal, there is a serious problem.

Our site is supposed to be primarily about useful, secondarily about searchable information.

It's not possible to judge the quality of challenge questions without knowing their answers. We need to be able to determine if a question is of good quality or is on-topic without knowing what the answer is. We need to know whether we should downvote, vote to close, etc. without waiting for an answer to be posted, because this entirely defeats the purpose of these moderation tools.

Voting and close votes, the two primary tools, are used to serve as an indicator of whether a question is on-topic here and whether it is worth answering for other people. If a question has to be answered for us to know, it completely defeats the purpose of these tools.

What do we do about challenge questions?

Don't get me wrong, some challenge questions can be good. It's not as though every single challenge question is bad, but there are so many problems with them that keeping them around is unsustainable. They don't fit within the core purpose of Stack Exchange. They serve nothing but our own enjoyment and have no or little lasting value.

It's time for us to restrict them. We propose the following close reason:

This question appears to be off-topic because it contains nothing more than a puzzle asked as a challenge to the community. If you are confused about the solution to a puzzle, feel free to edit your question to highlight exactly what you need or where you're confused. Please see [this meta discussion](link to this post) for more details.

What this close reason is intended to keep:

  • Questions asking for help designing a puzzle

    I have designed the following puzzle/riddle, and it has the following solution. How can I improve it/make it more solid and consistent?

  • Questions asking about confusing steps in puzzles, or genuinely asking for help solving one.

    I have come across the following puzzle. I've made an attempt to solve it, and this is what I've done. Now, I'm stuck. I can't figure out how to solve this specific part. Where do I go from here?

  • Questions about puzzle theory.

    What determines which positions are invalid on this puzzle?

What this close reason is intended to discard:

  • Questions that contain nothing but a puzzle
  • Questions that are posed as challenges to the community
  • Questions not asking for input on the puzzle, guidance on how to continue, or some other puzzle-related topic.

    Sally has four apples. She eats three and gives away one. What is the mass of the sun?

How do we turn challenge questions into real questions?

I'll be honest, most of the time this isn't going to be possible to do. The reason is pretty simple: in order to go from a challenge question into a real question, the OP must have faced some problem or have some difficulty. Questions that are already answered will be hard to edit without deprecating existing answers, and that's a problem.

However, where possible, it's pretty easy to turn a challenge question into a good one. You can possibly edit it so it's asking for feedback on how to improve the question, or you can edit it so that it's otherwise not strictly a challenge question. Like we say, most of the time, this will be tricky. However, if you can find a good way to edit a question such that it fits the Stack Exchange format, you are absolutely encouraged to edit it.

If a question can't be edited, or you don't want to be the one to edit it, put it on hold.

But challenge questions are fun!

We're not here to have fun. We're here to learn, and develop/enhance the art of puzzling. You can still pose these questions in chat.

Lots of fun questions have been disallowed across the Stack Exchange network before. This doesn't mean these questions are always of low value, but it occurred because they typically are. For instance, Stack Overflow used to allow polling questions, along the lines of "Strangest language feature". These questions might sometimes be okay, but we're not here to have fun. We're here to make the internet - and ourselves - better.

But we'll lose much of our userbase/the site will be unsustainable without them!

Challenge questions do drive a slew of traffic - almost too much for our site to handle. Traffic isn't the goal of our site. Neither is the Area 51 scorecard.

What we're looking to build is a community of experts. We want people with the knowledge and experience to develop the art of puzzle solving, and we want people who will be willing to learn. If our traffic has to drop off before we can grow back to critical mass again, that's perfectly fine. It's much better than the alternative. It's much healthier than the alternative.

Besides, we had these questions aplenty back in the site's history. We can get there again, and we're confident it will happen.

tl;dr?

I'm sorry. Read this post. It's important. Be the informed voter you were meant to be.


We will pre-empt the following riposte, though: "I like these questions" isn't a valid response to the arguments in here. The arguments in this question have nothing to do with whether people like these questions, and everything to do with whether they're even on-topic here in the first place.

We're looking forward to the community's feedback.

++The Moderator Team
Doorknob, Kevin, and Emrakul (in no particular order)

