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From what I can tell, the promotional grants have had mixed success. Brett has expressed interest in putting some additional requirements for people who receive grants, in the efforts of having more questions/answers come out of those, helping the site grow. The grants have included, with their success as near as I can note it:

  • Harry Potter - Questions are definately up, 17 in the last week alone.
  • Star Wars - Very successful, the 2 weeks after showed the site practically turning into a SW SE site.
  • Fringe - Currently 13 questions with the tag, no one with more than 3...
  • Walking Dead - Only 7 questions currently
  • Dr. Who - 7 asked this month, doesn't seem higher than normal
  • DC new 52 comics - Huge increase of comic questions since the promotion was made.

I'll try and get some more details added when I can, but I hope this at least helps start the conversation. Perhaps this can help lead us to a new direction for promotional grants as well.

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    You get one facepalm for calling them the 'Marvel new 52 comics'. :p – user1027 Dec 2 '11 at 17:30
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    Thanks for doing the stats! One thing we need to solve is the range of users who apply. I don't think any of these grants met the user-cap I set, and the same 5 (or fewer) users received most all the grants. One solution would be to get Meta more active, because I'm not sure that the majority of the Sci-Fi users know the grants exist. And if they do, what's keeping them from applying to get free stuff in exchange for questions?! It's free stuff! For questions! – Brett White Dec 2 '11 at 18:00
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    @Brett: Can/Should we do a system message? I know the general view is to never use them, but I can't think of anything more we can do that would result in more users participating... – PearsonArtPhoto Dec 2 '11 at 18:40
  • @Pearsonartphoto We should. I'm not aware of the mechanics behind a system message but I can look into it. Thanks! – Brett White Dec 2 '11 at 19:09
  • What in the world are Grants? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 2 '11 at 20:01
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    FYI From my own experience on Gaming, just because you receive something doesn't mean it will allow you to ask great questions about it. It really can be rather hit or miss at times. But you're right it shouldn't be the status quo – Ivo Flipse Dec 2 '11 at 22:32
  • @DVK Not sure if you're joking, but BrettWhite's been spearheading an effort to give users in the community SF&F merch that will encourage questions. Comic books, DVDs, books, that sort of thing. – user1027 Dec 3 '11 at 5:00
  • @Keen - nope, I wasn't. I did figure it out myself after some digging (and was very depressed at not being made aware of them as I would have qualified for at least 2); but as of the writing of that comment, had zero clue. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 3 '11 at 8:12
  • @DVK All is not lost, if you can make a good case for wanting to 'sample' something in order to help generate relevant content, I'm sure you can appeal to Brett. Besides, there's always something else on the horizon – Ivo Flipse Dec 3 '11 at 12:07
  • @DVK Sorry, I assume that everyone who's incredibly active on the main site visits meta often. We need to find a way to encourage more activity over here! – user1027 Dec 3 '11 at 20:22
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    At the very least, we need to have a starred anchored message for each give away item there is. – PearsonArtPhoto Dec 4 '11 at 4:56
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My theory is pretty similar to a commitment in Area 51. One of these two things must happen before a person can receive another grant item.

  1. They must answered/asked at least 10 answers/questions on the tag most associated with the item (After they receive it).
  2. They must wait 3 months
  3. The questions from 1) can be replaced by 3 for any topic, after they get the grant. This allows for those times where a material just doesn't have many questions to ask about it.

So, if you get something, you must be active in the tag enough to ask/answer at least 10 questions. Otherwise, you have to wait for 3 months prior to getting anything new (Or at the very least, get put to the bottom of the list). Is that reasonable?

  • I think 10 questions is pretty high, but the idea behind that point is good. The idea behind these grants is to increase the representation and thus popularity of these shows/movies/comics/etc, so it would often mean they're underrepresented when the grant is created. – user1027 Dec 3 '11 at 5:02
  • There are also other ways, like writing for the blog or talk about it in chat. I kind of like the idea to have someone I know and trust review something, so I can ask them questions that help me decide whether I should get it myself. I wouldn't do the same on some random blog. – Ivo Flipse Dec 3 '11 at 12:09
  • @Gilles: I intended to say future participation, not past. – PearsonArtPhoto Dec 3 '11 at 15:39
  • @Pearsonartphoto Oh, I see. I'd completely misunderstood your answer. Sorry about that. – user56 Dec 3 '11 at 15:51
  • @Pearsonartphoto Ohhhh, that makes more sense. Ignore my previous comment then. – user1027 Dec 3 '11 at 20:22
  • I like this idea, particulary since my Harry Potter grant made Harry Potter my most used tag. – Jack B Nimble Dec 5 '11 at 17:38
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In the comment @brettwhite posted above about getting more attention to Meta; you could probably get some banners or adverts on the main SciFi.se site pointing to the Meta discussion about each grant.

So, if you're planning lets say a Twilight Grant (please dont...), you could post a banner on the question/home page saying, "Want to get free stuff? Like Twilight? Enter to receive one of 5 Twilight Grants now!"

So, that way everyone can see it and all the rules and regulations will be on the meta post.

