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Summary

Parenting Stack Exchange has tons of untapped potential. Contests can be a fun way to stir up some excitement in the site. From Mother's Day (May 11) to Father's Day (June 15) we'd like to get everyone in the habit of asking your parenting questions on this site.

Rules

Each day you ask an upvoted question1 counts as a "good asking day". Everyone who has 7 good asking days from now until June 15, 2014 will get a sticker pack. These are physical stickers featuring some (TBD) Stack Exchange theme. The first 10 people who have 14 good asking days in the contest period will also get a Stack Exchange T-shirt.

When the contest is over, we'll execute this query and contact the winners via the email address we have on file.2 As long as it isn't insanely expensive or difficult to send prizes (sorry Antarctica researchers), we'll mail them directly.

Background

We've noticed that some sites have a difficult time getting enough questions to maintain regular user interest. Parenting seemed like just that sort of site, so we tried an experiment a few weeks ago. Several employees with children tried to ask as many questions as we could for a few weeks. What we hoped is that asking a bunch of new questions would encourage more participation on the site without reducing the average participation per question. The results are clear:

q_type   askers questions answers q_edits a_edits q_votes a_votes q_comments a_comments touches_per_post 
-------- ------ --------- ------- ------- ------- ------- ------- ---------- ---------- ---------------- 
baseline 32     49        123     44      40      207     410     100        121        21.33            
employee 3      28        76      7       9       185     342     36         66         25.75            
test     44     50        141     51      35      227     484     86         113        22.74            
next     38     47        120     53      30      220     428     114        152        23.77   

Three employees asked a total of 28 questions that wouldn't have been asked otherwise. Questions not asked by employees had roughly the same participation rates as the baseline3 period. In other words, the community can handle at least 50% more questions than it normally gets.

Asking questions on a daily basis is hard work. Presumably people who post questions are primarily motivated by getting useful answers. Certainly I appreciate each and every response I got. Even so, we've made posting questions less rewarding than answers. In order to encourage questions on sites other than Stack Overflow, we are looking into a variety of ways to balance things out including asking badges. It's not our intention to replace intrinsic motivation, but we are curious to see what comes from adding a small amount of extrinsic motivation.

Feedback

To set expectations, our twin goals with the contest are to generate quality questions for Parenting and to find out what doesn't work when it comes to rewarding questioners. It's unlikely that we will repeat the contest. So we want you to let us know anything you discover, good or bad, that happens as a result. Please use the answer space below to give us any feedback that might be useful.


1. Fine print: must be open and undeleted when we award prizes at the end of the contest.

2. You can see the email we have for you by going to your own profile. If you don't have a working email address there, we won't be able to contact you to get an address to send prizes to.

3. I've included statistics for the period following the test ("next") but those exclude three incredibly popular questions:
* Just found out my 13 year old girl is Bi and dating a 17 year old girl in an "open" relationship. Huh? Now what?
* My child is ignoring my timeouts and walking away from them. What are some options for handling this?
* Why does my daughter smile and start to laugh at me when I am noticeably really angry at her?
I tossed them out since they seem to be a result of many outsiders coming to the site via the "Hot Questions" list. But I think these also illustrate that the site could easily handle more activity than it typically does.

  • 2
    I have yet to ask a question on the Parenting board because the whole nature of the board seems to contradict what I understand to be the platform upon which SE was built, which is a concrete question with a concrete answer. Parenting, by its nature, is opinionated and anecdotal, with no firm answer. – Noah May 12 '14 at 20:30
  • 6
    @Noah: Have you read Good Subjective, Bad Subjective? There's a lot of room for great answers even when answers are anecdotal. I'd prefer more evidence-based answers using scientific studies and so on. But thanks to voting, even opinionated answers are useful in my experience. Personally I find the advice I've received on this site to be better than other places I've asked my parenting questions. – Jon Ericson May 13 '14 at 0:22
  • 3
    @Noah let me corroborate Jon's comment. Most parenting sites devolve into discussions and the strength of SE is that we're highly focused on answering OP's question as well as providing information based on personal experience and/or research (I find it hard to write research answers, but others are very good at it). This focus keeps the usefulness high and helps discern between "good vs. bad subjective". Of course, this sort of discipline is a turn-off to some users who prefer a more casual/chatty environment, but it's a trade-off that works well in the SE model. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 14 '14 at 11:13
  • 2
    Additionally, where we really shouldn't give advice (ie where the real guidance should be given by a medical professional) we have been pretty good at answering with the things a parent can do, but also pointing them to a health worker, pediatrics etc. But from my experience, the Q&A style here is immensely better than some of those discussion sites - which can be really vicious. – Rory Alsop May 14 '14 at 11:50
  • 2
    +1 for @RoryAlsop's comment - we too often apply the (wrong) test of "Can these questions be answered as factually as the ones on SO, etc?" The better test is "Can our engine do a better job surfacing the best, highest quality answers than the other online alternatives?" – Jaydles May 14 '14 at 19:37
  • @TheSEEmployees... I hope this doesn't mean you'll spend a lot less time on the Parenting SE -- it is great having you all there! – Sylas Seabrook May 19 '14 at 6:55
  • 3
    @JeremyMiller: I'll be honest, I found the experience of asking questions exhausting. But when parenting challenges do arise, I find the input here quite valuable. – Jon Ericson May 19 '14 at 15:25
  • 1
    @JonEricson - Curious. My experience is the opposite (I'll communicate it to Beofett in private to make sure it's not just a misperception before whining on meta) – user3143 May 20 '14 at 15:35
  • @DVK I'm not sure if you contacted me with your concerns/experiences yet, and I missed it, or if you're waiting to catch me online, but I'm hoping to be around a bit more regularly tomorrow. It's been a hectic couple of weeks for me. – user420 May 22 '14 at 15:58
  • If I'd seen this in time, I would have tried to get a t-shirt. Now I don't even have enough time for that. Unfortunately, I don't feel like stickers are worth the effort at this point. I like this initiative though. – Dom Jun 4 '14 at 1:45
  • @JonEricson I've asked 1 question, and found the experience to be quite exhausting, as well. I guess it's a bit more difficult when the issue is so close to home – Noah Jun 9 '14 at 20:45
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Results

The following users have earned stickers:

User                   N stickers tshirt 
---------------------- - -------- ------ 
user3143               23 1        1      
thebunk                8  1           
Beofett                8  1           
Joe                    7  1        

A very special notice for user3143 who not only earned a T-shirt, but also managed to ask an upvoted question for 64% of the days of the contest. I will be contacting each of them shortly to get their mailing addresses.

Honorable mention to the following people who asked a good question on more than one day:

ChristopherW           4 
adipro                 3 
AngelicProgrammer      2    
BVR                    2 

From personal experience, I know that asking about parenting can be difficult. We really appreciate every question we get; they set the path for the community.

If anyone has feedback on the contest, please answer: What did you think of our question asking contest?

Congratulations and a big thank you to all the participants!

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