Monthly topic challenges on Lit.SE don't get a whole lot of attention. Christopher Strobbe rightfully points out that participation has been almost negligible in recent months. This is in spite of overall site participation on the site remaining relatively constant.

One of the major difficulties with a monthly challenge is just in reading speed. Lit.SE participation is something a lot of us do in our free time, and having the investment to acquire and finish a book within the specified time frame, when most of us either don't have time to read or are busy reading other books, is... high. This also normalizes non-participation: since it's difficult to ask questions within the allotted time, and you get no credit for missing the window even by a day, it becomes more normal to avoid topic challenges entirely. (It's even more worrying to me that people might learn to ignore changes to the sidebar entirely.)

I think we can revisit the actual aim of the topic challenge, though, without normalizing non-participation. The original desire for the topic challenge wasn't just to drive activity to the site; it was to provide a list of recommendations outside our usual reading to help bring diversity and variability in literature to light.

So: can we fulfill this aim in another way?

The general social requirements on this are:

  1. It has to be difficult to normalize non-participation. Once people start feeling like it's normal not to join in the challenge, that's a problem.
  2. It has to be relatively easy to have discourse about. The disadvantage of the Q&A format is that most of us aren't academic essayists, and formulating a good question and good answer is a snippet of factual information exchange. We really need something we can talk about meaningfully.
  3. It has to encourage highlighting unique, diverse, and variable works, as with the standard topic challenge.

I'm open to ideas here, but I have one of my own.

We replace the "topic challenge" with a Lit.SE Reading Recommendation List. At first, the list comprises every book that has been a topic challenge to date. To add books, at set intervals, we either: hold a small vote; or just select a top voted response. Then we add it to the list of reading recommendations with a date. This part should hopefully drive discussion by itself.

We can even expand this to fiction, nonfiction, essays, critical theory books, etc. -- not just literature, but also content that helps when trying to approach literature, like Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison.

There's no time pressure to pick these up, there's no expiration date past which you fail to get credit. Maybe if you want, you can list yourself as having read that book in the recommendations list, but it doesn't really matter when you do it.

This allows us to compile the kind of compendium of diverse reading that could really help the site, and encourages interesting & deep questions. There's no pressure to ask a question; there's no failure if you don't. But the books are interesting and you found them here, so if you have questions, why not?

Totally open to other ideas, though. I'm mostly sketching this one out to see how it floats.

