While testing hats before the start of Winter Bash 2014, a snowflake notification told me I’d earned the Treasure Hunter hat. After adjusting pirate paraphernalia to fit my head, I tried to remember what triggers this particular hat. As it happens, I’d just received a gold badge on Cooking that I would’ve totally ignored if not for the associated hat. Suddenly I understood why this time of year resonates with our most accomplished users. Earning cosmetic items, as silly as they are, temporarily reminds us of what it was like to begin participating on Stack Exchange months or years ago. Plus, hats look really cool.
This year 84,439 users earned a total of 244,865 hats, which is slightly up from last year.
The most common hat (awarded 70,361 times to 39,499 distinct users) turned out to be the secret Chameleon. On Meta Stack Exchange folks correctly noted that it was triggered by editing certain fields in your profile. Our intention was that it would be triggered by changes in a user’s avatar. However, due to an otherwise low-priority bug, the hat seemingly was awarded randomly after profile edits. So the theme of this hat is less camouflage and more Mixed Up Chameleon.
Two more secret hats, Fascinating (34,026 times to 25,017 users) and Fascinating, Ma’am (12,342 times to 10,526 users) were earned by voting on posts that were already quite well received. (The first was for upvoting an accepted answer with a score of 5 or more and the second was for voting up a question with 10,000+ views and a score of at least 25.) These are, of course, Star Trek references which brings the total to three. That compares to one Star Wars reference last year, for those keeping score.
We awarded Warm Welcome (14,430 times to 9,597 users) to people who upvoted another user’s first post. It was gratifying to see so many of these hats awarded. Upvoting quality posts sets up a positive feedback loop encouraging a new user to post again. Each time I was awarded this hat, I felt good knowing that I’d done just a little bit to improve the overall quality of content on the site.
Last year, abby hairboat did such a great job of wrangling hats we decided to prank her honor her with a hat awarded to those responding to one of her posts or comments. Hence, the HairBoat (awarded 699 times to 569 distinct users). She was so pleased that she promised to send me a gift: a box of live spiders. What a kidder! (In unrelated news, my oldest child will now earn a little extra allowance in exchange for his new title: Family Postal Inspector.)
The last four secret hats were harder to earn than the most common four by more than an order of magnitude. Time Lord (404 times to 378 distinct users) was given for people who edited at least 5 questions more than a year old. Plenty of people edit older posts once in a while, but not many update that many out-of-date posts in a short period of time. One of my goals for designing hat triggers was to test potential permanent badge ideas. This trigger (which we also explored with the “A Link to the Past” hat last year) is something I hope to evaluate as a badge idea in the coming year.
I was somewhat surprised with how few people earned Waffles (365 times to 331 users) for downvoting a question, editing it, and upvoting it in that order. Looking at the data, it turns out that only about 2% of people who edit a question and later upvote it had downvoted it first. During Winter Bash 2014, the ratio increased to about 10%. Likely some of the increase in pre-downvoting came from dedicated breakfast hat hunters. When you think about it, downvoting a post you are about to edit amounts to wasted effort. Either fix a post until it’s better or downvote and move on. In sum, a fun concept for a hat (especially if you like waffles), but not a good badge idea.
Finally, we awarded 15 detectives with the Eureka! light bulb for correctly and independently guessing the trigger conditions for secret hats. We didn’t award Eurekas for guessing Eureka! itself this year since it was largely unchanged from last year.
The most common non-secret hat was Saint Lucia (25,444 times to 19,390 users). It was also the first awarded (December 14 at 1200 UTC). Yes, that’s a day late. Other time-based hats were: Solstice (7,581 times to 6,858 users), Kofia (4,152 times to 4,019 users), Gelt (813 times to 757 users), Bill Lumbergh (325 times to 318 users), Resolution (244 times to 222 users), Stockings Hung by the Fire (223 times to 196 users), and Mistletoe (207 times to 154 users). Due to timezones, we were pretty generous with the timing. But not Mistletoe, which required chatting within a ten minute period around January 1, 2015 0000 UTC. Thankfully our chat servers handled the load just fine.
The mobile app must have been on our mind recently since there are a number of hats that required it: Bugdroid (7,115 times to 4,776 users), Not a cherry (3,829 times to 2,403 users), On The Road (511 times to 451 users), and Got a Tablet for Christmas (231 times). I personally got an iPhone 6 for Christmas and used the iOS app to earn “Not a cherry”. Verdict: my fingers are still too big for phone-sized keyboards. Maybe I should get a tablet.
Right in the middle of Winter Bash, balpha allowed hats to be rotated 360°. Lots of folks took advantage of this to concoct brand new hats such as the Praying Mantis, Soccer Necklace, Crab Face Googly Eyes, Next Generation Earpiece, and, of course, the Mulletbeard™.
The most difficult hat was the Red Baron earned by just 26 users. It required posting an answer that was so good it changed they way people looked at the question. A great example of how this works is this answer, which was submitted while the question was at -7. After the answer (and a strategic edit to the question), the question got 10 straight upvotes to bring the score to +3 at the time of writing. Without the hat, this amazing accomplishment would have gone unrecognized. Especially pleasing for us: the idea for this hat came from a user suggestion to replace the existing Reversal badge. When it comes to amazing, talented and dedicated users, Stack Exchange’s cup overflows.
We’ve been asked to share statistics about hats this year, which we are happy to do. In the weeks to come, I will be reporting things we learned from Winter Bash over on Meta Stack Exchange. In the meantime, enjoy a few more of my favorite hat-wearing avatars:
As last year, the hats were illustrated by Elias Stein. I hope you enjoyed his work as much as we did. Thanks Elias!
Announcing the winners
Everyone who participated is a winner! Okay, that’s not what you are here for. Four individuals top the network-wide leaderboard:
Please join me in congratulating the users who earned all 38 hats across the network:
- Logan M (32 hats on Anime & Manga and last year’s winner)
- Martijn Pieters (35 hats on Stack Overflow)
- rolfl (34 hats on Code Review)
- Mike Miller (36 hats on Mathematics)*
And with that, we must say a fond farewell to the hats of 2014. If you have any feedback on this year’s event, please weigh in on Meta Stack Exchange.
- The leaderboard counts hats earned across the network. While all four earned the maximum network-wide, the tiebreaker goes to the person who scored the most hats on their home site. Mike Miller’s 36 hats on Mathematics was the maximum he could earn. The two he missed on Math were HairBoat, since Abby hadn’t posted on his site and Kofia, which is awarded to brand-new posters only.