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January 12th marks one year since we came out of beta:

WOOOOOOO...ok, that's enough

Other sites have done miscellaneous contests to encourage participation, and our anniversary seems as good a time as any to try one, assuming we have any clever ideas. There are two things to come up with -- the contest itself, and the prizes for the winners

Contest ideas

Since other sites have held contests in the past, we might be able to steal one of their ideas:

  • Super User has done this several times. At 1 year they had a four week contest, where they rewarded users each week based on performance that week:

    • Highest rep gain from a new user
    • Highest rep gain in general
    • Best post that week
    • Most useful post that week (this is different from #3? Apparently)

    They did a similar thing this year, but changed the categories a bit to cover things other than just Q&A (editing, tagging, blogging, cleanup, etc.). Jeff warns that it's important to incentivize the right thing

  • Gaming has had much success with giving top users free copies of a new game, on the assumption that they'll ask questions about it and other people playing that game for the first time will search for the question and find the site. Science Fiction did the same thing with Star Wars. Most of our software is already free, but we might be able to adapt the idea to Unix and Linux anyway.

  • Gaming also had a contest centered around two popular games that came out around the same time, tracking which game was getting more posts on the site, and rewarding the top question and answer for each

  • Android picked a number of good questions that had gone unanswered for a long time, tagged them all, and entered all the accepted/top voted answers on those questions in a drawing to win Kindles. They also had a twitter-related promotion, but I don't think I would call it a contest. They've talked about doing an SU-style contest as well, but I don't know that it's happened yet

  • Philosophy is in the second week of picking a philosopher and rewarding users who ask questions about that philosopher. Android is discussing the same idea with Android versions, apps, hardware, etc., and History is doing it with wars

Obviously we're not limited to these -- if somebody comes up with something Unix-y that would be even better

Prizes

There isn't any Unix and Linux-specific stuff yet, but the Stack Exchange store has the usual fare, and is common for lower-level prizes (although WA happily used it for everything). It'd be nice if we could come up with some *nix-specific prizes. For example, membership in the Linux Foundation, an LWN subscription, things of that nature. Maybe Linux-y hardware, if anyone has ideas. I can't make any promises, but if we come up with clever prize ideas I'll see if Stack Exchange is willing to pay for them


Personally, I like SU's second contest (rewarding specific activities on a weekly basis), Android's Kindle contest (picking good unanswered questions and rewarding people who answer them), and Philosophy's weekly themes. What are everyone else's preferences? Any other ideas for contests/prizes?

  • Great! Continue working on ideas. If you need anything from us, please let us know directly (community@stackexchange.com). – Robert Cartaino Dec 29 '11 at 18:20
  • @MichaelMrozek we should buy them a copy of Linux ( not ubuntu as ubuntu is not linux ) </end troll>. Though in all honesty buying a license of of supported linux might be an option. – xenoterracide Dec 30 '11 at 5:48
  • @xenoterracide I suggested free copies of Ubuntu to top AU users in chat and got CHAOS to teach me about how Ubuntu is actually free – Michael Mrozek Dec 30 '11 at 6:54
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    Would it be possible to send the top winner(s) to a Linux/UNIX related conference or convention? – n0pe Jan 8 '12 at 23:18
  • @MaxMackie Probably, depending on the cost. Any particular conference in mind? – Michael Mrozek Jan 8 '12 at 23:36
  • @MichaelMrozek, there's a cool list here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_conference – n0pe Jan 9 '12 at 1:27
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    @MaxMackie there are far too many variables in that question. We'd need to narrow down specifics first in order to evaluate. – Rebecca Chernoff Jan 9 '12 at 3:16
  • ...what about doing a contest over SE network? Like solving pony -questions? I would like to point out this pony here that apparently is quite challenging to solve requiring know-how from many areas such as decision-making, hardware (perhaps FPGA-development), software, usability, etc -- it would be freaking fun at least to target such pony -things :D Pony contest! Where is it? – user2362 Feb 26 '12 at 2:17
  • @hhh Besides the fact that you said "pony question" four times, which isn't exactly descriptive and appears to be a term you made up, this doesn't really seem like the kind of thing a lot of people could participate in. Mostly it seems like you just wanted to link to your random meta.math feature request – Michael Mrozek Feb 26 '12 at 3:43
  • @MichaelMrozek: Sorry? I had just this ambitious request to create a futuristic chalk board for the help of Math SE. There are surely more interdisciplinary Pony -problems over SE network, some extremely hard or misunderstood. In a Pony team, it would be cool to find such problems and try to direct the right people. For example, the chalk board requires soft-sciences such as decision-making/usability and the hard such as algorithms -- XYZ -points to fail. For community ideal problems but for individual extremely hard. Idealistic things, what is wrong in having FuN? Particularly with goal? – user2362 Feb 26 '12 at 3:58
  • ...or what about this Pony here about creating Laptop in a freedom-respecting way? Seriously, they do address many people. It would be fun to set some idealistic Pony -challenges such as Go-to-the-moon-as-private-XYZ-and-you-will-get-a-grand-price and cookies ... or what about this pony here about creating a FuN-coding-quant-competitions or even a game? Seriously aim for community gain! – user2362 Feb 26 '12 at 4:02
  • ...look quidelines would be like that teams must use SE during the development for the challenges. It would reinforce the knowledge of community for it. Players would have some goal and the community would know what they are trying to achieve. There could middle milestones and they could be more like that if new knowledge is received to understand the problem better to target it in XYZ way later. Look this problem -- the prizes do not need to be even set. What about having prizes that clearly are at the best of community like XYZ investing when needed like FPGA dev board for a prototype? – user2362 Feb 26 '12 at 4:13
  • ...and there are much more than that, for example here a soft-science question about usability. Often, this kind of questions are blatantly misunderstood. It would cool if they were not buried and brought up to some brainstorming for further processing. The community has a massive potential to solve this kind things but individuals much less so. – user2362 Feb 26 '12 at 4:19
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I don't think we need as much cleanup as SU does, but we have a good number of unanswered questions. I estimate that 10% of them are troubleshooting questions with not enough information (→ close as not a real question) and the rest deserve an answer. There are badges for that (revival, necromancer); however such late answers can slip through the cracks (I've only been using /questions?sort=newest for quite a while now, I just don't have the time to go through all new answers). Can we organize some sort of drive to answer old stuff? Perhaps a real-life prize for Revival and Necromancer badges obtained in January, together with some form of publicization of the candidate answers?

