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I am the author of an as-yet-unresolved question, How can I prevent applications from running on startup? that has now become part of the Kindle Fire Contest.

I'll admit straight up - I'm not very active on this site. So I was a bit surprised when I saw 3 new answers to that question. I was even a little excited - for a very brief moment, until I actually read them.

My question was hardly complicated or unclear; its only notable characteristics were:

  1. No mention of the underlying motivation (which was intentional, as there might be many different reasons to want to prevent auto-start); and

  2. A request for solutions other than task-killers.

So it was rather annoying and depressing to find that all 3 new answers seemed to blatantly ignore or misrepresent the content of the question. Each new answer very pointedly (a) explicitly assumes that I am worrying about RAM and (b) leaves the advice not to kill tasks to save memory. Thanks for nothing, guys. I understand that maybe there is no good answer (with mobile devices, we're used to it) and would certainly upvote/accept a well-substantiated answer explaining why it can't be done, but I didn't even get that.

Afterward, I noticed the tag on my question and read about the contest, and quickly realized why I was receiving these duplicated, half-assed cookie-cutter answers. To that point, I have some concerns about the way this contest is structured; what I definitely don't want (for me, or for this site) is a bunch of low-quality non-answers posted by people who just registered for the contest and don't really understand our philosophy or expectations here on Stack Exchange - in particular, the expectation to answer the question.

So to get to my point, and I apologize for the long-winded nature of this post: I don't think that this contest should be open to anyone and everyone. That turns this contest into more of a sweepstakes where people are encouraged to shoot from the hip. A major contest like this should be rewarding active contributors, not bounty hunters. In other words, it should have been/should be limited to users with at least some history of participation on the site, probably in the form of minimum reputation.

No entry requirement encourages people to answer only the contest questions (often sloppily), and quite possibly fade back into obscurity after the contest is done. A minimum rep requirement would force new or casual users (like me) to contribute properly for at least a few days in order to be eligible, increasing the chance of retention and benefiting the site more even if they don't stick around.

I would propose a minimum 200-rep eligibility criteria and a 2-3 week contest duration instead of 1 week. That would give people who are truly worthy of the prize plenty of time to make themselves eligible if they aren't already. If 200 rep, which is just 20 upvotes (10 for associated accounts) seems like too much effort for them, then there's no way we want to reward them for their apathy.

Any thoughts? Do others agree that the incentive structure here is a bit unbalanced? Would a minimum reputation help or are there better ways to control for the unintended consequences?

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    It's not my show. I'd ask that you (and everybody else) downvote, with extreme prejudice, any unhelpful "answers". Comments to the authors of said answers (civil, of course) would be good, too. – ale Nov 29 '11 at 20:32
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    @AlEverett: That I do, and I try to be civil as well, although the frustration becomes more palpable with each successive answer saying the exact same thing. Downvoting may help (debatable with 1-rep users), but in any case it is treating the symptoms rather than the cause. – Aaronaught Nov 29 '11 at 20:36
  • Heh. I ran out of votes yesterday and they won't refresh for another 10 hours. – ale Dec 1 '11 at 14:08
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I don't think that this contest should be open to anyone and everyone. ... it should have been/should be limited to users with at least some history of participation on the site.

Noooo. Contests are here to attract and recruit new users. The problem comes from the general concept of the contest. IMHO most "kindle-fire" questions didn't produce good answers because there are none/no solutions (yet) and therefore produce only low quality answers. The majority of questions won't benefit from the contest.

Therefore I think that the best contest rules are like "get 200 (or XXX) rep within 2 (3, 4) weeks (minus the 100 rep bonus) to be eligible for a prize". SX's downvote and close system will make sure that the answers and questions, that are produced in order to get the rep, are of good quality. This also encourages user not only to ask good questions and provide good answers, they could also get the rep by making valuable edits and providing good tag descriptions. After the contest, the site will have a few more >200 rep users, which will later be equipped with more and more permissions and privileges, helping to moderate the site. Everybody wins.

BTW: If the SX network want's to make regular contest for promotion (which is a good idea) don't abuse the tag system. Provide the appropriate tools instead.

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    I like this idea. This way anyone can participate (new or old users). – Bryan Denny Nov 30 '11 at 14:04
  • That seems reasonable too. Anything that encourages ongoing participation as opposed to bounty-hunting would be ideal. I also agree about the tag abuse (hell, I practically invented the classification of meta-tags) but that being said, I didn't want to nitpick about the mechanism when the much larger/more important issue is one of incentives. – Aaronaught Dec 1 '11 at 17:48
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I share your concerns. I've been deleting non-answers on all the questions — most of which have been flagged — but Al has undeleted some. I haven't heard from him yet but I would assume he's trying to offer the benefit of the doubt and give everyone a chance at the contest.

I totally understand that point of view, but I am really uncomfortable with flooding you and the other OPs with crap. Not to mention that everyone who sees these questions (a significant number due to the contest) will see the crap and either follow suit or think this site is full of crap. One OP has withdrawn his question. There are a couple others where the OP is clearly not going to come back and the issue is pretty localized, so the new answers are extra-useless.