  • 7
    I've upvoted this post for raising the topic, but I'm not sure yet whether or not I agree with your proposed solution. Could you maybe post it as an answer for separate voting?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 8:10
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor I think it adds value to keep the proposal in line with the primary question, as a part of the framing
    – user80
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 8:21
  • 'It's even more worrying to me that people might learn to ignore changes to the sidebar entirely.' There's a sidebar? I'm supposed to be paying attention to changes in it? Okay, I technically know there is a sidebar, but I don't think it shows up in the mobile app, at least I can't find it and in the window size I prefer to use in a PC, the sidebar info gets shunted down off the end of the screen and I never scroll that far. Am I alone in being almost entirely unaware of the contents of the sidebar?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 10:20
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    It has to be difficult to normalize non-participation This seems as though there is a risk that non-participators could be made to feel unwelcome and have the opposite effect of driving traffic to the stack and end up driving it away.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 10:26
  • @Spagirl This is also a good point, & is something to be careful about. We don't want to be hostile to people who read and don't participate, you're right. But some things, like this, only work if they gather at least a little attention. The answer isn't to shame non-participants, it's to figure out why they're not participating and help them join successfully.
    – user80
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 17:33
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    It might be interesting to have the topic challenge, but also an, e.g., bimonthly chat session discussing it - easier to jump in and participate.
    – auden
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 10:02
  • @Spagirl I had the same thought, but couldn't figure out how to articulate it. Non-participation is literally the default.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:39
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    @Spagirl The topic challenges always point out that "Participation is not obligatory in any sense". Should we do more to highlight this?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 16:12
  • @heather That is something we can definitely try - even before we take a decision on what to do with the topic challenges. It may be a bit difficult time-wise since people are spread out across time zones (but we could have multiple timeslots, and the chatrooms don't disappear anyway).
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 16:15
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I don't think it needs to be more obvious than it is now that participation isn't obligatory, I would just be concerned if there was a more to make it seem more obligatory than at present, which I was concerned might be the outcome of seeking to make normalisation of non-participation more difficult.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 16:21
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I can only speak for myself in any of this, I'm often unaware of the challenges, the sidebar doesn't pop-up on the phone app which I usually use (I'm on a PC today but that's unusual) and truly am not interested in a rush to read and dream up questions on a topic on a monthly basis. That doesn't fit my personality or my lifestyle, and I don't want to feel vilified for that. I am more than happy to pitch in with attempted answers wherever i can though and am likely to go back to some of the works that piqued my interest as questions at a later stage.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 16:21
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    It's interesting to note that at least nine people have participated in this meta thread (posting, commenting, or just voting), which is more than the number of voters on the top three topic challenge suggestions. One hurdle is simply to get enough people to care enough to vote on proposals (enabling us to see which ones are "good" and which not), let alone take part in topic challenges. It's clear from the deleted answers that we had more voters on them, back in 2017.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 19:57
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    @Randal'Thor In general I think if people are invested in topic challenges, they'll be invested in voting on them
    – user80
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 20:07
  • 1
    "It has to be difficult to normalize non-participation." How does this fit with the explicit statement in each topic challenge that "Participation is not obligatory in any sense", which implies that non-participation is totally OK? We have over 5000 users on our site. At least 80% of them have probably never participated in a topic challenge.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 13:22
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor I don't vote on Challenge Topics, because I know I have no intention of taking part in them, so they are nothing to do with me. Also, I'm not often even aware of them because accessing the site via mobile app, as I usually do, requires me to actively come looking for meta (where activity is low so less to see, less reason to check) as there is no sidebar flagging stuff up. Also, sidebar gets pushed down to the bottom of the screen in a non-maximised window in the pC version, so I still miss it.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 10:17

6 Answers 6


Rather than replacing the topic challenges with something else, I would like to think about ways to attract more activity.

As others have pointed out, one of the "challenges" (sorry for the pun) is that it can be hard to find the suggested literature and read it in time within a month. This is probably why one of our most successful challenges, by number of questions, was Nalo Hopkinson in August 2018: a dozen of the author's stories could be read online, so there was no need to order books and read through hundreds of pages. This leads to the following suggestions:

  1. Post more proposals for shorter works that are available online. This makes the proposal more accessible to everyone. The potential downside to this suggestion is that it may be harder to find find non-English texts, especially non-English texts that are also available in an English translation, especially online, unless the content is so old that it is in the public domain.
  2. So far, we have always decided the topic of the reading challenge on the first day of the month, which means that people have at most 31 days (sometimes only 28) to find and read the proposed texts. To mitigate this, we might start announcing the next reading challenge one month in advance. This would give people much more time to find those texts.
  3. We can also extend the duration of reading challenges from one month to, e.g., two months. The obvious downside is that if you're not interested in a challenge, you're stuck with it for two months. But since participation is purely voluntary, this shouldn't be a big deal.
  4. Combining Gallifreyan's last suggestion with my last suggestion, we could have two (or more?) challenges running at the same time, with some overlap in time: e.g. topic A starts in January and runs for two months, topic B starts in February and runs for two months, topic C starts in March and runs for two months etc. So there is a fresh challenge every month and there should be sufficient time to participate in it.

Update: I would also like to add this quote from How do weekly topic challenges work? on Meta SE (emphasis mine):

After the challenge is over, it's nice to write up a simple answer that enumerates the questions generated. There's a danger here, however. If you only get one or two questions (or zero!), you might be tempted to call the challenge a failure. But think of it more like playing poker: you have to lose a few hands in order to win others.

