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Following our very successful tag competition we decided to continue question pushes to get us toward the generalist badge. So far we have had 5 editions of the weekly tag challenge:

Participation in the tag challenge has dropped off each week. Similarly our question per day has fallen a long way. Bottoming out below 3/day before recovering this week. I was hoping to work out why our tag challenges struggle to get the same involvement.

I have a few ideas:

  • People find that only 2 tags is restrictive
  • No prize means people are not motivated
  • Competition hangover is still going on and active users are taking time away from the site
  • Low meta participation means not many users know about it

Basically if you are a regular user of the site and not participating in the tag competition I would love to hear why. And if possible what would make you more likely to participate.

  • I was in the Big Conteest because I was new, I was collecting badges (I'm upset that one Saturday upset my 100-days streak that was over 55), and the notebook looked COOL. For THESE challenges, I find often the questions I want to do appear to be just "discussion type" ones. – April May 2 at 15:39
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    The notebook is cool. But it isn't the swag, or lack thereof. Me personally, I'm just having trouble with the constraints. It's harder to come up with questions based on the tags. (For me at least) – UniquelyAndara May 3 at 0:12
  • @bruglesco Can you think of a way we could modify the competition that would make it easier? – linksassin May 3 at 0:15
  • I wish I could. – UniquelyAndara May 3 at 1:15
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    It's the competition hangover for me, plus being on a short vacation. Just sayin' – Liquid May 6 at 9:26
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I'm going to offer one more possible explanation.

Namely, that people mostly or only ask questions when they have a question they feel that they need answered.

That's certainly the case for me. I'll admit I don't have a lot of questions on Writing, nor all that many answers, but mostly, when I ask a question (not just here, and not just on Stack Exchange in general), it's because I have a specific question that I can't figure out on my own, or where I feel an outside perspective will be useful.

There have been a few times when I've asked "seeding" questions, but Writing is (in my book) a pretty mature site covering a field that isn't changing all that rapidly; there are few generic questions that can be asked which haven't already been asked and answered, so such "seeding" questions would likely just be duplicates. That adds little to nothing of value.

Therefore, unless a tag challenge happens to line up with a question that I basically was going to ask anyway, the tag challenge simply doesn't change the probability of me asking a question to any significant degree.

This doesn't mean that a tag challenge is necessarily a bad idea. It just means that it doesn't match the reasons why I ask questions in the first place. And I imagine I'm not the only person reasoning like this.

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    I figure this is likely a large part of the reason we have a low overall question rate. Would there be a kind of promotion that might make you more likely to ask question? Perhaps something like a writing challenge that would prompt you to think of questions you haven't considered before? – linksassin May 2 at 12:19
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    @linksassin We did use to have writing-exercises. I'm not sure how much activity those really prompted on the main site, but maybe it would be worth resurrecting the idea? It was pretty much a free-for-all, as long as there wasn't a current exercise running; pick a week, pick a major element and/or a writing prompt, make up a Writing Meta question, post, and see how it goes. We can also feature those posts for greater visibility, or create a community event; if either, flag for moderator attention after posting. – a CVn May 2 at 19:44
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    This is mostly it for me. I keep trying to think of questions to fit the tags but it just doesn't work that way. With the big challenge I had questions, then I tried to make the tags fit the question. That was much easier. – UniquelyAndara May 3 at 0:09
  • @aCVn Wait tho, the writing-exercise would count towards our average question number? – Liquid May 6 at 9:28
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    @Liquid I believe that Meta questions aren't counted in the statistics shown on Area 51. Also, writing exercises typically were a single Meta question with a bundle of answers, so even if they do count, they don't really improve our per-day average. However, if, as part of a writing-exercise, you come across an issue that causes you to ask on the main site, that question definitely counts toward our statistics the same as any other. – a CVn May 6 at 9:37
  • @aCVn I see, I supposed as much. I'm in favour of resurrecting the writing exercises, but maybe we should move the discussion elsewhere. On the main topic, I think you nailed the reasons why our question count is lowering. – Liquid May 6 at 9:40
  • @Liquid It's Monday; by all means feel free to post a writing exercise Meta question for the week (or maybe even two weeks) if you're so inclined. Click through to the tag and copy from an earlier question if you want to use the same template. – a CVn May 6 at 9:42
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    @aCVn Good point. writing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2003/… – Liquid May 6 at 10:05
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Consider this a frame challenge. I'm not your target audience and I'm not really answering your question. But hey this is meta and it's way more than I can put in the comments.

