Removing incentive for spoilers

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vamsikal3
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Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

The Project Euler Team quite understandably does not appreciate spoilers. It is not a complete secret that there are web-pages out there with spoilers to almost every PE problem. So I was thinking the Project Euler Team, instead of policing the internet for spoilers and locking accounts of such users, isn't there a better way to simply remove any incentive for someone to have a spoiler webpage.

My suggestion is based on the HackerRank website. Why not allow PE users to unlock the solution thread, even without solving the problem, if they are unable to solve the problem (or they just want to see the solution). The catch is, if you unlock the solution thread to a problem, without solving the problem, then this problem will not count toward your progress. HackerRank allows editorials to problems to be unlocked, but then the problem will not be counted toward your progress.

Yes, the users who want to game the system will create two accounts, where on one account they will unlock solution threads and on the other account, they will submit the solutions. Why should PE care about such users? If someone wants to Xerox copy the solution to a crossword puzzle and feel good about it, then it is their wish, why should rest of the PE community care about such people?
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euler
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by euler »

I think you've addressed your own suggestion. There is no need for us to internally implement any system that allows members to unlock the discussion threads without first solving the problem because those sources already exist externally.

We fully appreciate that eventually a number of members will hit a wall - this has been discussed quite recently here - but we genuinely believe that there will always remain a way forward. It will undoubtedly mean exploring quality websites that can teach the thinking behind similarly related problems or provide helpful guidance on how to approach a particular mathematical concept. In very rare and worst case scenarios someone might need to "photocopy" the answer to access the discussion thread. But we would hope that that member would then take the time to carefully read the thread to understand how the problem could have been solved before moving on too quickly. Clearly we do not approve of those websites, because we believe that there is always a better way. So any posts containing links or references to them here or on the main website would be removed. Given the teams collective view on this, it is a simple and reasonable expectation to ask our members not to post such references.

Also, as you will be aware, we recently changed the wording found on the "green tick page" after someone solves a problem to include the following note:
The rule about sharing solutions outside of Project Euler does not apply to the first 100 problems, as long as any discussion clearly aims to instruct methods, not just provide answers, and does not directly threaten to undermine the enjoyment of solving later problems. Problems 1 to 100 provide a wealth of helpful introductory teaching material and if you are able to respect our requirements, then we give permission for them to be discussed elsewhere.
We are hoping that this might encourage some of our members with a gift for writing and exposition to provide helpful articles on their own websites. This would mean that any of our members wanting to improve their own understanding might stumble on these websites instead as they strive to move forward.
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

euler wrote:
Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:47 am
I think you've addressed your own suggestion. There is no need for us to internally implement any system that allows members to unlock the discussion threads without first solving the problem because those sources already exist externally.
Agreed that the tools to unlock a PE solution thread are already available externally, but I was talking about removing the incentive for such webpages to exist in the first place!
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hk
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by hk »

Vamsi,
you aren't doing right to Project Euler.
I know quite a few problems on Hackerrank that don't have an editorial (most of the Hackerrank problems based on Project Euler problems don't have one).
Moreover I know quite a few online judges that don't have any editorials at all e.g. SPOJ, Kattis, Rosecode etc.
You're presenting things so as to suit your own reasoning. I don't think that is fair to PE.
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

Project Euler Team:

I have given some thought as to why I became a member of Project Euler and what my experience with PE was, and, what I think PE should be to have been so as to help me become better at both Mathematics and Computer Programming. The following suggestion may sound ridiculous to you all, but here it goes:

I think all Project Euler problems should be made open answer (hidden behind a 'Show Answer' button) and open solution thread (Link placed right below the problem description) (with the current thread post management.).

Agreed, all the statistics maintained by PE will then become useless, but I believe this open state of PE will encourage more people to become better at Mathematics and Computer Programming and serve as a much better educational tool.
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hk
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by hk »

I don't know if you are aware of the following sites. They might suit your needs better.
https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~wwu/riddles/intro.shtml
https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~wwu/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

I was thinking, what if someone tried the following approach to solving PE problems?

