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I'll start by saying that I really despise encouraging participation in things by awarding prizes, especially money. That to me is over the top, especially for things that are supposed to be community driven like this site. I was poking around several different meta's on the sites where I typically lurk and some of the smaller ones ran Topic of the Week contests to drive up participation and/or expand the scope of the site by encouraging questions on less-frequently used tags (UX, SciFi, Cooking). The one on Judiasm works without any prizes at all.

I certainly am not advocating prize money, I think that's a terrible idea. And this site doesn't need it really. But would it be something worth doing/entertaining to have a Topic of the [time period] type of recurring event?

The closest I would say to a prize would be recognizing the questions and answers under the topic that got the highest votes during the time period -- the high voting gives rep points which is essentially the only reward system in place on the site. Or if individual sites can award unique badges, then a badge could be given for best answer/question under a specific topic contest.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 Good idea for the context, but the "badge" part is hard to do maybe. $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Dec 11 '12 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ The badge thing was just a thought, no idea if it's feasible or not. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not possible. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 11 '12 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ There are already badges awarded for a certain number of upvotes under a particular tag. $\endgroup$ – Claudius Dec 11 '12 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Skeptics has run a emphasis of the week thingy too. Can't say I have been terribly impressed with them. They seem to encourage the formation of a in-group among the sites more active members. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Dec 11 '12 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ We could run it slightly differently -- instead of proposals and votes on the next tag, work backwards from least-used tag up. Or randomly draw a tag from the list of "major" tags from meta.physics.stackexchange.com/a/51/6634 $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 11 '12 at 15:56
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A bit on those contests

Those guys running the TOTW contests are SE Inc employees, part of the group known as CHAOS. These guys are assigned some sites and they help promote them (only a few sites have a CHAOS member assigned).

Prizes?

Though cash prizes aren't a good idea, sometimes SE swag is a great way to motivate people to participate in contests. For example, see the webapps second anniversary contest. But, we may want to hold off on that.

Contest for us

Hmm, I really like the idea. And I'd be willing to help organize it. BUT:

We need to have a sizeable portion of the community willing to participate in this. To that end, we'll probably have to gauge the comminity's response to this post. Most of our community isn't that active on meta, so getting such things started may take time..

Btw, sites can't award unique badges :/

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    $\begingroup$ I know some of them are from SEInc, but I got the impression others are community driven. Regardless, you're correct -- without people supporting it, it's not worth doing. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Dec 11 '12 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ The one on skeptics was community driven. $\endgroup$ – Sklivvz Jan 11 '13 at 13:39

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