It would be nice to have better promotion of good, late answers as a more general matter, but I don't know what form it could take. In the meantime, our chat room doesn't see much action; it can be a place to pimp late answers.

  • Yes, +1 for the lack of activity in the chat room. – Nathan Osman Jan 11 '12 at 21:20
  • Regarding the general matter of promoting late answers: double the points earned there... – Nils Feb 16 '12 at 22:18
  • @Nils That would be a major change to the way SE behaves. Feel free to propose it on Meta Stack Exchange, but expect to be shot down. – Gilles Feb 16 '12 at 22:58
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Seeing as we don't have a lot of time, I'll kick one in.

I'd like to see a prize awarded (monthly?), for the question that elicits the most Gilles-ian answer (obviously, anyone is eligible to answer the question); ie., an answer that is both encyclopaedic in it's breadth and depth, but also quite approachable for the novice or intermediate user and laced with a goodly amount of links to encourage further reading.

Gilles' answers already elicit plenty of upvotes (deservedly), so it would be nice to recognize those community members who work hard to frame up the sort of questions that provoke these answers.

It would also focus the community's attention on more investment in asking good questions and in providing more detailed and referenced answers.

As to prizes: I imagine that, for many some additional rep would be enough incentive, but if you are able to scrounge up some resources or sponsorship, then some kit to run *nix on would be nice.


Bonus suggestion1 One other thought I had was that a unique aspect of our community that is worth celebrating is the people that spend their time writing and supporting the software we use. You could run a question that seeks nominations for the best new—as in the last 12 months—free and open source software that people have discovered, and their rationale for the nomination. This serves to both promote the efforts of those developers, and allows the community to share new and interesting software that they have come across this past year.

1 I know that under the normal terms of the site, this sort of question would be closed, but it is more of a special event-type deal...

2

As the site is getting bigger, some recurring questions are beginning to emerge, and we don't always have a good canonical answer for those. We tried to write a canonical answer once — How do I run a command as the system administrator (root) — and the result is not very good. I think that's because we tried to cram too much in one question. We should carefully review the kinds of questions that are asked and give enough information, but not too much, in the answer.

Here are a few topics that come up often:

  • Rename a bunch of files
  • Understanding disk usage (aka why do du, df and fdisk -l give different sizes)
  • How do I install software that's not in my distribution?
  • How do I change my PATH?
  • How do I execute a command when I log in?
  • How do I choose a Linux distribution? (shudder)
  • some canonical question where the answer is “use type (and not which)”
  • some canonical question where the answer is “put double quotes around variable expansions”
  • how can I attach a running process to another terminal?

I propose prizes for asking and for answering such questions. Again, choosing how much to cover is an important part of obtaining an awesome canonical Q&A.

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