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Beta sites currently use the same set of badges that established sites do. I think there are some behaviors worth encouraging, that badges would be well-suited for, except that these would be appropriate only to beta sites - not to mature ones.

Some examples include:

  • Question seeding. Beta sites struggle to build up sufficient activity; I've seen several betas that simply aren't getting enough questions. So while we don't need to encourage question-flooding on established sites, on Beta sites this might be very appropriate.

    • Such a badge could be contingent on a minimal score per question, or some such.
    • A "trailblazer" badge could be awarded to somebody carving out some specific tag that's as-of-yet undeveloped.
  • Beta Meta. Beta sites have some major initial questions to deal with; I'd love to (further) encourage member participation in tags such as and .


Are special tags for Beta sites a good idea? Are they technically feasible? What beta-specific tags would be worth implementing?

EDIT: The good Mr. Cartaino has asserted that this is technically feasible. So please make merry with the beta-specific badge suggestions, and the voting to-and-fro on them!

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I absolutely agree with the sentiment, but I don't think it's feasible... –  Yannis May 31 '12 at 10:23
    
We already have Taxonomist for people that start new, useful tags by rewarding them when their new tag gets 50 questions. Also question seeding isn't a great idea; we had a user on Cog Sci cut the Answered rate down to like 40% by asking >20 questions the first day or two –  Ben Brocka May 31 '12 at 13:24
    
@BenBrocka: Taxonomist is for people identifying a new niche. A beta site has practically nothing but new niches; what they need is filling. This isn't the place to get into the niceties of seed-flooding, but my own romping grounds (and others I've seen) have a much bigger problem with Q's-per-day than percentage answered. –  Ziv May 31 '12 at 14:16
    
I agree with the sentiment, but not the question-seeding badge. Except for the very earliest days of a site (private beta and early public beta), question-seeding almost always leads to bad questions that have to be removed later on - sometimes in a very noisy fashion. –  Neil Fein May 31 '12 at 16:23
    
@NeilFein: Question-seeding is an example. I'd be happy to debate the specifics of that example, but that'd be a different question... –  Ziv May 31 '12 at 16:24
    
@Ziv - Would love to see some specific examples, then, even if they are placeholders. I like this idea. –  Neil Fein May 31 '12 at 16:26
    
Right intention, wrong idea. Question seeding is not what you want. You want your users typing on their keyboards to their heart's content, it shouldn't be forced. Go the math.SE way: Vote early, vote often, the questions will roll in if the community keeps rewarding the existing ones especially in the beta period. –  phwd May 31 '12 at 17:11
    
For those interested, here's a post about CogSci's "overseeding" problem: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/10/… (which was resolved mostly by closing most of the excessive questions, which weren't really good anyway) –  Ben Brocka May 31 '12 at 18:40
    
@YannisRizos: Feasibility asserted - now, any contributions towards the sentiment? :P –  Ziv Jun 3 '12 at 19:03
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8 Answers

Yes, beta-centric badges are technically possible but I'm having a hard time coming up with a behavior that should be encouraged only during beta. Badges should be considered on the merits of what they encourage. As such, I would oppose a "question seeding" badge on the premise that question flooding should not be an end goal in and of itself.

In Asking the First Questions, I talk about how everyone should use a site to ask about the interesting problems you encounter in your day-to-day activities. But when you're suddenly put on the spot to "ask questions daily," you'll likely end up with an influx of low-quality, uninspired questions. Users should be asking real questions about problems they actually have. I wouldn't support a badge to force the issue. You won't likely get the results you are trying to encourage.

So the premise is fine but only to say "Sure, badges to improve a beta are technically possible."

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Yay! Good to hear. Step 2, then, is coming up with specific examples I (and others) think would be helpful. Thank you! –  Ziv May 31 '12 at 17:32
    
Examples now up, for awe and/or shredding. –  Ziv Jun 2 '12 at 21:41
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Badge Suggestion: Site Definition and Promotion

Terraformer: For participation in and discussions on Meta.

Meta covers a wide range of subjects - but these two tags are the ones that are (IMHO) most crucial to figuring out what the site will be and assembling its critical core membership. Rewarding participation in these particular tags is extremely worthwhile. What is "participation"? Oh, I'd say about N posts, X upvotes, and Y downvotes, across these two tags on Meta. If the numbers are large, this could be a silver badge.

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Badge Suggestion: Cross-Site Awareness

Intertextual: Bronze Meta badge. First time the user links in a post to a discussion on a different SE meta site.

This badge rewards awareness of other sites in the SE network. Taking an interest in other betas - particularly in their metas - is extremely valuable for a beta. Many of the same issues arise again and again (subjectivity concerns; site promotion efforts; how to make an unusual subject work in SE...); network-wide issues are raised on MSO rather than on individual metas; sister-sites with frequent migrations to-and-fro should be familiar; etc.

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This is the best badge idea here, IMO. Cross-site communication has only recently been improving on the network, and I think encouraging this is a good idea. I'd make it more than one link to get the badge, though. Maybe three? –  Neil Fein Jun 3 '12 at 19:15
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Badge Suggestion: Question Activity

While answers are the raison d'être of SE, one of the crucial stats a Beta site needs to achieve is questions per day. This is a measure of activity - both of how active and lively the community is, and of the pace at which the site's knowledge base is expanding. A steady flow of questions -- taken for granted on an established site -- is crucial to a beta's survival and development.

