Triangle Geometry Question

That is a question from the Online Math Open which is currently in progress.I would be grateful to know about math.stackexchange's policy on such matters.

Please see question 16 here:


Does that fact that the question is still not closed or deleted imply that in the future, cheaters can safely post on math.stackexchange questions from ongoing contests and still get away?


3 Answers 3


If we get information that a question is from an in-progress online contest, I think we should make every effort to ensure that the question is not answered on MSE before the deadline. Prompt closing seems like a good idea, possibly with reopening after the deadline has passed. Or else a warning sign that is difficult to miss.

Edit: I would prefer closing such a question over deleting it. The reason is that I am reasonably confident that there would not be an answer given to a current contest question if the potential answerer knew the facts. Closing keeps the information available. Deleting does not. In the past, there have been a couple of instances of the same online contest question being asked more than once.

As to questions tagged homework, and the probably larger number of homework questions not so tagged, I am comfortable with current policy, or lack of policy.

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    $\begingroup$ Closing still allows commenting and editing, which could be used to give answers/hints. Temporary deletion might be better. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ -1 There are probably hundreds if not thousands of active problems (homework, take-home tests, contests, etc) at any given moment. If we had to censor the content of the site based on such we'd lose many interesting questions, and many valued contributors. Enforcing the rules of some external entity should not be our concern. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Maintaining good relationship with other mathematical entities is non of our concern! In particular most contributers and interesting questions are only here due to their appearances in homework/contests. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ Not true. Contest problems and contestents account for only a tiny percentage of our questions and users. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, so in fact banning/closing/deleting/suspending on-going contest questions won't actually harm the site... $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ But it would, see my "slippery slope" comment. Not to mention the valued members we might lose who may be alienated by enforcing such deletion/locking. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ Because the numbers are small, trying to ensure contest questions are not answered on this site seems feasible. That is, it is not likely to overburden the moderators or the general community. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @André But many of the objections have to do with principles, not magnitude. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 23:48

I have an idea, though I'm not sure if it's plausible. The problem with deleting a question, or just an answer to it, after it has been asked is that the person that asked it may have already seen the answer, but then no one else gets to see it. So, all this does is ensure only the person who tried to cheat first can have success. We're rewarding the first cheater.

There's also the problem that we can't possibly know all contests going on and we can't know ahead of time which questions should be avoided. We would just have to wait until someone who happens to know the contest problems stumbles upon it, and by that time there may already be an answer.

So, the best solution would be for the people organizing the contest to let us know, somehow, the questions that are in the contest. If the questions are online somewhere already, then it doesn't matter if they are online here as well. And, then the question could be immediately locked so no one can answer. This serves the purpose that we now can see all contest problems here, instead of having to search elsewhere. So, if someone else tries to ask the same question later, there's a much higher probability that it will be noticed quickly and stopped.

But, I'm not sure how that would actually work. Could the contest people add a question on here that includes all the problems from the contest, and flag it for being closed immediately? Then, after the contest is over, people could provide answers for the various questions. This isn't ideal with several questions in one post, but people also have a problem with having many different questions asked quickly and flooding the front screen, so there has to be a compromise somewhere.


EDIT In fact, it seems that the posts I link to are out of date. I believe that Qiaochu's answer to this question is the most recent place of debate.

It is the current opinion of the meta community to not prevent anyone from asking any sort of question here. In short, the impetus is placed upon the asker instead of the answerer.

It is no secret that I am one of those advocating that we do not allow ongoing contest or journal questions on this site (I'd like to emphasize that neither the moderators nor the community is in consensus on this). But though this may seem straightforward, there is quite a bit of depth here. [There is a reference that should be mentioned here: Should we allow ongoing journal questions? ].

This is also related to the (lack of a) homework policy here [ A Consolidated Homework Policy ], and the idea of Project Euler [ Re: Project Euler questions ].

Now, to directly answer your question: As it stands, anyone who is willing to cheat on an ongoing contest question, ongoing journal question, or ongoing homework question can post on this forum and (likely) expect an answer.

This will continue to be the modus operandi of the site unless a different community opinion arises.

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    $\begingroup$ The quality of the site would quickly deteriorate if we let it get involved in further heated arguments on homework, cheating, etc. Our primary purpose is to disseminate mathematical knowledge, not to speculate on whether or not that knowledge may be used for purposes that may violate the norms of some external entity. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ How would you react if someone posted a question from an ongoing national Olympiad(say German or Polish)? $\endgroup$
    – user31029
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ @None Any on-topic mathematical question is welcome here, no matter its source. If someone desires to (politely!) mention that is it a question from a current competition, then they can do so, and readers can decide for themselves how they wish to answer. If you read through the prior threads you will learn that there are widely varying opinions on such matters, including professors who encourage collaboration, and some who think competitions are the root of all evil. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ But isn't that cheating? $\endgroup$
    – user31029
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ "the current opinion of the meta community"--What does that mean? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Jonas I refer to what I have grasped from reading the various meta bits. For example, the most upvoted (+18 at this time, with my vote being the only downvote) answer says that nothing should be done about ongoing contest problems. And I can't rationalize going against the wishes of, it seemed, the community at large. However, I am going to edit my answer due to the new thread ( meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/6209/… ). $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ Re: your edit: The thread you mentioned above, with overwhelming support for not taking any special action, is only one month old. How in the world can that be "out of date"? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 1:48

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