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I usually end up with 2 or 3 hats at the end of Winter Bash every year, but this year I already have 5 so far.

I don't usually pay much attention to the hat requirements, so I can't really compare prior year qualifications. I was just curious if someone decided to loosen up the requirements this year.

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    There was a glitch in the first 30 minutes of this year's event that resulted in mistaken awards. The team isn't revoking those hats, in accordance with established precedent. Dec 16, 2022 at 18:43
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog: I suppose that could be it, but I don't think so, based on when I was awarded each hat. Dec 16, 2022 at 18:47
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    It's more likely that the criteria of hats this year just so happens to align with your normal site usage more than previous years.
    – Kevin B
    Dec 16, 2022 at 18:50

6 Answers 6

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At least up until this point, Winter Bash has had different people leading it every year, at least on the Community Management side and the CMs are the ones who come up with the ideas for the hats and their triggers. The tradition for assigning a CM to the project was to make the newest member of the team run Winter Bash that year. Though there have been exceptions - for example, the year I was hired, I got out of being the CM leading WB by having a baby in October.

That said, most years there's been more than one CM involved, particularly in cases like this year where the "official" newest people also didn't know much about how Winter Bash works, so the team this year was the two new people and two people who know WB more than is healthy.

All of this to say that it's really natural for the "difficulty" of earning hats to vary from year to year because there's no consistent person helming the hat triggers being created. Side note, the person leading WB hat concepts last year was Slate, who's a puzzle master and she came up with some really devilishly hard triggers, some of which were never solved.

As we were working on coming up with triggers this year we had a few things we wanted to keep in mind:

  1. We should have hats that relate to new features that have been released to get people actually using those features.
  2. We want to encourage constructive use of the site - hat triggers should lead users to participate more fully and hopefully encourage new people to participate in moderation activities and explore all of the three main areas of the platform.
  3. We should have different difficulties of hats - some that just require a click or two and others that are either difficult to earn or difficult to solve the trigger for.
  4. Some hats should build upon others (e.g. Squared Away and Cubed Away)
  5. We should have some fun! While "we hate fun", Winter Bash is all about having a good time and celebrating a busy time of the year for people. We want WB to be a chance to work collaboratively and maybe get to know each other a bit better.

For completeness, we also had some goals when it came to the event and hat designs:

  1. Have new hat artwork even if the triggers were being reused.
  2. Recognize a variety of cultures.
  3. Hit the memes and cultural references really hard.
  4. Don't make it only about hats.

I guess for next year we should add, "Don't violate the Geneva Conventions" as a goal for the hat designs.

So... to answer your question, there's no specific goal to make things easier or harder than last year or the previous year... though last year was likely somewhat "harder", particularly on the end of things that are really hard. We do have a lot more click-only hats but we also like giving people a variety of "easy" things to get so they can actually have a few to choose from.

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I compared the requirements for "Regular hats" for 2021 vs. 2022. This year (2022), there are 10 hats on Stack Overflow which require a single action by a user and which do not rely on other users (such as upvotes on an answer); these are attainable by most users. In 2021, there were only 2 such hats. It seems easier this year than last to get Regular hats.

As to whether this is by design is a question for the milliner committee.

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    "milliner" - I learned a new word today!
    – starball
    Dec 16, 2022 at 19:40
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    From: winterbash2022.stackexchange.com/faq - "Why are you doing this to us? For sites that have hats on by default, your moderator teams or your communities indicated that hats would be a fun, lighthearted thing to do. Why did we offer it in the first place? Because we thought it was a nice way to finish out another really [insert preferred adjective here] year. You can always decide that you prefer not to see hats and turn them off.". --- If it was too difficult it wouldn't be as much fun, and there would be less participation; possibly cheating, like in the Hat Dash.
    – Rob
    Dec 21, 2022 at 2:28
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Are the hats easier to earn this year?

Yes. Definitely.

I earned few almost immediately and collected 16 in a day. One day later and I have 18.

I only earned 3 by specifically performing hat trigger. All other I gained naturally, just doing what I commonly do on the site.

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    "All other I gained naturally, just doing what I commonly do on the site." Maybe because you're already doing exactly what you should be doing on the site. Dec 30, 2022 at 7:10
  • @CodyGray Dunno, I always have the feeling I am doing everything wrong ;) Dec 31, 2022 at 11:53
  • Yeah, it doesn't feel as if I'm doing things any differently than I've always done, but as of now I'm up to 17 hats. I need to find out if they're giving out sacks to put my hats in :) Jan 1, 2023 at 22:48
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I have participated for a few years now and I noticed that a lot of hats can be won by triggers that are not participating in the site, so people with zero questions and answers, and as such low rep on the site (often just the 101 rep for a trusted user from an other SE site) can earn 16 hats (likely going up on New Years Day.)

On the other hand, unless you have access to the review queues you can not win many of the hats, while one requires not having done the tour yet (so being very new) and at least one requires a first question on a site.

So yes, some hats are very easy, some require some actions but no real participation, some require a lot of actions which are all related (and you need a certain level of rep, different between sites) and some are very hard. On the easy end there seem to be more than in other years.

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While it was frustrating at times, I greatly enjoyed tracking down the precise triggers for 6 of the secret hats.

  • I liked the mix of triggers that show up in activity and not showing up.
  • I liked many of them were different than past hats.
  • I liked that people were not sure what triggered it as they went about their standard behavior (it rewarded business as usual interaction with the site.)

I'm already looking forward to next year, and this year isn't over (for me) yet. I'm still trying to obtain 3 more hats before the 4th.

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I found regular hats more difficult this year, and secret hats slightly easier - but then I am a mod on most of the sites I frequent, so my typical activity biases things that way.

I don't ask or answer questions much - most of my time on SE is moderating - so this is definitely a me problem, but just wanted to point it out :-)

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    I am also struggling for the 4 answers on 4 sites, do not even want to think about 4 questions on a single site, even less on 4, as that is more than I usually ask in 4 years outside of the bash.
    – Willeke
    Dec 31, 2022 at 10:57

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