Our contest ended a few hours ago, the winners should be getting their prizes soon(ish). Hopefully you've all enjoyed the contest as much as I did, and we can organize similar events again in the future.

What did you think? Did you like it? What could we have done better, and what should we be more careful with in the future?

To get an idea of how the contest was organized (it was no simple task), you should check out all the questions and the contest chat room.


Unfortunately didn't notice there was a contest until I noticed this thread.

Maybe a more prominent in the right-hand menu could have helped. If the target audience was new users, then maybe have a custom banner warn them during their first visits, or ads on external sites.

Even as a normal user, while I usually do strongly mind "unusual" and unrequested deviations of notification systems, I wouldn't have minded too much to get an extra banner showing up at the top of the page like the ones warning of newly earned badges.

I'm late to the party, but were there any features to allow the contest to be broadcasted/shared to others?

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    I did post on MSO advertising the contest, and my post was deleted, it was perceived as "spammy" (my words, not theirs). In retrospect I could have asked before posting, and if I had we would have probably found a better way to advertise the contest across the network. – yannis Jun 5 '12 at 7:02
  • @YannisRizos: I'd agree with their "spammy" reaction though. Like I said, I'm usually rather averse to this kind of unwanted announcements. But usually there's some possible middle ground, and clearing it first in their chatroom might have helped indeed. Better luck next time, we learn from our failures/mistakes. ;) – haylem Jun 6 '12 at 1:36
  • My MSO post had an SO twist, it wasn't completely off topic, and it was getting upvotes before it was deleted, but yes, next time I'll need to co-ordinate it a bit better. I've also spammed a lot of chat rooms as well ;) – yannis Jun 7 '12 at 19:33
  • I've gotta agree here. More visibility would have helped. I literally did not know that the contest existed until I got the email stating I had won it! – Mason Wheeler Jun 20 '12 at 22:07
  • @MasonWheeler: awesome :) – haylem Jun 21 '12 at 8:16

I think there were a few flaws in the contest. That doesn't mean it wasn't fun (it was), but it wasn't perfect. For example:

  • The tags were not perfect. produced some really good, constructive, awesome questions. But it also produced crap, and we don't want crap. Now, I'm not saying that I didn't expect crap. But, next time we need to find a way to get less of it.
  • People were not aware of the contest. Honestly, I have no clue why. I mean, think about it. It was in the Community Bulletin since a week before the contest, there was a whole chat room about the contest, there were several Meta posts about the contest, and there were even alerts in the sites main chat room. We're not Gaming.SE. We can't just change the whole site design for the contest.
  • There were complaints about the way the contest was run. During the contest. I think this is what bothered me the most. A few users were basically complaining about how the contest was set up, during the contest. Come on guys, we made the setup public. No chats were made private, and anybody who could chat could join. There were several Meta posts on the topic. I mean, I'm not trying to rant or anything (really I'm not), but seriously.

OK, enough complaining, let's see what we did right:

  • Timing. I think 1 week per tag is perfect. You really don't need the whole week to get views. Most of the time, if you have a popular question, you get the bulk of your views within the first 1-2 days.
  • Prizes. Prizes were awesome! I mean, $50 to get whatever Programming related thing you wanted. Pretty cool...
  • Everything else... I know I missed something, but if I didn't think it was bad, it was probably right :P.


I think the contest in general went great! Next time, I think we will be able to do a lot better (I'm going to push that next time won't be too far off). Hopefully the community as a whole will show more support for the dirty work of the contest next time (we could've used a little more input this time). But, all in all, IT WAS AWESOME!