$\endgroup$
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ What are you guys gonna do when this thing gets shut down for lack of activity? :p That's preferable I suppose... to be dead and toeing the line than alive and diversifying a little $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Dec 3 '14 at 11:44
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ David Mulder raised this possibility weeks ago, saying he knew it was really extreme, and the community didn't support it. Now you mods are going to push it on the community whether we want it or not. I guess this answers my question of whether SE is a democracy or a modocracy... $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 3 '14 at 11:46
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ So, wait, wait. I'm new here...why does PPCG SE get a special treatment and Puzzling SE doesn't? $\endgroup$ – No. 7892142 Dec 3 '14 at 12:37
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @No.7892142 PPCG and CR are "special." They were... like "experiments" by Stack Exchange, and they turned out pretty well. But that doesn't mean we're allowed to decide to turn into the same thing. $\endgroup$ – Doorknob Dec 3 '14 at 12:43
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ There's a lot of noise amongst these comments and answers, but I have a question - how does one become the caliber of "expert" in puzzling? I can learn excel, c++, math, woodworking with a book or my own creative juices, but how do you learn puzzling? We're going to end up like old SO where there were very few answer-ers (high rep) that may (or may not) become dismissive of "easy" puzzles that are asked about. $\endgroup$ – Raystafarian Dec 3 '14 at 13:06
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @Doorknob冰 My point was actually: If you disallow it here, then logically is has to be disallowed on PPCG, too. As you mentioned yourself, and a slippery slope always goes two ways, once there's an exception, where do you start, where do you stop? So following your logic, it would be unavoidable that all exceptions have to receive the same harsh treatment. $\endgroup$ – No. 7892142 Dec 3 '14 at 13:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @No.7892142 PPCG and CR were intended to be exceptions; they were specifically designed that way, were given specific approval by Jeff and co., and were specifically meant to blatantly ignore the Stack Exchange philosophy. We can't "just decide" to be that way. PPCG and CR could only be that way because they were experiments, and just because they turned out to be pretty healthy sites doesn't mean we can ignore what Stack Exchange sites are for. $\endgroup$ – Doorknob Dec 3 '14 at 13:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Doorknob冰 Now, this offers a whole new possible solution to the problem, doesn't it? Puzzling.SE could ask for the right to stay an exception to the network. It has very good arguments for itself - in fact the same ones PPCG can offer - so barring personal preference there should be no reason why whoever is in charge of the final decision should not agree to it, when asked. $\endgroup$ – No. 7892142 Dec 3 '14 at 13:27
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Let me put this bluntly. What's stopping us is that if we make the PPCG-style decision, Puzzling will fail out of beta and the site will be closed - and not by "moderators." It is not a choice we're allowed to make. If the site does die (and I'm confident it won't), then the end result is the same: the site is closed. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 16:52
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, if this is what you're being told by SE management then it would be helpful for you to quote them verbatim or get them to make a statement themselves. Some users are proposing an alternative (within the SE network) at area51, if SE management are unalterably opposed to the concept then obviously that's a non-starter, so it would be useful to know (directly from them) what their attitude is. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 16:55
  • 24
    $\begingroup$ I happen to disagree strongly with this proposal. (See Robert's answer for my rough take.) But what you're seeing here from the mods is leadership. Don't agree with their take? Vote! Answer! Explain. I agree with you (and can confirm that SE is not at odds with the policy as it stands)! But don't lose sight of the fact that this mod team cares, works their butts off, and is genuinely trying to help the site. And that should be appreciated. $\endgroup$ – Jaydles Dec 3 '14 at 18:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please define at the top of your post what a "challenge-only questions" is? $\endgroup$ – smci Mar 20 '15 at 9:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user477343 You should probably be aware that this question was settled several years ago, in 2015. $\endgroup$ – Aza Jul 31 '18 at 13:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user477343 It was a controversial idea at the time, but it was actually net positive score... barely. (I was a mod at the time, which is why it got so much attention.) Since then the site's moved on, and this question just keeps getting more downvotes. ;) $\endgroup$ – Aza Jul 31 '18 at 22:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user477343 It's fine, don't worry about it! There's no harm done. :) $\endgroup$ – Aza Aug 1 '18 at 0:35

12 Answers 12

53
$\begingroup$

Your aspirations are commendable, but I don't think it is realistic to take ~90% of your content (and the community that created it) and simply toss it out telling everyone "you're doing it wrong." The story that we've convinced ourselves is that… "as soon as we stop everyone who’s using this site wrong, Will Shortz and Mike Shenk will show up." Unfortunately, we're finding that community-building does not work that way.

This strikes me as one of those places where we created a site decidedly not like Stack Overflow, but we're trying to run it as if it was. Looking back, if there was a strong contingent of users who gathered up the world's leading puzzle builders, you might (might) have been able to steer the community towards catering to their expertise. But coming in over 1,000 questions later, throwing away 90% of your content is just not practical… or community-friendly. A Puzzling site that doesn't allow puzzling is ostensibly shutting down this site as it exists today.

One thing is pretty clear to me — it is going to to be borderline impossible to get critical mass on a puzzling site where you can't even share individual puzzles. I think it’s going to be key for the community to learn to adapt itself to ensure that specific types of puzzles that don't "work" can be controlled.

