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I think we should highlight a question each week that represents the best of what we would consider the gestalt of our site, Software Engineering. Questions that are well-written, interesting, reasonably-scoped, and illustrate the kind of subject matter we'd like to see on the website.

I think this would serve several purposes (increasing question quality is one), but mostly I'd like to be able to point newcomers to such a list as clear examples of what our site is all about.

Here is my first nomination:

My office wants infinite branch merges as policy; what other options do we have?

  • question having title that starts with "help" fluff hardly qualifies as well written. Which is a pity because the rest of it looks really well – gnat Dec 19 '16 at 18:01
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    The title is fine. It's more informative than 90 percent of the titles I see on Stack Overflow (or here, for that matter). – Robert Harvey Dec 19 '16 at 18:02
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    I'd like this. In fact, I wish that we could somehow feed good questions into the Twitter feed for this site for promotion. – Thomas Owens Dec 19 '16 at 18:11
  • most importantly, title like that will make Joel happy. Now that his dream about twisting Workplace into self-help group failed he will be happy to learn about brave new site, "Software Engineering and Commiseration.SE". In the past Jeff would probably complain and remind that he wanted questions to have impartial tone but now that he is not with SE anymore nobody cares – gnat Dec 19 '16 at 18:32
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    Software Engineering and Commiseration.SE? Are we renaming the site again? – yannis Dec 19 '16 at 19:13
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    AFAIK there is already a mechanism to honor excellent questions - it is called "votes". Do you think of an additional a filter for showing questions like "questions with most votes last week/month/quarter/year"? – Doc Brown Dec 20 '16 at 13:52
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    @DocBrown: You've been here long enough to know that votes don't necessarily equate to quality. The kinds of question that most of us would like to see here are quite rare. Newcomers often pick the worst (and yes, they're highly voted) questions as evidence they can ask more of the same, so a pool of hand-picked example questions would go a long way towards providing a question quality reference. – Robert Harvey Dec 20 '16 at 17:11
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    @RobertHarvey: yes, that is always the problem with democracy - the most popular decisions are not always the best. But if the "question of the month" will be picked in a democratic way (and I think it should!), how can this lead to a better selection than by votes? – Doc Brown Dec 20 '16 at 17:46
  • @DocBrown: If by democratic you mean "solely by popular vote, without any selection criteria," then no, we already have that in the ordinary voting system. The whole point of this exercise would be to single out those questions that distinguish themselves from the usual parade of noise. – Robert Harvey Dec 20 '16 at 19:38
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    @RobertHarvey: don't get me wrong, I like your idea. Nevertheless I strongly believe in democracy, and I think if we decide to select a question as "question of the week" on a regular basis, it needs to stay a democratic process. Handing this decision only over to, lets say, >10k rep users, has a similar problem as the one you mentioned: rep does not necessarily equate to the ability to judge which questions are good and which are bad. – Doc Brown Dec 20 '16 at 20:18
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While the idea is good, the realization is problematic.

The problem is already highlighted by Doc Brown in comments: the major question is how should the questions of the week be selected, given that there is already a system of upvotes. I'd consider a few alternatives:

  • Most upvoted question gets “question of the week” status.

    The obvious problem with that is that it is not unusual for questions which are not particularly useful or on-topic to get a lot of upvotes, so this won't work.

  • The question which gets most upvotes from the high reputation members becomes the “question of the week”.

    The problem, here again, is that while high reputation indicates that the person is probably aware of site rules, it doesn't mean the person will upvote only useful and on-topic questions. For instance, I sometimes upvote questions which I personally find well-written and/or interesting, even when I know they are off-topic or don't “illustrate the kind of subject matter we'd like to see on the website”. In other words, simply because I have >10k rep doesn't mean I agree with all the rules of this community.

  • The question of the week is selected by moderators.

    I'm sure we'll get questions which are indeed much more representative of the site, since the moderators are the ones who are expected to know the site rules the best, but maybe those questions would be less representative of the community.

  • The question of the week is selected by a single person, such as Robert Harvey, since he has the highest reputation.

    This has a benefit of being easy to do. A single person could simply create a Twitter feed with the questions she/he considers good, and eventually double-post them on Meta for peer review.

    However, I'm not sure this would be considered representative of both the site and the community.

  • On Photo.SE, they have an interesting concept of Hall of Fame where anyone can post a photo in Meta, and every week, the photo with the highest upvotes gets displayed in the header of the website.

    I think this solution is closer to what we need here. However, if the Hall of Fame idea concept is copied here, we shouldn't simply clone it. The idea on Photo.SE is that a photo posted on Meta as a candidate gets upvotes and is never downvoted. If the same system is used on SE.SE, I would prefer one where the given candidate for the question of the week could be upvoted and downvoted, and also, which is much more important, discussed.

