How are users modifying their behavior because of Winterbash 2014? What have you seen, positive and negative?

I've seen some comments on various Winterbash posts about the behaviors the hats encourage, and I thought it would be useful to collect those observations in one place.

  • 2
    How did the "30 minutes or less" hat impact things? I recall there was one person here who asked if it was OK to cooperate to get this one. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:28
  • @S.L.Barth good question. I haven't observed anything tied to that hat other than a passing comment about cooperation (probably the same one you're referring to). Have people actually done that? (I realize, by the way, that if I'd chosen a better time of day to ask this I might have been able to shoot for that with this question, but that wasn't my intent.) Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:30
  • 7
    Having Winterbash started made me hurry to collect hats to stay on the top 5 of the leaderboards, which drove my productiveness to its minimum because I stopped coding whatever I wanted to finish. So... There's that. :P
    – Unihedron
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:32
  • 1
    IIRC that "30 minutes or less" was a question, not a comment. Can't find it back though, so I don't know if they pulled through. FWIW the answer was that it was OK as long as it provided quality content. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:34
  • Let me see.... gone from "Hope there is an unicorn hat" to "ok, hope at least someone come to the Cube" to "still running? after they discover all the secret hats on the second day, everyone seemed to forgot". So sad. ;_;
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:40
  • 2

10 Answers 10

  • Fascinating

  • Fascinating, Ma'am

  • I Voted Today

  • Saint Lucia

  • Imitation Crab

  • Red Shirt

Several hats encourage voting and, unsurprisingly, I'm seeing an increase in voting. Injecting reputation into a site, especially smaller ones or younger betas, seems helpful -- but we do have to be careful that the votes are deserved and not just robo-votes chasing a hat. On the sites where I'm active I haven't seen "WTF?" voting so far.

A couple hats encourage downvoting, which users are often reluctant to do for reasons ranging from "oh no, my 1-rep penalty!" to "it's not nice".

  • 3
    And the ones encouraging downvoting fail miserably at avoiding the "oh no, my 1-rep penalty" since they encourage downvoting questions :P
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:38
  • Did I hear downvoting? ;) Relevant: The starboard of TCL
    – Unihedron
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:45
  • 3
    I feel like the Fascinating ones just encouraged pile-on votes on random highly-voted answers, because that's the quickest way you can get those hats.
    – Troyen
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 1:05
  • Gelt

  • Stocking Hung by the Fire

  • Major Award

We have several hats related to bounties, and on sites where I'm active I'm seeing an increase in bounties being offered (and chased) as a result. I count this as positive; bounties are a good way to bring attention to older posts, help "uplift" deserving users whose posts didn't get the attention they deserve, and invite new answers.

  • I offered two bounties to get hats, and posted one answer to a question that I likely wouldn't have answered just to get the Major Award. Hats!
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 18:23
  • Nice! ....I deliberately posted one question on the app, to get two hats; I didn't realize that if I did that today, I could have gotten three hats :P ....I might post another question on the app today, just for the "I got a tablet" hat :)
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 19:55
  • I see how to get two hats (the app-specific one and the tablet one) with one post, but how are you getting three with one post? (You can of course use both apps, but that's two posts.) Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:00
  • On the Road ;-)
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:18
  • @Shokhet right, that's the app-specific one. So that and "Got a Tablet" -- what's the third? Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:24
  • I thought "app-specific" meant either Bugdroid or Not a Cherry. If I would ask a question on the Android app today (which I hadn't used yet this hat-season), I would get On the Road, Bugdroid, and Got a Tablet, all from one post.
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:27
  • Oh, duh -- yes, you're right -- asking from the app is different from using the app and I was conflating the hats. Never mind... Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:27

Time Lord

This hat has caused some mass edits of old posts. See discussion here about excessive amounts of this on one site.

Editing old posts to improve them is good, and bumping old posts from time to time is helpful, but when too many are edited at once they push newer posts off the front page. On the trilogy sites no one would notice, probably, but on smaller sites we're used to things staying on the front page for a day or two, and people therefore don't tend to use the "new" tab instead of the default "activity" tab.

