We have a long-standing policy about strongly preferring self-contained puzzles. This meta is to revisit that policy. It was inspired by a chat debate about an enigmatic puzzle by @Feryll. The puzzle originally consisted only of a line of text, then a multiline link to a YouTube video. It has now been edited to contain a text and image description of the video.

Please browse the Q&A in my first search link to see how we've applied this policy over time. There's the obvious: requiring the download of software or going to random external websites isn't allowed. There's the maybe less obvious: requiring going to a personally-hosted site isn't allowed. There's the exceptions: metapuzzles which rely on previous Puzzling-posted puzzles (say that five times fast) and images hosted on i.stack.imgur are fine (as are those hosted on imgur if i.stack.imgur is impossible). This is not a comprehensive overview of the policy.

Where does this puzzle fall (both before and after the edit)? When we previously considered puzzles that included videos/audio, the consensus was that puzzles which completely relied on the external source ran afoul of the policy. Should this consensus apply to the puzzle in question; should it be reversed? Should or must we update our general policy on this? Discuss! It's meta, after all.

  • $\begingroup$ I worry that the last paragraph of this question is too leading, and seems like an "attack" - it may make this discussion more hostile than intended. I'd suggest rephrasing it. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Is it only the second sentence which has a problem, or more of them? I wasn't sure how to fit that last link in well, but it is important to know we considered nearly the exact same issue before. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, the last paragraph doesn't read as an attack to me (which isn't to say it mightn't read that way to the puzzle author in question, as it evidently did to Deusovi). I do think the fact that this is a question that's been considered before is relevant -- not because past decisions are sacrosanct, but because they provide necessary context. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


Author of the puzzle in question responding.

If I had to suggest a compromise, I think either "Youtube should be made another exception, like Imgur, because it is likely to remain stable in the long term" or "not grounds for closing or deletion per se, but a case-by-case recommendation to edit in relevant external details and/or avoid such puzzle formats in the future."

Closing comes with a cost; it's not a free way to fix identified faults in content. Nobody would argue that being self-contained isn't at least as good if not better than using an external resource, but only that the difference is minimal in most cases and not worth a heavy-handed prohibition. Closing posts for small blemishes obstructs otherwise good content, and it frustrates users, especially new ones who will likely not know until it's too late that this policy is close-worthy. Such was my experience.

I find the phrasing "are we willing to carve out a personal exception, as we didn't before?" to be a very loaded question, when the reality outside the Metabox is that there are plenty of well-received questions that contain external resources. Should we go back in time (in some instances, not very far at all) and expunge them from the site? Or does the cost of removing them (frustrating the creators and depriving us of puzzles that users do actually enjoy) outweigh the risk that one day, someone might click on one of them only to discover a dead link (in such a case, I don't see the pain in just reporting and moving on)? Keep in mind, I think the "future-proof Puzzling.SE" argument is indifferent with respect to whether the questions are new or old.

An extra bit of relevant-not-relevant info, is that my question was also voted for closure under a phony reason ("needs more details or clarity" despite being an enigmatic). Chatting around seems to indicate that this is seen as an acceptable practice in lieu of actually describing and defending the actual "edge-case" reasoning they have in mind for voting to close. This, I think, is an even bigger issue with the community moderation effort than any perceived future-proofing. The two goals aren't at odds with one another, of course; but nonetheless, I would encourage users and moderation to treat fellow users with more respect and charity than this, and that ties into not being too close-happy.

  • $\begingroup$ If something is off-topic, even in a small way, then closing in supposed to be the right thing to do. It is intended to be a signpost saying "this question is not okay in its current state, and here is a way to fix that". The close-edit-reopen cycle is supposed to be easy and used as long as a post has close-worthy problems. Granted, most users don't take closing in the intended way. And I'm not sure anyone was advocating removal, just closure? Or am I missing something? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jun 22, 2021 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ "Intended" and "supposed to be" is, to me, an agreement that something is painful about the current path despite the best intentions. I've already laid out my argument for why I think the pain outweighs the benefit in any realistic futures. $\endgroup$
    – Feryll
    Jun 22, 2021 at 22:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I absolutely agree that your question should not have been closed for that reason, and its closure is a very troubling sign for community moderation efforts. I'm not sure those examples all show what you want them to, though: #2 and #5 are questions about puzzles, not questions created as puzzles for other people to solve. And #3 is a puzzle that was also not hosted on another site: once you got the offsite link, it was considered solved, and the actual "go to the offsite URL" step was just a formality. [...] $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ [...] As for #4, it is very old, before this sort of policy was discussed: under today's standards, it would be considered to use external resources. #1 is the only example I think is particularly relevant to this discussion, and I agree that its lack of close votes is a double standard. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ (The above two comments should not be read as me taking either the stance of "puzzles that rely on offsite resources are not appropriate for this site, and should therefore be closed" or "we should strongly recommend against relying on offsite resources, but it should not be closeworthy". I'm still not sure what I think is the best policy here, and would like to see more community input.) $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ Ugh, that comment wasn't supposed to be insulting. The second "trying" does not mean the same thing as the first "trying"... it was meant to be a reference to Feryll's "it's only me /trying/" $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Deleted comments above that appeared rude (and responses to them). Please remain civil, and remember that on the other side of the screen is another person trying to communicate their thoughts. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jun 22, 2021 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ A note on close-reasons: there is a small finite list of close-reasons available, and not infrequently all of them are inaccurate descriptions of the actual reason for closing something. There is an "other (add a comment)" reason but IIRC closing a question for this reason still produces a message saying "This question is off-topic", which is still frequently wrong. This is a limitation of the Stack Exchange software. We don't have a custom close reason specifically for "this question requires external resources", so a truly-non-bogus close reason was never a possibility. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ I do agree that "needs more details or clarity" is not a good reason for closing that question, of course, and (1) the first person who voted to close for that reason should not have done so and (2) the other people who did likewise shouldn't have followed the path of least resistance as they did. (What happens is that if you click "Close" on a question that already has close-votes, the UI makes it easier to pick whatever reason most people already have. That's probably a good thing on balance, but it does make it easier for errors to cascade.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ In chat, I think you suggested that someone was choosing a wrong close-reason in order to maximize the chance that the question would be closed, by picking something "popular". I am very confident that that was not in fact their goal, and what determines when a question gets closed is the total number of close votes, not the number for a particular reason, so anyone trying to do that would be wasting their time. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ The wording in close-reason boxes was changed some time ago, in ways that were meant to make the messages more informative and friendly. Unfortunately, while the changes may have been appropriate for more traditional Q&A sites like Stack Overflow (where people ask questions because they don't know the answers) they made things worse here at Puzzling. The main focus of the company that runs Stack Exchange sites is, and probably always will be, traditional Q&A sites like Stack Overflow (Puzzling is a real anomaly), so this sort of thing is hard to avoid. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ (The issue is that the close-reason boxes helpfully try to explain what the various close-reasons mean, and some of the explanations don't really match very well how things work here. In particular, all the Puzzling-specific reasons are treated as special cases of "off topic". Even if we had a close reason specially for "essential parts of the puzzle are off site", it would still show up as "off-topic" with a misleading message.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 9:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Youtube should be made another exception, like Imgur, because it is likely to remain stable in the long term" PLEASE, NO! Youtube is stable, but its automatic anti-piracy system can be crazy sometimes. A video can be there for years and then deleted because anti-piracy algorithm was changed or something. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 16:25

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