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I've noticed in a few short months of participation that there is a definite sweet-spot for sites, where your questions tend to get good solid answers, and you have the opportunity to answer questions without camping at your keyboard all night with hopes of being in the first ten entries.

For example, on AskUbuntu or DBA, I can find good questions, and take my time in putting together a thoughtful answer; however, if I do take the time to find questions up my alley in the main SE or SuperUser sites, it's rare that either:

  1. my answer is not quickly lost in a dozen others (many of which are thoughtless one-liners) or
  2. the user ever returns to evaluate and/or select the answer.

It's clear that a great deal of excellent research has gone into the creation and nascent care of SE sites (Area 51 is impressive in concept and execution), but I'm curious if there is any work in later portions of the life-cycle. Is there an estimated user-limit or diminishing return threshold for SE sites? Is there any thought of some other transition to increase the value of these sites?

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I believe the final two phases are: N-1) ??? N) Profit ;) –  gnostradamus Aug 5 '11 at 17:57
    
I think Meta definitely falls in the sweet spot. Probably explains why I waste so much more time here than anywhere else... –  Cody Gray Aug 6 '11 at 9:25
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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't think the concept is quite right here; there are really three tiers of sites. Can you identify them?

http://stackexchange.com/sites?sort=questionsperday&expand=true

stackexchange site stats excerpt

In my opinion, the relevant stats are questions/day (a big one), and visits/day. The other stats are useful for different things, but these are the big ones for getting your question viewed and answered. Based on this data, there are three site states:

Tier One
Stack Overflow, which gets 4,000 questions per day.

Tier Two
SU/SF, which get around 120~150 questions per day.

Tier Three
Everything else in the network which gets at most 50 questions/day. (Math, Programmers, and AskUbuntu are definitely doing well, and poised to achieve tier two status in maybe another year or two.)

Just to put this in perspective, by question volume:

  • Stack Overflow is TWENTY SIX times larger than the second largest site in our network.

  • Super User is FOUR to TEN times larger than most other SE 2.0 sites.

Also, as a thought exercise, try predicting how long it would take for Super User to get as big as Stack Overflow. It's almost exactly two years old now, so just extrapolate outward from there.

Anyway, I think your concerns are only relevant to Stack Overflow and may never actually apply to any other SE 2.0 site, at least not in a five year window..

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My answer is quickly lost in a dozen others (many of which are thoughtless one-liners)

Don't worry about competition from one-liners. If your answer goes into more detail and is more helpful, you'll come out way ahead of them in reputation over the long run--even if yours is the last answer posted, and even if there was already an accepted answer.

The user never returns to evaluate and/or select the answer.

You don't need to worry too much about this either. As long as the question isn't "too localized" you'll still help others with the same problem, and earn rep in the process.

This is a lot like my answer to How can Stack Overflow encourage more thorough answers? which seems to be about your same concerns, just coming at it from a different angle.

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