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We've now been in public beta for over a year. According to our Area 51 stats, we've come a long way.

Our % answered is excellent. 100% of the questions on our site have received answers.

Our "avid users" stat is also excellent. We have a solid group of core users to assist in moderating the site, with enough rep to perform many of the tasks to assist in running the site (vote to close/open, edit permissions, moderator tools, etc.).

Our answer ratio is also excellent. Each question receives, on average, 3.8 answers. The recommended ration is at least 2.5 answers per question.

Even our visits/day has improved significantly. I've watched our visits/day grow from around 300/day to the current 1170/day.

However...

There are two areas where I feel we need significant improvement.

First, and foremost:

We need more questions!

We're sitting at an average of 1.4 questions a day. The standard is that 15 questions a day is a good target. Less than 5 a day is a sign that we need improvement.

I believe I've seen us as high as 8-9 questions a day. However, we've had a steady decline over the past few months. We need to fix this.

We also need more participation!

The other issue is, in my opinion, overall participation from the user base.

People are answering questions. That's fantastic. But its not enough.

We have more than 80 members who have enough reputation to cast close or reopen votes, but I don't believe I've ever seen a question closed entirely by users. In fact, I don't remember the last time I've seen a question that needed to be closed that had more than 1 close vote by a non-moderator.

Now, it could be argued that this perhaps points to an "over-eagerness" on the part of moderators to close questions, but we really do try and work to avoid closing questions, and I believe that our moderation here is much more lenient than in most other SE sites in that we actively suggest improvements via comments to the OP if we think there's any way the question can be salvaged, before closing, and many questions that are "borderline" are left for several days to see if any improvement is forthcoming.

In addition, quite a few of the questions we've closed have either received a single close vote from a non-moderator user, or received flags (sometimes from users who had enough rep to vote to close, but did not).

Furthermore, I don't recall ever seeing a closed question with a reopen vote cast by a user.

User suggested edits are extremely low, although there are plenty of questions or answers that could use edits/improvement.

Flags are very rare (which is probably more of a positive than a negative).

Our chat room has become deserted. We tried one topic-driven chat event and I believe I was the only one who showed up to give any feedback to the OP. One other user showed up... almost 2 weeks later, after the chat room had auto-deleted due to lack of activity.

So what do we do?

I'm looking for suggestions.

In addition to asking you all to be more active, ask more questions, and take advantage of all of the privileges you've earned through rep, I'd love to see answers to this question telling us what you think we, as a community, can do to help boost the areas we need work in.

Do we need to change our scope? Allow recommendations? Make specific appeals to target audiences? Advertise in a certain place? Run contests? Throw some bounties out on key questions? Capitalize on popular events or hot topics?

Don't limit yourself to just this meta question, though. We need more meta participation in general, so ask more questions about the site itself, look through existing questions, vote, and add any answers you think are good suggestions.

Also, I encourage you all to participate in this site evaluation question. The Stackexchange Community Team is reaching out to us. It is vitally important that we show that our community cares enough about this site to at least participate in the discussion they've opened up.

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    You've expertly addressed my concerns as well! We've got a very strong site - we just need to grow more. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 6 '12 at 12:40
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Design, design, design.

This looks like a programming site, and not what the typical parenting site looks like. I imagine that for most people, this might as well be the command line and the ever-mysterious shell prompt. :)

Even to me the layout is a turn-off.

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    Unfortunately, the way SE beta sites work is that the design doesn't happen until the site can prove on its own that it is viable. The first indication that a beta site is about to graduate is usually that you see a meta post showing the new upcoming look and feel. The philosophy is that if a site isn't viable just on content, making it pretty won't fix the problem, and I tend to agree with that. Pretty sites may attract more users, but pretty doesn't form the core community, or keep them participating. – user420 Jun 18 '12 at 12:41
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    So it seems that the goal is that if we can increase participation two or threefold without a site redesign, then the site redesign will further help. – David Manheim Jun 22 '12 at 20:39
  • This is a typical problem for non-technical SE sites. I think that sites that have been around for so long, and does not show warning signs of dying, should be considered to go public even if the "questions per day" rate is low. – awe Dec 15 '16 at 13:14
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I think moreso for this site than others, it's really quite hard to come up with unique questions. All parents have basically the same set of problems they need help with... tantrums, eating better, sleeping better, etc.

