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Question-related badges are far too easy to obtain. Badges awarded to those who ask questions greatly outweigh those which are awarded for answers. Of course, it doesn't help that there are more question-related badges, however the main culprit is the set of badges which are based on question views: Popular Question (1,000 views), Notable Question (2,500 views) and Famous Question (10,000 views).


Firstly, lets take a look at the top three badges for each category (Bronze, Silver and Gold):

Gold

  1. Famous Question (62,192)
  2. Fanatic (8,076)
  3. Great Answer (6,928)

The Famous Question badge has been awarded more times than all other Gold badges combined.

Silver

  1. Notable Question (345,834)
  2. Yearling (231,080)
  3. Necromancer (72,875)

There are more Notable Question badges than the second-most and third-most Silver badges combined.

Bronze

  1. Popular Question (878,622)
  2. Student (606,325)
  3. Editor (477,659)

As you can see, the view-related badges dominate all 3 badge categories by a long way.


One of the most viewed questions on StackOverflow is "How to undo the last Git commit?" with an impressive 573,219 views, 2,410 upvotes and 1,143 favourites.

This is a famous question.

The three most recent Famous Question badges were awarded for "How to read XML file in android", "Scp command syntax for copying a folder from local machie to a remote server" and "What's the CSS style I need to make a readonly textbox control look disabled".

Combined these questions amount to 30,000 views, 6 upvotes and 0 favourites. One of which is closed!

These simply aren't famous questions.


Proposed Change

I think a more fitting system would be:

  • Popular Question : Ask a question with 5,000 views, at least 5 upvotes and 1 favourite.
  • Notable Question : Ask a question with 15,000 views, at least 10 upvotes and 2 favourites.
  • Famous Question : Ask a question with 75,000 views, at least 30 upvotes and 5 favourites.
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Whats missing in your analysis is that you havent looked at when these badges have been earned and/vs when the question was asked. –  AsheeshR May 9 '13 at 12:09
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StackOverflow has been around for a while, and the user base has increased substantially over the years. I'm sure a great many of the Question badges were awarded to easy/simple questions asked in the early days of SO, as those are questions which most often come in Google searches for others seeking the same thing. For example, on Programmers, which is one of the larger SE 2.0 sites that has been around for a few years, there are only 246 users with the Famous Question badge (and of those 90 are closed questions) –  Rachel May 9 '13 at 12:10
    
(Another thing of note, Programmers has 246 Great Question badges, 250 Fanatic badges, and 404 Great Answer badges. As you can see, the ratio of Great Question badges compared to the other gold badges is nowhere near SO's ratio) –  Rachel May 9 '13 at 13:13
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@Rachel shouldn't these badges be based on site statistics rather than a static figure, then? –  James Donnelly May 9 '13 at 13:31
    
@JamesDonnelly I don't think so, because then a question would have to consistently get a percentage of the site's traffic to be eligible for a badge, so no more than X number of badges would ever exist. Also, you can lose sight of what actually constitutes as "famous" question. Based on traffic you might say a question with 1000 views is "famous" one site, while a question needs 75,000 views to be "famous" on another one. It doesn't make sense. And what happens over time as more people view the question? Typically a question asked 4 years ago has many more views than one asked a month ago. –  Rachel May 9 '13 at 13:45
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SO is not like other sites. Even if they're too easy on SO (I wouldn't know), they're nearly impossible on some smaller sites. Don't mess up the latter trying to adjust the former. –  Monica Cellio May 9 '13 at 16:00
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badges drive behaviour. You can get famous question et al by promoting the question with links from twitter, facebook, your blog etc. And SE wants this - the gamification gets people to promote the site. You might argue SO no longer needs promoting, but taking the badges away on just one site is weird. For the rest of them, this is all good. In addition to linking, those who word their questions in a way that means they get found by the Googlers are also doing the right thing and should be rewarded. –  Kate Gregory Aug 13 '13 at 18:11

4 Answers 4

I disagree with changing the criteria for what counts as Popular, Notable, and Famous question badges.

StackOverflow has been around for a while, and the user base has increased substantially over the years. Many of the questions you see with those badges are older questions that have had much more time to gain views.

As a quick test, I ran this Data.SE query to find out how many famous questions badges were actually asked recently:

2008    10261
2009    23210
2010    16504
2011    11514
2012    2250
2013    22

As you can see, the majority of questions considered "Famous" were ones that were asked years ago. I'm sure many of them are also simple/easy questions that hadn't been asked before, which now frequently come up in Google searches.

Traffic also plays a big role in this.

To compare, check out a smaller SE site, such as Programmers, which is one of the larger SE 2.0 sites that has been around for a few years. Currently they have 246 Famous Question badges, and that's actually lower than the other gold badges you mentioned; 250 Fanatic badges and 404 Great Answer badges.

Even if we did change the criteria though, then what happens in 5 years? 10 years? Do we keep raising the bar based on how much time has passed and how much traffic the site gets?

So to summarize, don't change the criteria for what counts as "Popular", "Notable", and "Famous" just based on site traffic or age. Those should be static and achievable goals for anyone posting a question today.