1. Create a new PE account. Make it private. (Do not want to mess up the PE statistics.)
2. Pick a PE problem. (Preferably in problem number ascending order.) Try to solve it in a day or a few days. If you can solve the problem, done! (Make sure you read the solution thread for any other ways of solving the problem.)
3. If we cannot solve the problem, just go to any resource that provides the answer and unlock the problem. Then, make sure you read the solution thread for ways of solving the problem. Pick a solution that you can understand, now code up the solution in your favourite programming language.

Would such an approach to solving PE problems help people become better problem-solvers and programmers? Note: we are actually trying to understand, how hard problems are solved and implementing the solutions on our own!

Thoughts?

Maybe after a good break from PE problem solving, I was personally thinking of trying this out to see whether I have better learning experience, with the above mentioned approach to PE.
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LilStalker
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by LilStalker »

I imagine Project Euler as a journey. You have a series of challenging problems from various topics and you try to solve as many of them as possible. It is not meant for you to solve all the problems nor is it meant that you have the required knowledge.
However, they give you an incentive to learn. Look for a topic that might be relevant to the problem, study it and in the end even solve the problem. Once you have managed this, you get the access to problem thread to learn more, see other peoples solutions, etc.

Each problem is a challenge and once you solve it, if you solve it, you get that special feeling. You thought a lot about the problem, studied new topics, had a few ideas that all turned out to lead nowhere and then, after so much work, you did it. You have solved the problem. You have achieved something. And every other one that solved it, went on a similar journey. You know that everyone that solved the problem, worked hard for that.
There is no easy way to cheat yourself to the solution except if you google for bad spoilling sites. I believe most of people solving here do not do that, as they know that its on them to solve the problem. But as soon as PE as a service enables a way for a person to get to the solution of the problem without solving it, many of the people will give up after some time and just check out the solution and thus destroy the classic PE experience that we know.

PE is not a classic learning site. It is a journey that is very rewarding and you will also learn a lot along it. Therefore I am strongly against any ideas, that would make it easy to see a problems solution without solving it.
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

It is not meant for you to solve all the problems nor is it meant that you have the required knowledge.

This is where I strongly disagree. How many PE solvers are capable of achieving the "Perfection" badge? Does this mean that quite a large fraction of PE solvers are going to be locked out of some interesting Mathematics / Programming Techniques?

While I understand the classic PE experience and have experienced it myself quite a few times on my way to solving 407 problems. My goal in solving PE problems other than the fun of solving PE problems is to become a better programmer / problem-solver. So, if unlocking problems that I cannot solve after spending a few days on it helps me learn/understand new mathematics or programming techniques. I believe it might be OK, given what my stated goal is!

In fact, now to turn things completely around: What if we first look at the solutions after a cursory attempt to solve the problem? As long as we spend enough time poring over the solutions thread and attempt to understand / replicate the solutions found there! My guess is that you would still learn new mathematics and a new programming technique or two ....
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DJohn
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by DJohn »

vamsikal3 wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:32 am
1. Create a new PE account. Make it private. (Do not want to mess up the PE statistics.)
2. Pick a PE problem. (Preferably in problem number ascending order.) Try to solve it in a day or a few days. If you can solve the problem, done! (Make sure you read the solution thread for any other ways of solving the problem.)
3. If we cannot solve the problem, just go to any resource that provides the answer and unlock the problem. Then, make sure you read the solution thread for ways of solving the problem. Pick a solution that you can understand, now code up the solution in your favourite programming language.

Would such an approach to solving PE problems help people become better problem-solvers and programmers? Note: we are actually trying to understand, how hard problems are solved and implementing the solutions on our own!
I don't think so. I can't read Colin's mind, and I don't know what his original intentions were. But for me a big part of what Project Euler does is help people with learning how to learn. It's not something that's taught often or well - I never encountered it at undergraduate-level university, and, had I completed my Masters, I could have got that without it too. That is what makes this site so valuable for me.

With real-world problems, you don't know the solution. You don't know if there is a solution. There's no book that will tell you how to do it. If there was, you wouldn't know where it is anyway. And yet you still have this problem, and must solve it. Finding something without knowing what you're looking for or where it might be hidden is a valuable skill, and your proposal would remove that.