It's encouraging that this site is doing as well as it is. Don't try and change it into something it's not. Despite us "pure Q&A" evangelists, philosophies change. As it turns out, we DO handle this content better than anyone else. If you find places where that is not the case, propose solutions. This site is going pretty much how we expected when we gave it the go-ahead. But we're not going to create a "Code Golf" counterpart to Puzzling SE.

Enjoy what you've built here. Puzzling is supposed to be fun. But keep it light… and most of all, have fun, and keep talking in threads like this.

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @Robert, mods are telling us (see elsewhere in this thread) that SE management will not allow Puzzling.SE in its current form, and that regardless of the will of the community this is totally non-negotiable. As you are Director of Community Development for the Stack Exchange Network, could you please give us a definitive statement on this? See also discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/18903/… $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 17:31
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ @AE To be clear, there was no edict from SE Inc saying "change or be shut down." But to be fair to the mods, they are espousing a "traditional" philosophy of pure Q&A to protect this site from critical judgement. But we were never under the delusion this site was being built by the Will Shortz's of the world. So this is a "different" place; we're okay with that. Increasingly, we're judging what "works" under a broader premise: "Can we do this better than anyone else?" Don't quote me on that; these philosophies are evolving as we adapt to what we've learned building 130+ of these things. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Dec 3 '14 at 17:49
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @Robert, I love you. I just... I love you. I think that this is something we very much needed from on high as a community. The passion of our mods cannot be understated or undervalued, which is likely why they've gone to such lengths in destroying what we have to preserve it. $\endgroup$ – Travis Kindred Dec 3 '14 at 18:27
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @TravisKindred What you're seeing here from the mods is leadership. I don't happen to agree with this particular proposal, but I wanted to let the mods and the community know (even if indirectly) that this site isn't as wayward as it would seem. Yes, it is a moderating challenge to keep this site interesting and valuable; but Code Golf worked hard to keep things going within their existing framework, and they managed to control the problem areas while doubling down on what works for them. I think you have a good group here, mods and all, to make this work. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Dec 3 '14 at 18:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Robert Perhaps my phrasing was poor. I agree that the mods are doing a fantastic job. I think that this unpopular initiative is only because they care so much. $\endgroup$ – Travis Kindred Dec 3 '14 at 18:58
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @RobertCartaino Given the need to support the community as it turns out, can I ask what the purpose is of the definition phase and private beta? For this site, I feel like they, and all early meta discussion, became completely ignored when some unrepresentative high-activity questions appeared on HNQ and an overwhelming flood of new users poured in who imagined the site as something totally different. We wanted to remove ourselves from HNQ for the time but couldn't. Can we talk about the destabilizing effect of HNQ on fledgling sites? $\endgroup$ – xnor Dec 3 '14 at 22:29
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ “It's encouraging that this site is doing as well as it is. Don't try and change it into something it's not.” But the site did basically work for its first six months or so, until it was changed into something it wasn't. This site started out as a “question and answer site for those who study the creation and solving of puzzles”, as it still says in the site description. Then, around October, guess-what-I'm-thinking challenges went from being a mosquito-sized nuisance to a crippling malaria infection. The proposal here is trying to restore what we had. $\endgroup$ – Gilles Dec 3 '14 at 23:54
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ @Gilles, please post your thoughts as an answer. This way, I would be able to downvote it. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Dec 4 '14 at 0:08
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @xnor The definition phase and the private beta stage are here to set the initial tone for a site, but they by no means imply that the site will remain exactly like that forever. Every community evolves over time, and an influx of new members will certainly change things. It's up to the regulars to educate the newcomers and maintain whatever scope and direction is already in place. It's tempting to latch onto the idea that HNQ are the source of your problems, but, say, a Reddit share could have a similar effect. Focus on how you, as a community, treat questions, not where they may come from. $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Dec 4 '14 at 0:56
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @Gilles That's an intriguing premise, but I went back 25 of the 35 pages of this site's history when I was looking into this further (that's well into August). And the questions looked pretty much like they do today: filled predominantly with brainteasers, logic puzzles, and other community challenges to solve. I'm just not seeing the case that this is a simple course correction to head off a sudden left turn recently afflicting this site. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Dec 4 '14 at 1:45
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @RobertCartaino I haven't analyzed the data, but subjectively, I did see a big change around the time of the spaghetti puzzles. One piece of data that struck me is the number of all-spoiler answers (a common companion of challenge questions, as opposed to solution help questions), that number went from negligible to large in the space of a week or so. $\endgroup$ – Gilles Dec 4 '14 at 1:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Meh, didn't programmers get destroyed? $\endgroup$ – bjb568 Dec 5 '14 at 4:37
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ When you say "we're not going to create a "Code Golf" counterpart to Puzzling SE", is the intended reading "We're happy for this site to be a 'Code Golf'-esque site, but we're not going to split Puzzling into two"? $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Dec 6 '14 at 9:40
18
$\begingroup$

No.