  • Note that I didn't complain about the visibility per se (just pointed out I didn't find out before it started), and also didn't complain about how the contest was run , but about the idea of the contest itself :) – Andres F. Jun 4 '12 at 19:53
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    "We can't just change the whole site design for the contest". Why? An ad doesn't kill. The SO Careers ads, when introduced, were not bigger than usual, not intrusives, and were designed efficiently. I'd be curious to see the heatmaps for the chatroom, board blog links, but I'd bet they aren't that high. Maybe I'm wrong, but I filter these out of my view without thinking about it, and just happened to notice the link to this thread because I was "bored" and finally let my eyes wander to the list of items on the right. The site is well designed to capture your attention on essential things. – haylem Jun 4 '12 at 23:44
  • @haylem I'm not sure you understood what I meant. Gaming.SE literally changes it's entire site design. They have a new background picture and everything. I'm sure next time we can put together an ad. I'm sorry if you misunderstood. – Dynamic Jun 4 '12 at 23:57
  • @Dynamic: Indeed didn't get it like. I'd think that would be a tad overkill, though I've seen it done tastefully a few (rare) times; but I'd probably have a strong averse reaction to a whole design change. – haylem Jun 5 '12 at 0:21
  • @haylem At least you'd notice it :P – Dynamic Jun 5 '12 at 0:22

I would have liked to see each contest tag go a little bit longer, since I felt that you had to ask a question towards the beginning of the week to maximize your views. Perhaps Tuesday through next Saturday or something like that.

I think the contest did a good job at attracting new users to the site, as seen by some of the contest questions with high view counts, and it was nice to see a lot of on-topic questions being asked instead of the newest question list always being half full of closed questions. I also enjoyed the fact that mods were a little more relaxed with question closures, and let the community take care of the on-the-fence questions.

As far as what we could do better with in the future, I think we could do a better job at picking tags. The was probably a bad idea in hindsight since it did promote some off-topic questions, although overall it didn't go as badly as I thought it would and I learned a bit from the questions asked.

I really enjoyed the and contests since they gave me some interesting puzzles to think on, but wasn't overly fond of since I hate documentation as it is, so spending time reading about documentation is not my idea of fun :)

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    I think the contest did a good job at attracting new users to the site Unfortunately there wasn't any noticeable change in any of our analytics. All our relevant stats are increasing, but there wasn't any change in their rates during the contest. – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 14:02
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    Also worth noting that changing [history] to another tag was discussed mid contest, but I felt it would be a bad move since the tags had already been announced. We should have caught this one sooner. – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 18:13
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    @YannisRizos: Indeed my reaction when I saw this question was "what contest??". Granted I was a bit less active, but maybe it could have been a bit more advertised. And if I didn't notice when I already know the site, I don't see much how it would attract that many more. – haylem Jun 4 '12 at 23:41
  • I also thought the history tag was a bit odd at first, but then again it was an entire category of questions that I never thought to consider asking or researching on this site. While I have't thought of anything I really care to ask yet, it has given me something to think about. – Jeremy Jun 5 '12 at 1:23
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    @JeremyHeiler That was my thought on the tag as well, although I wasn't involved in selecting the tags. History questions are extremely hard to get right, most of the information are available on reference sites and we really don't care about duplicating it here. That said, at least some of the history questions were quite engaging and if I'm not horribly mistaken it was the week with the most views overall. – yannis Jun 5 '12 at 7:12

I think a lot of the issues with the closure of contest questions isn't so much that mods weren't up to speed on what was going on, but that the majority of users didn't seem to be aware of the contest and the purpose of the tag at that point in time. What I saw were a good number of questions that I would have closed if not for the contest, yet the users were doing their normal excellent job of downvoting, close voting and incessantly flagging these questions.

I think in the future if we do this again, that the should probably be used to temporarily identify contest questions on the main site, so that users who are aware of the contest will see it and not flag, while users who haven't heard of the contest can check it out and see if it is something they would like to participate in.

Also I would suggest that we put a disclaimer for those of us that dislike the contest idea to remind everybody who doesn't want to participate that they can put the tag in their Ignored list of tags to avoid seeing these questions on the main page.