I think the tag challenge has been a success.

No, we haven't gotten many new questions from it, at least not since the first week or so. But I think our question per day rate has gone up slightly, and it may be part of why (it did tank during the spring holidays/spring breaks and that is part or maybe even all of the explanation).

I think it's a success for other reasons though.

  1. The question numbers on each featured tag have gone way up (sometimes way way up) due to retagging efforts.
  2. We've used the opportunity of focusing on this set of tags to discuss changes in some of the tags and this created better understanding of how to use the tags or it created actual change in the tags themselves.
  3. I've noticed that tags featured in past weeks seem to be showing up a bit more in new questions (I can't confirm that and it can be confirmation bias, but...).
  4. More discussion on meta and in chat among people who care about making the site even better than it is.

Can we redefine what it means to say it is or isn't "working"?

  • We are much closer to getting that Generalist badge.
  • Site self-moderation (meaning by us non-mods) is up.
  • Discussion is up.
  • We've had a few more questions than we might have otherwise.

It's not all about the questions per day number.

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    This is a valid view. And I do agree that the tag challenge has been beneficial. Just not getting the participation we might like. TBH my question takes a more negative view than I actually have of it. I was hoping to promote discussion on it. – linksassin May 4 at 4:51
  • @linksassin Okay, so talk. :-) What would you like to see change? (that we have control over) We have 5 tags left to do in those that are in the top 40 tags but haven't yet hit 200 q's. (see writing.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1987/32946 ). I was thinking of doing 3 more weeks (adding in the 41st tag). Then we can take a break for the summer (I assume traffic will plummet) or start something new or drop it entirely. What do you think? – Cyn May 4 at 4:58
  • That's a good plan and I'm not suggesting we should stop. I was hoping we could find a simple way to modify it so that the users who aren't participating would. I don't have a simple answer though. – linksassin May 4 at 5:02
  • I was thinking about maybe adding a writing prompt of the week. Not as a competition but as a writing exercise. Any question asked because of the inspiration prompt regardless of tag would also count toward the weeks challenge. Double points for also using one of the weeks tags. Triple if you use both. – linksassin May 4 at 5:04
  • @linksassin I'll say that I really pushed myself during the big contest and asked a ton of questions. It was hard and took a lot of emotional energy and also made me feel vulnerable (because I was giving away so much of my book after years of barely telling anyone but my spouse about it). I've found it very difficult to get back into the head space of asking questions again, though I've done one. It's not the tag limitations (I mean hell, I'm picking most of the tags). It's getting over the emotional energy threshold, if that makes sense. – Cyn May 4 at 5:08
  • Yeah that makes sense. Would weekly writing exercises give you more sources for questions that may not have so much emotion attached? – linksassin May 4 at 5:11
  • Oh, btw. There is only 4 tags left. storyline was one of them that has been synonymised. – linksassin May 4 at 5:13
  • @linksassin Noted and corrected. – Cyn May 4 at 5:45
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Diminishing returns?

It's possible that some tags are less popular because people use them less. Trying to force new questions from a specific tag, might become harder and harder as the tags are less "fruitful".

  • This is true. Although they all have similar numbers of questions, sum of the tags took a lot longer to get there. Their tag 'velocity' is much lower than other. – linksassin May 8 at 0:05
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    That's a good point. In some cases a tag might be used less because newer tags have taken up the slack. Like the book tag isn't used as much as it was (my guess). OTOH, going through them a couple at a time has forced us to check how well they work now and we actually made some tag changes because of that. – Cyn May 8 at 2:42

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