I was curious if Stack Overflow has ever had competitions with winners getting points or other prizes?

People already are competing to quickly answer questions for only a few points, so if they had a competition to get the most most points on daily, weekly or monthly basis, then it seems like it would be a win-win for site. Winners would get more points, esteem and possibly other prizes and question askers would get probably get more questions answered faster.

Just a thought...

  • StackOverflow Most Valuable Professionals? hehe – user221081 Jan 15 '14 at 8:38

I had considered this in the past. I thought it would be neat if Stack Overflow had something like Google's summer of code - where we encourage our users to dive into open source projects and bring them much needed features or bug fixes.

It then occurred to me that our users already do that and we don't have the capacity to manage a program like GSOC, and should not kid ourselves that we do.

So, this year, I plan to pay much closer attention to what our users are doing and reward those that have gone out of their way to make something that people care about better. If I can pull it off, folks will just be pleasantly surprised upon receiving an email from me asking where to send their shirt. I hinted at this when I talked about getting users that aren't likely to ever hit the top 50 or 100 user lists some of the stuff that we distribute.

I fully agree with Shog, we don't need to codify more extrinsic motivation, it almost never has the desired effect. However, spreading the wealth that we do distribute a bit more evenly has been on my radar for some time. I'm definitely going to make this part of my job, it's something I feel we should do, it's just a question of when. Heck, I'm backed up in fulfilling some of the prizes from Winter Bash (I promise, they're all going out this week, I got sucked into some unexpected abuse related issues every time I sat down to do it).

The crux of this will probably be the community moderators on our sites. I'll ask them to keep their eyes open for those individuals that aren't ever going to be reputation giants, but remain passionately and openly committed to the same philosophies that our sites are built upon, and I'll make sure to brighten one of their days.

I'd much rather thank someone for being consistently awesome than hand someone a prize for being the first to solve a puzzle. That's, in my opinion, a much better use of our resources, and much more likely to be valued much higher than the actual cost by the recipient.

  • Tim it looks like you and Shog both work here. Are you guys competitive? If so why is your answer better than his? – Michael Falciglia Jan 15 '14 at 22:20
  • My answer isn't better than his, it's just different. I'd say were much more thorough than we are competitive ;) – Tim Post Jan 17 '14 at 5:52

Every time someone posts a programming question, it's a competition...

If you want less practical games, check out Programming Puzzles & Code Golf.

We've done contests with prizes in the past and may do more in the future, but it's not a regular thing. Personally, I'm not particularly enthusiastic about adding such strong extrinsic motivators - I think it's entirely too easy to lose sight of what's really important: getting good information in front of programmers solving real problems. Folks tend to already get entirely too wound up about reputation points - no need to compound that problem.

  • Well it seems like to me that if the question is difficult there is less willingness to help. One recent example was when a question was asked to the person who gave an answer about syntax, the response given was something like I'm not going to spend my night teaching you php, but the question was not that difficult. So you're right people compete, but it seems like they are unwilling to go the extra step on certain questions. – Michael Falciglia Jan 15 '14 at 16:01
  • @Michael it sounds like that was an inverse scenario: someone was less willing to help because the question was too basic. That's not uncommon - SE is for specific Q&A, not hand holding tutorials, so some users are averse to answering questions on fundamentals (even if those questions are on topic). And there are always bounties to entice users to provide extra assistance. – Esoteric Screen Name Jan 15 '14 at 16:22
  • There are a couple of possibilities there, @Michael: the first (as Esoteric notes) is that the asker was simply asking too much - if you know nothing about PHP and are asking for help solving a problem, you may simply be biting off more than you can chew; a useful answer in this context may be too much to write. The other possibility is that the comment was left by a jackass who would rather leave rude comments than lift a finger to help. In the case of the former, directing the author to the php.net tutorials could be useful; in the latter, flag it as "not constructive". – Shog9 Jan 15 '14 at 16:27

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