Quite frequently I type up a question, then go through a few of the suggested items and realize that the same thing was asked and answered quite well a year ago. So I don't think there's value in me asking that question again. It'd just be a dupe of the earlier one, and would just sap the community having to re-answer it again. Wouldn't it?

  • The issue of duplicates is one we've discussed quite a bit. Personally, I am now leaning more towards the theory of duplication described in this (somewhat older) blog. In short, "What we want is on the order of 4 or 5 similar-but-not-quite-the-same duplicates to cover all possible search terms and common permutations of the question. It is also OK for these duplicates to have their own answers so people who find them don’t have to click yet again to get to a good answer." – user420 Jul 2 '12 at 12:07
0

I had to go find this because I really like the site and want to stay but there are a few reasons why I am 'uncomfortable'.

1) anonymous downvoting. It isn't helpful, feels punitive, teaches nothing nor encourages participation.

2) editing for spelling, grammar or because someone doesn't like the wording. If you understand it, I think it should be left alone. Not everyone has your education, keyboarding skills or English as a first language. Some of the edits I've seen suggested are just imo, someone who has the power -- abusing it.

3) Only questions. Sometimes, it would be nice to have a discussion on a subject. Sure, it could be worded as a question to fit the format. Say I'd like to discuss allowance or dating. I do not have a specific question, but I'd love to discuss those aspects of parenting with other parents.

4) Duplicates. So many new people want to talk about their own specifics. If you WANT participation, link them to older answers and discuss the issue with the potentially new and staying participant.

5) By all means, explain rules or ask a poster to edit a comment, but we aren't or should not be nannies.

6) People are not going to agree all the time. I write an answer and someone disagrees. So I re-read my answer and their comment and perhaps I've learned something new or have food for thought. It simple logic. We all learn something, or should try to, every day. Being open to other ideas is a good thing. Also, really disagreeing should be okay as long as the facts are stated, and the poster is not attacked. The mods can always remove a post or member from the site.

Again, I am enjoying the site. I am hoping to stay and keep on doing so. I think you/we can easily boost participation by simply making the site more welcoming. I am actually quite experienced in this area. Since 2003 I've owned and run extremely successful sites, including ones for photography, parents of children with special needs, teen chats, and relationships. I just got tired of being the boss. I am retired and the only things I do these days (besides parenting, running a household and being happily married) are writing my novel and counselling the few families I've worked with for years whose kids are still not adults.

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    In regards to number 2, there should be nothing wrong with editing. Just because the editor can understand it doesn't mean everyone can, and poorly formatted posts detract from the quality of the site. - In regards to number 4, we don't just want participation as we are not a forum. If you can show that your question is sufficiently different to warrant not being a duplicate, you can edit your question. – called2voyage Dec 14 '16 at 19:51
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    @called2voyage Thanks for the response. I guess people have already decided to keep the site the way it is and that either has to be okay with new members or people leave. The site is 4 years old. Beta it is. – WRX Dec 14 '16 at 19:55
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    A lot of the points you've brought up highlight our long-term struggle with "welcoming" vs. "StackExchange structure and standards" -- certainly not easy to solve :) – Acire Dec 15 '16 at 12:15
  • @Erica - People are usually reluctant to make changes. I certainly had trouble seeing the forest for the trees on my forums. "This is the way it is done." It's not like it doesn't work. It just starts to stagnate while other social media dangles some carrot or other. Hey, it is not my problem to fix. I just thought I'd stir the pot, gently!, and see if it would be possible to increase usage. It is a great site regardless. – WRX Dec 15 '16 at 13:07
  • I sincerely appreciate your interest and your thoughts on the matter. I don't know how much of it we can address (again, bound by the general StackExchange model) but you're absolutely right that we need the constructive input and criticism of our users (even the happy ones!) :) – Acire Dec 15 '16 at 13:09
  • @Erica I am (obviously) interested. However, I have zero need to make this my cause. I'd be happy to vote on something the long time members come up with, but from now on I'll just leave it to all of you. It is a great site and I think it helps many people. – WRX Dec 15 '16 at 14:47
  • @Erica The problem is not the "StackExchange structure and standards". Other StackExchange sites, including StackOverflow, which I think is the biggest one, feel much more welcoming than this site, mostly for some of the reasons Willow points out.. – Warren Dew Jan 11 '17 at 7:33
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    @WarrenDew What reasons that Willow pointed out don't apply to SO? 1, 2, 3, and 4 all occur on SO as well. 5 seems to be talking about overmoderation, which you also seem concerned about, but it doesn't directly address what is "too much". 6 doesn't really seem to be an issue. I see disagreements all over SE. They aren't usually censored, though they are often sent to chat when the discussions get too long, which seems appropriate. – called2voyage Jan 11 '17 at 20:25
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The moderation here is much stricter than on StackOverflow, as well as the several other StackExchange sites I participate in. You even admit that the moderators are being more active than the voting participants, but you ignore that data in favor of your own personal impressions. Pay attention to the data. One of the strengths of the StackExchange platform is user moderation, which gives the users a feeling that they own the site. When your moderators are doing more moderation than the users, you lose this strength and you disenfranchise the users.

