July the 12th marks one year since we came out of beta:

And we have had continuous growth ever since, steadily gaining new users and questions, and the odd peak where a particular incident or burst of activity has boosted the community. Our birthday is an excellent opportunity to generate another burst of activity.

Other sites have held miscellaneous contests to encourage participation, and our anniversary seems as good a time as any to try one, assuming we have any clever ideas. There are two things to come up with- the contest itself, and the prizes for the winners

Contest ideas

Since other sites have held contests in the past, we might be able to steal one of their ideas:

Super User has done this several times. At 1 year they had a four week contest, where they rewarded users each week based on performance that week:

  • Highest rep gain from a new user
  • Highest rep gain in general
  • Best post that week
  • Most useful post that week (this is different from #3? Apparently) They did a similar thing this year, but changed the categories a bit to cover things other than just Q&A (editing, tagging, blogging, cleanup, etc.). Jeff warns that it's important to incentivize the right thing

Gaming has had much success with giving top users free copies of a new game, on the assumption that they'll ask questions about it and other people playing that game for the first time will search for the question and find the site. Science Fiction did the same thing with Star Wars. Not sure whether there is anything in this area that would be relevant here, but worth thinking about.

Gaming also had a contest centered around two popular games that came out around the same time, tracking which game was getting more posts on the site, and rewarding the top question and answer for each

Android picked a number of good questions that had gone unanswered for a long time, tagged them all, and entered all the accepted/top voted answers on those questions in a drawing to win Kindles. They also had a twitter-related promotion, but I don't think I would call it a contest. They've talked about doing an SU-style contest as well, but I don't know that it's happened yet

Unix & Linux had a question clean-up competition, rewarding members who supplied good answers to old, unanswered questions. Philosophy rewarded users who ask questions about a chosen philosopher. History is doing it with wars.

All of these are excellent ideas. Obviously we're not limited to these, but we need something that will attract attention, new users, questions, answers, quality etc.


Have a look at this associated question on prizes. Security already has some branded swag, and the Stack Exchange store has the usual fare. If we can come up with more Security-specific prizes that might give SE some useful ideas. For example, free attendance at a major security conference, EFF membership, things of that nature. can't make any promises, but if we come up with clever prize ideas I'll see if Stack Exchange is willing to pay for them

I think the Unix & Linux one (suggested by @Gilles) and SU's second contest (rewarding specific activities on a weekly basis) make a lot of sense.

What are everyone else's preferences? Any other ideas for contests/prizes?

Update - we have had a little interest and attention, but not many ideas. Any thoughts from the community?

  • 2
    Well - we have only 30 unanswered questions, so our %age answered is pretty good (although if anyone fancies either answering them, or flagging if they are not answerable, that would be useful anyway)
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 8:39

7 Answers 7


Idea for contest:

Most significant hack of the SE stack.

That's right, calling open season (with appropriate ground rules, of course) on security vulnerabilities on StackExchange sites.

The winner could either be decided by SE, e.g. according to the relative risk rating - we could help with that, or stipulate a specific methodology - or according to votes by the community in a dedicated meta post.

It goes without saying that SEI management would need to approve this...

  • 7
    (possibly goes without saying that SEI management won't approve this before the heat death of the universe...)
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 10:49
  • 1
    Very interesting and fun, but i doubt it will get approved. :)
    – user10211
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 10:49
  • 2
    Yeah, I agree about it probably not being approved by SEI. On the other hand, I am eternally an optimist, and hope that SEI could see the immense benefit of getting all this free pentesting! This is potentially 10's of THOUSANDS of dollars worth of FREE services!!
    – AviD Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 12:51
  • 1
    The guy who got Jeff's password has my vote. Once again, the human is the weakest link in the chain. Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 13:09
  • 3
    Unless I find this memory leak in our API, we won't need help from the outside... Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 14:15
  • 2
    @NickCraver hehe, excellent. Though DoS isn't necessarily the sexiest flaw, it could do the job for such a high-profile/high-traffic site like this. Perhaps we can amend the proposal to a security code-review...?
    – AviD Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 14:25
  • 7
    Sorry, we've discussed this internally and it's not something we (Stack Exchange) can sanction. In addition to the legal ramifications, we're not comfortable with encouraging attacks on systems with people's private information. Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 17:17
  • 1
    @DavidFullerton fair enough. I realized it was a bit edgy, and would definitely be tricky to pull off. I was hoping we could sort it out, but protecting PII (not to mention CHD, for careers) is a fair issue. I still think it's possible to do this safely, but I appreciate your point. Thanks anyway!
    – AviD Mod
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 19:11
  • 2
    @AviD it's a good idea, and it's not something we're ruling out forever, but we basically don't feel that we have the time to set it up in a way that we're comfortable with right now Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 19:14
  • 3
    If it isn't approved by SEI, the contest is hacking the approver's account, so it looks like they approved it. If you see David Fullerton, suddenly approve of it, you'll know why... (I'm completely kidding -- don't do this.) Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 19:46
  • 1
    It's happening meta.stackexchange.com/questions/297423/…
    – Goose
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 20:24

Highest rep gain on a particular topic could be good - Skeptics have weeks where they pick a topic and encourage the community to post questions on that topic. We could perhaps pick a hot-topic in security and do this

  • 1
    A different topic each week/fortnight might be cool, too.
    – Aarthi
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 17:39

Question clean-up has value as well - sorting through questions, removing excess comments and neatening up answers helps improve the value of the site to new users and to those of us already here.

  • 1
    Highest number of high quality edits per week?
    – user2213
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 13:13

With 55 unanswered questions, we could challenge people to look at these questions and either provide answers, improve the questions so they can be answered or flag them for deletion.

In fact working on any questions with unaccepted answers (maybe 1 or two answers) to improve them would be valuable.


I think something involving an answer (and subsequent action) to this question could be good:

How can we help make StackExchange more secure?

  • I think Nick's answer probably covers a lot of that, and I can foresee a conversation on rollout of certs between him and @ScottPack soon :-)
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 20:34
  • Nick's answer does address SSL. However, my intent for the question wasn't just to take care of SSL. I'm sure there's other areas we could find to help out in.
    – Iszi
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 20:52
  • To be honest, it would be really good if they do tap into the collective experience here for guidance, but I'm guessing from Nick's comments that that may be a long term relationship. Have a look at my updated question - a straw man proposal for the competition.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 20:57

What I most miss on Sec.SE is questions about areas of security concerning fields other than IT infrastructure and data protection. It took a while for network-pentesting.SE (what this site was in its early beta) to evolve into information-security.SE, which is more or less what the site is now. So I propose to encourage questions to bootstrap content in some fields of security that this site is not catering to. Taking Rory Alsop's list as a starting base:

  • Social Engineering [other than to bypass IT restrictions]
  • Vetting
  • IT Disaster Recovery
  • Disaster Planning
  • Data Centre security [I think we're doing ok here]
  • CCTV [?]
  • Electronic locks
  • Biometrics
  • Lock Picking
  • Intelligence
  • The implementation aspects of crypto, and the application of the correct algorithm for the job [covered by Crypto.SE]
  • spoofing geolocation etc [I think we're doing ok here]
  • I like this - using these as topics could help a lot.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 15:43


A challenging question posed by the moderators, that covers a general aspect of Security that requires much in-depth experience to answer.

The best answer as chosen by the community - with relevant examples, quotes, references - will be awarded prizes?

  • I like this idea, but I wouldn't restrict it to just moderators - anyone could have a hand in it - they'd just be exempt from the prizes, of course! We already do QotW on a weekly basis (or as close as we can) - this could be part of that :)
    – user2213
    Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 12:43

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