Moreover, question writing fulfills a critical function in a beta - that of site definition. The only way to test and define what belongs on the site and how is by asking appropriate questions. That's why we should be encouraging conscious effort to come up with appropriate, worthwhile questions - even when these do not spring up intuitively or by natural happenstance. Asking questions is a necessary step to understanding what questions can, and should, be asked. (This, by the way, is a primary goal of initiatives such as topic-of-the-week drives, promotional contests, and SF&F's comic book grant. Cf. _Hot Topics: A Contest Formula That Works, which explicitly addresses the need to promote question-asking.)

However, this goal is not reflected by any current badge. Excellent and popular questions are rewarded, but a steady flow of "merely good" questions (or great questions whose niche keeps them relatively obscure) is not. Hence, I suggest that a badge rewarding question-asking activity is uniquely appropriate to beta sites. Of course, we don't want to encourage a flood of filler; the emphasis is on regular presence, not sheer quantity. I'd suggest something on the lines of:

  • Ignition: Bronze badge. In the space of one week, user asks at least 3 questions scoring 3 or higher and remaining open.
    • A nice bonus here is that a user who asks one or two questions is encouraged to see if he can think up one more.
  • Steady Fuel: Silver badge. Over a period of (say, 3 months?), user asks at least one question a week scoring 3 or higher.
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To go completely ego-centric for a moment, during the private beta phase of Academia, I posted a whole bunch of questions just to seed the site, and many of them were very highly upvoted by the community, and received answers with a high number of upvotes themselves.

In that vein, there could be badges for:

  1. X questions asked during private beta, with scores of Y or more, that generated at least Z answers

  2. X questions asked during the entire beta, with scores of Y or more, that generated at least Z answers

  3. Asked a question that brought in more than X new users (i.e., the question was of general interest and helped publicize the site) — I assume we have these statistics

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Badge Suggestion: Tag Development

A beta site has a lot of ground to cover. And it's important not only to deal with immediate, common topics, but also to branch out into less-common niches - SE's ability to handle niche questions is one of its most valuable features.

We've already got the Taxonomist badge, which rewards identification of a new (or previously obscure) niche, and is contingent upon that niche growing large enough. But for a beta, we want more than that - many niches should be actively developed and delved into. There are topics that need to gain presence, and that might not spring up unassisted. Furthermore, adding activity to a tag helps define that tag, which is a major part of site scope and definition.

Here, too, I'll refer to the success of Hot Topics and Topic-of-the-Week initiatives - the explicit goal here is to encourage activity around a particular tag. Hence I suggest a badge rewarding contributing questions to an underdeveloped tag, perhaps along the lines of:

Trailblazer: User asks 5 questions, each scoring 2 or higher and remaining open, in a tag which has fewer than 20 questions.

5,2, and 20 are all parameters that can be changed around, but those sound about right to me. Possibly award the badge only when the tag hits 20 questions, to prevent abuse (somebody creating his own tag and start filling it up; applying a lousy new tag to existing scored questions; etc.). I'd suggest that with the right numbers, this might be a silver tag, due to scarcity and the deliberate effort it requires.

Alternative suggested name: Colonist.

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First, I think questions per day is not the most important statistic for the formative days/months/years of a beta. The long-term survival of a site does not depend on the temporary Q/D stat but on building a real community. In fact, I think some beta users get too wrapped up in the Area 51 numbers when they should really think about how to do their part in building a community.

Second, beta sites will eventually have to be able to survive as regular sites, so there's some reason to not have different rules for beta sites than regular sites. Clearly, the privileges must be earned more quickly in order to have enough trusted users, but otherwise we need to develop habits that will be useful in the launched site. So, while badges for betas might be a good idea, badges for behavior we might discourage in a regular site would be a bad idea.

Third, it's difficult to know ahead of time what sort of problems a beta might have. For some, lack of questions is a problem and for others lack of voting is a problem. We have badges that encourage questions and voting yet they don't make any particular difference in solving those problems. Per site badges make a certain amount of sense, but I don't know if there are any badges that work for a beta which would not also be a good idea for the launched site.

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Badge suggestion: Sanitation Engineer

A badge that rewarded either the radical editing or the deletion of old questions, to bring the site's original, too-vague or too-chatty list questions up to par.

Edit: I'm specifically looking for a badge that would reward getting rid of those getting-to-know-you "questions" that seem to pop up on most private betas and get wildly popular, makign deletion or even closure difficult.

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That one already exists... Excavator and Archaeologist. –  Ziv Jun 4 '12 at 3:47
    
@Ziv - Ah, so it does. Edited the name for now. Any thoughts on how to make this more appropriate to getting rid of deadwood seeding-the-beta questions? –  Neil Fein Jun 4 '12 at 4:20
    
Badges tend to describe the behavior rather than the goal - I think the goal of the existing badges is precisely to encourage maintanence of old questions along with new content. So I don't think this suggestion differs from existing badges (and I don't see how we might measure that even if there is a difference). –  Ziv Jun 5 '12 at 10:18
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