  • 1
    I like this. Sure, the topic challenges have been stagnating lately, but maybe we can reform them rather than replace them outright.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:18
  • 1
    Personally, I don't contribute much to the site, let alone the challenges. But I appreciated the short story based ones and participated in some of them precisely because it didn't take much commitment, like reading a book for a week or buying one for money. Granted, you can't just please "lazy" people like me either. But some of the other suggestions can help, too. Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:18
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    @Cahir All of us have lives outside SE. If we can't please so-called "lazy" people (those who aren't prepared to spend money or many hours at a time to support this site), we won't have much of an audience left.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:22
  • I think we should have sufficient variety in challenges, in more than one way: challenges that attract "lazy" people and harder ones, variety in genres, languages, time periods etc.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:25

Since two of the answers that have been posted so far focused more on why some recent monthly challenges attracted little activity than on concrete (i.e. explaining how to implement them) proposals for addressing the issue, I am posting another proposal as an alternative to my previous answer. This proposal is intended to address the following issues that were raised in other answers and comments, especially the following:

  • Some of the challenges were about works that are rather long. Some people say they would contribute more when challenges focuses on short stories or poems.
  • Some of the challenges were about works that are hard to find in a library. Challenges that focus on works that are available online may attract a bigger audience.
  • Some (or many?) of the challenges focused on works or authors that are too far out of the way for an audience that reads fiction mostly in English. (Of course, addressing this issue strictly speaking creates a conflict with the original goal of reading "books outside our bailiwick", but the proposal below describes a compromise. I also realise it is not strictly about English versus other languages, since some proposals for English-language fiction from outside the Western world also have problems to get selected.)
  • The topic challenges about Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience and about Ursula K. Le Guin were atypical in the sense that the goal of the challenges was to suggest works and authors that were not already popular among the current audience, which focuses mostly on literature in English. See for example the following comment on the Blake proposal: "In my mind, William Blake is very similar to a lot of the authors we already have questions about on the site. And he seems pretty well known to me." Another comment on the Emily Dickinson proposal is in the same vein: "I don't think a well-known American poet is really in the spirit of the topic challenges."

So here is my proposal:

  1. We create a new list or meta post for reading suggestions, but this time for works or authors that meet at least two of the following criteria:
    • The work or works must be available in English (translations are OK).
    • The work must be available online. If an author is proposed, at least one of their works must be available online.
    • The work or works must be short, i.e. one should be able to read the work in at most two hours without speed-reading techniques (or an audiobook at an increased speech rate).
  2. The new list does not replace the current list but complements it: each month, we alternate between both lists, e.g. "classic" challenges start at the beginning of the odd months, while "popular" challenges start at the beginning of even months.
  3. Each challenge runs for two months, so works that are hard to find or long (especially for the "classic" challenges) can still be read and discussed before the end of the challenge.

The new category of challenges would welcome suggestions for authors such as Emily Dickinson, William Blake and Ursula Le Guin (see above) without creating a conflict with the original goal of the monthly challenges. Participants who want to read works they had not previously not considered reading will continue to find suggestions. At the same time, participants who prefer more "accessible" works (which is by no means intended as a depreciatory description) will also find suggestions to their taste.

Beyond that, I don't think that anything else needs to change. However, if we choose new names for the "classic" and "popular" challenges (these are just temporary names), we should take care that those names are not perceived as stigmatising or denigrating. In addition, it should still be perfectly OK not to participate in a reading challenge (which is something that the current challenges already point out).

  • This is a reasonable suggestion imo. What would your thoughts be on extending the challenge to three months (to mitigate time problems), and keeping the two lists separate, but unioning the two challenges into one post?
    – user80
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 14:43
  • @Aza So instead of alternating start dates, both types of challenges would always start at the same time and run for three months? That's a very different idea. If neither challenge appeals to you, you're stuck with them for three months, whereas my current proposal gives you something fresh every month.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 14:48
  • Another alternative would be to have the "classic" challenges run for two months and the other challenges for one month. Or is one month simply too short?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 14:49

I think one of the reasons here lies in the way the challenges were framed and the intention they were founded on. The idea was to diversify the site, to make people read something they wouldn't have read otherwise, and maybe have some questions about it here.

There are a few things I could think of:

  1. The books proposed so far haven't been the easiest books to find - some of them were, true, and some were even online for free, but even having a pretty well-stocked university library I couldn't get some of those books.

