As I'm sure everyone on Meta has read, there's been quite a lot of confusion about whether or not puzzles are on-topic on Puzzling.SE. The latest information right now is from Robert Cartaino saying that everything's OK as it is - don't panic and the rest of this post assumes that things sort themselves out and everyone just needs to calm down and be happy :-)
Please have a quick look at the State of the Puzzling.SE rules thread as it summarises a number of other things which also need discussion. I'm just focussing on 3 very basic, core things we need to discuss and decide.
The really positive thing that has come out of the busy day today is that there's been a lot of discussion on some key principles that I think really should be discussed, agreed and formalised ASAP - there are a few really important decisions we need to make as a community.
We need something clear that we're working towards. If we can't agree on the point of the site, we're only going to disagree on everything else. I personally really like Bmyguest's phrasing:
We help puzzlers to become better. Better at building puzzles, better at understanding puzzles, and better at solving puzzles.
He's since posted this slightly tweaked version:
We help puzzlers to become better through practice, critique, and discussion. Better at building puzzles, better at understanding puzzles, and better at solving puzzles.
This may need a little adjusting to also include people who want to discuss puzzle theory, but whatever we go with we really need to be absolutely clear on what we're trying to do.
2. What is a good (or bad) puzzle?
All puzzles fall into three categories, calculation, interpretation, and assumption.
The first category consists only of puzzles with nothing left to interpretation. There is exactly one answer and there can only ever be one right answer. The author is not needed to confirm it, because the answer is obviously the only possible solution once discovered.
The next category is interpretation. People are often going to guess this kind of question wrong, but sometimes in a way that is constructive and fun. A great incorrect answer will fit the majority of criterion, but never all. The correct answer will prove to perfectly fit the criterion presented with few red herrings if any. Good riddles will almost always fall into this category.
The final category, assumption, can be defined as a puzzle with a low clue to crap ratio or a puzzle whose clues do not lead to a definite answer
If we formalise these terms for puzzles (Calculation, Interpretation, Assumption) we can make Assumption puzzles off-topic, which Calculation and Interpretation are on-topic.
There is also the question of is it a puzzle or just math - I won't repeat my post, just click the link for my opinion.
Obviously an answer should ... well, answer the puzzle. However, since we're not just interested in the answer, I believe we should require an explanation of the answer.
Just saying "It's 42" is not an answer.
Saying "It's 42 because when you add all the digits together, they total 42" is a much better answer.
The best answer (in my opinion) is this (not quoted because it messes up formatting):
How do I work out the answer?
The question says "xyz" which means you should add all the digits together
Right! So that means the answer is...
...although I'm fully aware that not everyone agrees. A policy on how we should (or probably more importantly, how we should not) be spoilering is important. One of the hot topics is "full-post spoilers" which are generally agreed to be bad - does anyone have any good reasons why we should continue to allow them?