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    If we are going to use the contest as an excuse for unsuitable questions, perhaps we shouldn't hold another one... – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 12:57
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    @YannisRizos You have told me yourself before that you were giving some leeway for questionable content for the purpose of not killing the contest. I was just following your lead on that because I really wasn't that involved in it. But yes I agree with you that there were problems with the way it was done and that it might not be worth trying again. – maple_shaft Jun 4 '12 at 13:49
  • Hm? When? If in TL, meet me in TL. What I do remember saying was that I would be keeping away from contest questions and let the community decide, and my reason for that was exactly the opposite than you: I was too involved with this, from early on, and I just wanted to have fun for a month and not care for cleaning up the crap. That said, I was closing every other crap question I came across, as usual. Anyways, as a rule of thumb, don't follow my lead, I have no idea what I'm doing ;P – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 13:54
  • @YannisRizos I do remember saying was that I would be keeping away from contest questions and let the community decide That is what you had said to me and the former comment was my interpretation of that statement. My impression was that you were keeping the sword sheathed and letting the community take care of these because of the contest, so I apologize if I misunderstood you. I did the same unless I saw something that was grossly wrong. – maple_shaft Jun 4 '12 at 14:31
  • No need to apologize ;) I think each of us closed at least one contest question, there were some absolutely crappy ones, but yes, I wasn't really interested in cleaning up the contest questions, and it was also a small experiment in community closures. I can't say I'm particularly happy with the community's insticts, but it went a lot better than I thought it would. Ironically the one "omg evil mod closed my contest question" Meta question did help the question in question win, as it gather a lot of views while featured on Meta. – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 14:38
  • @YannisRizos Out of curiosity, what question are you referring to? The only meta question I know of related to a closed contest question is mine, and it got less than 100 views and wasn't a winning question – Rachel Jun 4 '12 at 16:15
  • @Rachel Yes I had your question in mind, and I was wrong, you won with your other question. That said, I didn't mean that as a bad thing, see: programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/149457/… - and 100 views isn't really negligible when competing for views. – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 16:20
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    I think mods and regular users must be a strict with contest questions as with "normal" questions. Otherwise, a side-effect of the contest is to derail normal operations of the site :-/ – Andres F. Jun 4 '12 at 19:57

Well, it was kind of funny, but naturally, such a contest attracts "troll" questions, which do not address an immediate problem the asker wishes to solve, but are provocatively phrased to attract views and therefore win the contest. (I'm not excluding my own questions during the contest ;-)

IMO, precautions should be made that next time, mods do not close competing questions unless they are really very bad; i.e. mods should be less strict than normal during the contest.

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    Hm? If the contest did indeed attract troll questions, wouldn't it make sense if we were even more stricter during the contest? Not that we were, but next time... – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 12:25
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    I don't think it's a bad thing to create questions that are phrased to attract views, because one of the points of this contest idea was to bring more new users to Programmers, so on-topic questions which are phrased to attract new users to the site are great. – Rachel Jun 4 '12 at 13:27
  • @Rachel Attracting views is good, and I do what I can to get us even more views (got my 6th Publicist a few hours ago). That said, attracting more views was a minor goal, we are a mature site and our views are increasing all the time (slowly, but constantly) and certainly not an excuse for crap questions. – yannis Jun 4 '12 at 13:57
  • Attracting views is what the website does as regularly run by its community. There is no way to "attract more views" during a contest which isn't already being done during regular operations. Unless we break the rules during the contest... – Andres F. Jun 4 '12 at 19:55
  • @AndresF. Well I got us about 50K views today without breaking any rules... It's possible, hard, but possible. – yannis Jun 5 '12 at 7:04
  • @YannisRizos That's great! But the Soviet Programming Languages question is genuinely interesting, regardless of any contests. Hopefully it would have been asked -- and promoted! -- without any contest going on :) I'd understand if the contests were there for fun, as long as the moderators and users enforce the rules/downvote just as strictly as always. – Andres F. Jun 5 '12 at 12:48
  • @YannisRizos Also, let me say again that the Soviet question is awesome. – Andres F. Jun 5 '12 at 12:51
  • @AndresF. Yes that was a stellar question and it's more or less what I want from [history] questions. Not so much to be as great, but to be genuinely interesting and not just an opportunity to re-iterate wikipedia, or worse be completely artificial. Anyways, you should post an answer here. – yannis Jun 5 '12 at 13:05

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