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Almost two months ago I posted here about a possible contest to celebrate our anniversary. The anniversary was last month, but we're going to do a contest anyway, like the husband that comes home with flowers three weeks too late. Call it our "we're about to hit 10k questions!" celebratory contest instead

There were several good ideas posted in the original thread, but the one that got the most upvotes was by Gilles:

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?

I hadn't really noticed until he pointed it out, but we have a 91% answer rate. That sounds decent, but it's on the low end for Stack Exchange (56th out of 81 sites). A contest to help with that seems ideal. Thus:

A contest to cleanup old, abandoned questions

Each week (ending 18 Feb, 25 Feb, 3 Mar, 10 Mar), we'll randomly choose qualifying users and give them prizes. Everyone loves prizes. First, to qualify at all, you must have a registered account, which means you can login using an OpenID. Check your profile page to see if it says "unregistered" at the top:

You also need a valid e-mail address, since that's how we'll be contacting you (and shame on you if you used a fake e-mail anyway). Next, you need to do one or more of the following:

  • Answer an old question well. Gilles pointed out above that the site already has a way of measuring and rewarding this, so we'll piggyback on that and count answers that lead to a Revival or Necromancer badge:

    Revival - Answered more than 30 days later as first answer scoring 2 or more Necromancer - Answered a question more than 60 days later with score of 5 or more

    You get credit if the answer is both posted and gets a badge during the contest (not necessarily in the same week; you'll be in the drawing for the week you get the badge), as long as the answer stays undeleted. It's unlikely that an answer that is good enough to get upvoted would also end up deleted, but it happens. The unanswered tab is a good starting point for finding questions to answer. There's a chat room where you can link your answer to help it get more attention

  • Vote to close a question that was asked before 2012. You have a limited number of close votes, but still -- don't just vote to close haphazardly; the intent is to close old questions that went unanswered because they're not very good. You can read the list of close reasons to better understand the reason questions should be closed. If you don't have enough reputation to close, you can flag instead; you'll get the same options

    You get credit if the question actually closes. Mods will go through the close vote list at the end of each week to help close questions that should be closed but couldn't get enough votes. Since there's a loophole for 10k users, starting week 2 we're only going to count close votes from 10k users if they're the first vote on the post

We'll break it down as follows:

  • 4 points for each Revival badge
  • 5 points for each Necromancer badge (note that you'll possibly already have Revival as well)
  • 1 point for each closed question

Each point is one chance to win for that week (so if you get Revival you've got 4 chances to win out of however many points everyone on the site got for that week)

Prizes

We'll draw two winners randomly each week, who will each get $50 to spend in the Stack Exchange shop. There should be Unix and Linux-themed swag there soon; if it's not up yet when we start contacting winners, you can opt to wait for that instead of taking the generic Stack Exchange stuff

At the end of the contest, we'll pool the points of everyone who hasn't won yet and draw three more winners. Those people have their choice of:

(We reserve the right to change these rules as necessary, or invalidate entries by users who appear to be gaming the system or exploiting some loophole in the rules. I don't foresee this being a problem, but just in case. Stack Exchange employees and Unix and Linux moderators are naturally not eligible to win)

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    Alright! I'm so ready for this. Time to clean up. – n0pe Feb 12 '12 at 22:59
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We won't actually be contacting the winners about the prizes until the end of the contest in March, but we'll do the drawings at the end of each week and I'll keep this answer up to date


12-18 Feb

There were at least 47 new answers on old questions this week (based on the chat room). Of those, there were 12 Revival badges -- over 10% of all the Revival badges we've had, which is pretty impressive. No Necromancer badges yet, but they're more difficult; some will probably come in over the next few weeks. 13 users also managed to close 30 old posts

Ultimately there were 95 entries to draw from. This week's winners of shiny Stack Exchange swag are:

Mat MaxMackie


19-25 Feb

32 new answers were posted on old questions; 7 of them picked up Revival badges. 8 old questions were also closed, all from a single user.

There were 36 entries to choose from (and neither of the two people tied for most entries won). This week's winners:

Coren Lars Rohrbach


26 Feb-3 Mar

33 new answers on old questions this week. 9 answers were awarded Revival badges, and 2 old questions were closed (I'm pleasantly surprised that we're ending up with more answers than closures as time goes on).

There were 36 entries to choose from. This week's winners:

Greg Cain njsg


4 Mar-10 Mar

We closed 1 more question, and I choose to believe the decline in closed posts from week to week means we've closed every bad question there ever was. 40 new answers, with 7 Revivals and 1 Necromancer! (I never lost hope).

