I'm an avid learner of languages, and I make extensive use of French.SE and Japanese.SE. In the future, I plan to use Spanish, Scandinavian Languages (if it makes it to beta), Chinese, Russian, and many others.

But I'm afraid that by the time I get to those languages, they won't be there.

All of those are in beta, and many of them have ratings of "Excellent" (or close) in most categories except, across the board, "Questions per Day," where they almost always have Poor. This is the case even on several sites where "Visitors per Day" is rated as "Excellent."

And this applies to many of our betas, not just the language sites. If you look around, you'll find a plentitude of sites which are failing that category far harder than any other.

Why is this?

  • 2
    I tend to blame under-voting. Would there be stats like Votes per Day, it would be easier to find out. Meanwhile, you can try checking this by comparing lists at http://<sitename>.stackexchange.com/users?tab=voters&filter=all. Eg my own non-scientific check for a couple of troublesome beta sites has shown them all being voting-anemic. Quite a pity
    – gnat
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:13
  • 1
    @gnat - This is a really good point. Voting gives more power back to the community of regular users and empowers them to help guide new users and teach them how to use the site. Aerovistae, I suggest creating a meta post encouraging users to vote up great content, if you find that your communities are "voting-anemic"
    – jmort253
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:49
  • Note also that all of the sites you mentioned have less than 600 visits a day according to the traffic stat. Increased sustained traffic should naturally lead to some kind of increase in questions-per-day.
    – Troyen
    Jul 23, 2012 at 6:12
  • 2
    @Troyen note the connection betveen votes and traffic is bi-directional. More traffic => more votes, yes, but also more votes => more traffic. "Upvoting good posts makes their authors feel better and gives them incentive to get back to the site and post again, adding more and more of a good content..." (Active voter tips -> Beta voters: enjoy the stats)
    – gnat
    Jul 23, 2012 at 8:20
  • @gnat I was specifically addressing the questions <=> traffic relationship. Yeah, more votes entices users to stick around, but you need stuff to vote on to begin with. Not having a lot of questions means there aren't as many reasons to visit the site, which means less people are active asking questions. The traffic stats on all the sites the OP listed are barely in the "Okay" range and many are in the "Needs Improvement" zone. Improving traffic should also naturally improve questions-per-day.
    – Troyen
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:15
  • 1
    @gnat Now, when looking at traffic, that is where things like community events and positive reinforcement through voting come into play, so I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you. In fact, one site has a heavy negative deterrent because a handful of users downvote almost every new question and answer and as a result, traffic has started to decline.
    – Troyen
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:18
  • @Troyen well as far as I can see they just don't use voting as means to keep askers and answerers coming back. Look, 1) Spanish, ~2400 Q+A posts total: all but 4 top voters are under 400 votes. 2) Chinese, ~1700 Q+A posts total: all but 4 top voters are under 247. 3) Russian, ~550 Q+A posts total: all but 4 top voters are under 83. Quite anemic will to reward => why would posters wish come back there?
    – gnat
    Jul 23, 2012 at 23:26

3 Answers 3


I think we need to figure out a way to make people realize what they've stumbled upon. Maybe even as simple as making the "Ask a Question!" button bigger.

The saying "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind. While that little red "Needs Work" message may seem scary, the main message that the Stack Exchange team conveys time and time again is that the quality of the questions and answers are way more important than the quantity.

Project Management Stack Exchange is another beta site that currently has 1.6 questions per day, but we have recently made a commitment to keep those questions of the highest quality instead of focusing on growing that number.

One thing I've noticed is that occasionally an exceptional event will occur in the world that makes people search for a specific keyword. In PMSE's case, Github had recently been hacked, and someone asked a question loosely related to that on our site. We received an influx of hit and run users who left a series of non-answers in the "Answer this question" box. Most of what was posted was of little value and had to be removed.

In summary, just because a site has only 1.8 questions per day doesn't mean it's doomed for closure. It does mean there may be concerns if a few core users were to have a baby, get swamped with work, get distracted by other hobbies, or otherwise get pulled away due to life's endless stream of surprises. But it doesn't mean your site cannot be great.

In short, making the "Ask a question" box bigger or doing things to draw more drive by users in may not give you the results you desire. Instead, you may find that these drive by users get upset that their question was closed as off-topic or not a real question. They'll shake up your community and then leave, never to be heard from again yet leaving a vile aftertaste that makes your community panic and do things it regrets, like trying to game the Area 51 stats, for example.

Instead, it's best to attract the type of users who have landed on the site a few times from frequent Google searches, sort of how you did, and who develop a broader interest in the site itself. This takes time and patience to develop this type of community. These users, like yourself, are more likely to want to learn more about how the site works and will assimilate into your community much easier than a drive by user.

