As I’m sure a lot of you already know, Grammar Girl is a big deal in the online English/Grammar world. I’ve been talking to her about sponsoring a podcast, and as part of the sponsorship we get mentions on the podcast, her newsletter, twitter, and Facebook, along with an ad on the site.

This is a huge opportunity to reach a bunch of people - she has 70,000 listeners and 160,000 twitter followers. So what do we want her to say about us? Obviously we don’t want her to just mention that we’re her sponsor – we should do something cool on the site that she can tell her listeners about. Right?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Word Choice Contest - we could start a regular (maybe weekly) event where we do a "name that word" competition (someone reads a definition, and the first person to answer correctly wins). We could do this in a Google+ Hangout potentially.

  2. Top New Users Contest - see which new user can earn the most rep in a certain time period

What else? I want it to be something that would attract Grammar Girl's listeners (and maybe herself!) to come check out the site after they hear about it. A chat/Hangout might be good because people would get to talk afterwards. Please give feedback and suggest other ideas!

FYI- she offered me the October 7th podcast slot, which is kind of soon. So let's brainstorm! We can always ask for a later date if necessary (like if we want to try something out among our current users before we promote it off the site), but it would be better to respond sooner rather than later.

[Edit] Another way to get her involved in the site before the podcast would be to interview her and do a write up on our blog. What do you think about that? Would anybody be interested in helping conduct the interview? I'd have to ask her if she'd be willing of course, but want to gauge interest here before I do so.

  • 1
    Top New Users is interesting, but problematic given the rep cap.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:16
  • Rep cap? there's a maximum rep you can get (from looking at Users it seems not)....ohhhh, you mean 200 per day. I get it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 22:30
  • 4
    I think the overall operation of the site is sometimes subverted by things people do because of the rep system. Holding a special contest for "rep whore of the week" might incentivise more of that. Skating on thin ice, I reckon. Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 0:00
  • 3
    I agree with FF: we are sort of a rep brothel already; let's at least keep that low profile, to salvage what real reputation this house has left... Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


I like the idea of interviewing Grammar Girl prior to sponsoring her podcast. It might give her something to talk about organically: "Hey! I was interviewed by blah blah blah!" That would be much more interesting to her listeners than conjuring up a contest specifically to give Grammar Girl something to talk about.

This doesn't have to be so contrived. You should interview Grammar Girl because she has something interesting to talk about. You should brag about your events and contests when they are fun and interesting. But putting that cart before the horse risks looking a bit forced and artificial.

I do like the idea of these events and contests. Keep working on them because they make this site fun and interesting. Go forward with an interview request because it's a net plus for this community. But if the sponsorship has to happen on October 7th, perhaps there's already something interesting to talk about amongst your content. But thinking a bit more long term, if the sponsorship has to wait for something interesting to talk about, it seems worth it to wait for that to happen organically.


I think one of the aspects of EL&U that doesn't seem to work the way I'd expected/hoped is that old questions do tend to "wither away", sometimes without the best possible answer being present and/or obviously recognisable by the number of votes it has.

So how about randomly selecting a few dozen past questions every week (maybe by getting User:Community to assign them a bounty?). Count all the new upvotes for each answer, to identify the one most favoured now. Award a prize to the user who has most consistently voted for the "best answer" as thus defined.

Also identify the best half-dozen questions in the competition (again, by new upvotes) and increase competitors' scores according to whether they upvoted exactly and only those particular questions. Apart from raising the profile of good questions, this would reduce the number of "joint winners".

Bias the scoring against people voting for more than one answer to a question, or switching their vote after seeing what others are going for. I'm sure the techies can figure out how to manage those details so the intended effect wouldn't be subverted.

  • 1
    The main problem you mention is a phenomenon of all of stackexchange, all QA sites, all ... anything. It is annoying in some sense, and possibly modifiable, but...I'm not sure that that's desirable.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 22:33
  • you can peruse english.stackexchange.com/questions/greatest-hits to see which posts are getting disproportionate views over time and anonymous user feedback. It's not always good on English for reasons I have complained about here on meta ad nauseam.. but progress is being made. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 22:56
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    @Jeff: I'd like to say that's interesting, but I don't understand what it's telling me. Why would a question on interested on vs interested in be in the top 10 ELU questions by that algorithm? It's got relatively few votes, so it can only be the viewcount that puts it there. I can see how meaning of “put it down on me” (top 3) might get views from people thinking it looks salacious or otherwise interesting, but mostly I don't get the significance of the list. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 23:52
  • @Mitch: If you say it's a problem, how can you doubt that it would be desirable that we modify something? If you don't think my idea would work then fine - but it would be nice to see some other reason apart from it just not being desirable. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 23:56
  • @FumbleFingers: this thread is way off topic for the particular question asked. I'm interested in pursuing further, but it'd probably be better in a separate meta question or chat.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 3:39
  • @Mitch: Again, I'm baffled. All I'm asking is why you don't think my idea will fly. How can that be off-topic when the Question is asking for ideas? My comment to Jeff is an irrelevant aside to that, and I'm not going to say Jeff can't write whatever he wants, wherever he wants! (he being the proverbial 600lb bear round here, so far as I'm concerned! :) Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 4:41
  • ...I didn't mean that to be snarky to Mitch, or sycophantic to Jeff. I just wanted to get my little dig in about whether the proverbial beast is a gorilla or a bear, and exactly how much it weighs Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 15:29
  • @fumbleFingers: ni problem... See new charring for disussion.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 18:26
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    @FumbleFingers: argh... iPhone respelling and bad eyes. new -chat- -room-.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 19:09