34 entries to choose from this week; the winners were:

pbm Kevin


Final winners

Finally, we pooled the points of everyone who hadn't won yet and picked three people. These people win either a year's subscription to LWN or a Linux Foundation membership:

user112553 l0b0 Stéphane Gimenez

Thanks to everyone who participated, this went somewhat better than I expected, and congratulations to all the winners!

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What if the answer (kinda) is already there?

I've run across several questions where the user hasn't given any additional information and another user has answered to the best of their ability in the comments.

Would it be appropriate to:

  • Take the information in the comment, elaborate a little and re-post it as an answer. The downfall to this is that the answer might not be the correct one (because the missing information or follow up was never supplied).
  • Flag/Close the question for lacking information and being too localized
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    If it's an old question and it doesn't have enough info to make a decent guess, just close it. If the comment sounds like it's probably right, you can convert it to an answer (I just did earlier today with a comment that was confirmed right, but never posted as an answer) – Michael Mrozek Feb 13 '12 at 5:39
  • If the questions shows symptoms of a classical problem that has a common solution, then writing up an answer showing this solution (and indicating under what assumptions the answer solves the problem) is helpful for future visitors, even if the original asker hasn't followed up on requests for confirmation. – Gilles Feb 15 '12 at 22:02
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On answering

I realize it was my mistake originally, but Revival and Necromancer badges earned during the week aren't exactly the right measure: if you go and answer an old question during the contest period, it might earn these badges later; and conversely you may now get the badges for old answers.

Nitpick: it's possible to earn Necromancer without Revival, but not on an “unanswerered” question (or at least not except under very unusual circumstances involving downvotes where I'm not sure whether you'd get Revival or not).

I would like to suggest that if you write or see an answer to an old question, you post a link in the U&L chat. Or should we create a dedicated room? I don't have the time to check /questions?sort=activity — I can barely keep up with /questions?sort=newest — and I'm the biggest voter around here, so getting me to read your answers would be a good idea.

It's not clear from your wording whether an answer posted before the contest began, but that only earns one of the badges during the contest, is eligible. This definitely needs clarifying.

If old answers don't count, what if someone makes a significant edit to an old answer that triggers more upvotes? I guess in that case, if you want to enter the contest, you'd post an old answer. I'm concerned that this would cause people to delete and repost old unloved answers in the hope of a better reception this time; is this a real problem?

On closing

Remember that close votes can expire in as little as 4 days; moderators should check the list more often than once per week.

10k users have an advantage: we have access with the list of pending close votes and unresolved flags to close. I'm personally fine with being out of the running for close vote points, or only if I cast the vote without prompting, but I think the rules need amending.

Swag!

Just repeating the most important part of your post:

There should be Unix and Linux-themed swag there soon

  • I realized at one point that the disconnect between the time you post the answer and the time you get the badge is annoying; I proposed a somewhat complicated solution that got shot down as too confusing, so we left it like this. So, answer early I suppose; you have a greater chance of winning. Only answers posted during the contest count ("You get credit if the answer is posted and gets a badge during the contest"), not just badges earned during the contest; I added a word to try and clarify. I didn't realize Necromancer doesn't require you be first; fixed that part as well – Michael Mrozek Feb 12 '12 at 19:11
  • I check the close list most days, so I'm not worried about that part. And it occurred to me that 10k users have an advantage, but then I remembered we have like 4, so I'm not really worried about that either -- if posts start closing entirely by vote because of this I'll be thrilled – Michael Mrozek Feb 12 '12 at 19:12
  • @MichaelMrozek ...I wouldn't say "shot down" so much as, "Summarily panned" but that's just me. :P – Aarthi Feb 12 '12 at 23:14
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What if there's already some answers ?

In the last pages of unanswered questions, there's quite a lot with answers which were not accepted.

What if it's not possible to be accepted ?

Sometimes, the asker has never created its account. See this question for instance.

  • If the answer is right there's nothing we can do about it; only the asker can accept answers. If not, post an answer anyway; Necromancer at least doesn't require that you be the first person to answer – Michael Mrozek Feb 14 '12 at 14:04
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    If you find any good answer, please upvote it. Having an upvoted answer will take the question off the "unanswered" list. Of course, don't upvote just for the sake of it, only if you have good reason to believe that the answer is correct and helpful. – Gilles Feb 15 '12 at 21:57
  • The asker hasn't actually deleted their account in that example, it never existed (the question was migrated from SO). They could sign up here at any time with the same OpenID and they'd automatically take over the question and have the ability to accept an answer, but it's unlikely. However, neither of the badges require that the answer be accepted; it just needs a high enough score – Michael Mrozek Feb 22 '12 at 15:35
  • @MichaelMrozek ok, thanks for this information. – Coren Feb 22 '12 at 18:33

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