  • 5
    This is certainly true; being a massive Doctor Who fan, I made it my business to find five old Stack Overflow questions (starting with my own three) that could use a little brush up. I tried to be productive and avoided questions I thought didn't need anything, which took longer. I've wanted a Tardis ever since I was a boy, and would like to thank Stack Exchange for giving me one.
    – AndrewC
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:03
  • 3
    Be sure to take a screen shot before Stack Exchange puts your tardis into storage. :-) Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 20:04
  • On SO such behavior is very visible for those of us who are regulars in less visited tags. I usually visit these tags with a sort by activity. The new questions are broken apart by blocks of edits on old questions.
    – Louis
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 14:06

The Bill Lumbergh hat encouraged me to post lots of answers in a short amount of time this last Saturday here on Meta. I provided the best answers I could for the questions I found that were still unanswered (even though they didn't have to have 0 answers for that hat), and that I could answer reasonably well imo. I think it was a positive for the site, and especially for me since I really wanted the Office Space hat. 3 of those answers I left out of about 6/7 are already accepted by the questioners. So yea, if it weren't for that hat I probably wouldn't of answered any of those questions to be honest.

The Major Award hat got me to answer 1 or 2 questions that had a bounty on them here on Meta that I probably wouldn't have bothered answering during the off-season (non-hat season). I got some upvotes for my answer and also received the bounty, which was awesome to get a cool leg lamp. I felt so proud, just like the dad in "A Christmas Story" or whatever movie that is. I showed off my leg lamp to make sure people were jealous of my clean shaven lamp. I think this was also a positive for the site and for me.

I also earned the Imitation Crab and Red Shirt hats, which was no big deal since I cast way more downvotes on SO then upvotes. Some sites I don't use downvotes that much so helped me to use my voting power more. I think it's good for the sites b.c there is a lot of things that should be downvoted more that don't, so it's good to encourage people to downvote when they see downvote worthy posts.

The Sumo Judge hat seemed to get some people upset. Some rooms seems to have strict star guidelines and didn't like all the random stars. Stars are cool though, so I don't think it hurt the site at all, but just upset some regulars and chat room owners.

The Hairboat hat definitely caused some very unusual behavior by lots of people. But considering it's all just on one persons posts/comment replies, shouldn't be too hard to clean up the nonsense. Abby probably has enough evidence to show the judge to file restraining orders on at least a couple dozen users now.



This hat encourages people to delete no-longer-relevant comments, which is good. However, it also encouraged them to remove their side of a conversation and then flag the other side for moderator handling. One comment at a time. All over the place. And only moderators can handle those flags.

As a moderator I'm not entirely amused, even though I got the hat.

  • 2
    After reading this answer, I started looking for standalone comments that I'd posted that were obsolete -- most of the comments I deleted for my hat were of that variety, I think. I also found a few "Great answer! +1" comments that didn't add anything of value, and were deleted.
    – MTL
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:09

Seems appropriate for me to throw in an answer here, and some of the lessons I learned. I managed to 'earn' at least one of each of the hats, and hat-season did modify my behaviour....

  • Fascinating Ma'am

    ... as an active member on a small site, I found that I 'earned' all the easy hats just by doing what I normally do. But, then I found out that I could not seem to get the secret Fascinating Ma'am hat. At the time, word-on-the-street suggested I had to vote on a +25 question with an accepted answer. Well, on my regular site I had pretty much already upvoted all of those questions.... and, upvoting the ones that I had not already +1'd did not earn me the hat either. I knew something was amiss.

    I hunted that hat down (Fascinating Ma'am) and discovered it was +25 and 10K views that mattered.... Once I knew that the accepted answer was not important, I found a good, and qualifying question on Code Review and 'earned' the hat on that. In the process of 'earning' the hat, I upvoted about 30 different questions on 15 different stack sites, carefully 'testing' (and adjusting) what criteria were required for the hat. I earned it on two other sites I am a regular on as part of my regular activity.

    I was careful to only upvote questions I thought were well presented, and there were a number of questions I skipped, but, in fairness I would never have seen these questions otherwise:

    enter image description here

  • Treasure Hunter I did not really expect to earn this hat, but I got lucky with a 'populist' answer. I did not earn this hat on my "home-site".

  • Eureka - Once I figured out the 10K views portion of Fascinating Ma'am, I also earned the Eureka hat.

Then, the hunt.... suddenly I realized with the Treasure Hunter, and Eureka, I had a shot at the site-wide leaderboard. The remaining hats were a case of just 'working' for them.... the hunt was on.

  • App hats: not-a-cherry, tablet, etc.

    I regularly use android on a tablet, and my phone, but had never posted from them. I 'monitor' things from them, and occasionally chat. I have to say, though, that posting from them is a sorry disappointment. Copy/paste of code, formatting, and typing are a real pain in the derriere. I would not do that by choice. Asking/answering Code Review questions is not a real proposition for me. Sites where the answers/questions are shorter would be a more realistic option.

    I will not post again from the android app unless I really have to. Sorry, but mobile apps suck still.

    To get 'not a cherry' I installed the app on my daughter's ipad, and did the bare minimum, then uninstalled.

  • Mistletoe - I set an alarm. Really.

