Actually, maybe it would be possible to come up with a more objective scoring scheme than "resembling the code". Will work on this when I have a chance.


I started a competition, but the question was closed. Seeing as code golf is allowed, why did people feel it was necessary to close the question, especially since any programming tricks used in this challenge are much more likely to be useful in real life?

Summary of responses

Here I'll summarise all of the arguments made against my case and why I disagree.

  • The code must be answerable in all major languages to be fair While C# or Java are unlikely to win the comp, answers in these languages could still be interesting and competitions aren't all about winning. Besides, Java or Fortran is unlikely to win code-golf.
  • The code wasn't community wiki at the start for about 3 minutes. This isn't an argument against not reopening.
  • The question is subjective: This is much less subjective than the question that gave me this idea. Instead of making vague statements about languages in general, we have a concrete case. Besides, the problem with subjective questions isn't the subjectivity per se, but the fact that they require extended discussion, which stackoverflow isn't really suited to. Closing the question has generated much more unwanted discussion than leaving it open ever would have.
  • Your question is closed because it should be closed: Maybe thats true, but thats not an argument.
  • You should have done more research: You can always do more research. I think it should be clear to readers that I have a good idea of how this site works. And besides, this isn't a reason for closure.
  • Subjective questions can stay open with sufficent support - Given the huge number of downvotes this could be a valid reason for not voting to re-open. But I think that I've given strong enough reasons here for an upvote
  • You haven't provided counter arguments or you haven't countered anything: Look above. I said all of this very clearly in the comments. If you disagree with anything, comment on that specifically, rather than just criticising everything.

I believe that my portrayal of these arguments is as accurate as it can be in such a brief summary

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    Not all code-golf questions stay opened either. Depends on which type of 3k-user wave crashes into your question first. Some will vote to close, and others won't. – Sampson Mar 23 '10 at 21:50
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    @Casebash Your basic problem is that you think some questions are "allowed" - that's not how SO works. – nb69307 Mar 24 '10 at 9:14
  • @Niel: That is quite the statement. Can you expand on that? – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 10:29
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    @Casebash Individuals vote to close questions (or not) depending on how they want the site to be. There is no central committee deciding policy, and so no concept of something being "allowed", except on a per individual basis. – nb69307 Mar 24 '10 at 10:36
  • @Neil: +1 for an interesting point. I suppose that it is true (except when the founders declare something a rule), that the individuals are not bound by previous "decisions". Still, I think all those people who supported for code golf should support me. And besides, I still can't see any logical reason for closing the question. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 10:47
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    @Neil, that's not true. There are rules, they're in the FAQ. Not all users vote by those rules, but that doesn't invalidate them. – Lance Roberts Mar 24 '10 at 15:36

Code golf questions do not always remain open. Yet the successful ones have the following characteristics:

  1. Anyone in the community can answer them, in a variety of languages.
  2. They are community wiki.
  3. The 'win state' is easy to ascertain: Which one is shortest?

Your question, on the other hand:

  • Can't be answered in very many languages to 'win' (C-like languages are out)
  • Was not community wiki at the beginning: It had 3 close votes before you made it wiki.
  • The 'win state' is not easy to ascertain: It's purely subjective.

You've left a comment to state that you weren't thinking of superficial appearances, but how close it represents those concepts. Those are not objective criteria.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • 1) It is unreasonable to demand that a question must be answerable in your language. Why don't we demand C questions to be answerable in Python? 2) I probably should have made it CW from the start, but I thought it would be fine if I asked if it should be CW and changed it when the opinion was clear (it was only non-CW about 3 minutes!). 3) Subjective isn't so much a close criteria so much as subjective and needs discussion. Which this doesn't. – Casebash Mar 23 '10 at 23:07
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    @Casebash Competitions should be answerable in all major languages, to provide the SO community a fair and equal opportunity to answer them. Individual questions need not have this requirement because the asker does not care about other languages, whereas competitions are CW and the asker, being the whole community, does care about other languages. – waiwai933 Mar 23 '10 at 23:32
  • @waiwai933: Try answering a code golf question in visual basic or java. Regardless, everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to answer the question - if they have the correct knowledge just like every other question on stackoverflow. There is no rule that you can only know one programming language – Casebash Mar 23 '10 at 23:49
  • @waiwai: Regardless, the best answer if C# or Java could still be very interesting. Winning isn't everything you know – Casebash Mar 23 '10 at 23:54
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    I've gotten very good response to [code-golf] answers executed in fortran77 from time to time. They don't win, obviously, but they attract upvotes. Why? I don't know. Appreciation of the contrariness of the idea? Or for the cleverness (and fortran has some truly evil features) of the solutions that are occasionally possible in fortran? Awe of the masochism implicit in writing unstructured fortran by choice? – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 24 '10 at 0:03
  • @Casebash, CW should never have been a close reason. You shouldn't be forced to make a good question CW (not commenting on whether your question was good or not). We do have a problem on SO with the CW police, so I'll throw you a reopen vote just to counter their desire to change the system (see the FAQ on CW). – Lance Roberts Mar 24 '10 at 15:38
  • Thanks, @Lance. I'm fine with it being CW, I just think there should be a vote to CW rather than a vote to close – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 20:36
  • @I personally find 'the win state' problem the most profound: your question would have been better if you had defined 'closeness' to the pseudocode somewhat better. – ChristopheD Mar 25 '10 at 0:30
  • @dmckee: Maybe people just like to see how far a given problem can be gulfed down in a given language? Or perhaps there are other types of "win" than low stroke count involved... – SamB May 19 '11 at 19:13