Firstly, I must commend our moderating team on their boldness and their dedication to the success of the stack. They knew that saying this would immediately lead to an army of puzzlers running to gnaw their heads off starting with the jugular. It's understandable. I've been sharpening my set of pearly whites too. That's balls. That's dedication.

Here's the thing though. There are obvious problems with removing challenge questions.

  • No users.
  • No questions.
  • No activity whatsoever.

All the site will be is half a dozen people tops asking each other puzzling questions simply to keep the site open. They'll have passion for keeping the site going, but they won't really need the answers.

There are downsides to keeping the puzzles, too.

  • Crappy content that needs removal.
  • Needing more firm guidelines.
  • Bigger strain on moderators.

But at least we'll have a community. At least we'll have a purpose. Think about this.

A user goes onto stack overflow because their Qt C++ gui app is giving them a sigsegv whenever they pass their doEverything() function an int of four. They can't figure out how to fix it.

Even a fairly good answer is only ever going to be useful to two or three people. It's tough to get specific answers that apply to everyone. Puzzle challenges on the other hand help every single user looking for a puzzle challenge. That's what SE is all about, satisfying as many users as possible. It could even be argued that this type of question accomplishes that goal more than any other in the entire stack exchange network.

On stack overflow, people simply dump hundreds of lines of code and say "fix this." I would argue that that's far worse than puzzle challenges, but it's the norm there. Other stacks like math have even tried puzzles, but it didn't make sense for them. This is the place. Not only does it help us, it helps the network overall have a place to put puzzles.

This whole idea is simple. A college kid that stops doing everything they love so that they can focus on academic success. They get a degree in something that doesn't matter to them and lead a mediocre career because they have zero passion.

Don't kill our passion. If you do, there will be nothing left but a husk of a community. Instead, use that passion to help improve Puzzling and make it both what we want it to be and what we need it to be.

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. Take out us challenge-only-question-askers and the whole site will go down. @moderators: If we burn, you burn with us!!! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 3 '14 at 19:18
17
$\begingroup$

If "no challenge questions" is the official site philosophy, I can certainly accept that. I consider it somewhat unfortunate since the only reason I come here is for the challenge questions, but I'll find a new watering hole somewhere. ;)

Generally speaking, I don't see that the SE format works at all well for the designated "primary purpose" when it comes to puzzling. Most of the best sites for puzzle solution strategies are tailored to specific puzzles or classes of puzzle. They come equipped with numerous examples, glossaries, exhaustive lists of external resources, and solvers right on the site, none of which SE's format allows. The sites aren't limited to a modular, disconnected question-based format. The content is generally organized into useful hierarchies, lists, tutorials, etc., well beyond the abilities of searching and tagging. Most importantly, the content is often replete with data tables, HTML tables, large figures, auto-generated Wikipedia-style hyperlinks to related content, and dozens of other features that SE doesn't provide.

In short, while puzzling.SE may aspire to be a loosely-knit collection of simple puzzle questions with simple answers, my strong belief is that (in its current form) it very much lacks the capacity to become "the place" where serious puzzlers would come for questions related to the site's primary purpose. With challenge questions deemed off-topic, I suspect the site would simply die. Regardless, such is not the end of the world. My understanding of the SE "beta" forums is that they're "beta" precisely because SE is trying to determine which topics their format works for and which ones it doesn't.

At any rate, I had a fun run while it lasted. I wish the SE puzzling team the best of luck with converting to the new format. It'll certainly take some doing ;)

$\endgroup$
13
$\begingroup$

I suspected this was coming, however I don't see how Puzzling.SE can actually survive in the format that you're describing.

I go to Stack Overflow for help with programming - I program all day every day, and sometimes I don't know something, which makes SO perfect for a Q&A site about solving programming questions. Lots of people do it all day, every day.

I go to Ask Different on occasion for help with something on one of my Macs, because I use them all day every day, and sometimes I don't know how to tweak something, or something unusual goes wrong. Lots of people use them all day, every day.

I go to PPCG.SE frequently because I'm interested in it. I don't golf code, and I have no reason to do so, but it's pretty cool to look through the challenges because they're interesting. Nobody does it all day, every day.


Admittedly this is a small sample size, as I only regularly use a couple of Stacks, but I believe the trend follows on the other major stacks:

Math.SE is something a lot of people do all day every day - mathematicians, students, teachers, programmers, and the list goes on; math is commonplace.

English Language is something a lot of people do all day every day - again, students and teachers, translators, writers, etc. all use either nuanced language or language help regularly.

Server Fault is something a lot of people do all day, every day - sysadmins, nuff said.

