Sometimes I see a puzzle that is rather easy to solve by writing a small computer program. The [no-computers]-tag exists if the asker of the question doesn't want you to use a computer. But does this also mean that when the tag is absent that computers are allowed(, and in some cases even required)?

Personally I think the anwering of questions here is a bit of a competitive thing so it's nice to be the first one to give the answer and be accepted. But sometimes it takes the fun of out if when a quickly written computer program can solve it.

It could also be the case that the asker is not aware of the existence of the [no-computers]-tag so it could be very unfortunate when the asker of the question was thinking of a nice no-computer answer.

But the other way around could also be true: That the asker of the question expects you to use a computer and in that case I could for example have a computer solution in mind but hold back because I think there might be a nicer no-computer solution.

What are your thoughts about this?


is actually a meta tag. It doesn't describe the content of the question; it describes some additional qualification or feature about the question. It's not a great tag, and your question is actually one of the reasons why - the absence of the tag doesn't say anything about what the author wanted. Tags are not a good medium for defining puzzle rules.

If you don't want someone using computers to solve your puzzle, you should explicitly state that in the puzzle. (I would actually go so far as to recommend we go through these puzzles and edit this rule in as text in the puzzle, so we can then burn the tag.)

Also, remember that while a niftily-written program can often tell you what the answer is, it can very rarely tell you why. Using a program to solve a problem in logic isn't nominally a good answer on this site unless it also clearly explains why that's the solution. This is one of the criteria I've considered when voting.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about that. "Find a clever way of doing by hand what could easily be done with a computer" is a reasonable genre of puzzle. $\endgroup$ – Jack M Nov 7 '15 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Jack That could be true, but that's not what people use the tag to mean. $\endgroup$ – user20 Nov 10 '15 at 19:41

There is no reason that receiving a correct answer has to be the end of a question. Authors are free to say (or think), "That is correct, but there is a more elegant way to deduce it" and are certainly not obligated to accept an answer that misses the point. Certainly, it would be bad for our site to become a race where authors feel pressured to take quick, but poor answers over slower, but better answers.

Also, as Emrakul notes in their answer, the tag is clearly a meta-tag and should be burninated. Questions should stand on their own, and if "The intended solution does not use computers" is necessary as a hint it should be included (or implied) in the question body. Similarly, I think it is good to warn people when computers are necessary. In general, I think we should regard all methods of solving as allowable as long as nothing in the question indicates otherwise (and puzzle writers should strive to make the difference between the intended answer and others clear). However, this does not mean that authors and voters must reward answers which are merely allowable but not insightful.


In my opinion the tag should only be used for questions where you,re not allowed to use search engines. Using the tag for questions where writing a program is not allowed restricts solving methods for absolutely no reason. It is only a crutch for questions, and not a good one.

Of course, if there is a more elegant computerless solution, that should be accepted even without the tag.

So I think that computers are always allowed as long as isn't there.


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