A few outside bike orgs have expressed interest in "hosting" a question at our site. This question may function as a contest submission form (ie. Submit your answer, all answerers are eligible to win X).

But not just any question will work here. We need a question that is like this, and not like this at all:

What's your most useful cycle accessory?

This question is good because everyone has an answer. It provokes immediate and "non-perverse" interaction with our site.

But nowadays, questions like this are often closed for soliciting opinions.

Is there such a thing as a bike question that is accessible and fact-based, yet allows for multiple responses?

  • 3
    Perhaps commenting on a post on the bicycles blog instead of on a question on the site would go over better.
    – hairboat
    Sep 29, 2011 at 18:50

4 Answers 4


I think that shoehorning a contest entry form into the existing Q&A format will create a bad precedent, particularly in the case of new users. And the idea of a sponsored question sounds like it could create a conflict of interest.

Why easy questions are bad for the site

Questions that are easy to answer by anyone are, by definition, bad questions because Stack Exchange is designed to produce good answers. Unless I'm missing the point here, it sounds like you want to ask some sponsored questions that will be easy to answer.

Attracting new users to the site means bringing volumes of them here. The Stack Exchange system is set up to actively discourage users who don't want to work in the Q&A format, leaving only the ones who will generate good content. These two obviously work at cross purposes, and I don't envy anyone the task of getting new users here.

On Stack Exchange, good information will be easy to find; as the good answers are upvoted, they'll rise to the top of the page. Writing good questions and answers is supposed to be a difficult thing, not an easy one. New users - and getting them here is the point of this exercise - will see a question like this and assume it's representative of the site. Allowing questions that are easy to answer because they're sponsored would be watering down the site.

The cycle accessory question you link to would almost certainly be closed were it asked today. It's a chatty question that serves no real purpose. What do the upvotes mean on those answers? That someone liked these accessories? That the upvoters agree with the answers?

Similarly, introducing a Q&A thread that's easy to participate in would defeat the purpose of the site. We want questions that produce answers by experts. If there are many answers possible, then, a few glossary community wiki questions to the side, such a question isn't a very good one or it isn't being asked properly.

Sponsored questions and conflicts of interest

Let's say that a way can be found to get past all of that. Well and good. If, say, Tektro wanted to sponsor a question about brake levers, would mods be bound to keep it open? What about users who feel that they make horrible components? (Personally, I love my Tektro brakes, but I digress.)

Would users be bound to avoid sharing their extensive knowledge if it's bad for the sponsor? Are we stuck with a sponsored question if it's a bad question?


Similar to how blog functionality was introduced with Blog Overflow, and moderator elections are carried out on a dedicated election page, perhaps a new functionality for contests can be created. This not only wouldn't compromise the site but it would allow for greater flexibility in building the perfect promotional/contest engine.

While most efforts to find new ways to use the Q&A format seem to end fairly badly, some do not. Witness the glossary (which originated, as far as I know, on Cooking) and the citation-heavy format on Skeptics. Perhaps I'm missing the point here. What exactly are you hoping to achieve here? What organizations are interested in participating? If we know more, we can make better suggestions.

  • 2
    This is an extremely well-thought out response that should probably be read by everyone on the CHAOS team. I very much appreciate it and I'm passing it on. Sep 29, 2011 at 14:29
  • Conflicts of interest - I didn't intend on letting a company "sponsor" a question. Rather, I hoped to, say, plug a question into the newsletter of the NYCC or similar organization and then use that question as a contest platform + entrypoint into the site. There would never be any censorship of answers outside of the normal moderation of the site. I don't think conflict of interest - besides outreach vs. SE integrity - is a problem here. Sep 29, 2011 at 14:36
  • New contest functionality - I've brought this up internally. It doesn't appear any product changes will take place to accommodate outreach any time soon. Sep 29, 2011 at 14:39
  • Then I'm a little unclear on what you mean by a sponsored question. Would love to hear more about this. And thanks for the kind words. Sep 29, 2011 at 19:24
  • @SamTheBrandΨ - After some thought - and discussing this with Martha F - I realized that vetting a question with the community here on meta, as has been done before, would avoid many of these problems. Any changes made after this point should be quite minimal. And the "sponsor" would have more clarity about what they're getting into; they could - and should - participate in this process. Sep 29, 2011 at 19:29
  • I don't believe I ever used the term "sponsored." But I envision an outside org or company asking a question under their own name. We don't get paid - in fact, we may pay an outsider to promote the question they ask. Sep 29, 2011 at 19:29
  • "We want to ask about how to improve widget X, how can we ask this?" If questions were asked in a manner that allowed for specific answers, the site could try questions like this. "What would be the effect on other components of taking component Y and making it more durable but a bit heavier?" Sep 29, 2011 at 19:30
  • As long as we stay away from "What do YOU think about how this widget can be made better" questions, of course! Sep 29, 2011 at 19:31
  • Yeah, "sponsored" was my term. Sep 29, 2011 at 19:32


What's your most useful cycle accessory?