Even Arqade.SE is something a lot of people do all day, every day - don't tell me people don't spend hours daily playing games. I certainly did as a student.

Ask Ubuntu, Game Development, Photography, Seasoned Advice and the list goes on - these are all things that lots of people do all day, every day. This is why they're great Q&A format sites, and why they're thriving sites.


Niche sites which are not all day every day jobs for people are doomed to never be successful in the Q&A format. PPCG.SE has done extremely well for itself because it's been allowed to break the format and do something which better suits its natural audience.

Banning challenge questions from Puzzling.SE will kill the site. It'll never make it out of beta because there are simply not enough people to sustain a full Q&A stack on something which they do so infrequently.


Personally I think a far better way to go about it would be to ban "poor questions" - it's hard to objectively define a "good challenge", but what about other methods?

What do the following questions have in common:

Which the following questions do not:

I'd argue that the first 3 all clearly define a problem which has a demonstrably correct answer. The latter 3 are poorly defined. These are all pulled off the first page of P.SE right now; I could easily find more and/or better examples of both (the first President Murder is pretty well-defined) if required.

This is just another way of defining rules that can ensure quality content. Sure, you might need to be a little more aggressive with the closing for a little while to teach people that we expect a higher standard, but saying "we have some bad puzzles, therefore we should have no puzzles" is saying "we have some bad content, this Stack was a bad idea from the start".

Right now, with puzzles, challenges, riddles and whatnot, we have built a pretty active community which is creating a lot of unique content. I don't see how you could expect this site to have grown to a different point than that; you call the site Puzzling.SE, you'll get puzzles.


As a related thought, Emrakul told me a basic math question is a puzzle yesterday - I find that quite hard to credit.

It feels like you're unsure what you're trying to create. The community seems to have a pretty good idea of where it wants to go though; maybe our voice should count for something?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is a minimum amount of traffic a prerequisite of SO sites? If not, it could survive, albeit growing very slowly. If I'm seeking advise/knowledge of a specific puzzle, where would I currently go? Puzzling.SE could be the site for that - but it will surely not be a very active place. Neither are all articles on Wikipedia, and it's still very valuable. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 10:32
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ There are, indeed, sites that deal with things which people don't constantly do for a living. For instance, Movies, Anime, Board & Card Games, Homebrewing, LEGO Answers, Poker, Amateur Radio... There are also multiple forums dedicated to the art and methods solving specific types of puzzles, as well as their design and creation, so I maintain that the site about puzzles is viable. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest would anyone post a question on a site which has virtually no traffic? I certainly wouldn't because I'm highly unlikely to get an answer $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 3 '14 at 10:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul lots and lots of people watch movies on a regular basis. Same with anime and poker. Board/card games is slightly less so, but still has a strong following (D&D most notably). I'd argue Lego fits that too. The last ones, Radio and Homebrew are very quiet with only a couple of active questions in the last couple of days. I think this will end up more like those 2, than any of your other examples $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 3 '14 at 11:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Joe Lots and lots of people (myself, for instance, and the members of several notable puzzling sites) use and work with puzzles on a regular basis, too. It has a smaller audience, yes, but not an inconsiderable one. Either way, I wouldn't exclude our site on the basis that the community will be small - that's what the Area 51 process is there to help us determine. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 11:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul when you say smaller audience, how small? How active in the last 48 hours? Are they big enough that an "expert" community can be created? We already have a good size community providing content for puzzles, if you cull that and try to redirect to content about puzzles, what reason do those other community members have to come to a brand new community? $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 3 '14 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Too long to answer here; I've seen forums with thousands of users and 50-150 posts/day. The short answer to your question is: that's what site definition is about, and this is why sites go into beta: to see if they have the capacity to gather a community. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 11:22
10
$\begingroup$

I personally love posing and solving puzzles, and PPCG is my favorite SE, but at this point I'm ready to support the ban on questions as challenges.

I don't believe challenge questions are intrinsically bad for the site. Nor are they totally incompatible with the SE framework, as PPCG shows. But empirically, they have far lowered the site quality, and I don't see it getting any better.

Given a choice between challenges or questions about puzzles, I'd pick challenge questions (well, actually, both). Given a choice between low-quality challenges or high-quality questions about puzzles, I'd choose the questions about puzzles in a heartbeat.

