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A handful of sites have conducted a variation of the "weekly topic challenge" idea. I, myself, have become quite fond of them since they do seem to be effective at increasing asking rate and can be a lot of fun. I've personally initiated challenges on several sites (most recently on History and Philosophy) and have worked out a simple process.

Step 1: Ask for topic ideas.

On the per-site meta, write up a question asking for ideas. Typically, people will suggest topics that they feel are underrepresented on their site. But often unloved topics don't get as much of a response as subjects the community already asks about. Instead, it can often help to find a tag that is particularly on people's minds at the moment. So, for instance, just before Memorial Day (in the US) is a good time to suggest BBQ questions on Cooking. You could suggest a taffy week instead, but be prepared to be underwhelmed.

Feel free to copy the text from one of my challenges, but it's best to write in your own voice and target the audience of the site you are on. Tag your question , , and ask a moderator to make it . Ask for one suggestion per answer. After a week or so, you should have a small stable of topics neatly organized by community vote. At that point you are ready for:

Step 2: Post a challenge.

Pick a day of the week you'll have some time to write up challenges and tally results. Then pick one of the proposed topics and post a question on meta challenging users to ask questions on that specific subject. If you already have an appropriate tag, remind folks to use it. If no single tag fits, suggest a tag set (like and ). Don't worry too much if the tags won't be useful in the future; you can always retag at the end of the challenge.

I like to give people a full week from Friday to Friday. That way people have the weekend to ponder the challenge and can start asking when they get time on Monday. It's often useful to say how many questions the site currently has on the topic and link back to the answer from step 1 that prompted the challenge. At the end of the week, proceed to:

Step 3: Profit!!!! Tally the results.

After the challenge is over, it's nice to write up a simple answer that enumerates the questions generated. There's a danger here, however. If you only get one or two questions (or zero!), you might be tempted to call the challenge a failure. But think of it more like playing poker: you have to lose a few hands in order to win others. Who can say why, but some weeks and some topics strike gold producing substantially more activity than others. If you give up after a week or two, you won't be able to hit the lucky topic that brings in many questions.

Step 4: Repeat until you run out of topics.

I like to start challenges back to back. That way people contemplate the upcoming challenge while the previous one is still on their minds. All good things must come to an end and a topic challenge is no exception. A good time to stop is when you run out of topics from step 1. If you start to lose steam before that, don't worry about it. But you might leave a note asking someone else to volunteer to take over.

If you do run a challenge, please drop me a line (see my profile) or reply to this meta question. I'd like to keep tabs on all of our weekly topic challenges. Thank you in advance.

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Code Review has had a number of challenges. The frequency was initially intended to be somewhat 'weekly', but the regularity has diminished to what has become more of a once-a-month-ish.

There was an element of 'burn out' at this point. After a shortish-break, following on a more irregular time-frame:

Then in April 2015 the monthly community challenges resurfaced:

After this surge the field around community challenges became quiet until very recently. Community challenges have shown up again in June 2016:

The voting for August 2016 is currently ongoing

There are about 50 main-site questions (82 answers) related to the above challenges

Additionally, there are two other challenges that are meta-related, not site-related:

Finally, we have an ongoing Rags-to-riches tag which is not specific to a timeframe (approaching 100 main-site questions).

14

Gardening & Landscaping beta has started a weekly topic challenge, and so far, it has been successful (Gardening & Landscaping: Weekly topic challenge).

So far, we have 9 weekly challenges:

Again, it seems to have been well received so far. This is going to be a great help in keeping some activity going through the 'inevitable activity drop' (winter is a slow time for most gardening/landscaping activities).

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First of all, thank you very much for this inspiring meta discussion. Movies & TV once had a Topic of the Week a looong time ago until it wore off after some months. But inspired by your excellent meta question, there was then a rather inofficial Biweekly Topic Challenge for Interstellar proposed by a single user as a kind of proof of concept and it did very well with 31 asked questions (though, it's unclear if that was due to the challenge or just a natural consequence of a new release).

After that we started an official Topic Challenge asking for ideas whithout much imposition on the particular start day or the length of the challenge. We already did some of the proposed topics, more or less tied to current releases:

They don't go too well, though. While questions per day is ~10, meta activity and site commitment aren't particularly high. That being said we'll not give up on topic challenges.

Based on the idea that not only asking new questions is a great way to engage with the site but also answering existing ones, we decided to do a bit of a different challenge as the next one, that is to provide answers to old unanswered questions:

The advantage of rewarding answers instead of questions gives the possibility to award actual bounties for the winners to provide some additional incentive. And while the answers to those questions naturally didn't get so many votes, since they're answers to old questions aferall, the challenge was still quite a success, seeing that we got answers to ~13% of the ~200 previously unanswered questions, some of them even accepted. It went so well that we decided to make it a regular habit to reward the best answer to an old unanswered question each month:

After that, we continued with classic challenges often tied to new releases, with a few breaks in between:

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Programming Puzzles & Code Golf beta has started a topic challenge. (http://meta.codegolf.stackexchange.com/q/3578/8478)

We also started with our weekly challenges, although we decided to change the format a little. Since writing good questions/challenges on PPCG is quite hard, we're going for one high-quality challenge per topic, which is written as a collaborative effort by all users who are interested.

Also, after the missing the weekly deadline twice we decided to run them only every fortnight.

So far, we've had four challenges come out of this:

The third one in particular was a great collaborative effort which, probably, no single user could have accomplished on their own.

