Some time ago I had a proposal for having contests on the main site. The original idea had a somewhat of a lukewarm support, but mostly because the idea was to stretch TeX-SE into something which doesn't really fit the Stack Exchange model. However, there's now a Code Golf site on the SE network (with somewhat disappointing stats currently), so the Powers That Be are not against the idea in general.
Recently the topic was raised by others in chat and in random comments here and there, so I thought I'd give it a second go and see how far it will go this time.
I'll try to lay out some sensible rules to keep it in line with the official policy, as well as checks and balances to prevent abuse. In no particular order:
- Frequency. Not too often so that the normal operation of the site is not disrupted. Once per month is probably frequent enough. Something of a predefined schedule would be a good idea.
- Previous discussion. A discussion on meta before announcing the contest on the main site should help spotting some problems in the question-to-be-contest (such as level of interest, difficulty level, real-world applicability).
- Content. Real-world problems should be preferred, to provide something more than pure entertainment value for the contestants and the by-standers. Besides, this lines up with the official SE stance on this. At any rate, non-obvious useful challenging problems that would require a few hours of work and some ammount of thinking should be preferred.
- Eligibility. The contests should ensure as broad participation as possible, so the questions preferably shouldn't be focused on using a specific technology. Some less used typesetting systems, macro packages and languages would bring extra flavour and interesting solutions to the challenges.
- Judgement. This is somewhat tricky, as the rep contributor is the only person that can give the award. At any rate, some more formal evaluation of the entries is desirable, to avoid bias towards e.g. uses of certain technologies (For example, I have basically no knowledge about ConTeXt, so I would not be in a position to say how good a given answer is, and I'd rather award the prize to a solution that uses a familiar technology). An appointed jury of three would work best here, but it will be a stretch of duties to ask the moderators to do the job.
- Zero tolerance for violating the rules. The moderators and high-rep users should close as off-topic all attempts to announce a bounty on a question with the intent to spur a contest without jumping through all the hoops.
Any sort of feedback is welcome, especially the deeply criticizing kind. Additional considerations I haven't thought of are also appreciated.