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This is what the Area 51 stats look like for a certain site I care about:

Current Area 51 stats

I've circled the two stats that are "treadmill stats"—they don't build over time, but require constant work to maintain. The "questions per day" stat represents a serious treadmill for users since they can actually do something about it. Obviously questions are the lifeblood of a Q&A site, but users can get seriously hung up on that number. Minor fluctuations in question rate are just not worth obsessing over.

As a ♦ mod, I can see several statistics in historical context. It helps me see:

  1. Questions are asked in bursts.
  2. The site has a weekly heartbeat: activity peaks on Wednesday and troughs on the weekend.
  3. After the first month or two of public-beta enthusiasm, the site stalled out.
  4. Since the first of the year, the site's been on a slow climb.

There is a public chart of this data if you know where to look:

Quantcast stats

It doesn't show number of questions, but I can see the general pattern of site growth from visits per day. (I added the red line, which is my guess at how the numbers were trending.) Very roughly speaking, we get about one question per 100 visits. (Don't assume causation one way or another, however!) With a little bit of thought, it's easy to see that the difference between 2.0 Q/D and 2.1 Q/D is the difference between 14 and 15 questions in a week. Which is to say: not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Putting our Area 51 stats (especially questions per day) on a timeline would help enthusiastic users of our beta sites know if they are improving or not. I see that changes are coming that will provide a bit more context. But what other ways can we display the Area 51 statistics so that interested parties can get an accurate picture of how things are going?

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I see you're a mod there; there's a lot of good analytics data at hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/admin/analytics but it's mostly supposed to be mod-only (note the big orange banner analytics data is intended for moderators only; please don't share the specifics of this data in public) for unknown reasons. Ask the team, but I'm sure that they wouldn't mind you publishing some of this data if you think that it can help your site's health. –  Kevin Vermeer Jun 8 '12 at 17:45
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@Kevin: If I thought that sharing the information once in a while would suffice to help people relax, I would do that. When I became a mod, I was encouraged by some of the private analytics data, but it didn't add too much to what I could already see with Quantcast. The issue, however, is that the official data that people get when they want to see how the site is going (i.e., Area 51) freaks them out. And my calming voice of reason doesn't seem to prevent folks from getting nervous. (The red ink looks bad.) –  Jon Ericson Jun 8 '12 at 17:51
    
@JonEricson It IS bad! See what it says? "Needs Work". It says the site needs 1500 to survive and it only has 283! Did you see what happened to Literature and Firearms..?! –  Kalamane Jun 8 '12 at 22:31
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@Kalamane: Sigh. –  Jon Ericson Jun 9 '12 at 18:11
    
@JonEricson I probably should have added a wink at the end of that last response. –  Kalamane Jun 13 '12 at 21:14
    
For linking porpoises: meta.stackexchange.com/q/103247/1438 –  Jon Ericson Jun 28 '12 at 0:49

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