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I still haven't earned a badge for Nice Question or Nice Answer, both of which require I get scores of 10 or more. I hit 9 once, but that was a while ago. Can someone suggest ways one can improve my questions and answers? (I'd appreciate specific advice for my own posts, but here I'm looking to help everyone.)

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    Many posts earn lots of their votes a long time after they're posted. Check out Alex's reputation logs. He hasn't been here in over 8 months, but he still earns more reputation every day, and more badges every once in a while. So, whatever post of yours has 9 upvotes so far will probably earn its tenth one of these days, when a user comes across it for some reason and likes it. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 '13 at 22:21
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    I recommend that you make it more clear in both the title and body whether this question is asking for general advice on writing excellent Q&A on MY, or for particular review and critique of your body of work to date. If it's the latter, it could make the work more tractable if you'd provide some particular examples of posts of yours that you think may be undervalued, so that people can focus their review and suggestions on those. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 '13 at 23:02
  • BruceJames, can you address @IsaacMoses's second comment, so people know how to answer this question? – msh210 Mar 1 '13 at 17:26
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    My most recent "Nice Answer" badge came over a month ago on a question asked almost two years ago. I've got 10 of them so far. It just takes time for people to see the post. We're smaller than some of the other SE sites. – Seth J Mar 1 '13 at 19:57
  • (asked and answered almost two years ago) – Seth J Mar 3 '13 at 3:08
  • You're welcome. ;-) – Seth J Mar 5 '13 at 20:00
  • In the eight days since you asked this question, you've earned your first Nice Question and Nice Answer badges. Yeyasher kocahcha! – Isaac Moses Mar 8 '13 at 16:23
  • @IsaacMoses: :-) I got good advice, apparently. – Bruce James Mar 8 '13 at 17:40
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With regard to questions, in my experience (having asked to date 44 questions with "nice question" rate of ~36%), the questions that get the most votes are basically ones which peak the interest of the average person browsing Mi Yodeya.

Usually, these will be about topics that everyone has encountered or knows about, and probably a lot of people have wondered about at some time or another. If the question is simple, straightforward, and easy-to-understand, Like these: (I'm taking my own questions as examples for convenience, not self-advertisement)

Or even if the topics are not those that everyone necessarily knows, but they are famous enough, and your question is straightforward, you're on the right track.

The less-popular questions, and hence less-upvoted questions are the ones that have a narrower scope, a topic not everyone is familiar with or interested in, or a question that is not so easy to understand. Like these:

Now, this is all assuming you've followed the proper question-asking etiquette around here, i.e. explain clearly, proper grammar/punctuation, articulate your though process and potential sources/approaches you've identified or any other relevant information.

Also, note that (as @IsaacMoses commented above) some of these questions sat around for a while before getting the "Nice Question" badge.

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    TL;DR: Popular question -> Upvoted question -> "Nice Question" badge. – jake Mar 1 '13 at 19:52
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    +1 Good analysis and examples. I'd just point out that the narrower-interest questions, if high-quality, are quite valuable, too, even if it takes them significantly longer to amass lots of upvotes. (I know you know; just wanted to make that explicit.) – Isaac Moses Mar 1 '13 at 20:37

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