Some of my favorite reads have been the "Code Golf" questions, as well as similar contests - such as the embedding an image into a Twitter message question.

What kind of role should these type of questions fit into the SO community? Should there be lots every day? Should they be rare? Do they really have a valid place in a Q&A kind of community? Is it different from community to community?

Should ServerFault have lots of "Build a server that does all this, for as little as possible" questions?

  • Hrm - I didnt think bounties worked on meta. Ah well, free points to someone. – Jeffrey Jul 10 '09 at 20:02
  • Bounteh', Neat. – Sampson Jul 10 '09 at 20:03
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    Heh, this is the first "Featured" question meta.stackoverflow.com/?tab=featured on Meta I think.. – dbr Jul 10 '09 at 22:31

They are valid questions because they are programming questions, and they are even fun programming questions!

I see no rule defining how many valid questions you can have per time unit, so there should be as many as the community asks.

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    No! If SO were about having fun, it'd be called FunOverflow and it'd have a huge, twisty slide that lets out into a gigantic ball pit. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Jul 7 '09 at 17:45
  • Bah, you are a nutless pesto! Of course it's about having fun. And you have more fun answering fun instead of boring questions – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 7 '09 at 17:53
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  • I think his point is, that having too many of these type of contests at the same time will clutter the attention. While if you have one contest at a time the whole community could look at that question, increasing the chance of a good quality post. – Ivo Flipse Jul 14 '09 at 5:15
  • I don't think that's his point. Even if that were the case the same argument could be used for any question. .NET questions 'clutter' the attention of .NET experts, so please don't have more than X at a time or else... nothing special about 'contest' questions here – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 14 '09 at 5:20

It would be nice to submit questions like this with immediate bounties. He who has the most votes, wins.

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    I'd love to see original questions posed this way. As I said, I don't care much for seeing us spoil questions asked on other forums. – Bill the Lizard Jul 7 '09 at 17:48
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    "He who has the most point" is a function of time. When? – xmm0 Jul 10 '09 at 21:55
  • @Mehrdad either a user-set value, or of not, the default two weeks needed for a bounty question to be auto-accepted. – MiffTheFox Jul 11 '09 at 7:10

I generally don't like to see spoilers to contest questions, but like homework question, I think they're on SO to stay. If people can't find them on SO, they'll find them somewhere else, so we might as well accept them so we can all learn from them.


i think some other site would be most appropriate. This is based on the notion that SO is/was intended to be a help site, not an entertainment/edutainment site.

codegolf.com would be very appropriate

note: clutter is clutter, even if it's fun clutter

addendum: "ignore the tag" doesn't reduce the clutter, it just eliminates the clutter from my screen - while slowing everything down in the process

  • Ignore the tag. No clutter. – Assaf Lavie Jul 11 '09 at 8:51
  • close the clutter, don't need the tag – Steven A. Lowe Jul 13 '09 at 1:17
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    contest.stackoverflow.com? – Ivo Flipse Jul 14 '09 at 5:17

It would be nice to submit questions like this with immediate bounties. He who has the most votes, wins.

Why do you need immediate bounties? Such a question would need several days to garner replies and let people work on them, so 2 days pass, you set a bounty, and 1-7 days pass and the winner is chosen (by expiry or by accepted answer). Every contest would run for a minimum of 2 days, maximum of 9).


I think occasional, interesting, programming-related challenges (like the twitter-sized image-compression question) have their place, just like "What's your favourite programmer cartoon" does..

Using the twitter-challenge as an example, it is a valid question:

how much of a picture can you fit in 140 characters?

Tag them with code-challenge, so people with a firm aversion to such fun can add it to their ignored questions filter, and I don't see the problem (as long as they remain "occasional"!)

  • I liked twitter-size image-compression challenge very much. Thanks for mentioning it in StackOverflow Podcast [summary]! – Jakub Narębski Jul 11 '09 at 21:44
  • Jakub: I don't unserstand, I didn't mention the podast, did I? – dbr Jul 12 '09 at 0:54

This kind of reminds me of chess sites like redhotchess. Besides the regular one-on-one games and clan duels, the website has special areas for tournaments.

The site hosts monthly tournaments with different rating range like 1200-1300, 1400-1500,... 1800+. This allows mediocre players compete against each other while high ranking players to do their thing. Not sure if it applies directly here, but I would guess it does due to the "10x" nature of the programming.

Another related concept is timeout/timebank. Tournaments and siege could be set with different timeout (1day, 3day, 7day, 14day, 21day) for different style of coding.

Finally, there are sieges. There are several titles like "1day Red board" and "7day Blue board." Only one person can hold a title at a time, and only one person can challenge the title at a time. I think the goal is to keep the title as long as possible.

The problem with applying this model is getting the programming questions. Maybe the moderators can pick and assign the question from stock questions and submitted ones.


Because the exchanges have reputation, it is a literal manifestation of what happens in many other contests that have no real reward other than getting noticed by your peers. It also appears a great way to garner publicity for the site. I saw the twitter art contest originally on reddit.com So I imagine it drove a ton of traffic to stackoverflow.com and many of those people probably where not aware SO existed before that contest peeked their interest. So, contests are good for the community because it is fun, gives talented members recognition and drives new users to the site.

As far as how many, I think it is directly proportional to the community's size. People only have so much time. 100 of users can maybe only support one a month, 1000's maybe once a week. 1,000,000's maybe everyday. I think it also depends on the topic. Something like game development is really hard to do in day, but creating a hiku in a day seems doable.

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