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I (as a lot of people) enjoy the high-quality code-golf questions posted by user LiraNuna, I've even participated a few times.

I interpreted those questions as 'completely new/original' entries but then found a lot of them were just copied over verbatim (including input / output examples sometimes) from other sites. I think at least a reference (link) to the source should be included.

Consider the following links (I'll give the Stackoverflow link and what I consider the source):

Sierpinski’s Triangle:

Morse code:

The Wave:

Musical Notes: SO:

Seven Segments


What do you guys think?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Yes, they should include a link. Any content, whether question or answer, that you copy or paraphrase from another site should be cited. It's just good manners to give credit to the original authors.

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The wave: I will admit this one was a direct copy - because it was, imo, a good question right in the path I was thinking of. This was the only question I deliberately copy-n-pasted. Someone commented on the source during the challenge was taking place and that sparked many other solutions that were semi-copied from there.

Morse code: That was my first question, and was completely original - nothing inspired it. I did not know of when I started.

Musical notes: This was indeed inspired by the link you gave, but it's reverse, not to mention the note structure is different as well (that has impact on the solution by a large degree).

Sierpinski’s Triangle: Was not deliberately copied from, it was my own idea and I actually ASCII'd the solutions in gedit. It was one of my first ideas (it was about to be posted after Morse code) and was saved for an 'emergency' I-ran-out-of-ideas.

Seven Segments: Same as Morse code - I was not aware of at the time. Also of note that this question is reversed, which changes the answer by a really large margin. It was also my first and only question I added a restriction, and people did not like that (I was trying to discourage the use of figlet related libraries/services).

As for source attribution for code golf - as much as I love giving credit where it's due, I think it ruins the fun. People go - check out - and ruin the solution for themselves. Mostly because those sites contain answers already. While not a direct copy of challenges (regardless of 'The wave'), I think that it would spoil the fun for those who really want to try. Remember humans - by nature - are very curious creatures, and saying stuff like "Just don't click the link" will encourage clicking even further :)

As for the other questions - they are completely original - Lasers, Beehive, Playing cubes, Hourglass and Spider webs - all original, and were inspired by my personal life experiences.

If the community does, however, "force" me to put sources, I will change every question that has a semi-direct relationship that I know of, will get added and posted in the future.


Personally I would hate it if I was forced to put a link to 'related' questions - I think it'll spoil the fun.
I only knew of two direct attribution links - The wave (was indeed a direct copy) and Musical Notes (Provided inspiration and guideline, I had an early idea about notes already).

Another thing to note is that The Wave has the most answers of all my questions (at time of writing)! This confirms my concern that giving the source (if applicable) will ruin fun and increase participation at a cost of ruining people's fun.

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I think it would be a good idea to give attribution to the ones you find on other sites, maybe with a spoiler warning so people know there are answers on the other site. Anyone who posts an answer that appears on the other site should have to give attribution as well. Putting the link right in the question should cut down on people submitting answers they find by Googling. – Bill the Lizard Nov 13 '09 at 22:21
I only deliberately Copied one challenge. The others are merely inspired and modified in a way that completely changes the answer. – LiraNuna Nov 13 '09 at 22:22
If the answers are different, it's arguably a different question. It's up to you as to whether you leave a citation for those ones, but I usually try to err on the side of caution and give credit if an answer (or a blog post) is inspired by something else I've read. If they're really different, then there's no harm in giving a link so people can go look for ideas on how to approach the problem. – Bill the Lizard Nov 13 '09 at 22:26
I only knew of two attribution links. Morse code (tree) is a wonderful golf candidate as well as Sierpinski’s Triangle (recursive block) and Seven Segments (8bit packing). I was not aware - at time of posting - that those were "thought of" before. As for the 'Put a spoiler warning' - I knew it'd be mentioned and I already addressed it - humans are curious - they WILL click even if it's marked as bad. – LiraNuna Nov 13 '09 at 23:31
"The Wave" is the one you directly copied. So link to the author's site. Honour to whom honour is due! The question is from September. I really doubt that you get more answers. Even if, they already have many solutions directly in front of their faces. No harm in linking to the other page, because there could be spoilers. Do at least that in the future: link to the original site, after a certain amount of time. Mention from the beginning, that you were inspired even if you link later. – Ladybug Killer Nov 13 '09 at 23:54
I don't look at shinh even when I know it exists -- I suspect most other answerers don't either, simply because the code that shows up here versus there is so different. – ephemient Nov 13 '09 at 23:55
@Jhon - I wanted to after I selected an answer, but someone already did it in comments, so I didn't. The rest, I don't feel guilty as I didn't copy anything - those inspired a question. Maybe Notes should be given attribution, but the rest I did not know about. – LiraNuna Nov 14 '09 at 0:26
"Another thing to note is that The Wave has the most answers of all my questions (at time of writing)! This confirms my concern that giving the source (if applicable) will ruin fun and increase participation at a cost of ruining people's fun." I don't think that one question is confirming proof. It may suggest that you're on to something, but it's hardly damning evidence that you're right. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Nov 14 '09 at 0:45
"This confirms my concern" are the keywords you're looking for. – LiraNuna Nov 14 '09 at 0:58

