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Recently it came to my attention how easy it is for someone to get the Necromancer badge multiple times.

  1. Repost a popular answer from any of the top most popular questions to the same question
  2. 5 upvotes
  3. ???
  4. profit!

And you can even get multiple Necromancer badges from the same question. Not only that, you don't have anything to lose because all those questions are wikis so downvotes don't count. It is also difficult to detect because each one of those popular questions have hundreds of answers. In my opinion that really undermines all other "tough to get" silver badges, like: Epic, Guru, Notable Question ...

Few examples:

I'm not saying the posters in those examples are abusing the system. I'm just pointing out how easy it is to abuse it. I believe this badge should really be a bronze one if at all. Or modify the rule so only unanswered questions count.

I know this isn't the only way to abuse the system, but it is one of the easiest.

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I deleted the duplicates you pointed out, but I'm not marking this as status-completed. Deleting those just treats the symptom. Leaving open for further discussion. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 26 '09 at 18:41
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Now I'm feeling inferior because I tried but never got it. :( –  mmyers Dec 27 '09 at 0:53
    
(Actually, I only tried once - on Jon Skeet Facts with an original idea - and I did get the badge, but not until the question was migrated to Meta.) –  mmyers Dec 27 '09 at 0:54
    
Ha, interesting. I didn't try to get it at all. But from looking at some answers I got the impression it was easy. –  Nadia Dec 27 '09 at 1:27

6 Answers 6

The problem is not the Necromancer badge. The problem is those old joke threads. They are sources of plenty of (undeserved?) badges (incl. a bunch of gold badges). Necromancer is just one of the many badges they bestow upon inappropriate discussion on Stack Overflow. It's much more difficult to achieve a Great Question/Answer badge with a technical entry.

In my opinion, those joke threads (the whole thread, question and answers) should be closed AND locked to prevent bumping by editing, adding new answers, and even voting. I even suggest moving them to meta as they are bad examples for new questions (What is your favorite...?).

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I agree with Mehrdad; the problem is not the badge, but these joke thread "questions" that never end.

I closed and locked those two (and actually, one of them I already locked on December 22nd).

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If it only occurs on joke threads, and the joke threads can only be killed with a stake through the heart, then change the criteria to only award the badge for non-community-wiki questions.

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+1 is this just a demonstration of the problem? –  davidsleeps May 7 '11 at 13:05
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+1 For extreme irony –  Wesley Murch May 7 '11 at 13:13
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What's wrong with the "stake through the heart" method? –  Cody Gray May 7 '11 at 13:14

I agree that there is a huge disparateness in the difficulty of badges in one tier. A couple examples:

  • Fanatic and Legendary are both gold badges. Fanatic is particularly bad IMO since the definition of a gold badge says: "Gold Badges are rare. You'll have to not only participate but be skilled and knowledgeable to earn these. They're something of an accomplishment!" For the record, I don't consider a shell-script a knowledgeable guru. ;)
  • A silver tag badge is pretty hard to get in comparison to Enlightened or Enthusiast badge.

There are just 3 classes of badges. Obviously, Guru is more difficult than Enlightened and they have to be in the same tier, as they don't really qualify for a gold for bronze. I'd say the number of badges in a tier is probably meaningless without considering the exact type of them.

Besides, there's no real quantifiable measure of difficulty for a badge. However, statistics tell us that:

  • Necromancer is awarded 2894 times
  • Guru is awarded 768 times
  • Enlightened is awarded 8048 times
  • Notable Question is awarded 6139 times

According to statistics, Necromancer is not really that easy and it fits on the silver tier.

Achieving Necromancer for technical questions on Stack Overflow is quite difficult (specially in popular tags). It's definitely not a bronze-level badge. Several people who own the Legendary badge, including me, do not have a Necromancer yet. Jon Skeet, with 21 Guru badges, has just 3 Necromancer badges. Actually, I suspect most Necromancers are awarded on non-technical questions.