  • Code Review has a yearly “best of” list, which uses an approach similar to the PhotoSE Hall of Fame you mentioned. They create a meta question for each award category (example), and each answer contains one suggestion. This allows community involvement, discussion, and free voting. Here on Software Engineering, a regular suggestion thread on meta would seem to be a good approach. – amon Dec 29 '16 at 17:19
  • There could be multiple such questions of the week: everyone's, high rep users' pick, moderators' pick, Robert Harvey's pick, etc :) – Dan Cornilescu Dec 30 '16 at 5:51
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I think a question of the week (QotW) is a great idea. A couple of problems with a QotW have been mentioned, but I think they can be avoided.

My goal for a QotW is to showcase exemplary on-topic questions.

Aren't we already honouring great questions with our votes?

No. People vote for a variety of reasons, e.g. if a question is interesting, or if it helps the voter. There are no real restrictions or guidelines on how people should vote. Consequently, votes do not indicate that the question is a good fit for this site (see our questions sorted by score).

A QotW would try to disregard popularity. The QotW should be a question that people think represents the scope of this site well.

Does this mean the QotW must be picked by an anti-democratic committee that decides what is on topic?

No. I think the QotW should be chosen by the community. However, the selection criteria for the QotW should not be “would you upvote this?”. Instead, we should ask, in that order:

  1. Is this question firmly and unambiguously within the scope of Software Engineering?
  2. Is this an interesting and well-written question?
  3. Would I like to see more questions like that?

What are the advantages of having a QotW?

I can see a number of advantages:

  • Community involvement, for whatever that's worth.

  • Scope refinement. There will be questions that some consider on topic, and some less so. Selecting a QotW could lead to discussion that clarifies our scope.

  • Site promotion. Since the name change, there has been a noticeable drop in traffic & question volume. That's not inherently good or bad. A QotW would be a nice community-driven way to fill the new “Software Engineering” brand with meaning.

    In particular, I find the questions selected by the automated official Twitter channel a bit erratic, and not very representative of this site. I'd love to see a better alternative.

  • Scope communication. Once we have a corpus of vetted on-scope, high quality questions, we can point new users to that list. Also great for people that recommend this site without understanding its scope. A couple of good examples may communicate our scope better than the common-law-esque tangle of partially outdated meta questions that discuss finer points of our scope.

How should the QotW be selected?

Since we've established that question votes are not a measure of quality, and since we want the larger community to participate in choosing, the best solution I see is to use a meta question to handle QotW suggestion and selection. In particular, votes on meta are free (don't give or cost reputation), and allows discussion on each suggested question. Similar models are used for the Hall of Fame on Photography as noted by Arseni Mourzenko in his answer, and by the Best of {Year} awards on Code Review.

  1. Every week, the community member responsible for managing the QotW posts a meta question, which might look like this:

    Question of the Week ({Jan 2017 #1})

    It's time to choose a Question of the Week again! The Question of the Week demonstrates what a good on-topic question looks like. Last week, we picked:

    [{Question Title} by {User Name}]({url})

    Suggest the next Question of the Week by answering here with a link to the question, and a short explanation why it's an exemplary on topic question. You may suggest any question that was posted between {Start Date} and {End Date} and is not closed.

    Select the next Question of the Week by upvoting and downvoting suggestions. Ask yourself:

    1. Is this question firmly and unambiguously within the scope of Software Engineering?

    2. Is this an interesting and well-written question?

    3. Would I like to see more questions like that?

    The next QotW will be the suggestion with the highest score by next week. If you have doubts about a suggestion, you can discuss it in the comments.

    Tagged: fun, discussion, qotw

  2. (Optional:) The meta question is featured so that it is visible to users that don't usually visit meta.

  3. We suggest and select questions.

  4. After a week, the old suggestion question is edited to declare the winner, and the next suggestion thread is opened.

  5. (Optional:) Close the old suggestion thread as a duplicate of the new suggestion thread.

I'd prefer to have the selection period range from Sunday to Sunday or something like that, so that suggestions can be voted on during the week. I'd like to start this on 2017-01-08, if this approach emerges as a community consensus.

I think a weekly cadence involves a manageable amount of work. If not, we can drop to a monthly rhythm. Let's see how this goes and adapt as appropriate.

Notably, this suggestion mechanism involves little to no effort for moderators, and can be done by any community member. The only important part is that exactly one QotW suggestion thread exists at a time… To that end, I have this silly QotW hat: 🎩 (U+1F3A9 TOP HAT). Whoever wears the hat will do the busy work like posting the QotW meta question. I am very interested in passing it along. @RobertHarvey do you want it since the QotW was your idea?

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    Well, sounds reasonable. But IMHO we should do it monthly, I have my doubts there is a question every week which is really worth to promote. – Doc Brown Jan 2 '17 at 10:15
  • @DocBrown I thought about that, but would like to try a weekly rhythm first. If we do it monthly, I fear there might be too many questions to choose from. For a recent 7-day period, there are still ~45 upvoted open questions available, and that was on a typically “slow” time of the year. Looking through that list, I see 3 or 4 questions I might suggest in accordance with my suggested criteria, though admittedly none are absolutely amazing. – amon Jan 2 '17 at 10:59

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