I urge those who, like me, personally favor challenges to put those opinions aside in the name of quality. This SE is simply not the place for them. What we have now is just giving puzzles a bad name.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this as well. I have no bad feelings if this site introduces a stricter policy and bans challenge-questions (i.e. posting puzzles themselves). I will visit the site from time to time (if I ever have a question on puzzles) and it will be useful for that, but overall, I will not be following the site. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 7:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest Most current members and contributors will probably follow you $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Dec 3 '14 at 7:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Yeah. But one thing is clear to me as well: Because "most" see it that way, this doesn't mean it's the right opinion. If you create a site on "how to feed cats" with 10 members, and 10000 members join posting loldog pictures and then say that's what the site should be about, it is still wrong. I see it that way and can life with a "roll-back" of the site - I just won't stay on long. But one request: Make a clear statement "somewhere" about the goals of the site and point all new users to it with their first posting. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest Yep, I had thought of the exact same analogy in fact... the issue is that challenges and so forth are puzzles. And one can pretty much always just add one line to any challenge to turn it into a non-challenge. $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Dec 3 '14 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Hence a clear "mission statement" is what this site needs. The ideas given in this posting are good for this, I think. But it will mean, the site is going down in activity dramatically. (1 post a week? Maybe not even that.) It still could be an excellent site - just very different. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 7:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest A lot of this is inherited from Stack Exchange as a whole. A couple things worth reading are this help center article on what not to ask, and the Real Questions Have Answers blog post. But most of this information can actually be found in the Help Center. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul Yes, I can see that. And this posting also makes clear that this site belongs to the SO and hence to its rules. What I meant is, you will always have stray-people coming onto this site (hopefully) and it would be good to be able to point them to one (short!) posting giving the gist of it - with the Puzzling site in mind. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Bmy 'Pologies for the triple notification; I moved my comment reply above, since it's relevant there, too. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 8:18
10
$\begingroup$

I'm sad to see things turn out this way, but I can understand the reasoning behind this. I'm glad to see that a consistent policy has been chosen, even if it is a seriously restrictive one. I like good challenge questions, but their relative rarity is a pretty convincing argument for why they should be generally disallowed.

This directly addresses the biggest problem here: lack of clarity about the focus of site and what exactly is on topic. It also indirectly addresses the second biggest problem: the inability of community moderation to prune bad content. And make no mistake, general inability or unwillingness to downvote, close or delete junk in a timely manner is the reason that there's been so much of it lying around. With a clear, simple position that challenges of all kinds are disallowed, it becomes much easier for the community to know when to cull a question or answer.

However, there is something in this decision that I strongly disagree with: the notion that questions asked on SE sites must necessarily be expert questions to be appropriate. This is manifestly not so. Of course, we want expert questions and lots of them, but beginner or intermediate level questions are perfectly acceptable, assuming they're well formed and on topic. Disallowing challenge questions will, as mentioned, cause a huge drop in activity. Let's not overreact and say that "non-expert" questions about making puzzles are also not appropriate; that would cost us even more users and open up a whole new is-this-on-topic-or-not problem. If it turns out that such questions are a problem, we can always disallow them in the future.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I think it's "questions to be answered by experts" on SO and the statement was intended like this. There should be "reasonable effort" for a poster to try on his own before posting a question, but he doesn't have to be an expert himself. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 9:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest I agree with you, but flatly stating "Stack Exchange is a site for "Expert Answers to Expert Questions." ... These are the philosophies of [the entire SE network]" makes it clear that Emrakul doesn't. And I take issue with that, because it's not true. You're right, questions don't need to be expert level, they just need to show some effort; this is my point. $\endgroup$ – Esoteric Screen Name Dec 4 '14 at 1:36
10
$\begingroup$

Let's take challenges somewhere else

Many on the site enjoy solving and posing puzzles as challenges, and for some, it's the only reason they're here. Accidentally, a puzzle-solving community has started to grow, and it would be sad to lose that. And some have bemoaned that if this isn't the place to post puzzles, then where is?

As the mods have explained, this site is not the place for challenges. The SE format is just not a good fit. We should respect the wishes of the founders in private beta, our hardworking mods, and our gracious hosts at StackExchange, and let the site be used for what it was originally intended. But, we need a venue better suited to puzzles as challenges, one that is tailored to the specific needs of a puzzle-solving community.

So, let's find one. And if it doesn't exist, let's make it. Join us in the Another Home chat room to discuss potential new venues.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. Just let it be known that this is not a protest-movement or 'revenge' idea or anything the like. It is a move to recognize and honour the principle idea behind puzzling.se as intended while at the same time trying to save what (accidently) has grown very nicely on this fertile ground. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 12:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Just let it be known that this is not a protest-movement or 'revenge' idea or anything the like. It is a move to recognize and honour the principle idea behind puzzling.se as intended while at the same time trying to save what (accidently) has grown very nicely on this fertile ground" <----- I echo that sentiment. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 12:40
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ puzzling.xyz is go. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 12:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The SE question-and-answer voting-and-green-ticking format supports a riddle-solving platform very well, in contrast to straight chat and more old-fashioned forum software. Good luck to puzzling.xyz ! I'd recommend looking at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2267/stack-exchange-clones for software (I just had a look at mamute.org for example and it looks promising). $\endgroup$ – jez Dec 3 '14 at 16:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jez area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/80752/… $\endgroup$ – skv Dec 3 '14 at 16:47
10
$\begingroup$

Our primary purpose for being here is ...