Should simply be closed as not constructive. There's no description of the goal, or a particular problem to be solved, just "let's make a list of X!".

If the goal is

A few outside bike orgs have expressed interest in "hosting" a question at our site. This question may function as a contest submission form (ie. Submit your answer, all answerers are eligible to win X).

I don't think that's a fit pretty much by definition.

Perhaps as Abby mentioned in the comments, the best way to do this is simply use the bicycles blog and blog comments -- that'd be more appropriate.

  • 2
    +1 use the blog.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 30, 2011 at 2:36

Using blog comments as a contest platform is a good idea - It keeps low quality site interaction out of the meat of the site.


It also keeps interaction out of the site.

The idea here is to reduce the barrier to entry (just for a minute) so outside users are compelled to dive in and poke around.

So I still haven't given up on trying to find that "holy grail accessible, fact-based, multi-answer question." It may exist.

But until we figure it out, I'll try to get a contest going in the blog. Of course, I'll keep you posted. Lemme know any and all thoughts.

  • 1
    "outside users are compelled to dive in and poke around" - a contest where they find something on the site, then: from the specific ("what did somebody ask about socks?") to the subjective ("which is your favourite answer and why?").
    – ChrisW
    Oct 5, 2011 at 5:59
  • 1
    I think ChrisW's suggestion is the way to go. Do contest as blog post where required comment is something like "Find your favorite post about X on Bicycles" where X is something targeted towards your specific audience. Contest open to anybody, because trying to lock it down to new users will generate ill-will in existing community and won't drive up external participation. (doesn't have to be "your favorite", could be anything that requires searching around on our site. Content based not badge/score/rep based would be best)
    – freiheit
    Oct 5, 2011 at 17:38

Is there such a thing as a bike question that is accessible and fact-based, yet allows for multiple responses?

I hope for multiple responses to Light-weight ladies bike.

I had (and synthesized) multiple responses to What bike+equipment for a long daily urban commute?.

Sorry, didn't properly define "accessible" as I'm using it, but yes, I basically mean a question that nearly anyone can answer with minimal thought. "What Bike + Equipment for a long daily urban commute?" may be as minimally thought intensive as we can ask here. Do you agree?

No: "a question that nearly anyone can answer with minimal thought" sounds like 'not a real question', which are normally closed.

But, you're here to see what I don't: to interest new users more than existing users.

Both questions are accessible imo in that, surely, every cyclist is and/or knows commuters, and/or women (see also Demographics of cycle commuters and How to encourage people close to me to become cyclists?). And they're novice-level questions, i.e. asked by a novice.

They're genuine and pointed though, not trivial, specific, perhaps difficult (the second because it's commuting 10,000 km/year, the first because of wheel size and weight), edge cases: real questions with non-trivial answers.

Can you tell me anything substantive about bikes for commuting, or light ladies bikes? Or do you want to know what other people say about them? If not, then what you're asking for, what you mean by 'accessible', might be a kind of 'discussion' question which solicits "What is your experience with...?" and "How do you feel about...?" (which are also normally closed) ... or which could be more appropriate for the Chat (which, like the blog, is another facet of the platform) than for the Q+A main board.

Or maybe you have no questions about gear, and prefer questions about techniques; or about places.

If the (existing) real questions are too difficult to be accessible, could you select several of them to promote (everyone can answer one of a selection of questions even if they can't answer all of them)? Could you promote different questions to different audiences? Or you might promote tags and the wiki (another aspect of the platform), e.g. the product-rec tag or other 'tags' (I believe they do or did that on StackOverflow).

N.B.: You should read Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

  • Although it isn't as accessible as I'd like, something like that second question just might work! Oct 5, 2011 at 15:56
  • @SamTheBrandΨ - How aren't they both thoroughly 'accessible'?
    – ChrisW
    Oct 5, 2011 at 15:59
  • @ChrisW: I think "accessible" means "almost anybody can answer them"
    – freiheit
    Oct 5, 2011 at 16:19
  • @ChrisW - Sorry, didn't properly define "accessible" as I'm using it, but yes, I basically mean a question that nearly anyone can answer with minimal thought. "What Bike + Equipment for a long daily urban commute?" may be as minimally thought intensive as we can ask here. Do you agree? Oct 5, 2011 at 17:25
  • @SamTheBrandΨ - I edited my answer, above, to reply to your most recent question.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 6, 2011 at 4:46
  • Thanks for the clarification. I understand the difference between an acceptable & closed question isn't black & white. Still I'm uncertain what's the lowest common denominator when it comes to a question that solicits answers that are both minimally thought intensive and accessible. But now I'm getting kinda philosophical. I'll let the community know before/if I ever try to solicit answers in a contest-type way. Stay tuned. Oct 6, 2011 at 13:33
  • @SamTheBrandΨ - Answers are supposed to be useful and so worth reading. Another possibility might be region-specific questions and answers: about where people ride, local routes and organizations.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 6, 2011 at 14:01

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