I agree that it might be easy to game the system and get a Necromancer but you can do it on most other stuff too. You can reasonably assume that most people won't do this and those who do this too many times will get caught. There's no perfect solution for gaming problem in a site like Stack Overflow; you have to rely on approximate solutions and statistics show that it has worked quite well so far.

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I really believe the Necromancer badge numbers are lower than Enlightened because most users don't know how to game it. I guess I made a huge mistake exposing the trick :p –  Nadia Dec 27 '09 at 0:45
    
I agree with you on gaming the system. It's unavoidable. I just think we can try a little more to improve it. But it's not a big deal anyway. –  Nadia Dec 27 '09 at 0:46

Flag the duplicates. Mods can then delete them. The posters won't get any more Necromancer badges until they post other answers on old questions which subsequently get 5 up-votes.

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Detecting duplicates is not easy, why allow this easy way to get a silver badge in the first place. The real reason for this badge is to award users how answer long forgotten questions. I don't think adding a new joke to an old joke thread is a valid reason for the badge. –  Nadia Dec 26 '09 at 17:16
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...And if the examples are really egregious, they could get a warning from the moderators. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/04/a-day-in-the-penalty-box –  Ether Dec 26 '09 at 17:17

Closing and locking those questions is a good step. But I still think this Necromancer silver badge is too easy, even without abuse. It doesn't compare to any of the other silver badges or even some of the bronze onces, especially that you can get it multiple times. Maybe we should agree first on what the badge actual intention is.

I think the real intention of this badge is to encourage people to answer old questions, especially when they are unanswered. Maybe we should try to make it fairer:

  • Only award the badge when the answer is accepted (Maybe too hard? But it is definitely easier than epic!)
  • Or only award it once per question. (Still easy)
  • Increase the number of upvotes? (Not fair for non wiki answers)
  • Make it a bronze badge. The best solution in my opinion.

Any other suggestions?

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Well, I don't think it's "too easy". I'd argue there are plenty of easier silver badges (Enlightened, for instance; or even easier, the "woot" badge). There's a wide variety of difficulty among silver badges (Pundit, Epic, Guru, silver tag badges are pretty hard and others are pretty easy). Anyway, I don't think Necromancer is the easiest silver. For instance, I have the Legendary badge but not Necromancer. –  LeakyCode Dec 26 '09 at 23:29
    
Well, you don't have the necromancer badge because you didn't try, not because you can't ;). On the other hand there are users with x4 or more necromancer badges without any valuable answers. By the way, what is the criteria for a golden vs silver vs bronze badge? –  Nadia Dec 27 '09 at 0:00
    
I elaborated my comment in an answer. I agree that it's easy to cheat but you can do it on any badge. To get Necromancer, at very least, you need 5 votes, which is a relatively reasonable threshold for a silver (Enlightened is just 10). stackoverflow.com/badges has a short description on the right side of the page but I don't think there's a strict criteria for a badge to be gold or not (Fanatic). –  LeakyCode Dec 27 '09 at 0:09
    
I agree Enlightened is relatively easy, but the answer is still has to be the first one and to be accepted. You can somehow cheat by answering silly questions quickly. Someone would argue it isn't exactly cheating because you are adding a value by answering a question. Someone has to do it anyway. With the necromancer badge it is a little different. Because of the popularity of said questions the number of daily views is relatively high, and you can always submit multiple duplicate posts and wait for 5 votes to accumulate with time. It doesn't take effort, and the detection is very difficult. –  Nadia Dec 27 '09 at 0:27
    
I agree. I don't consider getting Enlightened by any means cheating.. Actually, you mentioned the real point: "Because of the popularity of said questions..." The issue is popularity, not the badge. Adding an answer to those questions doesn't add value. I'd argue that posting an XKCD comic and getting Great Answer for it doesn't add value either. But it's not Great Answer's fault. If you get 100 votes for a technical question, you really deserve the gold badge. This is true for Necromancer too. Those popular questions are the real issue here. –  LeakyCode Dec 27 '09 at 0:45

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