I wanted to suggest some improvements for the blog system. Some of these things have probably been said before. Some of these things should be pretty easy to implement, others are harder and might require a complete rework. I tried to put the easy things first. $$$~$$$
Let's do something about necroposting
This is probably my biggest pet peeve about Codeforces blogs. Most of the time, Recent Actions is filled with very old blogs, some of which have been brought up for pretty much no reason at all. Currently, we have useful C++ "library from 2013 in Recent Actions, where the recent comment answers an old question which has already been answered better. Similarly, there is How to add friends? which was brought up to make some joke that has already been done.
The thing is though, a lot of the time these blogs are not brought up by trolls or anything like that. They are brought up by helpful people who simply did not notice that the blog is old and the question has already been answered. Sometimes people reply to those guys with angry comments, but that doesn't do much because people don't make that mistake more than once — we just have a constant stream of new users doing that. And it isn't good to chastise people for trying to be useful. My suggestion is to just prevent people from accidentally doing that. I propose that if you are replying to an old blog with no activity in the last 6 months, you get a popup saying something like
The most recent activity in this blog was X years ago. Are you sure you want to write a reply? It's not recommended to reply to old blogs without a good reason.
There are a few types of necroposting that I find annoying but can be argued to have a good reason:
- replying to an old tutorial with "thank you" (because these tutorials can be useful now and if they are in Recent Actions, they are seen by younger people);
- replying to an old editorial with "please debug my code" (because posting a new blog is pretty much equivalent).
In my ideal world, these replies wouldn't be necessary, but more about that later.
Don't allow users to delete blogs
The issue here is that if you delete a blog, then you delete all the discussion that happens in the comments. In my opinion, once you have posted a blog, it's not really yours to control anymore. It "belongs" to the community. Sometimes there is some important discussion in the comments that just gets deleted on the author's whim. Sometimes I put hard work and effort into writing a comment, only to discover the next day that the author of the blog has undone all that with the click of a button. We already can not delete comments. Why should we be allowed to delete blogs?
There can be some reasonable reasons to delete blogs, but they can be handled in other ways.
- if a blog is against the rules, it will be moved to drafts by CF moderation (this is already being done).
- if a blog is just spam, it will get downvoted and will disappear from Recent Actions (this is also already being done).
- if you are ashamed of the blog or something along these lines, you can edit the blog and disallow viewing history, but you won't delete other people's thoughts by doing that.
- if you have a really serious reason for deleting the blog, you can reach out to CF administration.
I also suggested that in a comment yesterday, but the blog got... deleted.
Have a separate place where beginners can ask questions
There have been attempts to create some megathreads for that, but they have always been unofficial and they have always eventually just disappeared, and beginners have gone back to making new blogs or posting under old editorials. For this to work, it needs to be official and there needs to be an official access point.
Also, it needs to have some sticky posts. There are a few recurring points that will solve a large part of the problems beginners have. For example, we have Codeforces Round #FF(255) Editorial and Codeforces Round #134 in Recent Actions currently, and both of them are there because a beginner asked a question of the type "my solution prints different output on Codeforces". Almost always, the solution to that is "You have undefined behavior, use tools like
-fsanitize=address to find out where it is. There are two other typical problems:
- "I have WA and I can't find a reason" — the solution is to write a very simple and naive solution, a program that generates small random tests and a program that compares the output of the two solutions.
- "I have TLE" — the solution is to learn what the words "time complexity" mean.
Beginners need to see these things before asking a question. And the only way to ensure that is to have some kind of sticky or readme before you ask a question.
Have a separate place for educational resources
This was once suggested here, but it is not implemented. Again, there have been some unofficial attempts to create "lists of tutorials" but they will get similarly buried and updating them depends on the author. Again, for something like this to work, it needs to be official and it needs to have an official access point. Otherwise, it will get buried and obsoleted. EDU is somewhat like that, but it's a bit different — EDU is more like an online course platform, while tutorials can be all kinds of community-created resources that need not follow the EDU format.
Make the blog system into a forum system
This is the ultimate one and it would solve the two previous problems automatically. The real problem is that Codeforces has a blog system, but it has grown into a stage where the blog system is practically used as a forum system, except it doesn't have typical forum features. Currently Recent Actions is the only access point to the blog system, and it is very inflexible.
If we had a forum system, we could have sub-forums "Contest announcements", "Contest editorials", "Beginner questions", "Tutorials", "General discussion" etc. In each of them, you could sort the threads by most recent action, allowing you the same experience as Recent Actions currently has, but with none of the annoying blogs that you don't want to see. Sub-forums could have sub-forums of their own, allowing us to create a separate discussion thread for every problem in every contest (something that has been requested several times). Or to create different sub-forums for different difficulty levels of tutorials, allowing "ODE and differential technique" to not be buried in a sea of "DP for beginners, part 7". You could create sticky threads, solving the problem of beginners asking questions that have a standard solution. And so on.