"A day or a few days"? I've spent years on some Project Euler problems. I keep them in the back of my mind, guiding my curiosity. I've learned a huge amount on the way, whether I eventually solve the problem or not. And finding that last missing clue and suddenly knowing how to solve a problem that's been tormenting me for ages, that's a wonderful feeling.

If you can't solve it, you can't solve it. Yet.


Another post appeared while I was writing this. "My goal in solving PE problems ... is to become a better programmer / problem-solver". How do you become a better problem-solver if you skip the problem-solving part?

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euler
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by euler »

I would say that you're pretty good at reading my mind, and your thoughts echo the sentiments and convictions of the team. This is why they work so hard at developing and refining new problems that offer something new and, as LilStalker suggested, makes the challenging journey so worthwhile.
DJohn wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:34 am
If you can't solve it, you can't solve it. Yet.
I like this! 8-)
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

DJohn:

With real-world problems, you don't know the solution. You don't know if there is a solution. There's no book that will tell you how to do it. If there was, you wouldn't know where it is anyway. And yet you still have this problem, and must solve it. Finding something without knowing what you're looking for or where it might be hidden is a valuable skill, and your proposal would remove that.


All PE problems are solved problems, i.e. there is a known solution that has been verified independently by more than one solver on the problem development team!

"My goal in solving PE problems ... is to become a better programmer / problem-solver". How do you become a better problem-solver if you skip the problem-solving part?

So here is a question: how do you become a better problem solver than where you are currently at? I think this is a deep question, please think about it!

In the meantime, here is a just so story: Suppose say someone who is just starting out on PE solved the first 30 problems on PE. Now they are at problem 31 coin-change problem and they do not know how to solve it. Now you can sit for a few years on PE 31 trying to solve it, or if you google/peek and figure out that there is a wonderful problem-solving technique called memoization that will help you solve PE 31. Then, I argue that the solver who has peeked his/her way into memoization is far better off than the one stuck waiting for inspiration to strike and rediscover memoization on their own!

Finally, I would say: If you can't solve it, you can't solve it. Yet. (Consider taking a peek!) :lol:
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hk
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by hk »

If that's your attitude: please go ahead, but before doing so remove yourself from the leaderboard by removing yourself from public view. The leaderboard is for people that solve the problems all by themselves.

There's one thing I can tell you:
As admin I can view all solution threads. Some 110 problems I couldn't solve when they were developed.
When I peeked into the threads for most of them they didn't help me very much. Mostly I didn't understand what was written there (Not so strange the posts were written for people that solved the problem themselves or the posts were badly written)
So I came to the conclusion: I solve what I can solve and don't peek any more in the solution threads except as moderator.
I became a Project Euler member back in 2005 and in 2006 I became member of the problem development team.
In those 15 years I solved 602 out of 713 problems. I'm happy with that.
So be a man and please stop whining that you want to have a peek.
Remove yourself from public view, please and do what you want to do if you want to do it the stupid way.
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by MuthuVeerappanR »

Hi vamsikal3,
It's been a while we had a chat. Hope you are doing good..

Regarding the discussion here, I think you've put it nicely here.
vamsikal3 wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:16 am
...
So, if unlocking problems that I cannot solve after spending a few days on it helps me learn/understand new mathematics or programming techniques. I believe it might be OK, given what my stated goal is!
...
This is a very good point. If you are clear about your goal, then there is no need for this discussion. Only you can be judge for yourselves.

In fact, in your 3-step approach I would add a fourth step. After having understood a solution, try solving a different but similar problem in PE with the same approach. If you succeed, post in the solution thread, to make that method more accessible to other solvers.

Better is to create/formulate/propose a new problem using that idea (possibly with combining several other ideas). Creating a PE-worthy problem, we can truly be satisfied that (i) we have really understood the idea and (ii) gave something back to the PE community via a proposal.
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vamsikal3
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Re: Removing incentive for spoilers

Post by vamsikal3 »

Thanks everyone for all the feedback!

As of now, I am taking a break from solving PE problems. The PE problems I have solved and their solutions are still reasonably fresh in my mind. Maybe after a long while, when the problems and their solutions are forgotten, I could try a private-account + open-book approach to PE and see how that goes!
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