This is somewhat in line with earlier questions of the type "Gaming.SE more like StarCraftII.SE am I right?":

But I'm wondering if the community promotion sponsorship, with its selection of The Witcher II, have artificially inflated this problem for a new game. In the last week, there have been 58 questions tagged , exceeding the number of questions in the last month, arguably a far more popular game (estimated: 675k day 1 sales vs. 200k 3-day sales).

Right now, 16 out of the 50 questions on the front page are tagged , and of those 16, (almost?) all of them are asked by high-rep, well-known users, which would indicate that those are people who were selected for the promotion.

Indeed, and I don't mean to pick on anyone for doing anything wrong, people presumably selected for the promotion have a really high ratio of questions:

Now, of course, the whole purpose of the sponsorship was to get questions asked and answered for popular new games, but this seems to be getting close to the idea of a content farm. That is, content is being generated for the sake of latching onto a keyword for its Google juice rather than for the sake of solving people's problems.

To that end, of the 47 questions by the people I mentioned above:

  • 7 have no answers
  • 23 were self-answered or answered by another one of the identified
  • 14 only have self answers or answers by another of the identified

That is to say, the people who are finding these questions interesting are also the people who happen to be in the promotion.

Is the seeding of the site in this manner good for the internet? Rather than trying to seed the site with questions we hope people would ask (but aren't really being asked), perhaps the emphasis for future rounds should be on answers to questions that arise organically?

I don't mean to say that there shouldn't be seed questions, but that perhaps the number of them should be dependent on the general interest in the game (that is, the number of organic questions or the number of questions being answered organically).

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Answered questions especially help the popularity on the site, more so than open ones. People will want to see the kind of answers they will get before they start asking questions. Remember, most of our traffic comes from Google. Answered questions show up on Google, player finds answer, player finds site. –  user56 May 21 '11 at 21:57
    
@Arda I don't doubt that to be the case; my main point is that the seeding for The Witcher II seems to be borderline excessive. The vast majority of questions for the game are seeds, not organic questions. –  user3389 May 21 '11 at 21:59
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@MarkTrapp I don't think there's anything wrong with seeding so long as it's not artificial (like "What's the best strategy for X" repeated for 12 classes, for example.) Organic questions aren't any better than seeds, for the site's popularity. The main goal is to help people, whether those people ask the questions themselves or just stumble upon them from Google. Additionally, I think the fact that such questions "Is this an X + games site?" have been asked for multiple values of X proves that not to be the case. –  user56 May 21 '11 at 22:01
    
@Arda This is a different situation than the earlier cases, as The Witcher II is specifically being targeted by a community promotion. That is, Gaming.SE is artificially inflating the impact of the game on the site by seeding. I agree that some seeding is good, but this amount of seeding doesn't seem to be helping anything. As I said, the majority of questions seem to be of interest only to the people participating in the promotion. –  user3389 May 21 '11 at 22:10
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I will mention that we're getting a better payoff in terms of traffic from The Witcher than we've gotten from Portal 2, so the increased "spam" is giving increased results. Also, if the absolute majority of questions get answered by people outside the program, that's another win for us! –  badp May 21 '11 at 22:27
    
I like seeing that Gaming SE follows the gaming trends of the moment even if questions are part of a sponsorship program. It gives to the site a sense of freshness and I think many people appreciate it. I am trying to follow on my own a similar approach with Terraria, a game that is having an unexpected success in Steam sales, and I think will attract too many other new players. –  Drake May 23 '11 at 7:46
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As the one who is helping to organize and supply for the sponsorship, I imagine I'm expected to comment on this matter, but honestly, Jeff posted his answer while I wrote mine and it basically mirrors what I would've said (with a dash of what Fabian wrote, as well, since I've got participant testimonials about the grant process). –  Grace Note May 23 '11 at 19:21
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I feel this is related: translate.googleusercontent.com/… (Obama receives gift of The Witcher 2) –  Raven Dreamer May 29 '11 at 2:50

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Is the seeding of the site in this manner good for the internet? Rather than trying to seed the site with questions we hope people would ask (but aren't really being asked), perhaps the emphasis for future rounds should be on answers to questions that arise organically?

It should still be organic in these that these are actual, non-imaginary, non-hypothetical questions people had while playing the game -- and that other people on the internet will hopefully run into as well.

I'd only have a problem with this if the questions were "Too Localized" in some way, and cannot benefit the greater internet.

Part of the point of the promotion is to

  • reward our avid community members

  • get a "head start" on new games as soon as they are released, which will hopefully drive traffic and new, quality users to the site

Remember that new games invariably cause a spike in search traffic around those games, and we want to be a part of that so the site can grow.