Being a student at a university, of course I agree with Bill's answer: attribution is important. Then again, LiraNuna's concerns w.r.t. human nature are justified.

So we are now in a situation where the right thing to do spoils the fun (at least in part). I would therefore like to toss an alternative coin, as a middle ground between attribution and non-attribution: why not add a link to any source of inspiration after a week (or a similar time span)? Most people will have posted an answer by then, yet any late visitors (including users of will see the attribution.

And indeed it's true that after some time very few people visit these code-golf questions, this late answer of mine is the shortest solution in that thread, yet still has received no up-votes at all...

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I choose the 'best' answer at the end of the weekend - Thursday to Monday. I'd say it's safe to post a link (if known) on Monday after I choose the winner. – LiraNuna Nov 13 '09 at 22:36
+1: This seems like an intelligent and good way to handle both sides of the story. – ChristopheD Nov 13 '09 at 22:44
Seems like we have already bettered a couple of the solutions for sierpinski - J and golfscript. Personally i won't be looking at any of the answers on shinh until this one is over - although i am motivated to improve my on python and ruby answers now – gnibbler Nov 14 '09 at 0:33
I think this would be perfectly acceptable in those cases where a question is inspired by something you read elsewhere. I still think the original author deserves credit from the start if you copy/paste a question. That appears to have been only one instance, though, and at this point I'd be surprised if it happened again. – Bill the Lizard Nov 14 '09 at 0:35
@Bill: completely agree. – Stephan202 Nov 14 '09 at 8:48

I'd leave a comment for the OP saying that they should add the link showing where they got the original idea. If they don't respond, and you've got enough Rep to edit the question, I say add the link in yourself.

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Well I left a comment on the last code-golf question that I started some meta-discussion here, so maybe the OP will join in here. Good suggestion although it feels a little aggresive editing other people's questions (it's different when it's just neglected code markup). – ChristopheD Nov 13 '09 at 21:57
Well, most code golf questions are Community Wiki (or at least they should be), so you shouldn't feel bad about editing them. One of the purposes of CW is to lower the threshold for editing so that a larger section of the community can have more say in the content. – gnostradamus Nov 13 '09 at 22:01

I've generally considered any plagiarized and/or unattributed content on SO to be grounds for a "flag for moderator attention", and if in a question, "vote to close as blatantly offensive" (with an explanatory comment). This includes links to copyright violations, as well as pasted content.

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What if it looks the same? I didn't copy shinh's Sierpinski’s Triangle, even while it looks 1:1 copied. How can such claims be proven? – LiraNuna Nov 14 '09 at 0:37
@LiraNuna: In that case, you might want to leave a link that just says you (or someone else) found a similar problem. It still serves as a good resource for anyone answering the question, and it removes any doubt that anyone could have about plagiarism. – Bill the Lizard Nov 14 '09 at 4:58

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