If you browse the tag on SO often, you'll see a lot of questions about code challenges found online. I don't see this as a problem, provided people are trying to get help rather than a "give teh code" situation.

I'm asking in light of the DMCA notices that have been received from codility.com. Questions like these have been deleted simply due to the notices received. I can't fault the SE team for doing this, whether or not they believe the case is valid. I've received a DMCA notice for an app I wrote, and while I believe it was not infringing, it's not worth the hassle to fight.

The biggest problem I see is that askers are sometimes encouraged to paste the problem statement into the question. If the OP (often a new user) complies with the community's request, it's in danger of being deleted whenever codility next decides to send out notices. If they don't, they might appear uncooperative and garner down/close votes.

Note that I'm not commenting on the merit of the notices. I'm looking for official guidance on what to do in these circumstances. This way if anyone asks why we did "X" to their question, we can link to a post explaining the policy.

  • Do we encourage only links to the challenge site? If so, what happens if/when links go bad?

  • A brief description of the problem? Note that sometimes the problem is that the OP misinterprets the statement, so their description may not match the actual problem.

  • When we see pasted problem statements, should we edit them out and replace them with a link, etc?

  • 3
    The ideal approach wuld be to encourage the OP to restate the problem in their own words. They will have to add words of their own anyway, mseeing as a mere copypaste won't make a good question, right? On the other hand, there is arguably nothing badly wrong with the current system - a handful of DMCA requests is hardly the sign of a big problem
    – Pekka
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


Authors should give a self-contained description of the problem, in their question.

We should discourage people from just giving a link to the problem; readers need to be able to understand all relevant aspects of the question and the problem from the text found on our site. (If readers have to hunt down and read some external link, many readers will move on and won't bother answering the question. Also, if the question is not understandable without reading an external link, the question is less likely to be findable via search and is more likely to be susceptible to link rot.)

The best solution is that authors should restate the problem in their own words, concisely. Ideally, they would focus on the parts that they need help with.

Incidentally, this has its own benefits for folks who have a question they want help with. Forcing yourself to restate the problem concisely and clearly often helps your own understanding. I'm sure you've heard of rubber duck debugging, right?

We should not encourage authors to copy-paste the problem description from some external site:

  • If authors copy any part of the problem into their question, they absolutely must give full attribution to the original source of the material, as required by our site policy. Copying without attribution is plagiarism and is not accepted on this site; if you see questions that do that, please leave a comment to the author to ask them to attribute the source or flag the post for moderator attention.

  • It is also the authors' responsibility to ensure that they have permission to copy any material that they've copied, and to ensure that the material can be made available under StackExchange's cc-wiki copyright policy. Unfortunately, generally speaking, authors are unlikely to have this copyright permission, if they are not the original author of the problem that they're copy-pasting. Therefore, asking them to copy-paste the problem description into the post is just setting them up to violate site rules.

Therefore, we should not pester authors to copy-paste the problem description into the question. Instead, we should ask them to provide a complete, self-contained description of the problem, in their own words, as part of the text of the question.

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