SE isn't built for contests and promotions, and it shows. is a "meta tag", and meta tags are thoroughly reviled and discouraged throughout the network. I don't think using one so visibly is a good idea, even though it attracts much more participation than a meta post does. (Gaming has had this low-participating problem with their grants.)

Nor is repeatedly abusing the system message function every time we have a contest a good idea. Android has a lot of hit-and-run users already, and I'd argue that these contests don't do anything to change that behavior without a rep/activity requirement as you mention. And we certainly don't want to drive away users with annoyances.

One option is to protect all the questions involved, but that cuts out involvement without necessarily cutting out all the noise. (Some are being auto-protected by Community, though, so should we un-protect those repeatedly? Ugh.) The other problem is that we can't really change the contest now that it's started without some trouble. Personally I'd lean towards that anyways, if not terminating it, given the trouble we're already having.

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    I very much agree with the sentiment you've expressed here. I'm also noticing a trend of essentially duplicated answers which barely (or don't) provide much of an answer (here, for example...) – eldarerathis Nov 29 '11 at 19:08
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    I agree with the concern about changing a contest that's already started; it is a little unfair, no matter how poor some of the results have been. Certainly something to keep in mind for next time at least (and for any future contests on any other sites). – Aaronaught Nov 29 '11 at 19:31
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    Bad answers are different than non-answers. The former should be downvoted. Only the latter should be deleted and only if they're unsalvageable nonsense. – ale Nov 29 '11 at 20:30
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@Aaronaugh & @MatthewRead, you both make very valid points and I appreciate the input - this coming from the guy who organized this contest, perhaps a bit too hastily.

But yes, this monster is already underway, and there was ample, if underpromoted, opportunity to chime in about the design of the contest. Clearly there are shortcomings to this model of outreach (this is an outreach effort, not a community reward campaign, though mods, too are eligible to win a Kindle Fire) and maybe it wasn't clear what the shortcomings for this format were until now.

So it's a learning experience, and we'll take these lessons (especially, perhaps, the 'meta tag problems,' which appear to elicit particular rage among community leaders) with us into the next campaign.

For the time being though, let's power through this contest. Hopefully out of the sea of crap, we will find gems, and in doing so improve Android knowledge available on the Internet.

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    I'm not sure the design of the contest was made clear. The subject and the particular questions, yes, but all that was mentioned about the workings of the contest was that you'd consider offering bounties. The tag and the entry requirements weren't known till the contest started. – Matthew Read Nov 29 '11 at 19:12
  • @MatthewRead - I should have been more clear. I didn't see a need for the meta tag initially, but found use for it while writing up the official contest post as I wanted a dynamic list - denoting what's been answered & whats not - of all questions involved in the contest. I didn't see a problem with requesting this tag, but I was perhaps uninformed about the hate for meta tags here. Now I know. Still, I think the utility of the temporary tag (not to mention I've promoted the tag URL) trumps the hate. Though I'll be careful to stay away from them in the future. – samthebrand Nov 29 '11 at 19:26
  • It's certainly very useful, it's attracted a lot of attention. The problem is the side effects. I'd be more worried about Jeff's hate of meta tags than ours, personally :P – Matthew Read Nov 29 '11 at 19:32
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    Of course, and no finger-pointing here; even if you'd been very explicit about the design, who knows if foresight would have been the same as hindsight; it's the Law of Unintended Consequences at work. Question is, now that we know, what can we do? Maybe not much... – Aaronaught Nov 29 '11 at 19:33
  • @MatthewRead - as for the entry requirement, by default I'm always of the mindset that there should be very little barrier to entry when it comes to contributing on the site and/or participating in a contest designed at outreach. Clearly this creates some problems, but gets some new eyeballs on us 2. I probably should have been more clear in the meta post about whether there should be a rep req to participate, and maybe should have been more clear about the contest in general. But it's unrealistic to crowdsource the whole thing. At some point I have to make a judgement call + pull the trigger. – samthebrand Nov 29 '11 at 19:34
  • @Aaronaught - In Re: What can we do? I'm writing an email to all users who have questions involved in the contest requesting they up/downvote good/bad answers & mark correct any correct answer. Hopefully this goes some distance in promoting positive behavior on the site and maybe eliminates some of the opportunity to leave unhelpful answers. – samthebrand Nov 29 '11 at 19:37
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    Understood. I know the site promotion thing is by necessity a learn-on-the-fly sort of deal. It would be nice if the devs could come up with a system to make promotions easier so we don't have to abuse things that were never meant for this. – Matthew Read Nov 29 '11 at 19:37
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    I am sure the tag will not live long past the end of the contest. In fact, I guarantee it. – ale Nov 29 '11 at 20:31
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    As the contest is now over and the winners announced I have removed that tag from all the questions (and added links to them in the announcement instead). The empty tag will be removed by the system automatically in a couple of days. – ale Dec 5 '11 at 19:16

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