    At that point, it was the only hat that was time-critical, and to miss it would be a shame. For those people worried about stars in chat, see: Dec 31 and Jan 01. Code Review chat regulars essentially scheduled a star-fest, and everyone was welcome.

  • "Pizza" hat

    This one I gamed, slightly. I devised a good, on-topic question. On Code Review you post code that gets reviewed, so I asked a question that encompasses a number of facets that different people I knew to be active on the site would find interesting. I asked it at essentially the most active time as well. I mentioned my attempt in the site chat room too. A simple problem, with a presentation layer, in Javascript, HTML, and CSS. Give it a catchy title, and you get: Who's in the fellowship? When are Frodo, and the rest of the gang, together?

  • Naruto

    This is a hard hat for a person with a high-profile to 'earn'.... I could not bring myself to give marginal answers, an accepted post on Code Review with a not-upvoted answer would be impossible for me to earn without gaming it somehow. I did try, but failed.... I figured the nature (volume, not-so-vote-happy) of Stack Overflow made it a better venue for me, so I went on an answer blitz. I answered 6 questions. I set up a query to only find questions from users with < 15 rep (who can accept, but not upvote). I worked off page 3 or 4 of the results, questions that were a little 'stale'. All the answers were what I consider to be correct answers to decent questions. I answered the questions at a time when SO was quiet, and hoped that no-one would find and upvote my answers..... I got lucky from that first batch, otherwise I would have had to stay up late on other days too.

    Of all the hats, I think this was the worst... by design, the hat requires behaviour that is against the principles of stack exchange. You should be providing good answers that deserve upvotes, not targeting new users and giving them just enough to get an accept, but not an upvote.

  • Kofia - an interesting one. First post on a site. Thanks "Android Experts". It was a real question and it has helped. The timing was 'held back' for a day or two so I could ask it in the hat time-frame.

In all, I 'played the hat game', and it worked out for me. I had fun, and did things I normally would not do. I helped people with answers they found useful. I went places I don't normally go.

  • Funny thing about the Naruto hat: I decided to actively pursue it one day by FGITW-ing questions from low rep users. After a few attempts I felt dirty and gave up but later ended up earning it anyway for the answer that I was hoping would earn me Red Baron (and never did). There is no moral to this story. The Naruto hat was indeed the worst.
    – Air
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:01
  • I never did get Naruto; my home site is too small and vote-happy. Oh well.
    – MTL
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 2:55
  • Imitation Crab
  • Red Shirt

Like Monica mentioned in her answer here, these hats encourage downvoting, which is something that is not done as often on SE sites as upvoting is.

I'd like to add that when I decided to chase hats, I thought that Red Shirt would be difficult to get on purpose -- how would I know if a post I voted on would be deleted or closed? Then I realized that I have close votes and flags, so I went to one sites list of questions and answers, found the lowest-score Qs and As, and DVed and flagged/VTCed, if I decided that that post was deserving of that action.

I never realized how much material could accumulate at the bottom of a site's Stack, and I'm considering going back to the bottom of the list in the future, to close/flag for deletion those posts that don't deserve to live on my sites.

( However, I draw the line at gaming the Fear and Loathing hat, because no good thing comes of deleting and undeleting an old answer of mine. I'll get that hat if and only if I need to delete an answer for a good reason...though I have seen some people confess to gaming that one {I don't currently have a good link for this. If you have one for me, I wouldn't object to having it edited in}. )

  • 1
    I never realized how much material could accumulate at the bottom of a site's Stack its something that I've occasionally found and went "eww" at looking. Before I went on a massive down vote campaign on them on SO, I was finding old closed stuff with one up vote that... well, more work needs to be done there.
    – user213963
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 1:47
  • Do you seriously mean to tell me that you don't have a single poor-ish answer languishing at -3 from a year ago? I had a couple that I never bothered deleting, I just picked one. Being a packrat helps :)
    – DVK
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:18
  • 1
    @DVK I actually don't. I had one single -3 answer, ever, that was actually a pretty high-quality answer IMO, that simply didn't answer the question because the OP expected me to be able to mind-read :P ...deleted that day. I don't write -3 answers ;-) (then again, I've been on the network for only 8 months....maybe I would if I've been here longer. I'm also a packrat :)
    – MTL
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 16:44
  • Red Shirt

On RPG.SE this shirt had a very perceptible result: we had a lot more downvotes for questions that were getting closed, when normally we have one or none.

RPG.SE's community members are usually pretty generous with their upvotes, and careful and precise like a surgeon with their downvotes. They rarely feel the need to downvote a question that's going to get closed, instead leaving it at 0 or -1, or lower if it actually didn't do research effort, is unclear (e.g. totally unintelligible), or isn't useful. Our downvoting and close-voting are very much disconnected.

