In the interest of getting a representative sample of community opinions, I’ll just note that I’m not opposed to prizes and I don’t think it would have a negative impact on the way people participate in the contest (either the voters or the people submitting entries). There might be some initial flurry of weirdness at the beginning, but as long as the prizes are consistently given out over and it’s sustained over time, I think any shenanigans will die off. I said pretty much the same thing when this came up in the PSAEF. But I’m also not overly excited about adding prizes either, so I’m not going to protest strongly either way.
But I did want to register the opinion that as long as it’s small prizes, sustained for awhile, and it’s not overthought or overcomplicated, I don’t think it would be disruptive.
If the goal is to encourage participation and bring in new users, I’d say that would be better achieved through prizes awarded to a random participant each week, as opposed to one who placed high. From an outsiders standpoint, a prize for 1st isn’t gonna draw me in unless I’m pretty darn certain I’ve got a 1st-place entry. However, there are usually only 60-70 entrants in any given week, so a 1-in-70 chance of winning something just for entering would be more enticing, I’d think.