I don't know Grammar Girl, and the time frame is relatively short, but to answer the question in your title, the ideal thing for me would be for her to hang out here for a while, and then say whatever she wants. I can't think of anything less convincing than her fumbling over some blurb that we concoct, without really even taking an interest. Unless she's a great actress...

  • I agree, that's why I suggested doing some kind of weekly or regular event, so she could take part one week and then talk about it in her podcast. That way she would have experienced it herself and could give an honest recommendation.
    – Lauren
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:24
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    @LaurenΨ, ok. The way I read your question, you wanted her to announce something to her listeners, not necessarily participate in it herself first. How about adapting FumbleFingers' suggestion and trying to 'draw her in' with some of our 'old chestnuts'?
    – Benjol
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:36
  • @LaurenΨ, BTW, on a slight tangent, I'm not sure about the size of Evan Morris' readership (The Word Detective), but there might be a possible 'synergy' there...
    – Benjol
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:48
  • I just checked out TWD and I think there could be a good match there. It looks like he really emphasizes answering people's questions, and he says that he doesn't have time to answer all of them. So maybe he could refer people to EL&U for the ones that don't get answered. Any idea what's the best way to contact him?
    – Lauren
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 15:44
  • @LaurenΨ, I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question. I'm not a subscriber, so I don't have any 'privileged' access. I guess you could try Facebook; Ask a Question; or there's a snail-mail address at the bottom of the subscribe page. Hey, you could even subscribe! If you interested, another word-question-answerer of similar erudition, but very different style is Michael Quinion (http://www.worldwidewords.org)
    – Benjol
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 20:33

I love the idea of running a contest, but I have some hesitations about the initial ideas:

Word Choice Contest - we could start a regular (maybe weekly) event where we do a "name that word" competition (someone reads a definition, and the first person to answer correctly wins). We could do this in a Google+ Hangout potentially.

This seems to me like a . To make this work, I think there would have to be some substantial practical distinction between a single word request and the contest.

Top New Users Contest - see which new user can earn the most rep in a certain time period

As Kitḫ says, the rep cap is a problem. It causes this contest to favor those members who answer a lot of questions and gain accepts (because accepts are rep-cap immune), rather than those who answer few questions but develop better answers. Additionally, this idea does exist in the form of the user leagues, but due to the rep cap problem, I don't think it's advisable to place undue emphasis on this.

A chat/Hangout might be good because people would get to talk afterwards.

If we're looking into getting non-SE participants, this might not work. Chat requires 20 reputation to participate.

Random Brainstorming: I don't have any definite ideas, but I think a more subjective contest might work—e.g. coin your own neologism, or what's the most interesting word you've learned in the past month, and we would highlight the ones we like best.

Side note: It sounds like the Grammar Girl thing would be a one-time sponsorship (but correct me if I'm wrong). If we wanted to run the contest continuously (weekly/monthly), we could continue that on our blog. </plug>

  • I'm afraid I'm one of those whose rep is misleadingly high because I post more "average" answers rather than a lesser number of "excellent" ones. That's why I think anything that revives old questions (esp. "good" ones) periodically is worth looking into. It would give more exposure to the best answers, and encourage people to polish them up so they're as good as we can get them, via collective action. Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 15:25
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    One idea to promote participation (be it a contest or not) could be a "find the most egregious error" feature, for which people would share links to the more appalling grammar/usage slips they find in reputable publications.
    – user13141
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 17:24
  • Fair point on the rep cap and on chat. What if we used a Google Hangout instead? That way it wouldn't prevent people with less than 20 rep from participating. As for your other comments, I think what I mentioned would be very close to a single-word request, but in a contest format. It would just be more fun and social, and would be something cool that we could promote. Is there a reason that doing a contest based on one of our popular tags would be bad?
    – Lauren
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:29
  • And yes, this would be a one-time sponsorship, but we'd get a lot of mentions out of it (podcast, website, twitter, Facebook, newsletter). The contest could be something we'd continue semi-regularly though, and writing it up on the blog would probably be a great idea!
    – Lauren
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:32
  • @onomatomaniak that could be fun... how/where would you do that?
    – Lauren
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 13:35
  • @LaurenΨ Thinking more about the first contest and in regards to [single-word-request]s, it doesn't actually seem to be a problem, now that I think about it, since the goal of this is external community promotion. So yes, I think that could work now. (I have no idea about Google Hangout, since I don't have G+.)
    – waiwai933
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 2:12

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