Tub thumping

I believe that my portrayal of these arguments is as accurate as it can be in such a brief summary

Why bother with brevity? If you're gonna get on a soapbox, then get on a soapbox!

Asking the unanswerable question

You got off to a bad start by asking, "why did people feel it was necessary to close the question?"...

...See, the answer to that question is displayed directly below the closed post. Each user votes for their reason when they vote to close, and the majority determines the result. So you already knew the reason before you came here.

But that wasn't really your question at all. Your title came closer:

Why do people allow Code Golf, but not other competitions?

You cut to the heart of the matter here: Code Golf questions aren't really "questions" either, but rather competitions wedged into the Q&A format. So why do many CG questions stay open, or get re-opened when closed, while yours did not? No one person can answer that.

Yes, there are plenty of rules, guidelines, traditions and opinions about which questions should be allowed on SO, but ultimately the questions that stay open aren't necessarily the ones that follow the rules but those that are well-liked by those who read them.

Tilting at windmills

Here I'll summarise all of the arguments made against my case and why I disagree.

The first few answers you received tried to help you understand why some people might not like your question. And you responded to them by arguing that these reasons were invalid... Well, tough luck - the people you responded to weren't the people who closed your question, they were just trying to help you gain a better understanding of the general attitudes on SO.

Keep that in mind: most of the people you'll encounter on SO will never read what you write here. Yes, you have a soapbox, but it's at the end of a blind alley in a bad part of town.

And even if you do catch the attention of someone who voted to close your question, you'd better have something more than an appeal to common practice: chances are, at least a few of the folks who voted to close your question have also voted to close the ones you're holding up as examples, and have merely been overridden by other members of the community who are under no obligation to do the same for you...

...but of course, you hope they will...

When you can't inspire awe, go for pity

This is all a charade of course. You have no interest in the answers to any of the questions you've asked. I said all this before, in fewer words, only to find that your response was...

I think it is very clear, without requiring to be explicitly stated, that I believe the question should be reopened and that I opened this question to convince people to vote to reopen.

In other words, you have no interest in learning from your mistakes, improving your question, or better understanding the actions of The Community. You came here looking for sympathy, hoping that by exposing your question to more people you would eventually find a few kind souls willing to allow it.

And you did.

And you also found a few more willing to close it again. For the same reason. Within a half hour of it being re-opened.

That's the problem with jumping on a soapbox, you see... You get attention, but not always the sort you wanted.

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  • Perhaps, I misunderstood some people who were saying reasons why it was closed, rather than arguing against my points. If this occured, then I owe them an apology, however if people had said what they were doing this misunderstanding could have been avoided. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 21:01
  • Apart from the start (calling it Tub thumping), it was pretty good until the last section, where you completely misinterpreted my words. It is unfair to call this a "charade" when I made no effort to hide my intentions. As I said, I thought it was obvious enough that I was trying to get my question reopened, that I didn't state it explicitly - "I think it is very clear, without requiring to be explicitly stated, that I believe the question should be reopened and that I opened this question to convince people to vote to reopen." – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 21:46
  • "In other words, you have no interest in learning from your mistakes, improving your question, or better understanding the actions of The Community" - actually, I have learned from this. 1) when in doubt, commnity wiki 2) there is a difference between stating facts and saying you support them - on the Internet it isn't easy to tell the difference – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 21:57
  • Anyway, at least when I don't understand what someone is saying, I've asked them what they meant rather than pushing my own interpretation onto their words. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 22:03
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    @CaseBash: note that CW will not save a poor question from being closed. – John Saunders Mar 25 '10 at 6:15

If it does not fit one of the other closing criteria, then a questions can stay open, if

  1. it is not subjective.
  2. it is subjective, but showed value to the community by gathering upvotes/answers faster than close-votes.

