Since committing to the New Photo of the Week Contest on Main at the beginning of 2021, we have attracted many great submissions, too many to list. I'm supremely thankful for everybody who has contributed. For the most part, the PotW Contest on Main seems to be working fairly well.

However, I don't want to rest on the laurels of "working fairly well". I want to improve the contest, how it works, the participation level, the planning of future themes, etc.

Broadly speaking, I'm looking for suggestions to help the PotW Contest (as answers to this question). I'm hoping that particularly interesting responses will be spun out to their own Meta questions, to help generate discussion and consensus.

Any suggestion helps. Maybe just clarification of how some aspects of the contest work, if they are unclear to you.

(Note: Unfortunately, some suggested improvements, while probably very good in concept, will be shot down due to technical or organizational limitations. In particular, suggestions requiring custom code (i.e., custom voting mechanisms, tools to disallow voting for a period of time to first allow collection of submissions, etc.) are certainly welcome, but they probably won't get any traction as far as implementation.)

4 Answers 4


Don't permanently eliminate topics once used from reuse.

It seems to me the reason we're seeing fewer and fewer submissions is because the only possible topics from the pool are those that have been previously passed over for more interesting ones. We're forcing ourselves to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Perhaps we can have a "topic reset" periodically, where all eliminated topics are added back to the list? Or perhaps any topic selected for the biweekly contest could be rotated back in three or six months after it was used? (Yes, this would probably be a bit more difficult to administer.)

  • This is a great suggestion. You're right, there should definitely be a way to recycle at least some of the themes that are good or "evergreen". For instance, "Film", "Labdscapes", etc., are so generic and common themes that they should pop up periodically, at least twice a year.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 15 at 22:02

Better planning / announcement of upcoming themes

Rather than rely strictly on the highest-voted theme at the PotW Theme Ideas, use the Theme Ideas to schedule the next several (2–4) themes, pre-announced schedule. That way, people will know ahead of time to be able to post something they knew would be coming up, but not necessarily exactly when, as the old method allowed for late-breaking votes to alter the theme schedule.

This could be extended to allow for occasional 1-week themes (if necessary, perhaps holiday or season themes, which would probably attract lots of posts anyways), and certainly to allow for scheduled "reuse" of perennial or evergreen good themes.

  • This. Or maybe even 12 or 24 amazing themes that cycle every 12 months. If I know that the first two weeks of February is going to be a portraiture contest, then I've got a year to go out and take the very best headshot I can.
    – Matt Dunn
    Jan 21 at 11:11

Perhaps we can add a blurb in the part that gets copy/pasted every cycle that encourages people to consider how well submitted images fit the topic when voting on images?

  • I think this is a good idea, but it goes counter to my (personal) preference/goal to make the boilerplate stuff shorter. I'm not exactly sure how to square that circle, though.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 17 at 0:46
  • Yes, but just as an example, this week's winner isn't even really about environmental destruction. There are obvious measures (such as the water cannon) being taken at the the time of the photo to prevent so much as even dust from the man made structure being demolished from being left free into nature. Having dealt with such projects in one of my past careers, I can tell you that the runoff from the water will be routed to a settling pond. Once the water in the settling pond evaporates, the remaining sludge will be hauled off and properly disposed of in a landfill.
    – Michael C
    Jan 17 at 19:32
  • I'm not sure that's a great example though. The picture tells a story. It could be that the overpass destruction is because it wasn't maintained (hence decay). Regardless, it won the votes by over 2:1 to the 2nd place submission. So it resonated enough with voters.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 17 at 20:20
  • The photos that receive the most votes are often off subject, or at the very best, marginally related to the topic. That just means the voters aren't thinking critically through the subject any more than those submitting images are. Hence, perhaps both groups need to be reminded to consider how well the image(s) match the subject?
    – Michael C
    Jan 18 at 21:11
  • The image certainly shows destruction, but to most people environmental destruction refers to human acts that cause destruction of natural things: rivers, forests, biodiversity, etc. Humans destroying a man made structure doesn't seem, at least to me, to fit the definition of environmental destruction.
    – Michael C
    Jan 18 at 21:16
  • Hmm. Another take on the photo is that something that was built was so quickly (presumably, in durable infrastructure terms) demolished is itself a form of environmental destruction, considering the waste of resources and energy in removing (and probably rebuilding) the infrastructure. There's certainly an environmental impact. If nothing else, it's an example of destruction of built environment. Regardless, I have to re-emphasize, it was the winningest submission by 2:1.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 18 at 23:01
  • "Built so quickly"? We've been building bridges that size with pre-stressed concrete deck beams for 3-4 decades now, and that bridge was built using the older methods of pouring the concrete in place. I'd hazard a guess it's at least forty to fifty years old.
    – Michael C
    Jan 18 at 23:28
  • You're just proving my point. Something that was built in a year, ostensibly meant to last, and then just torn down. It's an apparent waste. And if it wasn't built to last for longer, why not? It's a waste, and it has an environmental cost. Our building rarely is zero-impact on the environment, and repeated tearing-down and rebuilding is environmentally destructive. Even in terms of destruction to the built environment.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 18 at 23:42

Make the contest weekly instead of biweekly


  1. More immediate results between posting a winning submission and seeing it featured in the PotW sidebar
  2. Faster churn through themes; unpopular themes don't linger for a long time
  3. Twice as many theme opportunities, allowing for repeated themes (see Michael C's answer) and holiday/seasonal themes without displacing too many interesting unique themes


  1. Faster churn through themes: we're consuming themes faster than they're being suggested (even with biweekly); requires more thought/management of upcoming theme schedule
  2. Possibly more frequent weeks with few submissions. This is admittedly a low risk (all but two of the biweekly themes had at least 4 submissions).
  3. More work for the PotW coordinator (me). Only a risk if the coordinator has to step back and/or hand over duties to another mod, if mod commitment availability is limited.
  • I'd prefer keeping it two weeks. That gives people who are busy more time to get in on a theme before it closes. Since we're currently adding the top two submissions to the HOF, that still leaves one per week, or 52 per year. For me, that feels about right.
    – Michael C
    Jan 17 at 0:25

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