If you disagree with this, then Stack Exchange is not for you.

Rather than asking us as a community what we think the purpose of the site should be and how we should achieve it, you seem to be choosing to rule by fiat; it's your way or the highway.

That's a shame. I'm very disappointed.

I thought we had a good community developing here; it's disappointing to be told that if I don't agree with mods then I'm not welcome here.

I don't see any point in giving my opinion on the rest of the post as "if you disagree with us then this site is not for you" makes it very clear that dissenting opinions will be completely ignored.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It's less if you disagree with the rest of the post than if you disagree with the principles of Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is founded on these principles, and that's what Public Beta is a test of: to see if the site grows a community that works well in the SE format. If we don't stick to those principles and make them work for us, our site is very likely to fail out of public beta anyway. You're free to disagree about the content of the main post, but when it comes down to it you're not free to completely disagree about what it means to be a part of Stack Exchange. That's a fixed point. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 10:05
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, I think the community should decide together what the purpose should be and how to achieve it. I've refrained from expressing my opinion on those issues because you seem to be saying that anyone who disagrees with you should just leave ("If you disagree with this, then Stack Exchange is not for you."), so it seems to me that I'd be wasting my (metaphorical) breath. As you say in your comment, we're not free to disagree ("you're not free to completely disagree"). Hey, you're the mods, you can do that. But I'm feeling sad about it. :( $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 10:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I understand, but the main point here is that there are some things we cannot decide to be. Questions that are fundamentally not linked to how SE works don't belong here; there's nothing we can do to change that. The "if you disagree with this" part only applies to what Stack Exchange means, and not the rest of the post. If we can find a way to make riddles work within the Stack Exchange format, we can keep them, but we've tried many, many times and consistently failed. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 10:12
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, I remain unconvinced that mods should dictate what puzzling.SE should "mean", or that mods should declare by fiat that puzzles don't "work within the SE format" or "are not linked to how SE works". Obviously mods are able to dictate site policy by fiat; it's really saddening that you're choosing to do so, rather than to facilitate a decision by the community. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 10:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AE Actually, I do fully support this post (The initial one, not your answer). Think of Wikipedia (the real one). It offers great tools for all sorts of things - including puzzles - but it would be down for the dogs if it would be used like that. Same here. SO has a purpose. We were in error. The "great community" is great - but not fitting this concept. No bad feelings. Just advise for the site-owners: Try preventing the wrong people spending time here in a first place. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 3 '14 at 10:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AE To reiterate from the OP: "These are not our philosophies, they are our content host's philosophies. We abide by them. All SE network sites must fulfill this purpose, otherwise the site will cease to be." $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 10:20
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, then it might actually make life easier for you if we were to hear it 'from the horse's mouth' as it were. Perhaps a statement from the content host to the effect that anyone who wants to set and solve puzzles is not welcome here? Otherwise that seems like your own interpretation. Also: I believe there's a spin-off project (from SE) which is more of a discussion-forum type thing? Perhaps we (not puzzling.SE but those of us who want to set/solve puzzles) could migrate to that? Might be a way to make everyone happy. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 10:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ When I said 'spinoff', I seem to be thinking of discourse which isn't exactly a spin-off but more a different project by one of the SE founders. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 10:34
6
$\begingroup$

I have commented a lot to the other answers in this thread, but there is one thing I think needs adding. (Therefore this posting.)

Once a clear directions/goal of this site has been finalized one thing needs doing:

Delete all questions not fitting this goal.

Yes, this is harsh.

Yes, this will destroy a lot of good content. (And all of my own puzzles.)

Yes, this will bring the number of questions on this site to <100 (this is a guess not a fact)

Yes, this will piss-off a large number of (former) contributors (and most likely drive them away.)

But: It will be the only way to achieve what the then-defined goal is. And it will give a clean slate to build on.

As long as (the majority?) of postings on site are not in line with the declared goal, they will lure people with false ideas (and they spent time and then get pissed-off.), and offer plenty of endless "...but XY is the same..." arguments.


Don't get me wrong. I like the site as it is now and it has served me well, but I can see, that it is not what this site was meant to be and should be about (as defined by the people creating the site). I will most likely not be on the new site a lot, but that doesn't change my opinion: If you want to get it right, you'll have to do it without compromise.


Personally, I stopped contributing to puzzles (and adding puzzles) on the site now (i.e. from today onward). Not out of spite or anger, not at all. But I don't want to waste my time, nor do I want to waste the time of moderators. Once it is 100% clear what this site is meant to be, I will then reconsiders participation depending on how it fits what I want/need.