  2. They weren't the shortest books around. True, a good book is as long as it has to be, but it's hard to consume a 400+ page tome, understand it, and think of good questions to ask, all in one month.

  3. It's just hard to pick up a book one hasn't heard about at all, and read it completely, especially if it's completely unlike anything one has read before. I realise this was exactly the point of the challenge - to step out of the comfort zone and boundaries of the cultures we've been brought up in and lived in - but it's still hard.

I like the idea of the challenges. I loved how the first ones were a success, and none of them were a failure at all - at the very least my university's library got a few books it never had, and, hopefully, someone else will read them. But we could do something about the challenge to make it more accessible.

For instance, instead of choosing a single book, we could have a few, but narrower challenges - e.g. one of them would be a book, like it is now; the other would be a genre; another could be an author (maybe a well-known author, but instead of reading their works we're reading something that's like their work in some ways); another could be about an academic paper discussing a movement in literature (this would attract some experts here).

Having multiple challenges lowers the threshold - there's a higher chance someone will actually find the book, there's a higher chance they'll like it. I think it's a bit more welcoming when there's a sort of "pick what you like" approach to the challenge.

  • 2
    Wait, several completely different challenges running concurrently?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 19:18
  • @Randal'Thor Yup. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 5:56
  • 1
    I like your numbered points analysing why many challenges haven't worked well, but I prefer Christophe's proposed solutions to yours. Multiple concurrent unrelated challenges seems like it would just get confusing for participants and complicated for organisers.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 13:41
  • @Randal'Thor I don't see why they would be confusing - it's exactly the same system except there are multiple topics, participants would be free to choose what they like. As to being difficult for organisers - well, we'll think of something. That's not the part that's been a problem so far Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 21:43

I have participated in them in the past, but I haven't participated in them in awhile for the primary reason that the books that have been selected recently aren't interesting to me.

As the original post indicates, I tend to be quite busy (I'm working full-time and getting a graduate degree part-time), so given my limited time I have to be somewhat selective in what I read. I almost feel bad for saying this, but odds are I would not read a book just because it's this month's topic challenge (unless it was something that's interesting to me for other reasons, too). The topic challenges I've participated in in the past have all been the kind of book I like to read anyway but wouldn't necessarily have thought of reading (e.g. Michael Ende, the Wizard of Earthsea series) or have been something that I felt I would benefit from reading anyway (e.g. William Blake's poetry).

It's also very helpful if there's an audiobook version available of the title in question, since I do spend a fair amount of time driving for my job.

Traditionally, in proposing and voting on Meta proposals, we've considered what kind of book the site would benefit from having questions on. The current highest-voted question starts with the following sentence: "Since this site needs more questions about non-Western literature, here is another author challenge." This isn't necessarily wrong, but the proposal doesn't really consider the likelihood that people would actually benefit from and enjoy reading the book. (I've probably been just as guilty of that as anyone, come to think of it). Going forward, in writing and voting on proposals, we should consider the actual likelihood that people would be interested in reading the book.

The William Blake challenge was a perfect example for me. I wouldn't necessarily have read that on my own, and poetry isn't really my typical genre, but I thought that I would benefit from reading it and it and there's a free audiobook available of the songs of innocence and experience. Participating in it was a good challenge for me, and I actually enjoyed the poems.

  • 4
    I think this answer poses a couple difficulties. First, we have to recognize the poor admixture between "common audience" interests and intersectional lit. By definition I think a lot of what we'd want to ask people to read isn't necessarily enjoyable as a casual read, but intended to provoke thought. Exposure to new forms of literature is deliberately difficult. And as a part of that, certain easily-accssible features like audiobook readings will be hard or impossible to come by. We can avoid that if we drop the intersectional pretense, but we'd need to explore that justification further.
    – user80
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 20:20
  • 3
    @Aza I just had a thought: maybe we're currently putting too much emphasis on the "challenge" part in topic challenges? Reaching outside of our bailiwick has always been the aim, but there's no point in a challenge which is so challenging that nobody participates. Maybe we should pull back a bit and move more slowly towards the point where we are now with the challenge topics. As the community grows, so will its ability to participate meaningfully in a wider range of topics. (I realise I'm being very abstract rather than concretely constructive here ...)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 13:37
  • 1
    While you make some reasonable points with regards to the reception and popularity of the topics, this seems to clash with the fact that the very intention of the challenges was to engage in stuff you wouldn't normally read. But yes, that's a genuine conflict indeed. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 13:47
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach "Wouldn't normally read" is a lot different than "not even interested in reading," though. For example, Songs of Innocence and Experience is something that I definitely wouldn't ordinarily read, but I thought that it would be beneficial enough to read that I did. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:59
  • Sure, it wasn't an all too precise phrase indeed. The point remains, though. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 15:05
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach I don't agree - there's a vast difference between the two, and the difference really is the main point. If the point (or result of which books are chosen) really is to get people to read stuff that they're not even interested in, the whole concept is a nonstarter. Really, we should pick books that people find interesting or beneficial to read, but wouldn't normally think to read. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 5:21
  • I...thought I was pretty much just repeating what you already said in your answer. But apparently I wasn't. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 11:36
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach I may have misread. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 13:13
  • @Randal'Thor Yes, I agree. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 13:13
  • 3
    "Really, we should pick books that people find interesting or beneficial to read, but wouldn't normally think to read." But that is different for every person, unless you have a very homogeneous audience. And how do you know where other people draw the line between "I wouldn't ordinarily read x" and "I'm not interested in x"?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 13:36
  • @ChristopheStrobbe Fair point. I'm not sure how to do that, exactly; it seems like the best thing may be to ask people to explicitly consider that in voting and comments. Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 14:33

I have already posted two proposals to increase participation in the monthly topic challenges. This third proposal takes a different approach, with the explicit goal of promoting literature in languages other than English.

  1. Instead of one list of suggestions, we use two lists: one for literature in English and one for literature in other languages. There will always be two challenges running in parallel, i.e. one for a work or author from English literature, and one from a non-English literature.
  2. Each suggestion is for a challenge that will run for two months, unless the submitter proposes a shorter time span, i.e. one month or two weeks. This allows the duration of the challenge to be somewhat adapted to the nature of the chosen work or works. It also means that a "longer" challenge may be running in parallel with a "shorter" challenge.
  3. Two weeks before the end of a challenge, the next one from the same category is selected from the same list or category based on net upvotes. This means that each new challenge can be announced two weeks in advance.
  4. For non-English literature, the availability of an English translation is an advantage but not a requirement. It should be possible to discuss literature that has never been translated into English.

"Every thing hath ende", and maybe the "Monthly Topic Challenge" has run its course, at least for now. I suggest trying something different for a while and see if it works. My suggestion is this:

Regularly choose a short poem (story, lyric, essay, etc.) that's available in full online and post a generic question asking for interpretation and analysis, perhaps something along the lines of, "What is this work about? What literary and rhetorical devices does the writer use? What are its difficult aspects and how can they be interpreted?"

The reasoning behind this idea:

  • The goals of the "Monthly Topic Challenge" seem to be (1) Promote shared experiences, that is, situations in which everyone is reading a text at the same time, like a book club; (2) Persuade site participants to read more diverse range of texts; (3) Promote more, and more diverse, site activity (that is, questions and answers). But (2) is in tension with (1) and (3) — simply telling people to read more challenging texts is inevitably going to lower the participation rate.
  • Hence this proposal avoids the main difficulty, which is reading the work and coming up with questions. A generic question can always be posted in Main right away.
  • My hope is that this question will tempt people into reading the chosen text, and that this will work better than telling them to do so. (This is based on my own experience: I've read a lot of texts because I saw an interesting question about them on Main, but never read any of the texts I was told to read in the "Monthly Topic Challenge".)
  • Posting a question in Main also avoids the difficulty of discovering that the challenge even exists (see comments by Spagirl starting here). We could also use a tag to identify these questions, or encourage answers in the usual way by offering a bounty.
  • Requiring the work to be short and available online makes it possible for anyone to have a go at answering the question.
  • Interpretations are the most interesting and valuable kinds of answers on the site and I would like to see more of them.
  • Scholars tend only to interpret the works of a few famous writers, leaving a large literature available for original interpretation.
  • Questions of this form have worked well on the site in the past. See for example: "The Sick Rose" by William Blake; "Fire Is Not a Nice Guest" by Russell Edson; "No Ordinary Sun" by Hone Tuwhare; "Praxis" by Wendy Xu.
  • There's no need for someone to collate the responses, as currently required for the "Monthly Topic Challenge"; instead, the Stack Exchange software will do it for us.

Answering the questions of Christophe Strobbe in comments:

  1. I would be very happy to see a diverse range of works chosen for interpretation.
  2. Since this is a community activity, the works should be chosen by polling the community. I don't have any strong opinion on how this should be done.
  3. Questions posted as a result of this idea will persist until they are closed, or for the lifetime of the site if not. I don't have any strong opinion about the frequency of these questions. It all depends on how well they turn out to work in practice. If people are very enthusiastic, then I can see them working as often as weekly; if moderately keen, then fortnightly or monthly; if not keen at all then we should abandon the idea and try something else.
  • Hi Gareth, thanks for posting your suggestion. I wonder if you could clarify the following questions. (1) Is this suggestion meant to promote more questions about non-English literature? If yes, how? (English-language content already dominates the Web.) (2) Who is going to choose the poem/text on which the questions will focus? Topic challenges have always been community decisions (by means of voting), not something that was delegated to an individual or small group. (3) How long is each of these "challenges" (for lack of a better name) meant to last?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 9:32
  • Thanks for the update. Apparently, my last question was ambiguous. My question was not about how long the questions should remain available but how long the chosen poem or text remains "in focus" until the next one is chosen.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 11:59
  • @ChristopheStrobbe: Sorry for the misunderstanding. See updated answer. Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 12:07
  • 2
    Questions like this would be a nice addition to the site, but I don't think I agree with replacing the topic challenges by them. They can be posted any time, either naturally or as part of a concerted effort by user(s) who want to see more of these on the site, but no need to make them explicitly a community effort IMO. After all, one person will be posting the question (not CW because then all the answers would be CW too), and whoever is up for it can post answers.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 1:22
  • @Randal'Thor: I added a bullet point about the goals of the challenge. Your suggestion that "They can be posted any time" wouldn't meet goal (1). Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 9:07
  • Sorry, maybe my previous comment wasn't very coherent: I was writing late at night. I think my main objection to making this a community effort is that there's no individuality in the questions. With topic challenges, we get a topic to explore together but we can ask whatever questions interest us within that topic. With your proposal, the question would be more-or-less already written and there'd be very little thought involved in fitting it to a specific poem. That lack of novelty would greatly reduce interest, IMO.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 18:04
  • @Randal'Thor: I'm sanguine about using a generic question as a result of having taught the Edexcel Literature iGCSE. The unseen poetry question is always the same: "How does the poet convey [the subject of the poem]? In your answer you should consider the poet’s descriptive skills, the poet’s choice of language, and the poet’s use of structure and form. Support your answer with examples from the poem." This does not get repetitive because every poem is different. Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 7:26
  • Of course the answers would be significantly different, but the questions wouldn't. My guess is it'd be much harder to find volunteers to post a pre-filled question just for the sake of promoting a site community effort than to find volunteers to post questions they're actually interested in about a book they've read for a site community effort.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 22:00
  • @Randal'Thor: Is that your true objection? (i.e. that it will be hard to find volunteers to administer my proposal.) If the volunteer problem were resolved, would you be happy with it? Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 8:32
  • I guess "hard to find volunteers" is a symptom of what I see as the true problem, which is that this isn't a rewarding community effort. You might well be able to drum up a few volunteers to post such pre-filled questions in order to increase site content, but it's not an interesting thing that new or less-committed users would be encouraged to participate in. It would be good for the site, but that's about it as far as motivation for asking such questions goes. (Answering them is another matter, of course.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 5:35

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