I've been thinking about this for some time, and Will Robertson seems to have a similar idea to get stuff done by others, rewarding them with reputation.

So, in short: part with your hard-earned reputation to organize a mini-contest with a bounty prize on a topic/package you are interested in -- as Will did, for improving a piece of documentation. It's not like people have a use for their reputation after they gain access to moderation tools, anyway.

To keep the spirit of the SE platform, the contests should be in the form of a question that can be more or less objectively answered. This could be tricky for some tasks, but I think is important.

For fun, there might also be Tikz contests for complex non-trivial drawings, with an award for a clean and efficient solution. Scientific writers and researchers high up in the food chain might find a way to "outsource" the boring work of preparing diagrams to somebody willing to earn some extra rep (not that undergrads are in short supply, but that smells a bit like exploitation to me).


Update: The guys at SO already have something like this -- the competitions are marked with a special tag. They have some ground rules on e.g. how often those should appear, who could ask them, to prevent abuse. See this discussion on meta.SO for some idea how the rules could look like.

2 Answers 2


I think we need to be careful not to abuse the platform too much.

The SE platform is developed for Q&A sites, and it has been used extensively to implement Q&A sites, and everything (including the reputation system) is fine-tuned so that it serves that purpose as well as possible.

It isn't really designed to be an outsourcing platform, and I think nobody is using it as an outsourcing platform. If you tried to do that, you may encounter unexpected problems.

(To give a simple example: if it may take a lot of time to develop a solution, the system should provide some kind of coordination mechanisms that help to avoid doing too much overlapping work. For example, it should be possible to "claim" a task to let others know that you are developing a solution. But then it shouldn't be possible to claim too many tasks simultaneously, and the tasks should be automatically released if you don't submit a solution reasonably quickly. And these are just technical aspects; I'm afraid we might also have social/community aspects to deal with, and extra work for our moderators.)


Whilst I agree with Jukka on the "outsourcing" (horrible word) part, I think that the competition bit has merits. Questions like the torus one: How to draw a torus or the snake one: How do you draw the "snake" arrow for the connecting homomorphism in the snake lemma? have a bit of a feel of a "let's see what you can do" competition. And as it's primarily for fun, it seems to be to fit in with the "community building" part of the SE idea.

Anyone agree or disagree?

  • You only say that because you always “win” those competitions. :P In all seriousness, yeah, I think it's fun and useful! Oct 14, 2010 at 14:53
  • @Juan: you've spotted my cunning plan! I'd've gotten away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids. Seriously, the discussion about ConTeXt got me thinking that as well as answering questions, we want to have a little bit of stuff that makes people stay a while, and things that make one go, "I never knew it was possible to do that" are a neat way of doing it. Also, once on MO I got an absolute roasting over my enthusiasm for TikZ - apparently we should all be using MetaPost. But without examples of what MetaPost and so on can do, how can I judge which I should use? Oct 14, 2010 at 18:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .