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A bit of feedback in planning these types of events...

The current prize awarding scheme (for the KoA contest) sets up something of a competition between people on the site. That's fine, and I agree that individual contributions are important and should be rewarded. However, I worry about the impact this has on the community.

There's a few disadvantages to awarding the prizes solely this way:

  • It creates friction between members of the community - We're all gamers here, and we are used to competing on the internet. In addition to the potential "rep competition," now we're adding actual prizes that have monetary value to the mix.
  • It is biased towards early contributions, to the detriment of people arriving late - although votes and views tend to peak shortly after a post is made, and there are certainly statistical anomalies, there's still some benefit to the early comers that might discourage later entrants.
  • It creates a conflict of interest between participating and voting - Voting is now a "loaded" action that determines actual prizes being awarded, as opposed to just sorting the good from the bad. People who are participating in the contest may become biased in their voting as a result.

I think all of these are surmountable obstacles, but I kind of worry with the more of these we do, the more likely it is to cause some issue between us, which is not what I want to happen.

I don't want to see this type of incentive disappear, but I would like to see some balance between celebrating our individual successes and our group successes. Awarding prizes to us as a group is difficult, but perhaps some sort of lottery for some percentage of the prizes would help?

For instance, perhaps in addition to prizes for stellar individual contributions, what if there was a prize (or class of prizes) that you earned "entries" for as a result of posting upvoted (ie, +3 or something) questions or answers? Perhaps there could be some that give you entries per-post (ie, if you answer 2 questions and those answers get to at least +3, you get 2 contest entries) and some that are equal footing for all participants (ie, whether you ask or answer a single question or 10 questions, you still get one entry).

These are just ideas I'm floating - I don't think anything is going to be 100% fair to everyone, but better ideas may exist, so feel free to make a different suggestion.

This might level the prize playing field for people who want to participate in the contest, (and should be incented to participate!) but can't keep up with some of the community members who are super-high output.

  • if you answer 3 questions, you get 3 contest entries I'd be worried about those types of incentives resulting in low-quality spam answers. If we were to go that way, we'd probably want to put an upvote qualifier as well (i.e. 3 answers with at least X upvotes) to discourage low-effort "entry level" answers. – FAE Feb 10 '12 at 22:24
  • @FallenAngelEyes, indeed. These would have to be structured carefully in order to avoid being detrimental to the site. I edited to make that a bit clearer. – agent86 Feb 10 '12 at 22:27
  • 2
    We did basically the raffle-like system you're suggesting for Skyrim. The downside was (1) it was confusing, and (2) it was a bit anticlimactic when we picked the winner. I don't think these are deal-breakers, but it is a bit clearer to say "And here's the winning post!" than "And...this user won because we drew a number out of at hat!" – David Fullerton Feb 12 '12 at 2:42
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I think it's safe to assume that no system will be safe from, um, gaming. (If you give credit for questions, there will be some low-quality questions posted solely for the sake of entering, and then some disgruntled people will post on meta complaining about their entries being canceled. If you give credit for highly-voted answers, people will try to slip similar answers into a good question and hope that they can ride an upvote train ... etc.)

With that in mind, it may be better to focus on the "internal" purpose for the contest. (The "external" purpose would be to add high-quality questions and answers about popular games, getting more views and drawing more users to the site, and I think that would be a requirement for any contest.) Do we want to skew the rewards toward those with more participation (more votes, higher-voted questions and so on), or toward the simple fact of participation (encouraging more users to contribute)?

If it's the former, then highly-voted questions seem to be a good way to go. Yes, those contests are skewed toward early entrants, but that's kind of the point: we want to be the site to go to when you have questions about hot new games. If it's the latter, then capped-entry methods seem like a better idea. (One entry for each question or answer with at least X upvotes, maximum of Y entries per day/per contest. Y could be 1 ...) There are challenges inherent in that system, though.

Quite some time ago, I worked for a company that did some drawings (think of restaurant receipts, "go to this website and fill out a survey for a chance to win $X"), and if I recall correctly, what we found was that for random-drawing incentives, the prize had to be fairly significant with respect to the odds, or people wouldn't participate. If you have a 1-in-1000 chance of winning $20, is that worth it? So if it's possible to have thousands of entrants in a contest where the top prize is a couple of games, people might not be as excited about it. (The current Kingdoms of Amalur contest, on the other hand, has prizes of sufficient value that it shouldn't be an issue, I would think.) On the other hand, offering every entrant (or many entrants) a smaller prize can sometimes generate more responses than a chance of winning a single higher-value prize.

This could be tricky, but theoretically it could be possible to get a bunch of X%-off "coupons" as incentives, where X probably relates to the number you give away. These could serve as lower-tier prizes, so that the odds of winning something would be significantly better, and in theory, the company providing those coupons wouldn't be losing out on too much, depending on how they worked. (Valve X%-off coupons are the best example, except a lot of us probably have extras.)

Personally, I feel that the biggest prizes should go to the people who contribute the most to the site, which in this case seems to me to be highest-viewed/voted questions and answers. (Answers don't get views, but you know what I mean.) So I think I would favor some kind of hybrid system:

Highest-voted question

  • First place: awesome prize
  • Second place: cool prize
  • Third place: not-bad prize
  • Consolation: all entrants with questions +5 or above get an entry; 10 randomly-drawn entrants get a coupon/mini companion cube/whatever

Highest-voted answer

  • repeat as above

Most-viewed question

  • First place: cool prize*

*I'm not entirely sure, but I believe it's easier to increase views of your own question than upvotes, so I suggested a lower prize for views.

  • I don't own the game but I already could guess easily which questions will get the most views, its just too easy to game the system. I can guarantee it'll either be the respec or the max level question that wins that category. I could've asked either one despite not playing or owning the game but I decided not to since it leaves a funny taste in my mouth :P – l I Feb 11 '12 at 4:23
  • @yx I'm not sure it's always that obvious. For Skyrim, the top question (by far) was about Dragon bones: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/35297/…, and for SWTOR it's one about Matrix Shards gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/42071/… Both of those are very game-specific. – David Fullerton Feb 12 '12 at 2:47
  • When a game is new, I agree that question views will often be something very basic, and something that hits on Google well (i.e., max level). Was that Skyrim top question the top question in the first two weeks, or much later? However, I think it's still better than going by votes, or you get questions like mine which aren't the best questions ever, but got votes because of a catchy title. At least the ones with high views are bringing new users to the site via Google. Mine was only interesting to people already here. – Sterno Feb 12 '12 at 15:35

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