43

In a half-sentence to https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/341194

Unfortunately, we are no longer able to promise swag for any activities on our site. That covers spontaneous contests which aren't sponsored, as well as the swag for 100k and 250k milestones.

we learned by chance that the swag packages for 100k and 250k have silently been dropped.

How about replacing them with something else instead to still show a bit of gratitude for the users that provide the content for your platform?

How about letting users choose a donation to some charity? This would come without any shipping costs for you.

  • How would that calculation even work? – Script47 Dec 29 '19 at 0:40
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    Ah, I misremembered the figure from my previous comment a bit, instead of 31k this should have read 30k: from meta.stackexchange.com/a/333980/237989 states "100,000 rep points here have each created value of a financial worth to the company of around 30,000 USD." – samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz Dec 29 '19 at 0:56
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    I suspect recent management changes have put an end to the swag & freebies in a bid to get SO profitable. One less expense. Seems to be penny wise and pound foolish to me, but recent events would suggest I'm not exactly going to be aligned to decisions made at management level I guess. – berry120 Dec 29 '19 at 16:51
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    I couldn't care less but the answers and scores seem to say that others do care. In that light maybe the company is making a mistake here. A couple of mugs and t-shirts are but a minor expense compared to the extra motivation they seem to bring. – Trilarion Feb 10 at 22:17
  • FWIW, there are about 860 SO users with >100k rep, and about 180 SO users with >250k rep. – Steve Bennett Feb 10 at 22:59
28

Replace the swag instead of just dropping it

No. It is swag or nothing.

Swag is memorabilia. And as such it has value for person receiving it beyond its actual monetary value. It is token of gratitude for free work and some additional satisfaction for personal achievements. It is something you can show, a trophy of a sort.

Donating money to the charity, while being worthwhile goal, does not bring any of the above to the achiever. The only thing you can say is "I donated xx to the yy charity" And there comes a problem.

How much is xx?

When you donate to the charity, how much makes all the difference. Donating 5, 15, 20 dollars is not very much. It is not something you can "brag" about unless it is more substantial amount. Giving to the charity is something I can do on my own.

Even if you put 100 dollars, it is still very little in terms of perceived monetary value and it would be more expensive than sending actual swag.

Point is, 100K, 250K reputation is not something you can achieve in few months... it is not something you can easily achieve in few years. When you compare real work and time you put into reaching that kind of reputation then 100, 1000 or any similar dollar figure will look like a peanuts. It will feel demeaning.

I would rather get nothing.

  • 16
    "It is something you can show, a trophy of a sort." maybe this was true in the past but personally I stopped wearing my stackexchange t-shirt in public this year - this is no longer a company I want to make advertisement for – samcarter_is_at_topanswers.xyz Dec 29 '19 at 11:48
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    This answer is a bit selfish IMO. Swag represents a milestone but I don't think is really an important thing. A donation to a charity actually helps other people, and honestly, that should give you a warmer feeling inside. – connectyourcharger parted ways Dec 29 '19 at 11:51
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    I strongly disagree. My swag are the counters you can find on my user profile. I don't need some cheap t-shirt send around the globe. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 29 '19 at 11:58
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    I've got to agree with this. I've earned bug bounties before of thousands of dollars for charity and been proud of myself, but this is different. For one thing, it's meant to be a signifier of your membership in a community, not just a reward for work. But more importantly, by the sounds of it Stack Overflow isn't willing to spend more than $100 or so on rewarding users, and that sort of money isn't even worth the effort of filling in the forms or registering for a Benevity account or whatever. I'd rather give straight out of my own pocket just to avoid the work! – Mark Amery Dec 29 '19 at 12:23
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    @connectyourchargerpartedways It is not important. And I am fine with getting nothing. But giving some really small amount of money to the charity, something I can easily do myself is demeaning. If SE wants to send me a swag fine... if not just don't do anything... – Resistance Is Futile Dec 29 '19 at 12:57
  • Point is: I actually avoid to order stuff that comes around half the globe where possible. And I don't need to pile up dust catchers all over my space, too – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 29 '19 at 13:02
  • @MarkAmery Their argument makes perfect sense. When you have spend say 20 USD on a gift, but mailing that gift costs you 100 USD, then you should really think twice if you want to do it that way. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 29 '19 at 14:51
24

Funny thing is, I still have an old, tattered shirt I got almost a decade ago that I often joke is the reason I'm here. Its the first bit of swag I got from SE, and it has had a fair bit of sentimental value for me over time

The value of swag isn't monetary - it is in terms of recognition and goodwill. I got my shirt for being on the front page of users. I have a moderator cap, and I use the mug I got as part of my 100K rep package almost every day. In a sense - its a thank you, in some small way for the folks who put in time and effort into the site.

The number of 100 and 250k users is pretty low. I'm not sure what this means for mod swag but these are classes of folks who've put in a significant amount of time and effort. They build and curate the content the masses kinda are here for. It seems a relatively uncommon expense outside SO (and even then... they have a little over 800... of about 11 million users...).

In a practical sense - swag was one way the company got the goodwill that got it this far. Its one coin that seems to be spent rather freely at this point.

I do wonder if switching to registered mail would help (costwise), but these decisions are probably already made.

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    Its one coin that seems to be spent rather freely at this point. - I think SE has hit the overdraft line at this point, to be frank. But this answer resonates with my own feelings about the topic. – StoryTeller - Unslander Monica Dec 30 '19 at 9:16
  • Where I come from, practically no overseas mail makes it through, registered or no. – hat Dec 31 '19 at 7:35
13

I once earned some swag, and received a box: tee-shirt, stickers, book, bottle and a couple of more small items. That feels great! :) Really, you "won" something for being part of a community and giving a hand.

Then, I realized the parcel was shipped from NY (never crossed my mind). I checked the carrier website to realize it costed around $40. Shipping was more expensive than the items. As someone raised in what you would politically correctly call a "poor but honest family", a dollar earned is worth twice its amount of sweat. I then fell bad, because, to me, it was money thrown away :/

But I like my swag! It's part of my "trophies". The ones that stay on the shelves, waiting for dust to be cleaned. It all comes down to: how do I get some sort of trophy without wasting money?

I looked at the wall in my office, where, by the law, my diploma need to be framed. Hey, wait! Why wouldn't SO Inc. just print one of these, and send it to me with a hand-written thank-you letter signed by any person working for the company? Another folk, like me, part of the team/community. No need to be the CEO, Tim or Shog (even if they're welcome :)). One real human being (like a secret Santa). On one other side of the community. And sending those two pieces of paper wouldn't cost more than a few bucks.

The company needs my name and address in order to send me my box. And I could choose to have my name or my nickname printed on the paper.

Instead or in addition to this, a page on the blog/site, like a wall of Fame (for people who want to be in it)? Easy to set-up. Well, just my 2 cents...

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    It was not more expensive than the items. That $40 (plus a few dollars for the swag) paid for you. You are the main item. And you are more valuable than $40. – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Dec 29 '19 at 16:02
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    @lightness : I don't see it like that, even if I agree it's very fine to see it differently. I do that for free. Completely free. If I get nothing else but the inner satisfaction of having helped another stranger like me on the internet, I'm really ok with that. I put no value other than intellectual in what I do here :) but I still understand and respect other pov's. But I like my swag!!! :)) – OldPadawan Dec 29 '19 at 16:06
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    I wasn't trying to suggest you entered into a "paid-for" arrangement. Just that this argument about "the shipping being worth more than the swag" that everyone's focusing on isn't quite right. Showing a bit of appreciation is worth more than the sum of the cost of the actual mug and T-shirt – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Dec 29 '19 at 16:07
  • Oh no problem, you were crystal clear, and it's a 50/50 deal IMO. I think we're both right on this one. – OldPadawan Dec 29 '19 at 16:09
  • I think that's true :) – Lightness Races BY-SA 3.0 Dec 29 '19 at 16:12
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    I'd say every single bit of swag I have is in use, other than my SO mug (I have a SU one) and my other sippy cup (the first one broke and is a planter now) – Journeyman Geek Dec 30 '19 at 9:24
10

This an excellent idea.

Personal point of view: For me, the great moment was to make 100K on stack overflow. I didn't even know that they did sent you some cheap item around half the globe in earlier days, so I really didn't care (much).

But I am pretty sure: if I had received a mail asking "here are 50 or 100 sites we are going to donate x $ for you, tell us which one", that would have made a huge impression for me!

There might be other options, too. Very often, one only needs to step back from some narrow "that is what we did in the past" attitude, to find new ways to express gratitude or whatever other sentiment.

Other ideas:

  • Vouchers of some sort (I know, that one is boring, but amazon is a global thing, isn't it)
  • Somehow even more restricted, but somehow not: a voucher for a in person tour of the SE Inc. offices. Yep, when you get to 100K and you get to NY City, you get your own private tour of the company you allow to make money with your content.

Probably more reasonable: SE Inc. could start by replacing the those pre-texted congratulation mails with really personalized content. Why not have a staffer spend a few minutes to write up something that really reflects the specific contributions of the person who will receive that mail? Then and have the CEO sign it, and turn that into a really high quality PDF. Something that I would want to print out and put on my office wall?!

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    I didn't mention that name on purpose. Hanging out with Tim Post sounds nice though. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 29 '19 at 13:01
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    Vouchers? Thanks, but no thanks. I don't wan't anything. The moment you put monetary value to my contribution it is demeaning to the contribution itself because they can never give meaningful monetary value. Swag is little something (even if it is dust catcher) that carries more meaning even if it is worth only few bucks. I am not saying that getting a swag is important in any way. – Resistance Is Futile Dec 29 '19 at 13:30
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    @ResistanceIsFutile I dunno. "Appreciation", even just little things (as you say yourself) can have meaning. I really understand the cost point about shipping stuff from the US to God-knows-where. So looking out for other alternatives doesn't sound too bad to me. – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 29 '19 at 14:34
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    I can understand the point "it costs us too much", I am not sure what kind of good alternative there could be... other that sending me a postcard so I can at least burn something ;) – Resistance Is Futile Dec 29 '19 at 15:01
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    From what I heard, SE is heavily remote, and hardly anyone actually works at HQ these days – Journeyman Geek Dec 30 '19 at 8:58
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    @JourneymanGeek Too bad. I was thinking to create some "Reinstate Monica" stickers and post them around the SE Inc. building ... in case my business trip to the US gets approved in a few weeks. And now you tell me ... nobody there to take notice. Bummer. And yes, I didnt expect that idea about "taking a tour" to be very realistic ... – GhostCat salutes Monica C. Dec 30 '19 at 9:02
7

I received some swag once from one of the network sites I'm on so I'm biased in really liking the idea of swag. I also know that shipping is expensive and people tend not to use the actual swag that much. However, there is a fairly cheap solution out there: postcards! Think along the lines of the QSL cards that shortwave radio operators value and will get from around the world. From the standpoint of Stack Overflow these have a lot of advantages:

  • Fairly cheap to produce, even fancier postcard stickers are cheap in bulk
  • Fairly cheap to mail ($0.35/each before discounts)
  • Quick to fill out as well and can be automated

This way the community still gets the advantage of swag in recognition of milestones, and if displayed on the back of laptops (i.e., postcard stickers) or in the office, Stack Overflow gets a bit of goodwill advertising as well. Seems like a bit of a win-win to me that could come out of the marketing budget.

  • Exactly. There are other companies sending postcards to many users. Other kinds of swag may also be very cheap to ship and hassle-free in terms of customs etc.: for instance stickers or even books have few if any tariff and non-tariff barriers in many countries. – Nemo Jan 18 at 13:34
7

I think they need to do something because the optics here are, once again, awful.

Before: "We really value our heavy-lifting contributors, so we'll spend stupid amounts of money to make sure you know how much we value you."

Now: "We will quietly drop our swag program (until someone asks about it), and you might get an email if you're lucky."

Me personally, I don't really like "swag". My laptop doesn't have stickers on it. And I can't really see myself "proudly" wearing a StackOverflow tshirt in public. And yet, still, the idea that when I hit 100k, there won't be anything because the company is trying to save a few bucks and hasn't thought of anything better...it wrankles.

There are tons of things SO could do that are more practical than the old swag system.

Some that come to mind:

  • Have a physical honour board in the NY office and etch peoples' names on it.
  • Tweet out every time someone crosses those high level thresholds. Preferably with a human-written 1-sentence summary.
  • Donate to some organisation on the user's behalf (suggested above)

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