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I'd appreciate some input on this question, where I have a disagreement with the poster.

Background: Google has a semi-secret recruitment program for software developers known as the "Foobar challenge" whereby programming challenges appear in the search results of the people that Google is interested in recruiting. Google apparently request that participants not post their solutions online, but nonetheless several of the challenge problems have previously been posted here at Code Review, for example "power hungry"; "XOR checksum"; "save beta rabbit"; "ion flux relabeling"; "lucky triples".

In the linked question, the poster was trying to solve one of the Google Foobar challenge problems, but attempted to disguise the origin of the problem by truncating its description and omitting to mention where the problem came from.

I edited the post to add a reference to the origin of the problem (I can't link because the challenge problems are not public) and filled in more of the problem description using the text posted by another solver of the same challenge. My reasons:

  1. it's general practice here at Code Review to quote the text of programming challenges (see for example this answer on meta);
  2. it's helpful, when writing answers, to be able to consult the exact text of the problem, not just the asker's summary (sometimes essential details are omitted or obscured by summarization);
  3. the Google Foobar challenges are not visible to the general public so the only way most of us will get to attempt them is via leaked descriptions in places like Stack Overflow and Code Review;
  4. giving credit is important (copying without credit is plagiarism).

However, the poster disagrees:

I intentionally left out its connection to Google Foobar problem and I believe it should be kept that way. I didn't want to post the direct solution for a problem that's supposed to be solved individually. I posted this after I had already posted my solution to foobar and simply was looking for ways to improve it as a general problem. So in my opinion, it would make sense to keep it a none Google-specific one, so searching problem name wouldn't return this.

What is the site consensus?

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What's relevant is not the origin of the programming challenge, but its actual task. That's what the answer you linked to already states. It's also the primary guideline here.

What you describe at least partly violates that guideline.

[..] filled in more of the problem description using the text posted by another solver of the same challenge. [..]

This is the part that I think every participant agrees on is in accordance with the site guidelines. But you already knew that.


The interesting discussion starts here:

I edited the post to add a reference to the origin of the problem [..]

The only additionally relevant point for this specific question is point 4 (plagiarism).

Point 3 isn't a consideration for Code Review in itself. Searchability is not the most pressing concern for code review questions.

Point 2 isn't relevant, since the "exact text of the problem" isn't linkable and accordingly only accessible as mirrors.

Point 1 is the point you already fixed.

Overall I'm all for the edit you did. The considerations OP voiced would also apply to things like Project Euler, a significant number of , as well as about all other questions.

For all these considerations the community has previously elected to mostly ignore them. Project Euler (see link) explicitly discourages posting the solutions publicly, but note that this has already been done a lot. Some other challenge sites seem to try to prohibit public posting.

In the end we should keep doing things the way we have been doing them and if people don't want posts to be appear on Code Review, they can use the official channels to request removal.
We should put the need for context to provide reviews first and while doing that not loose sight of where the challenge came from.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Searchability is not the most pressing concern for code review questions" why? I thought it was quite important \$\endgroup\$ – Caridorc Jan 15 '17 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Caridorc For site-traffic it's important. But the traffic of a handful of questions is not that important in the greater scheme of things. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jan 17 '17 at 8:40
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  1. From what I understand, that meta post is to prevent link rot. Which doesn't apply here.

  2. I agree with you whole heartedly. As it can make reviewing the code hard, or impossible if the asker moves the goal posts.

    If the programming challenge description is lacking detail, I vote to close the question as 'unclear what you are asking'. Some users however go out of their way to find the description and edit the question to include it for the asker. However for private challenges (3) this may not be possible, and so just stick with closing the question. (And hope the people in the review queue agree with you. Just as I've seen a question escape closure with 3 VTC, and +7 on a comment saying it's unclear...)

    If you don't think the question should be closed however, you can still downvote and/or comment. If you decide to comment, don't forget to be nice.

  3. Addressed in (2).

  4. If a user passes a programming challenges off as their own, when it is not, is not ok! This is plagiarism, and "is frowned on by our community". Whilst, the previous link is about answers, it doesn't detract from askers doing the same. If you don't know how to handle this, read the see also links, especially this answer.


The specific post however, avoided mentioning the programming challenge, and the only sentence that would indicate that they were doing a programming challenge was:

I can't get passed the test code due to exceeding the time limit.

And so no I don't think it plagiarised the programming challenge. If you found the description lacking then you should follow (2). Which you did and added the challenge description.

I however don't think we should force programming challenges on people. As a user may not know they're doing a programming challenge. Say I ask for a review of my hello world Python program, I don't think I should be told I was doing this HackerRank challenge.

In summery: Follow (2) and (4).

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