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An overly broad riddle is no fun because it is too easy to answer, or has a dumb answer. A poorly written riddle leads to short, snarky answers that are no fun for anybody.

But what is wrong with this question:

Is This Bad For Luck?

This site is about logic puzzles. I get that. But why are subjective riddles such a bad idea? They're fun.

Also, this riddle is objective in my opinion. Try answering it.

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The principle is that every question here should have a single definitely-right answer, so that if and when someone gives that answer they get the green checkmark and no one has to feel they've been treated unfairly.

Of course that doesn't always work out. Sometimes two people give essentially the same answer, and then maybe victory goes to whoever was first or whoever explained things more completely or something. Sometimes solvng a puzzle requires several steps and different people do different steps. Etc. Even so, in principle it's possible for someone to post an answer that is clearly the right answer, even if what actually happens is that two people do it or three people each post 1/3 of that right answer or something.

Now, perhaps that's actually true for your question: perhaps there's some subtlety in how it's expressed that means that there's a single Right Answer that everyone would agree with once all is explained. But it doesn't look like it to me, and it evidently didn't look like it to the people who voted to close that question.

So, imagine the question is left open. What happens then? Someone posts an answer that amounts to "the Good Luck would win out, because everything goes right for Good Luck Guy". Someone posts an answer that amounts to "the Bad Luck would survive, because everything goes wrong for Bad Luck Guy". Someone posts an answer that amounts to "the Bad Luck would survive, because luck isn't the sort of thing that can be cured", it just means that bad things happen by chance". Someone posts an answer that amounts to "the whole question is nonsensical because there isn't really such a thing as a persistent property of being lucky or unlucky". Someone posts an answer that amounts to "well, clearly the only way for people to have this sort of persistent luck is for some sort of supernatural power to be making it so, and what happens when supernatural powers clash is ...". And so on, and so forth.

And now which answer gets accepted, honoured for ever as The Right Answer to the question? Whichever subjective opinion happens to match your subjective opinion. And the people who post all the others feel aggrieved because their answers weren't chosen and there's no clear explanation of why the accepted answer is better than theirs. And (so to speak) no progress has been made: all the puzzle adds to the site is a bunch of subjective opinions that we all already knew were possible, one of which happens to belong to the person who asked the question.

Sure, this sort of question can be fun to think about. But -- again, unless I and the people who voted to close it have all missed some subtle point, in which case it could be that it was closed in error -- it doesn't really belong here any more than these other questions that can be fun to think about: "Is it better to vote for party X or for party Y?" "Is there a god?" "Was the first human being male or female?".

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  • $\begingroup$ Those are all bad answers and should be deleted as such. I believe they stem from a misunderstanding of how luck works: Luck isn't something you have, it is something that has happened to you. If you have good or bad luck, it just means that, purely by chance, a good or bad thing has happened. There, that's a clue. And now for the right answer: While they have been lucky in the past, it is highly improbable that either of their lucks will last. They both become normal, even if they don't meet. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luck $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Graef Sep 29 '18 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ That is in fact one of the answers in my list ("nonsensical because there isn't ...") and I agree that it's the best of 'em. But I don't think it's clearly the best. For instance, the question itself clearly describes their situations in terms not only of past good/bad luck but also of persisting dispositions: if you try to help them, you will fail because of their bad luck. So long as the two don't meet, there's nothing exactly absurd there: you're just saying to select these people on the basis of their luck over their whole lives. [continues] $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 29 '18 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ But if you stipulate that they meet and one tries to help the other -- why, then, it's at least arguable that the description is actually incoherent since it says both that things always go well for one and that they always go ill for the other. I think it would have been possible to ask the question in such a way that the answer you (and I) prefer is clearly the right one -- but that is not how you did it. (Perhaps because you wanted to make it easy to go astray?) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 29 '18 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer. Too bad you couldn't post it. Edit: While we're answering riddles, try answering the first riddle in the question (what to do about the bad luck). I posted it here because I myself do not know the answer. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Graef Sep 29 '18 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Well, if we are supposed to understand that this person is merely unlucky so far then the answer is that there's no need to do anything about it, because it will (almost certainly) go away in the future. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 29 '18 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes, you are right. However, what if you were to to check their luck over their whole life, but not whether you did anything about it (to avoid a potential paradox should you need to choose the opposite action). What should you do then? That is the question I cannot answer. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Graef Sep 29 '18 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I posted this on Philosophy: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/55920/… Please direct your answer there, if any. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Graef Sep 29 '18 at 20:33

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