  • Very valid points. I just feel like many SE sites are critically under-used by the Internet at large, because they haven't developed an identity of their own. As I said with Spanish.SE, there are hordes of internet users out there who would love this if they would only understand it better. Are there ways to try to increase the conversion rate from your so-called "drive-by users" into more desirable community members? Jul 23, 2012 at 5:26
  • I wish I knew the answer to that. It's one PMSE is still trying to figure out. I have tried engaging some of the drive by users in chat, or trying to encourage them to edit and improve their closed questions, but there's no hard evidence that it's helped. For now, we're going to trust the SE community team, assume they know what they're talking about from their experience seeing sites fail and succeed, and focus on quality. :)
    – jmort253
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:45
  • 1
    I should add that something like Spanish SE could be promoted at events you attend. For instance, if you're a member of the Spanish club, organize an event where you work with club members in posting their questions on SE. If you are a member of such groups, this could be a great opportunity to promote interest in the site while simultaneously teaching people how to use the site.
    – jmort253
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:52
  • That's a great idea, and a semi-obvious one which nonetheless does not occur to many people, myself included. I wish SE would make a blogpost along the theme of that comment so that it would get out to more people across the network. Jul 23, 2012 at 7:12
  • You might find this article interesting: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/a-recipe-to-promote-your-site
    – jmort253
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:37

The first idea that comes to mind for me is this:

I'm a programmer, unfortunately. I discovered Stack Exchange through Stack Overflow. But I knew about Stack Overflow for almost a year before I realized it was part of a network of other sites, and actually made an account.

I had come across SO by google searching the programming problem I was having, finding a previously asked question, and reading the answer. Given the frequency with which I google programming-related bugs, problems, dilemmas, and so on, I barely pay attention to the context of the answer. At first it was just another google result. After a few times, I did of course realize that SO was repeatedly the source of my solutions, and I paid more attention to it.

That was the day I noticed the "Ask a Question!" button.

And that was the day I discovered the rest of Stack Exchange.

So here's my idea, and I'd love to hear others: Visitors come across our sites in google results, but, being unfamiliar with SE's methodology and rich resources, they peruse that one result and then leave.

They fail to grasp that if the page they found didn't answer their question, they can just ask a more specific question and get a great answer, or search for similar questions. They leave, and maybe a lot of them don't end up coming back, because in many fields and subjects our sites don't come up as frequently in google results as SO does for programming problems.

I think we need to figure out a way to make people realize what they've stumbled upon. Maybe even as simple as making the "Ask a Question!" button bigger. Until I really started paying attention that one day, I never even noticed it. It was just part of the nonsense surrounding the little rectangle of content I needed. When I'm searching for programming answers, I'm in the habit of going fast and ignoring the perimeter of the central content, which is very rarely pertinent. I think this may apply to many people, especially those who are less internet-savvy.

Because, simple example, Spanish.SE is getting 1.8 questions a day, and I know an awful lot of U.S. high school students who just cannot grasp the Spanish they are being made to learn, and would die to find this site.

(But then again, Spanish also has low traffic. Perhaps if established users made a point to modify question titles into clearer forms that might be more likely to come up in Google results? Attract more people, then make them remember the site's name and feel that there's reason to come back.)

Remember, before there was Stack Exchange, there was Yahoo Answers, and its horrifically inconsistent quality left an awful lot of people jaded towards Q&A sites. We have to counter the possible presence of that attitude in newcomers.

  • Just one point to make, anyone can edit a question's title, not just a moderator. In fact, it's not a moderator's job to edit question titles (although they can and should do so if the question can be improved).
    – jmort253
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:01
  • 1
    Of course, and I knew that, I just kind of misspoke. Edited. Jul 23, 2012 at 5:04
  • 2
    +1 because your story of discovering Stack Exchange sounds just like mine.
    – gobernador
    Jul 23, 2012 at 5:24

Writers.SE has very much the pattern you describe. My own opinion on the matter is this: most of the other statistics can be brought up to par by a small-but-dedicated core userbase. A site with even a few strong regulars can deal handily with a beta's question flow, bringing up "Percentage Answered" and "Answer Ratio," and those questions and answers are voted on to bump up "Avid Users."

But if the userbase doesn't naturally generate many questions, then sheer effort won't bring the question count up. "Questions Asked" doesn't really measure the dedicated userbase, at least not exclusively; to a large extent, it measures how much incoming activity the beta site gets.

So a Beta with a lot of internal activity but little incoming activity will have low "Questions Asked," while other stats may be excellent. This sounds to me like it represents a site which isn't appealing to new users, and this could be for one of two reasons:

  1. It's just not drawing in activity yet, because people don't know about it.
  2. The site is visible to newcomers, but they aren't finding it compelling.

If the first is the case, all you need to do is give the site time. Gradually word will spread; more and more searches will bring new people in. All it's missing is critical mass; eventually, it can gain that critical mass and take off.

The second case is really the key issue here, IMHO. A Beta SE may be very compelling to a small group of committed members, but not so much to other people. Maybe LavaSnorkeling.SE is unnecessary compared to existing excellent references; maybe StageMagic.SE visitors find the Q&A format completely unsuitable to describing and discussing common issues with magic tricks; maybe TicTacToe.SE is very thorough when questions do arise, but most players don't have many questions.

In other words, you might have a subject that fascinates you and some cool, dedicated people, but that doesn't necessarily mean you've got the core of an awesome SE site. Sad to say, some Beta sites will fail, and among those, some will have a lot of effort put into them before they do. Those sites will be characterized by the kind of stats you describe.

That being said, Case 1 of "SE Beta which hasn't reached its audience yet" will have similar stats. There's no real way to definitively tell which of the two cases a specific Beta is - which is fair enough; the stats are a very rough indicator, and they shouldn't be taken as red flags or as certificates of guaranteed awesomeness without deeper familiarity with the site and its activity.

The upshot of this is that low question counts are best addressed by (A) promoting your site, which addresses Case #1, and (B) self-reflection and meta discussion, which will help you find major issues with your site which could indicate Case #2.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .