I have been considering attempting to get the Mortarboard badge, which requires getting 200 reputation in a single day, so I am wondering what a good strategy would be for such an attempt.

My knowledge and interest is relatively limited and focused on computer architecture, so I am unlikely to post a popular question (I did earn a Tumbleweed badge) or a good answer to a popular question. I have also only made fourteen posts, so upvotes from older posts are unlikely to contribute any reputation on any given day. This implies that preparation and timing of posting would be important factors.

My current plan includes asking and answering a question found on the comp.arch newsgroup, answering an oldish question (with several existing answers but to which I believe I can provide a better answer), converting a comment into an answer, and improving one of my existing answers. There are a few other existing questions that I could answer, but since they are weak questions (as evidenced by low view and vote counts and lack of answer in most cases).

(I am hoping that my answer to the comp.arch question will be not merely long but good. By providing a good answer for a mediocre [for EE.SE] question, the question is likely to receive more up votes. I also plan to link to this question in a comp.arch post, so a few more views and even an up vote or two might be attracted.)

I could probably also find some posts for which I can suggest useful edits, though at two reputation points per accepted suggestion the effort required to find posts worth editing is probably unjustified. Making more than about ten suggested edits in a day may also be a bit spammy.

Are there particular days and times of day that are especially suited to getting views and votes? I seem to recall seeing a graph for Stack Overflow showing question views peaking on Wednesday and I think there was an indication that much of the traffic came during business hours in Europe and the U.S., but EE.SE might be different. In addition, there might be a significant advantage to posting during times of low posting activity so that a broader range of viewers would see the questions on the main page, since the questions would be less generally popular.

There is also probably some tradeoff between the best time for getting views (i.e., views while it is on the main page) and the earliest in the day (so it has the most total time to accumulate votes).

Another factor in timing would be avoiding upvotes that do not increase reputation. One strategy in this regard would be to post answers in an earlier day that are likely to be accepted during the targeted day; the 15 reputation for acceptances does not count toward the 200 point daily maximum, so some margin for getting more up votes than expected. Since the one asking the question would get a notification of an answer, this would avoid the problem of the question leaving the main page. (Sadly, for my purposes, old questions are unlikely to have an answer accepted with predictable timing.)

Making several posts within an hour of each other is probably somewhat rude. Aside from the negative effect on voting, I also have some scruples.

(If I had known that my answer to "How can a CPU deliver more than one instruction per cycle?" was going to get 130 reputation—excessive up voting in my opinion—in one day and I had been prepared with other posts, I probably could have gotten the Mortarboard badge without much additional effort. Incidentally, this experience may affirm that a lower post traffic weekend may be better for getting votes. My answer was posted Saturday 2 August at 18:01, received 2 up votes and an acceptance transfer on Saturday, and 13 up votes on Sunday. The additional 2 up votes on both Monday and Tuesday seem strange.)

I realize that this is a somewhat silly quest (badges are even less valuable than reputation points), but I may not be the only one curious about how to plan a campaign for the relatively difficult to get Mortarboard badge.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've got a mortarboard badge accidentally. Somebody had tweeted a question, which I've happened to have answered. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6, 2014 at 1:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hop into chat and discuss the question while you are authoring your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – jippie
    Aug 9, 2014 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


Well, that's a harder badge to get here (compared to StackOverflow). Basically, there are a few things you can do:

  • Write a lot of high-quality answers. Having a lot of (good) answers will probably get you a nominal amount of upvotes, but only a few votes a day per answer. Having more answers helps as you start to cash in on the "long-tail" of votes.
  • Try to figure out which questions are going to have higher traffic. The "Hot Network Questions" sidebar may help with that, as well as your own judgement. "Give me the answer" homework questions usually do not.
  • Go for bounties. If you can nab a 200+ point bounty, then that does it. Otherwise, you're a decent chunk of the way there.
  • Make sure the question you're answering is well written. Edit and improve as you see fit, especially for new users or those who know English as a second language.
  • Get lucky.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sadly, most of this does not apply to me. I tend to write decent answers on the questions I can answer, but a lot of the comp. arch. questions moved to CS.SE (and the topic is "homework" heavy). At the current rate of posting, I am decades from a significant long-tail effect. Hot and bounty questions tend to be hard (especially for a non-EE-type like me). Improving questions would probably help triply (2 points for the edit, bumping the question, and a better reception for answers). Without at least a finite improbability generator, luck would mainly be exploited by multiple attempts. \$\endgroup\$
    – user15426
    Aug 6, 2014 at 4:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO I have a meta-bone to pick with the "Hot Network Questions" sidebar. The algorithm (and/or the staff) picks the questions for the sidebar, which have general appeal, but are not necessarily high quality EE.SE question. But this certainly deserves a separate thread on meta.EE.SE . \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6, 2014 at 19:52

I just wanted to add a few points to W5VO's great answer, out of my experience with StackExchange sites:

  • Be the first to answer - Questions get most attention right after they are asked. If your answer is there when the users read it, it's more likely you'll get upvoted. But that only applies if your answer is great (looks like it won't be a problem with you). So, make sure you are watching the questions as they arrive, and when you find the right question, you'll likely get most upvotes in your answers. That can be time consuming, but it may be worth a shot. Conversely, answering old questions (although valuable and honorable) will likely contribute very little to your goal. Unfortunately, that's the way SE works.

  • Wait until the vacation season is over - the last couple of months have been pretty calm around here - not that many questions coming in and not many generous upvoters either. Everybody who's got a life seems to be out on vacations :D So I wouldn't expect to get much reputation until the end of this month. Concentrate your efforts from September on.

  • Take note of the UTC time zone - Some high reputation folks (like the various John Skeet's out there) take into account that reputation is counted within a UTC time zone (to circunvent the 200 reputation cap). That can be useful for getting the Mortarboard badge, too (I just don't know exactly how). My guess is that you could concentrate efforts starting at 12:00am UTC and watch the question queue more closely after that time, and right before the end of the day (UTC). I know that being a bit away from Greenwich helps a little (depending on where you are, you don't have to stay awake at 3am just to get the darn badge).

  • Learn how to configure the question filters - using that configuration, you can define the tags that you are most interested in and can also filter out the questions you don't want to even look at. That helps narrowing down the amount of information you need to process.

  • Sit back and relax - Keep answering questions you think you have most to contribute to, and eventually, you'll hit a homerun and will get your badge when you least expect it.

This post from SO Meta: Six simple tips to get reputation fast on any Stack Exchange site has interesting points (some very controversial, some just purely dishonest - just skip those ones), some of which I have mentioned above.

Don't worry about the 200 reputation cap, at least not for now, as it doesn't affect earning this badge. Actually, the first time you hit the cap you'll automatically earn the Mortarboard badge, so your goal now is to hit the 200 point cap. I also wouldn't worry about posting answers less than an hour apart. If they are good, you're just improving the site.

Incidentally, I have earned the Mortarboard badge myself, out of sheer luck and the generosity of another user. I wasn't expecting to ever getting the badge, but luckly I did. So can you :D

PS. Hey, here's one question for you that just came in. Go for it!! (though it clearly states it's a homework question...)

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    \$\begingroup\$ On taking the UTC time zone into account. If the answer is posted at 00:01 UTC, then there is a whole day to accumulate the upvotes, which is good for getting the mortarboard badge. But the downside is that you would hit the reputation cap. If the answer is posted at, say, 20:00 UTC, then the upvotes are split between two days. This is detrimental for the mortarboard badge, but less reputation will go unaccounted for because of the reputation cap. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2014 at 20:57

I'll share with you my very secret method:

  1. watch the "hot questions" sidebar
  2. include pictures, graphs, typeset math, schematics in your answer
  3. solicit feedback in the comments and incorporate improvements through edits

As evidence of the efficacy of this method, I cite my Physics.SE profile. I don't usually stray over there unless I see something interesting on the hot questions. I have only 18 answers, but I've earned mortarboard four times (or would, if it was awarded multiple times).

The answers responsible:

  1. Since cables carry electricity moving at the speed of light, why aren't computer networks much faster?
    • 7554 views, 4 edits, no pictures
    • likely reason for success: huge popularity. (200 rep 2 days in a row!) The explanation is universally approachable (and not a wall of math as common on Physics.SE), but it also discusses dispersion, a concept I hardly knew about but researched as suggested in the comments.
  2. Is this really a golden ratio spiral?
    • 3794 views, 4 edits, 5 pictures
    • likely reason for success: pictures, especially since the question was graphical in nature.
  3. Why are these periods the same: a low earth orbit and oscillations through the center of the earth?
    • 1030 views, 7 edits, 2 pictures
    • likely reason for success: insightful animated picture. Incorporated mathematical proof at suggestion of comments, again with accompanying picture and nicely typeset math.
  4. Is it possible to overload a lightning rod?
    • 1398 views, 2 edits, no pictures
    • likely reason for success: nice math, only answer, moderately popular question concurrent with #3.

In #1 and #2, I was not the first answer. I don't think it matters if you are the first answer, and if you are getting it from the hot questions, you likely won't be. What matters is that you are the first good answer.

What helps you be good is editing the question from feedback in the comments. If you are mostly good, when a real expert comes along and reads your answer, he won't bother to write an answer of his own. He will just point out what's wrong with yours. Don't just respond in the comments. Edit your answer to address the comment. Research if you must. Then respond so the expert can proofread your edit. Edits also bump the question to the top of the "active" list, which draws more addition directly, and makes it more likely to show up in "hot questions".

The three points above could be rephrased as:

  1. Answer things of wide interest, and
  2. in a way that laymen will understand, and
  3. experts won't challenge.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am glad my comment about dispersion might have contributed to your excellent answer about speed of signals in cables... funny to read about that at another site! Two further things that help: 1) links (twitter is a great way to drive traffic - I was once the unwitting beneficiary of that), and 2) pictures. Almost all my higher-rated answers have one or more diagrams - often linked from the web, sometimes drawn. It makes your answers more approachable. And as you say - don't be afraid to do some research to make a better answer: you learn a LOT that way (and might gain rep. But mostly learn). \$\endgroup\$
    – Floris
    Aug 18, 2014 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, photos/pictures really do improve an answer. Especially for me as I am a visual thinker. \$\endgroup\$
    – sa_leinad
    Sep 12, 2016 at 10:30

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