In addition, the specific outlook of the moderators also greatly limits the usefulness of the site. I see two specific problems.

(1) The moderators don't want medical questions. Negative moderator comments are posted and questions are closed if the moderators believe the question might be more appropriate for a medical practitioner.

(2) The moderators don't want answers that disagree with published recommendations, even if those answers are based on personal experience. They only want consensus wisdom.

Why are these problems? Because they prevent the site from offering any added value over a web search. If the answers are going to agree with what's found elsewhere on the web, it's easier to do a web search than write up the question here. And the medical questions that medical sites might shy away from answering due to liability reasons aren't allowed here. So why bother asking?

What this site could offer is a way to draw on the combined experience of many other parents, to provide a diversity of suggestions that might present a solution even when published data - and in some cases medical practitioners - have not presented such a solution. But the way the site is currently being moderated, none of that added value is available. Several times I've had questions where I'd value the opinions and experiences of other parents in similar situations. This ought to be an ideal site for such questions. Unfortunately, I know that I'd actually only get the moderator approved opinions, and I can get those more easily in a web search.

Your question basically says you've got plenty of moderation and not enough participation, especially in the form of asking questions. Well, tell your moderators to spend more time participating and less time moderating. If a moderator disagrees with an answer, have them post their own answer and why they think it's right. If a moderator thinks the right answer is, "go see a doctor" - which may be the right answer in many cases - have them post it as an answer rather than closing the question. And if there aren't enough questions to answer, have them post a question regarding their own parenting - they're all parents, too, I hope?

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    Your bullet points 1 and 2 are incorrect; the moderators don't "want" those. Those policies were requested by the community at large, long before any of the current moderators became moderators. If you think those policies are harmful, start a meta discussion to see if the policies should be changed. Telling the moderators to start ignoring community policy, as you suggest, means that the community will have less control, not more. Also note that I asked this 4 years ago. – user420 Jan 11 '17 at 11:55
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    At the time I wrote this, part of the concern expressed by the community was that the two active moderators were posting the majority of the content, so your suggestion that moderators should stop moderating and instead focus on generating content has been shown to not be healthy for the site. – user420 Jan 11 '17 at 11:59
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    Finally, the idea that this site is "much stricter" than on so is, no offense, ridiculous. There are 2-3 mods on this site, and what, half a dozen semi-active 10k users? SO has many more mods, and hundreds of active 10k users. You can literally watch off-topic posts get closed and deleted in real time; usually in less than 5 minutes from posting. There is a perpetual queue of flags that is so large that it can days for the team of moderators to get through them. There are also much stricter rules about what is off topic, far less discussion, and usually involves deletion. – user420 Jan 11 '17 at 12:20
  • @Beofett Sorry, hadn't realized how old the question was; congratulations on writing a question that's still relevant five years later! StackOverflow may have ten times as many moderators, but it has 1000 times as many posts, so the moderator to post ratio is far lower. We'll just have to agree to disagree regarding moderation strictness. – Warren Dew Jan 11 '17 at 17:14
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    Honestly, I wish this question wasn't still relevant; it just shows this site still has a fundamental problem. If you take into account the 10k users, parenting has 10 (most of which aren't very active any more). SO has... literally thousands. Fair enough on agreeing to disagree, though. If you haven't read through the meta discussions here on medical advice and disagreeing with the premise, I would encourage you to do so, and at least chime in if you disagree with the reasoning. – user420 Jan 11 '17 at 17:46

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