  • It's fairly easy for a mod to do such things, I've just been pretty much told, don't ever use that feature... – PearsonArtPhoto Dec 3 '11 at 14:02
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    Moderators can add banners at the top of every page, but we must do that in moderation. I think a banner anytime there's a grant would be too much. We can't do a thing about the ad space, that's for SE staff, and I do think it would be a good idea; ads are shown randomly and there's always one so one more doesn't drown the others or decrease the importance of the medium. – user56 Dec 3 '11 at 15:26
  • There will definitely be ads for every grant we do from now on, and I will also try to plan the grants with at least 2 weeks notice so people can have time to sign up. – Brett White Dec 5 '11 at 19:54
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Edit : I misread the question, partly because of OghmaOsiris's answer. So this answer is more about how//to who/why to award a grant. .


I think it depend of your goal. I found 3 goals that grants help to achieve : Promote, Extend and Reward.

Promote

If there not enough Question of the tag X and this tag have a high potential, you need more user to know about X so they could ask questions about X.

Extend

There is an acceptable quantity of questions in the tag X but they are not answered or answer are of poor quality. So you need to get some user that write good answer to extend their field of expertise to X.

Reward

This is the psychological part of a grant. Users put a lot of time to write meaningful question and appropriate answer. Rewarding them might motivate them to stay around and feel theirs effort rewarded. They might also feel accountable to the site and intensify their commitment.

The grant for the Promote goal could be awarded to almost anyone, we could even make a draw. For the Extend and Reward goals, I think rep is still a good criteria.


That said, I think and grant where successful because there was already a critical mass. New question attract even more question because it lead experts to rethink aspect they didn't pay attention to. I think the grant as the same potential, but the winners (including me) will need time to catch up.

As for the Fringe grant, I think the first goal of was to Promote. But It somewhat failed, there is still low view/vote on the tag, there is just not enough interaction. The only question that is an exception are the Colonel Broyles one, which I cannot explain.

I made an experimentation by spamming reddit with some of my questions. (by the way, I still don't understand reddit and why it's so popular.) My first try showed a reasonable improvement, and the second one was even more successful. So there is some fringe potential user out there, But we failed to retain those new user; reddit user commented the reddit posts instead of posting answer here. The only new Fringe question after that was from a member of another stack exchange website.

So, I suggest we do a portion of the grants targeted to new user. (To avoid jealousy, we may need to keep a parallel one to based on rep or something like that). That would encourage new user to register and ask questions. Of course, that would mean a lot of moderation job, but that the ransom of success. While those grants are open, we should extensively promote existing questions to attract new users. A banner, like OghmaOsiris suggested, should be a must then. As for promoting, Reddit is a solution, but I'm sure there's more site like this that may be more appropriate. We should start to identify others site like this.

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(I received a Harry Potter grant a couple of weeks ago).


The grants so far have generally been timed with some sort of extra-site activity (release of HP7 Part II, release of the new 52, etc). The idea, I believe, is that we generate a lot of content around this topic when it may be of heightened interest externally. The catch here is that this really assumes that the grant will be consumed very quickly.

For example: I haven't had time to watch all the Potter films yet (hopefully over the next two weekends). I may or may not have questions as a result, and I'll certainly go over the questions again (I've already read them all with book-knowledge) before and after watching to see if I can add or improve answers. However, this will be 4-6 weeks after the release of HP7-2.

If generating content quickly is one of the goals (rather than a more long-term "let's get more experts on this topic" goal), then perhaps a criteria should be "expects to have the time to be able to consume the grant content quickly".


Although new questions is an interesting metric, I don't think it's the most important (and, if we do assume that there was already extra-site activity, then it may have nothing to do with the grant).

If a question arises naturally out of the grant, then that's great. If the grantee is stuck trying to think up X questions to ask to justify the grant, then I don't think that's great. We want interesting questions that don't have an easily found good answer elsewhere; those are hard to force. I enforce a personal limit of 2 answers per 1 question (2.39::1 at the moment) because I think the site needs questions from a wide range of people to be successful, and it doesn't really need lots more questions from me. So that means that I'm less likely to generate HP questions, even having got a grant.

I suspect there will be disagreement about this (and so perhaps I ought to have made it a separate answer). If there is agreement, then a useful criteria would be the number of questions on the topic already on the site that have no answer, or no good answers. I expect most grantees will go through the questions on the grant topic as they consume the grant and add/improve answers.


As I wrote elsewhere the grants so far (with the exception of the most recent) have been focused towards the highest-rep users (i.e. part of the purpose of the grant is rewarding building up the site to the nearly-out-of-beta status) - although most of the grants didn't reach their limits, so this was only partially the case.

Users that are right now rapidly increasing in rep are the users that probably right now have the energy and resources to translate a grant into site content. I think this is another reason that it's important to keep grant options open to these people.


Finally, although banners are out because some StackExchange users are a bit nuts I don't see any problem with having the tag applied to any current grant, assuming that there's only one at a time and it gets removed when the grant isn't available any more. If I understand correctly, this will place a link to the meta question prominently on the main site on most pages.

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