However, after the first three challenges, four of the next five challenges have been abandoned. We suppose that there is essentially the same core of users behind these challenges and doing them back to back wears people out. So we've decided to pause the challenges for a while and gather new theme proposals in the meantime. As I said... writing good challenges is hard. ;)

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Earth Science beta has started a topic challenge (Earth Science: Biweekly Topic Challenge).

It is a slower site, with only 2.3 questions per day being posted atm, so we decided to start it out as a biweekly challenge, to get more attention for each challenge posted.

We now have 5 challenges:

9

Community Building SE has started a topic challenge (Topic Challenge suggestion thread)

Community Building is a growing site and approaching 1.0 question a day. We're starting this out as a bi-weekly challenge.

Our Challenges:

8

Pets beta has started a topic challenge (Pets: Biweekly Topic Challenge)

Pets is an active beta, and so far the challenge has been going well, although there has been a slowdown of topic/questions recently.

We now have had 9 of these challenges:


The first challenge was extremely well received, with 21 questions and 32 answers being posted during the period that the challenge ran. The ones after have been a little slower (but still steady) with about 3-4 questions per challenge. Hopefully this lasts. :)

8

Puzzling has fortnightly topic challenges as well.

Some (like "halloween" and "science") are based around a theme for puzzles, while others (like "mechanical puzzles" and "steganography") are about a specific type of puzzle.

We even had "unconventional tag fusion", where the goal was to use two tags that would not normally be used together - like [geometry] and [cipher], or [sudoku] and [poetry].

As of Feb 14, 2017, we've had 26 fortnightly challenges, and every one has attracted all sorts of interesting and well-crafted puzzles.

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I'll echo the thanks for the idea and the short guide how to go about topic challenges.

Starting tomorrow, January 24th , the newest public beta of the Stack Exchange Network, the Internet of Things beta joins the fray of sites adapting this idea. Our topic challenges will run two weeks each and we'll start with a highly relatable topic.

Internet of Things Topic Challenge #1 - Keeping my gadget data private
Questions about the privacy and data security on IoT gadgets, e.g. wearables and health gadgets.

Internet of Things Topic Challenge #2 - New types of sensor nodes
Questions about new and emerging endpoint technology.

Internet of Things Topic Challenge #3 - Build your own hardware to run Alexa Voice Service
Use the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to add intelligent voice control to any connected product that has a microphone and speaker.


Since we are a pretty new beta site I want to extend a special invitation to anyone reading about our challenge to check out the site. Of course all questions about the Internet of Things are very welcome during the challenge—even if they don't pertain to the challenge topic. So if Alexa is ordering you puppet houses, you're wondering about encrypting sensor traffic, Google Home invites strangers into your home or you simply want your toaster back, we've got you covered.

8

Literature beta has its own topic challenges as well!

It was proposed by @Emrakul, as a solution to [then-]prominent problem of diversity: at the time, most of the questions on the front page were about the works of just 5 authors.

Since then, we've decided to have monthly topic challenges suggested and voted on by the community; a challenge can either be a book, an author, or a topic.

  • The first challenge ran during April 2017, and was about Hard to Be a God, a 1962 novel by Soviet writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

  • The second challenge ran during May 2017, and the topic was Icelandic Sagas.

  • The third challenge was running during June 2017, and was about The SEA is Ours, a collection of steampunk short stories.

  • The fourth challenge was running during July 2017, and was about I Am a Cat, the humorous account of life in Japan during Meiji restoration told by a nameless cat.

  • The fifth challenge is running during August 2017, and is about Sophie's World, a philosophical novel by Jostein Gaarder.

The first challenge was very productive: we've received 12 great questions about the book, as well as some answers to previously-asked questions.

Everyone is invited to participate!

8

Mythology beta started a Myth of the Month reading group, designed to get people reading new myths and different types of myths - and then asking questions about them. Each one is designed to last for, well, one month, to give people time to read. Some suggested ones are short, while others are longer. Even the short ones, though, are often smaller parts of larger epics; for example, the Gylfaginning is part of the Prose Edda.

The first one was held in June-July, 2015. We hoped, we would eventually get into a proper monthly schedule (e.g. a myth for August, a myth for September, etc.).

That sorta petered out. We later started a more traditional topic challenge that also had a couple incarnations:

This, too, ended, although I would not be opposed to restarting it.

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Note: The Startups site has been closed.


Startups beta has started a topic challenge (https://startups.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/153/what-would-make-a-good-weekly-topic-challenge?cb=1)

Startups is a pretty small site right now, but we're growing and I've been pretty happy with the direction we're headed.

We took a few-week break here, to focus on developing other aspects of the site.

We haven't had a ton of questions for our weekly topic challenges so far, but we've been getting some good answers, and that's really the goal anyway.

  • "Startups is a pretty small site right now" - hmm, you might say it's still a startup among SE sites. (ba-dum-tish) – Rand al'Thor Aug 10 '17 at 21:52
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    Given that Startups itself is gone, I think this answer should be deleted. – Laurel Jan 10 at 17:44
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    Let's keep it. I found the first line helpful -- a topic challenge about what would make a good weekly topic challenge! – aparente001 May 31 at 4:58
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Writing has a (currently weekly) topic challenge focusing on tags that move us toward Generalist. In each challenge, the person running it picks two different tags from the set of tags with 100-200 questions. Preferably the tags are not strongly related to each other, and extra bragging points are awarded for questions that legitimately use both of them.

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