The following 3 questions were asked and are part of an ongoing contest: https://iymc.info/data/Pre-Final-Round-Problems-2018-x3285s7f2.pdf




I did not realize this yesterday, but upon going through the Pre-Final round problems, I discovered a user posting the problems here, violating their policy: "It is not allowed to work in groups on the problems. Help or assistance from teachers, friends, family, or the internet is prohibited. Cheating will result in immediate disqualification!"

I have reported this to both the relevant authorities and flagged for moderator intervention. One of them is unanswered, another has two wrong hints that can easily be corrected while the last is shown to be unsolved. I would like to request fellow users to not answer the questions till after 5th of November, 2018; the last day of submission. Thank you!

Edit 1)

I have just received a response from the organizers of the event:

"Thank you for your message and the information. This is unacceptable behavior, thank you for reporting this incident - you accomplished a great feat for enabling a fair competition. Please continue helping the IYMC community by reporting these incidents if they continue to emerge. IYMC tries its best to tackle people and behavior that try to sabotage the competition - the help of our community is essential for that."

The very fact that they managed to reply to the complaint in 2 hours is a commendable feat and their dedication to keep the competition as fair as possible is amazing.

Edit 2)

As a fellow user in the comments pointed out, another question is also from the same competition:


I have repeated my previous actions and would like to sincerely thank user @md2perpe for pointing it out as I had not noticed that particular question before.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for posting this! I've voted to close the questions that were still open and left comments suggesting answerers to delete their answers. $\endgroup$ – Arnaud D. Oct 31 '18 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ I deleted the three questions for now. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 31 '18 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila That works too :) $\endgroup$ – Arnaud D. Oct 31 '18 at 10:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf As far as I know, there's another way to deal with ongoing contest questions: lock the question until the deadline. Why did you delete them instead? $\endgroup$ – GNUSupporter 8964民主女神 地下教會 Oct 31 '18 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ @GNUSupporter8964民主女神地下教會: I was in a bit of a rush to leave the house, and deleting is significantly faster. I'll also note that we sometimes delete contests questions as well. In this case it seemed a bit more appropriate too, since at least on some of them there were hints given in the comments too. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 31 '18 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ We occasionally get posts here at meta, alerting us to an ongoing contest, so we can know what to look out for. It would have been good to get such a warning for this contest, before all these posts showed up. Anyway, my apologies for having helped out on the "relatively many primes" question. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Oct 31 '18 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @GNUSupporter8964民主女神地下教會 We have always been hiding the answers (by deleting them) of locked contest question until the contest deadline has passsed. There used to be a mod-only chatroom where we collected links to such questions together with their deadlines. Checking out that room was not always done in timely fashion, so undeletion may have been tardy. But it did help because we didn't need to rely on memory alone. I don't know if the current mod team still uses that room. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Oct 31 '18 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ They can still use private chats or ask their elder siblings. Worse is when their parents or teachers help them. $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Oct 31 '18 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Calm down all. 1) I'm not sure that suspensions help here. People with throwaway accounts just create new ones (and blocking an IP is slower and should IMHO only be on the cards after several offences). 2) I once got in touch with a contest organizer, apologizing that I was not allowed to disclose the offender's e-mail address and such. They appeased me by telling that We have no trouble whatsoever identifying copycat entrants as such :-) $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 1 '18 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ Another question from this contest: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2980930/… $\endgroup$ – md2perpe Nov 2 '18 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ @астонвіллаолофмэллбэрг: That's one good reason to not answer PSQs, because cheaters are often lazy. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Nov 2 '18 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Raptor except that there is no such policy. We only close them temporarily as a courtesy. There is no rule on the books about this. MSE has no obligation to prevent cheating. $\endgroup$ – user64742 Nov 3 '18 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ OT: Please don't use MathJax for the digits in things like "has asked 3 questions", "edit 2:", etc. These are not math. Typesetting them as such looks bad. $\endgroup$ – wchargin Nov 5 '18 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ StackOverflow officer @animuson has edited this question, writing "Please do not focus on specific users in meta questions". But it's an important part of this question that it was one specific user posting all three questions from the ongoing contest, as it speaks to a systematic effort by that user to use our website to subvert the contest. I call on animuson to revert to the previous version (as there is no option for ordinary users to rollback these edits). $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 6 '18 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ @animuson except it's a meta question and a report to the community. Changing the wording of the post hardly changes that it is obvious from 3 screenshots which user was posting these problems. The question itself focuses on the user simply by product of saying which questions reference the contest.... $\endgroup$ – user64742 Nov 8 '18 at 23:45

While it is indeed despicable if someone takes part in a contest and cheats in this way, I am surprised everyone seems to agree that questions should be closed and accounts should be blocked. But calm down.

When I look at https://math.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic I don't see a regulation that says: don't post contest questions if it is not allowed by the rules of the contest.

If the questions deserve a close on their own merit, or lack of, they should of course be closed. (I did not look at the examples).

If the user's behavior deserves blocking the account, they should be blocked. But given that there are no rules against posting contest questions, on which base do you want to block them --- apart from the feeling they're doing something wrong.

As an additional thought: consider the teacher at a high school hands out an exam about Goethe. To test what the pupils have learned and not what they are able to quickly look up on Wikipedia, Wikipedia lookup is not allowed during the exam. Should Wikipedia be informed up-front and block the page about Goethe?

Should math.SE really police every math contest around world? How do you make sure not to block the wrong questions or users, someone not taking part in the contest, being just curious and not realizing the contest is ongoing? Someone by mere accident asking a question similar to what is needed in the contest.

My suggestion would be to explicitly define contest questions off-topic while the contest is running and, as proposed, block the question until the contest is over, if flagged respectively. A user violating this rule repeatedly can then be blocked/suspended based simply by applying the rules.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting proposition. Perhaps you should ask this as a separate question on meta? $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Nov 3 '18 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that your suggestion is actually the policy that is generally applied. $\endgroup$ – Arnaud D. Nov 3 '18 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ Harald, I disagree. We have a very clear policy. We cannot have all the policies described in the Help Center. There's no room there. Discard the notion that policies should be written there, please. META is the place were policies are discussed, formulated, posted, refined and updated. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 3 '18 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't know that. But that means the current question should be marked as a duplicate of that policy question. Will flag accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Harald Nov 3 '18 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ Despite my support for Mathematics's ongoing contest policy, I don't think that we have to police around the world's math contests. Instead, we'll act passively upon notification of suspected ongoing contest questions. $\endgroup$ – GNUSupporter 8964民主女神 地下教會 Nov 6 '18 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Sigh. That is beyond our control. It's been explained iin meta umpteen times that Off-topic -> missing context really only means missing context. Search the meta for the reason. Contest questions mostly are on-topic (but may be lacking in context). $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 9 '18 at 4:50
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Did you somehow miss the oft repeated fact that if we have a customed close reason, for reasons dictated by the SE software, that reason can only exist under off-topic. Not ideal, granted, but beating a dead horse. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 9 '18 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Um no, I had not heard that at all, ever. However, I was thinking of something that could be added to the SE site in general since the issue of contests and cheating goes far beyond MSE. However, the odds of that happening I suppose depend on how often the SE infrastructure gets updated. $\endgroup$ – user64742 Nov 9 '18 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck Here is a response from SE staff to the latest feature request from Math.SE. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 9 '18 at 8:10

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