That said, of course the questions and answers must be of high quality; if they are not, that's a whole other issue.

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As I'm the user that posts the most excessive amount of questions about the Witcher 2, I feel obliged to respond. As far as I know you are correct and all the users you mentioned are part of the community sponsorship.

To clarify one point, all of my questions are real questions. Those are all aspects of the game I was confused about in the beginning or I just did not know. They are certainly seed questions in a way, because I'm actively thinking about what would make a good question while playing. This is an obvious and unavoidable effect of the sponsorship, as we users who received the game feel obliged to provide content for the site. But I don't think this is a bad thing.

I solved many of those questions myself after a while, but that doesn't mean they are bad questions. Not everyone reads the whole manual, all of the quest journal entries and makes dozens of attempts at defeating a boss, trying out all kinds of tactics. If I would only post questions here that I am incapable of answering there wouldn't be many left. I tried to give other users a chance to answer my questions, even if I solved them myself after posting, but I didn't want to leave too many open question around. My copy of the game arrived earlier than for the other participating users, so that may have skewed the population of users capable of answering.

The fact that I had a certain question at some point, that I had to spend some effort in solving it is often a good indicator that other people playing the game have similar problems. Take a look at the number of views many questions about the game get, most of the hits are likely from Google. That is a pretty good indicator for the interest people have in those questions, and I think you can conclude that many people are searching for the terms that lead to those questions.

I'm picking my questions about destroying Nekker Nests as an example, as it got more than 10k views at this moment. The reason for that is that to know the answer you would have to either buy an in-game book and read it, or kill a lot of Nekkers and then read the appropriate knowledge tab in your character screen to get the information you need. This is something most gamers won't do, and this specific game does not hold your hand at all, you're on your own figuring that out. This question got more than 10k views in a few days, I'd say there is a definite interest.

I'm a bit wondering too why so few other established users are participating in the Q&A for that specific game. Maybe everyone interested registered for the promition?

I do think we have a problem with the amount of questions asked here in general, but just the other way around as you describe. I think most users here are not asking enough questions. Especially the experienced, high-reputation users. They are used to solving their own problems, but if they were to ask their questions here, they would likely ask higher quality questions than 1-rep users that just found our site here.

In short, I think the flood of questions is exactly what we want to achieve with this promotion. Compare us to any random, well-known game forum, and the number of posts about this newly released game is likely higher there than the still small number of questions asked here. I don't think an additional questions hurts this site, as long as it is a high quality one.

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I think you make some good points about the somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy of granting the promotion to what looks like all the high-rep users who were interested in the game, but your point (and badp's point made in a comment on the question) about traffic validating the experiment is a little lacking. After all, that's the same justification Demand Media and Experts Exchange use to validate their existence. That's not to say your content has been low quality, not at all; but I thought we were trying to do more with Stack Exchange than increase traffic. –  user3389 May 21 '11 at 23:08
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@Mark Traffic is a good indicator of interest, it shows that many people are searching for those topics. Traffic says nothing about quality though as you indicated, but I don't think we have a quality problem. I had googled some of the topics I asked about, looking at the sites that were at the top of the results before we came, I can assure you that we made the internet a better place (there were some real content farmers at the top, with no helpful information on the site). –  Mad Scientist May 22 '11 at 8:35
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We also got some low-rep users asking questions about the game, and I'm pretty sure they came here because they stumbled on one of the questions inspired by the community grant. The traffic is just the means of attracting new users. We don't have enough users yet so that we get good coverage of new games automatically. And if there's only a handful of questions about a game here, new users won't know that this is a good place to ask questions about that game. They can't know there are sponsored experts for the game waiting in the shadows, itching to answer questions. –  Mad Scientist May 22 '11 at 8:41
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I fully agree with you @Fabian, that the problem isn't you asking a lot of questions, but our fellow users not asking enough questions. I dare to bet that the majority of our regular users have played through several games without having any questions at all. Call me crazy, but if the game isn't complicated enough to at least raise some questions with you, how on earth is that game even worth playing? So I disagree with @Mark's assessment that this is the equivalent of a content farm. Its not like we're asking questions like: how to control my character? –  Ivo Flipse May 22 '11 at 17:40
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"They are certainly seed questions in a way, because I'm actively thinking about what would make a good question while playing." QFT! –  Raven Dreamer May 22 '11 at 20:39
    
@Fabian @Ivo I get what you're saying, but one of the main charges of question askers isn't to ask every question that comes to mind, but to do one's homework before asking. Stack Exchange even has protections against serial question askers. Repeated self-answering seems, to me, to be a symptom of a problem, not a Good Thing: that the question asker doesn't spend enough time helping themselves before asking others for help. Again, that's not to say that's what you guys have been doing, but is it really behavior we want to encourage? –  user3389 May 22 '11 at 20:50
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When a game is brand-new, there is no way to do your homework, because nobody else has done it for you! Asking questions, with the goal of sparing others your trial-and-error isn't what I call a symptom either. Just look at Starcraft 2, as soon as game is challenging, users will have a ton of questions to ask. I agree that it shouldn't get out of hand, but I don't see that happening here. –  Ivo Flipse May 23 '11 at 16:18
    
I agree with Ivo. Trying to google for answers about The Witcher 2 is an exercise in frustration. Gaming.SE easily has the best answers so far, so I think posting anything we have significant trouble with is a good idea (even if the next thing we try after that happens to provide the answer to that same question). –  Matthew Read May 24 '11 at 18:37

If traffic was our only concern, then I'll say things are looking well, although not spectacularly so.

We have more eyeballs than ever on our content. Quantity of content also isn't an issue. Yay! What quality is that content, however?

From an eagle's eye, the ratio of question upvotes to answer upvotes is somewhat concerning (3:1 roughly right now) - we have great questions, but the answers don't seem that great. Even the top voted answers seem a bit rushed; three paragraphs at most and a screenshot. Perhaps they say all that's needed to say on each answer — how would I know — but we could do with reviewing and elaborating on a few of those answers where it makes sense to do so.

Otherwise, things are looking pretty good to me.

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I think one thing influencing this is that many questions are self-answered, and many users won't upvote self-answers in my experience. Improving the answers is of course a good idea in any case. –  Mad Scientist May 22 '11 at 16:57
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Now I'm curious: what was the spike on the Ubuntu site regarding? –  Raven Dreamer May 22 '11 at 20:43
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@Raven the release of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal –  Mad Scientist May 22 '11 at 20:53
    
Do you have a graph of new user registrations in last month? Just for curiosity. –  Drake May 23 '11 at 7:47
    
@Drake Nope, sorry. Perhaps with the next datadump there will be more data. –  badp May 23 '11 at 8:03

This promotion has barely been running one week. I'd say give the program a chance to work. This program was created as a way of engaging and rewarding excellent users by giving them games they would normally have questions about anyway. If it turns out that this activity only creates poor, forced content, we can make adjustments or close it down. But this early on, I think it is too soon to anticipate that there will be on-going problems.

A lot of the anomalies you are seeing are only because the program is just starting. This much-anticipated program was launched with a lot of hullabaloo. Naturally, everyone is anxious to get their questions in early… One game; A lot of questions, all at once. After this initial honeymoon period, I would expect the flood of activity to smooth out considerably.

We are planing on expanding this promotion to include dozens of current releases spread over a period. Then you should start to see the content flow more naturally along the new release of games — which is what people are typically asking about anyway.

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To be clear, I'm not insinuating there was abuse, and I'm not accusing anyone of seeding the site with questions they don't actually have. My point about seeding, which seems to have been reinforced by Fabian's answer, is that those in the promotion are making a concerted effort to find questions to ask, and my question is whether or not that's a Good Thing given a lot of the activity on those questions seems to be of interest only to those in the promotion. –  user3389 May 24 '11 at 3:30
    
@Mark Trapp: Sorry, the context I was using the words "accusation" and "abuse" did not come across in the manner I intended. I meant only to discuss your premise that that the program was not being used in a productive manner ("abuse"). It wasn't supposed to be pejorative, just a very poor choice of words. Rather than reword, I trimmed it down to focus on my main points. You may not agree with my premise, but I hope it is now clearer. My apologies. –  Robert Cartaino May 24 '11 at 3:53
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@MarkTrapp There are only 6 participants in the program - the four you named, sjohnston, and Matthew Read. Excluding the "appealing" question (to The Witcher 2 what the corpse question was to Nethack), a fair number of posts have votes that indicate that there are indeed others viewing them. The fact that not all posts have a full 5+ votes actually tells me that we can assume that those in the program are not entirely cross-interested. And there's of course the number of views each question gets, which is pretty decent for only a week. –  Grace Note May 24 '11 at 11:51
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@MarkTrapp I realize this information was never detailed earlier, but to that end, one of the main benefits of the promotion is that, by providing the game, we have people we know can provide answers. So the fact that a lot of the answers come from our own numbers seems fine to me, as the meat of the benefit is the incoming readers, providing views at minimum and votes if they are members. And it shows me a fair amount of interest beyond just the 6 I selected. –  Grace Note May 24 '11 at 11:57
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We chose The Witcher 2 over other titles coming out this week especially for its potential to generate good, interesting questions. Compare, for example, with a linear first person shooter with no multiplayer. –  badp May 24 '11 at 13:03

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