Your question meets neither of these options.

Just because there exist exceptions, does not mean your question is one.

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  • 1
    So because it was closed, it should be closed? – Casebash Mar 23 '10 at 23:50
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    @Casebash: no, rather: it stayed closed because it should have been closed. Closing is hella-zen. – Shog9 Mar 24 '10 at 0:14
  • @Shog: If you have any arguments as to why it should be closed, please add an answer or comment as I seem to have countered every one given so far (of course they may counter my counter, but then I'll counter their counter countering my counter) – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 0:29
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    @Casebash: what have you countered? You respond to observations with wishes... that's not debate, that's grousing! – Shog9 Mar 24 '10 at 0:33
  • @Shog: Really? Then add a comment explaining why my counters are epic fail – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 0:35
  • I did. Read the second comment on this post. – Shog9 Mar 24 '10 at 0:37
  • @Shog: Your first sentence seems to complain about the fact that "it should be closed" could imply it is now open. While it could imply it, it doesn't and besides, this is only a grammatical point. Your second sentence appears to be an obscure reference which I don't understand. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 0:44
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    Ignore the second, I was just trying to be light-hearted. But this is no place for such frivolity, I see: coding competitions are serious business! The sad truth my brother, is that the voters on SO like Code Golf more than they like your question. Why this may be, no one can say; that's just how it is. If anyone was interested in your game, they would have stayed and played rather than voting and leaving. – Shog9 Mar 24 '10 at 0:49
  • @Shog: I got a reasonable amount of upvotes. The reason I have no answers atm, probably has to do with difficulty, but as far as I know there is no "too hard" reason to close. As I said, I've countered all arguments – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 0:54
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    @Casebash: the reason for the close is clearly stated below the question itself. But your question here is why CG questions, which might rightly be considered equally unreal, are allowed to remain in many instances... And the only answer there is that it is a matter of taste; perhaps questions which are hard to answer just don't have the same appeal? – Shog9 Mar 24 '10 at 0:57
  • @Shog: That is what the question says, but I think it is very clear, without requiring to be explicitly stated, that I believe the question should be reopened and that I opened this question to convince people to vote to reopen. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 1:08
  • @Cas: I have no idea about which counter arguments you are babbling about, but it would be easier if you just face the truth: the community decided to close your question. Maybe they reopen it, maybe not. Probably they will not. They don't think it's worth it. Live is a bitch. Suck it up! – Ladybug Killer Mar 24 '10 at 8:02
  • @Ladybug: You are such a pessimist. Hope for the best, expect the worst. Worst case, I find a friendlier forum. Anyway, I only need 2 more open votes. The counter arguments are the comments I've added on each thread. If any of them don't counter the point, comment on the individual thread rather than accusing me of "babbling" without backing it up. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:29

Please look at the unofficial code golf guidelines. Besides the fact that you should read it all, here's the most interesting part:

Low rep users:

New users are strongly discouraged from posting code golf questions until they fully understand the specific circumstances under which these challenges are considered appropriate. You have been warned.

Whether it's written down there or not: This should be a given. You are yourself aware that questions like this are a gray area. Taking some measures to inform yourself what things to take into account before posting this question should be an obvious step. This should include reading the inevitable discussions on the comment threads of those questions; but you didn't even bother to at least read some of the questions.

So, instead of saying "Okay, code golf is allowed, so my question should be, too" just because there are (currently) 128 questions tagged [code-golf] on SO, of which 122 are open, you should have looked at some of them to see how the community reacts to certain things.

Then, after having understood the "circumstances under which these challenges are considered appropriate" you should have made the decision whether to post or not, and if so, what things to watch out for.

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  • Firstly, a users reputation isn't anywhere as near as important as the time they've spent on StackOverflow. Although my rep is less than 1K, I've given away about 900 points in bounties and anyway, I've posted 123 questions on SO and 30 on meta. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:05
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    @Casebash: If that's all you have to say to my answer, I rest my case. – balpha Mar 24 '10 at 8:08
  • Secondly, I was aware that people might insist on it being community wiki and that it is very actively policed, which is why I only left it for 3 minutes before I came back and checked it. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:08
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    @balpha: Now to your actual main argument (I split those comments off to save chars for this answer). Firstly, I am aware that subjective questions in general seem to be an edge case, but (surprisingly!) from what I found code golf generally seems to be fine unless people start posting too many. There is no way you can argue that that site has been flooded with pseudocode competitions. I have read other threads on code golf, which gave me the impression that they were less of an edge case than that particular thread. So, it was not obvious at all that it would be an edge case. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:14
  • Okay, still not done. With regard to what I should have done - you seem to expect quite a bit. For a start, meta was set up with the understanding that most people would have no interest in it and ignore it. If you read through my past questions on meta, you can see that whenever I am doing something that I think is contentious, I post on meta. However, you haven't even made a convincing argument that I should have read it. And even if you were to make it, have you read everything that you should have read? Every instruction manual, textbook, license agreement, readme. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:22
  • @balpha: "I rest my case" - really, you actually thought it would be that easy! – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 8:23
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    @Casebash: There is no way you can argue that that site has been flooded with pseudocode competitions -- I never did or tried. I have read other threads on code golf -- my linked question is the number one search result for "code golf" on Meta. I was aware that people might insist on it being community wiki -- even more so should you have looked at some code golf questions and research a little. have you read everything that you should have read? -- Probably not, but I don't go running to the producer if my new dishwasher breaks after I tried to set it up without looking at the manual. – balpha Mar 24 '10 at 9:22
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    @Casebash: BTW, I was one of those people who actually liked the idea of your question, and if you take some time to flesh out your competion, I'll gladly cast the 5th reopen vote. – balpha Mar 24 '10 at 10:17
  • @balpha: "There is no way you can argue that that site has been flooded with pseudocode competitions" - You never tried to, but you might have. Actually, I have seen that thread before - but I only only read the top and then clicked on the link. That was enough evidence for me that code-golf was clearly allowed (in small doses), which was all that I was interested in. There is quite a lot I missed. Regardless, code-golf is very different from my type of comp so most of it doesn't reply. Anyway, whether I should have read it or isn't an argument about whether it is allowed. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 10:26
  • @balpha: What do you want to be fleshed out? – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 10:28

Your question is subjective, because different people will have different opinions about which program looks most like pseudo-code. Code golf is not subjective, because the length of the program is visible to everyone.

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  • The subjectivity is generally not allowed because those questions are not suited to the stackoverflow interface. My question is equally well suited as code golf is. – Casebash Mar 23 '10 at 23:01
  • @Casebash: Standard code-golf questions aren't subjective. They're objective in the sense that they are to do x, with the least amount of code written. Your question, with all due respect, is asking "Which looks more like this to you?" – Sampson Mar 24 '10 at 1:28
  • @Jonathan: I didn't say it wasn't subjective. I said that the problem with subjective questions isn't that they are subjective, but they lead to discussion, which doesn't work well on SO. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 1:44
  • +1 for the answer of Perpetual Motion Goat: exactly my thoughts. – ChristopheD Mar 25 '10 at 0:35

Code-golf does not belong on the merits: it is a contest, not a question and this is a Q&A site.

That said, there is a solid consensus to keep it. There evidently is no such consensus to keep random contests such as the one you proposed. It's not fair, it's just the way it is.

Note also that there is a pretty good consensus that we should limit [code-golf] to "good" questions, even then.

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  • "Which language allows me to do x with the least amount of code?" I just vindicated code-golf :) Hehe, just playing. But I do love reading code-golf questions, as they give me some insight into languages/practices that I (otherwise) would never have seen. – Sampson Mar 24 '10 at 1:32
  • Well, I like them too, and I enjoy playing. But I foresaw this problem when the question first came up. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 24 '10 at 1:36
  • @Jonathan: You may be able to learn from code golf questions (I haven't had a chance to look at any yet), but I'm sure these pseudocode questions can teach you a lot more! – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 1:41
  • No-one has yet complained about the quality of my pseudo-code competition question. I think its a pretty good question - pretty much the easiest non-trivial algorithm. – Casebash Mar 24 '10 at 1:42
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    @Casebash, they didn't complain because it was easier to close it. You notice the approach most posters are taking here? They're being civil, but they don't like your question. Once we got into the business of letting in certain non-questions on the basis of community support this was inevitable. And you're on the losing end. Bummer. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 24 '10 at 1:47

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