Afterthought: If there is a reasonable way to "delete" the postings as suggested above form the "active" site (i.e. have it invisible to everybody newly arriving on the site), while keeping them for reference, that might be preferred.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ <100 (this is a guess not a fact) = close enough $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Dec 3 '14 at 12:03
4
$\begingroup$

THIS SIMPLY WON'T WORK!

Honestly, I get what you're saying, I respect that you are trying to steer this site into a stack exchange format, but this is going to kill the site.

I came here because I enjoy the site, and the puzzles on it, I enjoy asking and answering clever questions created by the community.

It already is a Q&A format as long as questions aren't too broad, instead of killing the site, causing members to ambandon it, and ruining all your hard work, a better direction is just to slowly but surely improve the quality and broadness of questions.

They way you're taking this is dooming the site for extinction.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ If the site closes as a result of this change, then that's fine. Building a Stack Exchange site is a long process, and it's perfectly acceptable to fail out, and develop a better plan next time. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 16:58
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, wouldn't that be 'burning the village to save the village'? $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 3 '14 at 17:46
4
$\begingroup$

Okay, this seems to be repeating word for word my recent proposal, so I find it... odd that no credit is being given anywhere in the original post. Regardless, after reading all (well, not all, there is sooo much of it :O ) the discussion that has happened here in the last 24 hours (missed out on it entirely) I have an entirely different solution/proposal:

What if we split up the site?

Personally I think a site where challenges are simply posted and solved is going to die, now I might well be wrong (!) , but at the very least it's different from the standard SE Q&A format. Additionally reputation on this sites means little due to extremely strong popularity problem and there is a lot of chaos. If instead this site would - with the blessings of SE management - be split into two sites it could actually work great:

Puzzling.SE for puzzle creationg and puzzle solving

  • Popularity problem is smaller
  • Moderation is easier with clear on and off topicness
  • Questions as defined in the original puzzling.SE proposal would once again come front and center and find a good place

Challenges.SE for posting and solving challenges

  • Another site that broadly focuses on a non Q&A format challenge solving. This would be analogous to SO and codegolf.SE (with the difference that it would be impossible to govern challenges.SE as well as codegolf, for reasons outlined in various other posts)

Challenges.SE would still refer to puzzling.SE for conceptual problems and puzzling.SE would refer to challenges.SE as the test bed somehow in a similar way codereview.SE now works for SO. It would solve the entire tension that has developed on this site and give a clear direction for both communities (with a great overlap between the two as well)

PS.

Why not tags?

In theory the same could be achieved with tags, but the problem is that spamming mass producible puzzles and their solutions is far easier than getting good questions and answers about puzzling itself. This thus means that both reputation is skewed and actual valuable content is lost in the noise of the rest of the questions.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just a very minor point: if we're going that route and have flexibility over the names, something like Puzzling.SE and PuzzleTheory.SE may be more obvious - both Puzzling and Challenges sound like places to post challenges $\endgroup$ – Joe Dec 4 '14 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Fine with that as well, just thought it would better fit to keep this site lined up with the original intention per the proposal for this site. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Dec 4 '14 at 10:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hmm, isn't that what was the plan after the tumult and what was initiated on Area51 but then was revoked as "not wanted" by SE (see accepted answer?). So, it sounds like going full circle. while I would be okay with this as well, I therefore down vote this. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Dec 6 '14 at 9:24
-4
$\begingroup$

@xnor what bugs me is that people had my question closed. Although it looked like a real question as pointed out by Emakrul. But real questions (creating information) should be kept. What if it really was a question? There was no evidence proving the opposite! I intended it to be a riddle and a question at the same time which would've helped other people a lot by learning how a riddle works. Seems like you narrow-minded lot lost control.

You start being reckless with the business of yours. There was not a single question from any of you towards me to make sure that riddle really is a riddle or not. Only assumption and big balls. In the end xnor was kind enough to talk to me...well, after the question has been closed.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Is it this question? If so, under this close reason, the question would be put on hold temporarily until it was made clear what parts were confusing you, and that you were actually confused and asking for guidance. Under this case, your question would still be on-topic. This close reason is an attempt to improve the uniformity of that guidance and consensus, so that these confusing situations don't happen in the future. $\endgroup$ – Aza Dec 3 '14 at 8:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As I told xnor already...this question is the worst place to start with improving puzzlingSE. There is so much crap out there (to say nothing of close-votes because of personal dislike). $\endgroup$ – Avigrail Dec 3 '14 at 8:14
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ avigrail, this isn't the place to discuss your question having been closed. Please either post on one of the relevant existing discussions or start a new post. Or poke me in chat if you just want to talk with me. $\endgroup$ – xnor Dec 3 '14 at 10:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .