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Now that the Tai Chi topic contest is over, this is a good time to reflect and discuss what went well and what can be improved should we try to organize another contest like this. Here are some items that can be discussed:

  • Contest rules
  • Contest prize
    • Was the prize offered appropriate in terms of audience, value, etc.?
  • Contest length
    • Too short, too long?
  • Contest topic
    • Was there enough interest in tai chi? Do many people here practice it?
  • Participation
    • Questions, answers, interest, etc.

Feel free to bring up other points related to the recent contest.

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Contest rules

  • I personally feel a +3 was fine. It required that people put significant effort into it. +2 might have also been fine, but I'd be hesitant to lower to "positive score."
  • It might have worked better to extend the prize to include answers in addition to questions, or provided one prize for answers and another for questions. This would have encouraged people to answer, rather than simply ask, and also helps emphasize the idea of optimizing for pearls
  • I also feel it is a lower bar to recruit someone for an answer as opposed to for a question. For example, see this answer on How does Bartitsu's "foot hook with a cane" technique work?

Contest length

10 days feels like a very awkward timeframe. I haven't seen stats on it, but it feels like we have most of our participation between about Monday and Thursday, with minimal participation on Saturdays and Sundays.

The timeframe ran Wednesday to a following Saturday, which gave us five slow days (2 Fridays, 2 Saturdays, and 1 Sunday). If we had run it Monday to the following Saturday it would have taken advantage of our hottest days, and I don't feel that a couple of extra days would have hurt in any case.

Contest topic

Relating to my answer under "Contest rules": It's probably a lower bar to get a Tai Chi practitioner here to answer than it is to get them here to ask, and while we have some Tai Chi practitioners I don't think we have a significant base of them.

Given how narrow the scope is relative to the overall site, I would also be inclined to say that it would have worked better to say any question/answer with a vote of 3 or more, rather than just those on Tai Chi. Essentially make the contest "in honor of" rather than "specifically about."

Participation

While we didn't get huge participation in the contest, we did see an increase in membership during the initial phase of the contest when we first started getting it publicized, and some of the other SE sites seem to have taken notice as well. It's also worth noting that from the general SE stats getting 10 posts in 10 days (on this topic, not including others) was as-good or better than our general posts-per-day.

So from a marketing standpoint, the contest certain didn't hurt us and could very well have helped, even if we didn't have huge participation in the contest itself.

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Contest Rules

A net score of +3 may have been a little too much as there were only 3 eligible questions for the prize drawing. One of the concerns I had with the voting was the potential for abusing or gaming the system and also to draw out quality questions (which would also in turn spawn quality answers). There wasn't any evidence of that abuse or fraud at all during this contest.

I think our community is still very small that this didn't quite work out so well. For future contests, I would probably say at least a positive score of +1 might be a better requirement, but this number should probably scale or be modified depending on the size of the community and the audience we want to attract (new people, veteran users, and so on).

I haven't done much research into what other sites have done so pardon my ignorance on the format and rules of the contest.

Contest Topic and Community Participation

We ended up with a total of 10 questions related to tai chi, most of them asked by a single user. Participation was lackluster since only 3 users (out of a total of 468 (including the Community user) asked questions.

There may not be very many people who practice tai chi or have an interest in it in the community here as it is. Perhaps a different topic would generate more interest among the general community (and non-users of the site).

Unfortunately, the people I do know who are interested in tai chi wouldn't participate on this site (or on Stack Exchange or other internet communities in general). We could have advertised more, but I was wrong to think that the contest would generate more activity and new users when this contest was help in a small community with low participation.

What Contests Should Not Be

Money, prizes, and contests won't save or grow a site. These are extrinsic things that shouldn't dictate how or why the site should grow. This has to be something that comes from within, originating out of the community here for the community. Pulling in new users is a bonus, and I don't think we have a substantial enough amount of core and interested users to do something like this really well at this point.

I had originally tried to tie this in with World Tai Chi Day in the contest proposal. It's a nice idea to do these things in conjunction with one another, but I let it slip for a variety of reason. Nevertheless, I don't believe an event like that was crucial to holding the contest anyway.

For doing another contest like this, we need to continue growing our site and establishing a core audience. I'd like to see more interest in these type of things, but it is nice to see that people are visiting Meta and upvoting the idea.

Some other things to read:

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    I think lowering the vote totals requirement wouldn't have helped. The +3 minimum forced me, at least, to think hard for good questions. – Dave Liepmann Jun 1 '12 at 21:10

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