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I just came across this riddle in the Reopen Votes review queue, having previously seen it in the Close Votes review queue where I was apparently the only person to vote to leave it open.

It seems ridiculous to me that someone joining the site to post a riddle they've created would get their question closed until such time as they say explicitly that they've made it themselves. It also feels somewhat unfair, since it holds people to different standards: I'm sure that if it was me posting a riddle without saying explicitly that I'd made it myself, nobody would vote to close it because you all know that I write my own riddles.

(In fact, the whole attribution policy doesn't make sense to me, especially in cases like this where the puzzle consists of just text rather than a screenshot from somewhere. If the OP had taken their puzzle from somewhere, they could just lie and say they made it themselves. A policy that relies on honesty in unprovable cases doesn't feel very consistent. But I digress: the policy was created through meta consensus and it's an official close reason, so there's not much to do about that.)

Can we please be a bit more careful about closing people's questions when there's no reason to think it might be copied without attribution? If it's an obvious screenshot from an online IQ test or something, then sure, close away. But if someone posts a riddle like this, why would you presume guilt rather than innocence, when people have been posting home-made riddles on this site since 2014?

I'm not necessarily advocating any change in the attribution policy itself, just would like to ask people to be a bit more careful when casting votes on new puzzles. A lot of people post home-made puzzles without seeing the need to say explicitly that they're home-made, and we can't reasonably close every such puzzle.

(And yes, I know that this question will get quickly reopened now that the OP has said they made the riddle themselves. But my point is that it shouldn't have been closed in the first place. What happened to benefit of the doubt?)

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2 Answers 2

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Maybe we need clearer guidance.

The accepted answer on the attribution FAQ says:

The attribution requirement is mostly enforced for newer users, or on questions which "smell" of possible plagiarism/rule-breaking. (How to "smell" this is an art more than a science.)

In this case it seems that five users in good standing deemed that a new user posting a riddle without mentioning they created it themself was enough to fail the smell test. Clearly other users disagree. (At least 15, based on the voting on this post – 14 with the hindsight of knowing the decision was wrong, and one without.) Maybe we should spell out common guidelines for when you should be reasonably expected to question the attribution of a new question. We have existing help pages for close voting (When should I vote to close a question, How do I use the Close votes queue), but at the moment none of them gives any detailed criteria for attribution cases.

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A few ideas:

  1. Perhaps the first time a user posts a puzzle, they get a message explaining that non-original questions are welcome but must be properly attributed.

  2. If there is some doubt as to whether a posted puzzle is non-original, perhaps that before initiating a close vote, a comment would be posted asking if the puzzle was created by the OP and allowing some time (for example 72 hours) for the OP to either state they created it themself or post proper attribution.

  3. I suspect that some people might not want to say that they created the puzzle that they posted because they might feel that it is unnecessary boasting.

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