And if your question survives for a few years and happens to end up being viewed and possibly helping over 10,000 people over the course if it's lifetime, then I'd say that's great and worthy of a gold badge!

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I sort-of agree with your argument but in changing the numbers you're going far too far. There are only 2,260 questions with 75,000 views, or more.

If you want to make the system fairer then I would stick with just views being considered (there are already badges for everything else mentioned) but increase the number of views. Make,

Famous, as a definition means well-known, not upvoted a lot. Just because it's been potentially helpful to tens of thousands of people doesn't mean that they all upvoted it; they might not have Stack Overflow accounts. If votes are taken into account then it should also include the "helpful" votes that anonymous users can provide.

Also, you, and I, are only looking at Stack Overflow, which has a huge number of visitors. Don't forget that there are plenty of other sites in the network where a change in the number views that gives you the badge almost certainly isn't warranted.

Lastly, if this is made retroactive, there'll be riots as people's badges are revoked... is it worth it? If you don't make it retroactive then you're discriminating against new questions.

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In short, meh... –  ben is uǝq backwards May 9 '13 at 12:19

Stack Overflow is not like other sites. The big three are huge and old; they have lots of questions, lots of votes, and lots of visiblity. The current forms of the badges are already difficult to earn on some smaller sites; changing them to make them more elite for SO would make them useless everywhere else.

Perhaps the answer is to make the thresholds adjustable per-site. That would probably entail a fair bit of work, since the badge-calculation code almost certainly wasn't written with configurability in mind. It could be changed, but it doesn't seem important enough.

On any given site, some badges are "too easy" and some are "too hard". That's just life. So SO gives out "too many" question-view badges -- is that really a problem? It's probably also a lot easier to get Nice/Good/Great questions/answer there (we have no Greats yet on Mi Yodeya); so what? Where does it end if you go down this badge-changing path?

The thresholds are what they are; no number is right for all sites, but in the absence of per-site configurability, it's better to leave it alone than try to adjust in favor of one site at the expense of others.

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But we already have badges with per-site settings, as I understand it. –  Nicol Bolas Aug 13 '13 at 18:22
    
We do? Which ones? –  Monica Cellio Aug 13 '13 at 18:29

I agree with the general gist of the issue. Here's my reasoning.

Gold badges are supposed to be the most coveted, the most important, and therefore the rarest and most difficult to get. And we know this because of how few of them are acquired.

Here is the list of all badges on SO. Gold badges are by far the fewest.

Unless you look at Famous Question. Here are some fun facts:

  • There are more Gold Badge Famous Questions than there are Silver Badge Good Answer.
  • There are almost as many Famous Question badges as Necromancer (Silver).
  • There are almost twice as many Famous Question badges as there are Bronze Tag badges. Across all Stack Overflow tags. That's right, for ever person who's gotten a cumulative answer score of 100 on a tag, there are twice as many questions that are considered "Famous".
  • There are fewer people on all of SO who have completed at least one review task (Custodian) than there are Famous Question badges.
  • If you add up all of the other Gold badge tallies, all of them, you get less than half of the Famous Question count. That means 2 out of 3 Gold Badges are Famous Questions.

To provide counterpoint to Rachel's answer:

And if your question survives for a few years and happens to end up being viewed and possibly helping over 10,000 people over the course if it's lifetime, then I'd say that's great and worthy of a gold badge!

Questions don't die (at least, not answered ones). Eventually, given sufficient time, every question will become a "Famous Question". And when every question is famous, how will you tell the difference between the exceptional famous questions and the "famous due to the passage of time"?

Rather than rollback tens of thousands of badges, I say we simply retire the badges (like Analytical), and declare a new set of them. For these, you get them if your question gets X unique views in a fixed time period since it was posted. Maybe 6 months.

That way, you're actually rewarding people who deliberately spread the word on their questions, rather than rewarding people who do nothing at all.

Famous Question should not be easy to get. This should be true for any Gold badge.

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The announcer set of badges already exists to reward people who deliberately spread the word on their questions. –  Troyen Aug 13 '13 at 18:19
    
@Troyen: Then maybe we should just retire these badges outright. –  Nicol Bolas Aug 13 '13 at 18:22
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Popular et al. are for rewarding questions that people read whether or not the author did anything to spread them. There's Announcer et al. for the spreading part. The announcer badges used to work on a time frame but no longer do. I think it's better to reward posts that keep being useful over time rather than Reddit wonders of the day that are forgotten after a week. Nonetheless it is true that every question is famous if you wait long enough, so your proposal makes some sense. –  Gilles Aug 13 '13 at 18:38
    
@Gilles: Then why are we rewarding them with Gold Badges? If you start handing out badges like popcorn, then they're not special anymore. I've seen quite a few low-rep users with multiple gold badges; invariably, all of them are Famous Questions (with the occasional Fanatic). This makes Gold badges commonplace, something you just get, rather than all other Gold badges which you have to work for. I understand acknowledging the milestone, but why does it have to be acknowledged with a Gold badge? Isn't just one Silver badge enough? –  Nicol Bolas Aug 14 '13 at 7:54

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