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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.

  • I do think that contests could be quite fun, but I have a hard time thinking of ones that aren't "draw this"! – Loop Space Mar 3 '11 at 11:24
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Featured questions with bounties are already contest-like. Why not use that?

  • Whoever knows a nice problem: post it and offer a tempting huge bounty.

  • Everybody can contribute a solution.

  • The community can vote up good answers, the best answers will go to the top.

  • The author of the problem is the juror, and rightly so. He will finally award the bounty.

  • The solutions on the following places will be rewarded by rep coming from the upvotes by the community.

So, everybody is involved in taking part and in judging. What else is required? Really a bigger jury and more complicated rules? Such as forbidding bounties on questions just because they look contest-like? I don't think so. However, discussion of the problem before and after on meta would be great, of course.

To sum up: I like the idea of contests, and I suggest to start off using featured questions and bounties.

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I think they can be a good idea for many reasons. My primary reason for supporting these is for educational fun. I view them as being of the type of question that someone needs to do some thinking as well as know the programming side of things and possibly have to spent 2-3 hours to provide a reasonable answer.

We are lucky that the Site has attracted some of the most knowledgeable people in the TeX/LaTeX community and their answers can form a very valuable pool of resource. It is also a way of some of the high rep users to redistribute some of their reputation for the enrichment of the Site.

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This answer is just trying to get a handle on the kind of contest questions we'd be asking. (Hence CW for suggested questions.)

Simple reimplementation of framed package in LaTeX3

Or perhaps:

How do I get the background colour of my beamer presentation to change slowly through the course of the presentation?

(Hint: I solved this one for myself)

Make some nice looking documentation for the moderncv package

This one might not be great...

Write a tutorial on how to define new beamer blocks templates

Again, this one is half-solved thanks to Caramdir's stirling work here

Define a macro that draws a regular polygon with a specified area

  • Yes, I'd like to see some concrete examples to help me figure out what I think about this. – Loop Space Mar 3 '11 at 19:38
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    "Define a macro which takes an optional braced argument. It should not be fooled by an implicit brace token following it. Spaces may be ignored." --- I have ideas on how to solve that, but I think that it is impossible to have it be fully robust. – Bruno Le Floch Mar 6 '11 at 11:18
  • The "write some docs/tutorial" questions seems a lot like Will's attempt to get some documentation written (for a rather large rep award iirc) that many people did not appear to like. – TH. Mar 6 '11 at 12:06
  • By the way, this is the attempt to which I referred. – TH. Mar 6 '11 at 12:12
  • @TH. We don't need many people to like them, we just need someone to have a go inside of a week... – Seamus Mar 6 '11 at 12:33

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