In the first half of Winter Bash, things were different in the way you might expect: all the questions destined for closure were getting downvoted to -3, or past -4 and taken right off the front page. This was regardless of whether the question was well-researched, useful, and clear — it seems some users were just slipping in a vote to get closer to their Red Shirt hat. (Hat-shirt? Shirt-hat?)

Not sure if this is a good thing or not, but that happened. I'd wager it's not a good thing, since we shouldn't encourage people to treat downvoting and close voting as things that need to happen together.

(That said: I suspect this specific hat was a social experiment on behalf of the SE staff, and I'm glad it happened, and doing it as part of Winter Bash with a hat was probably a very good way to execute it. If it wasn't deliberate, it was a pretty good accidental experiment to conduct!)

  • 1
    Wouldn't be a 'good thing' for questions that aren't good questions to be taken off the front page so that other, more useful questions are visible on there? If you see the front page has half a dozen closed (but maybe interesting discussiony) questions at +0 it is different to a user than having only one or two closed +0 questions visible and a bunch more quality questions there (that would have not been seen)?
    – user213963
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 1:50
  • 3
    @MichaelT No, not on RPG.SE. We're very active and fast with our closure. Someone can ask a very good question that is just missing a vital detail (they didn't mention which game system they're using). We'll close it as Unclear fast, wait for them to specify it, then reopen it. Those questions being downvoted off the front page is bad, because it gets taken away from peoples' notice. Bear in mind RPG.SE has a very different question landscape compared to other sites like Programmers and SO. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 1:54
  • That said, that's just an example of why it's good to not downvote closed questions sometimes (at least on our site). I don't think we suffered damage in the form of good reopenable questions disappearing, so maybe this hat had an overall good influence! Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 2:26
  • If the question is fixed, undownvotes can be recast just as easily as the question being reopened. It might be useful to poke a community manager to dig into the number of questions along with median score of deleted questions in that time frame for winter bash vs some other time frame. Then ask if the closed and deleted questions in that time frame were ones that could get fixed.
    – user213963
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 2:31
  • 3
    If the question is fixed, people who notice that can remove their downvotes. If the question is off the front page, that set of people is much smaller. Questions that can't be fixed should be pushed off the front page, but I, too, try not to cast the vote that'll bring it to -4 if it's new, active, and IMO fixable. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 2:38
  • 1
    Yes, the entire set of votes can be undone or negated, but it slows down the process of getting things back on track and requires extra action which might not happen or in sufficient volume. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 2:40
  • On the Road
  • Bugdroid
  • Not a Cherry
  • I got a Tablet

I don't have stats on how the apps are used, but I have seen some discussion (1, 2, 3) about people using the apps more than they would regularly.

I can say for myself, that I rarely use the app (I prefer typing on a physical keyboard, and like using a lot of links in my questions, which is harder without a keyboard, or access to my favorite userscript), but I deliberately used the app here to get two hats....and now I find myself considering using it more, just to read posts and vote on them, but not necessarily to post (for the reasons mentioned above).

....and I used it again today, to get the "Tablet" hat. If I would have known about that hat in advance, I might have pushed off my first tablet question until today, so that I could score three hats from one post. Oh well ;-)

  • It at least promted me to get acquainted with all those emulators, since I don't own a friggin smart phone/pad/whatever. Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 2:18
  • I don't use the app a lot either (especially for posting), but I tried posting a few times because of the hats. I ran into some confusing behavior while doing so. Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 19:25
  • Mistletoe

  • Tam o' Shanter

The Mistletoe hat encouraged several people to post comments in chat between 11:55 and 12:05 UTC as well as give a star to just about every comment during that time interval. As a bonus, people who made their star earning comment between 11:55 and 12:00 got the Tam o' Shanter hat as well.

This was kinda silly, but I don't think it had any long term negative effects.

  • 1
    Actually, i think it all got people the Tam hat, because of time-based leniencies.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 8:44
  • That's probably true. To confirm, someone should write a script to see if any users got Mistletoe but not Tam o' Shanter.
    – JimmyK4542
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 8:57
  • 1
    Tam o'Shanter ended up being a broader Mistletoe -- if you posted something any time in about a 36-hour range that got a star you got Tam, and if you did it in a narrower 10-minute window you (also) got Mistletoe. I definitely saw people get both for the same message, but some already had Tam. I'm not sure that one had being a total subset of another like that is a win, but eh -- no harm either. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 18:33
  • The point of these hats were probably to get some new users to the chatrooms, which worked based on my own observation in two chatrooms.
    – rene
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 8:35

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