In response to the community's feedback on this contest, we've decided to cancel it. We never intended to favor quantity over quality, but we can see how this contest missed the mark. We appreciate all the constructive criticism regarding this idea.

In case you haven't seen the contest yet and are interested, you can still read the announcement below.

As more and more research-oriented sites pop up on Stack Exchange, we can’t help but be impressed with the amazing academic resource our users have created. We also can’t help but wonder... which academic community has the most Stack spirit? In an epic question-asking battle, would Math take down Statistics? Could Linguistics edge out English? If only there was a way to find out...

Oh wait! There is: an epic question-asking battle. Let’s do it! It’s getting close to the holidays after all, so now is a perfect time for us to say thank you by continuing our tradition of giving back. As such, the community that wins this battle will get 1000 USD to donate to a charity of their choice. Winners of each round will also get 100 USD to donate to charity.

Here’s how the battle will work:

  • Participating sites are English, Math, Statistics, Theoretical Computer Science, Linguistics, Physics, Philosophy, and History.
  • Each round will last a week, and the contest will be single-elimination bracket-style.
  • To move on to the next round, the average number of questions each site asks per day during the round must exceed that site’s current average. Whichever site exceeds their average by more questions wins the round.
  • To determine who would face off in the first round, we seeded the sites according to past activity.

Are you ready for this?! Here it is:

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A few more notes:

  • Although this is a contest, a “Battle of the Sites” if you will, it’s all in the spirit of fundraising for charity and having fun. So while we understand (and encourage!) competitiveness, try to keep it friendly.
  • While we expect this contest to generate a lot of new questions, we have full faith in the community’s ability to uphold its standards and preference for good questions. If we find that a site is getting a lot of bad questions during the contest, it will have to be disqualified.

Round one starts now and ends Sunday 11/20 at 11:59 pm UTC. Ready. Set. GO.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The 8 meta questions: Math History Physics CSTheory Stats Philosophy English Linguistics $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am not interested in participating in this game, but I sincerely hope that the game will not ruin the website. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for Tsuyoshi's comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think you posted this in good faith, but it seems a bit childish. The reason I like SE so much is that it has an academic feel and generally steers clear of internet memes as much as possible. This contest misses the point. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ -1 = -2 for making battles out of SE, but +1 for pairing up Physics and CSTheory in the same bracket. It could have been an epic quantum battle :P $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ I just wanted to add a note: while this contest may have been a little too exuberant for our tastes, I really like the effort SE is making in finding academically-oriented promotions. Some ideas might whiff, and others might hit, but it's great that you're pouring all this effort in. So thanks ! $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:07

4 Answers 4


This seems like a recipe for fostering quantity above quality. Amongst the 8 sites, CSTheory is the only one where I feel I vaguely belong(ed), so I'll pipe up here, but similar opinions have already been voiced over at Math. What I like about CSTheory is the very high level of questions. I would much rather see a push towards quality (for CSTheory, I'm content with maintaining quality as a target) than towards quantity.

Try doing this between Role Playing Games, Gaming, Science Fiction & Fantasy and a few similar sites, perhaps. And as a user and pro tempore moderator of SF&F, I can't say I'd be thrilled about it (I'd appreciate if it was discussed in chat first). But keep the lowest-common-denominator entertainment off serious sites.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Given that the Penn State scandal is the lead story on at least two TCS blogs right now (and those bloggers are both high-rep members of this site), perhaps we could suggest that StackExchange make a donation to an anti-child-abuse organization on CSTheory's behalf, if they choose to do so. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting that Math and Stats both think this is a bad idea :) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 4:09

I think this is a nice idea.

In general, it is good to remind the regular users every now and then that they can also ask questions in addition to answering questions...

For example, this post inspired me to have a look at some of my ongoing research projects and to see if I have some problems that I could ask here – and yes, this was the case. I should have posted it a long time ago but never got round to do it...

There is no need to take the contest too seriously. At the end of the day, what we really want to do is to further TCS research. If we accidentally participate in a charity fundraising event while doing that, I don't think there is any serious harm done.

  • $\begingroup$ As incitement to ask good questions, maybe a time limited increase of reputation earned by question upvotes is a good idea? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 21:26

There are two things which feel wrong to me in this game.

One is the wrong metric. Because of the metric used in the game, the game seems to encourage quantity over quality. That is not what we want in this community, as Gilles stated.

More importantly, the other is the very intent of this game, namely, trying to make the users as productive as possible. Let me quote Asaf Karagila’s comment on meta.math.stackexchange.com (emphasis in original):

To add on the above, this is exactly why I left DeviantART. I hate (with true passion) communities that try to prod me into being "more" productive as a member of the community. Especially communities which I actually feel a part (which as a person I can honestly say that it is a very rare and very transient feeling). I truly hope that the SE sites do not plan on having these "happy happy joy joy" activities often, I'd imagine I am not the only one feeling negatively about this sort of initiative.

I share this feeling. I do not want cstheory.stackexchange.com to tell me to be more productive on the website. I participate in the website to the extent that it is fun to me, not more, and it is annoying to be asked to change it in any way.

Usually I try to ignore such an annoying request. But when it becomes a burden to ignore the requests like this, that will be the time for me to leave this website.


A better contest would have been "Who answers more old questions during a week?" were "answer" means "gets an answer accepted and with more than $n$ votes", $n$ a site-appropriate constant, and "old" some delay.


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