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As previously discussed on Stack Overflow in Russian Meta, site analytics show a severe decline for quite some time. Here're stats of Ru.SO:

RuSO stats

As you can see, all stats are on decline for two years. Answers and upvotes both dropped to about half of their previous values.

However, what we thought could be specific to Ru.SO, seems to happen on other localized sites as well, though to a less degree.

Pt.SO shows a similar trend:

PtSO stats

The number of posts started to decline without even statying stable for a while. What's even more frightening is the crazy increase in downvotes at the cost of upvotes, something I've never on any other site within SE network.

Es.SO suffers from the decline the least:

EsSO stats

However, even on the seemingly most stable of localized sites, the last half a year shows a considerable decline in posts compared to the previous year, plus answers dropped below questions long ago.


What's going on? Why is this happening?

Not so long ago, the localized sites were showing very strong stats, beating most of other sites in SE network. They were growing rapidly, accumulating a strong user base. But now all this is gone. They don't stabilize, resting on plateau of horizontal graphs, but show decline, some stronger than others.

Should we be concerned? What can we do to fix this?

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    I think it would be interesting to see statistics about how many users of localized SO move over to English SO. The "problem" might be that enough users are learning English. – user1306322 Oct 28 '19 at 13:40
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    @user1306322 For learning English to become the source of the problem, either a major part of international population needs to seriousy focus on learning English, or localized SOs need to disproportionately promote learning English among its users... Otherwise activity would stay the same thanks to new users joining. – Athari - Make SE Awesome Again Oct 28 '19 at 13:46
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    To be honest, even if there were a localized version of SO for my language, I wouldn't use it. There are far less users and therefore for less knowledge there. You would have greater success on the English version when you can speak/write English well enough. And I guess the same happens here. The users are either moving to English SO or leaving alltogehter, but new users may not now such sites exist, thus fewer people joining these communities. – Tom Oct 28 '19 at 13:55
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    @Tom That's been discussed hundreds of times when localized SOs were announced. You may want to check out these discussions to know why it was ultimately decided that having localized SOs is better than not having them, given the circumstances. – Athari - Make SE Awesome Again Oct 28 '19 at 14:00
  • Interesting stuff! SOes seems quite stable to my eyes. It has the typical decline on Christmas, but the rest of the time is similar to how it was one year ago. What it is also important to note is that the increase of questions per day is now probably over, so it probably needs more tools to boost its numbers. Also, SO the company made a big effort on this some years ago, but it doesn't seem to be the priority now (they used to have a CM for each SOxx site, while now they just have one for the whole group). – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 28 '19 at 14:01
  • @AtharisaysReinstateMonica I'm not arguing against having them in the first place, I just wrote why I think fewer people are using these sites. – Tom Oct 28 '19 at 14:04
  • @Tom As for me, I look for answer on En version, but answer on Ru version. My English enough only to read, not to write) I think, this case not unique, so I can't agree with hypothesis, that all users migrate to En version. – pavel Oct 28 '19 at 14:06
  • Are tools like Google translate good enough that Googleing for answers take people the English sites? – Ian Ringrose Oct 28 '19 at 14:19
  • Maybe the language barrier problem is getting smaller? – Zoe - account abandoned Oct 28 '19 at 15:08
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    Not enough information in the charts. What is the seasonal variability? (I.e does data that goes back over years have a yearly cycle?) – Van Oct 28 '19 at 15:26
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    Main SO also shows decline, so it's not necessarily related to the localized variants. – sth Oct 28 '19 at 15:35
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    I sometimes see machine translated English SO questions in google but I have never seen the localized sites in my results (but I am monolingual, so there might be an explanation for why this happens). How is the SEO for the sites? – Laurel Oct 28 '19 at 16:49
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    Also you forgot the Japanese site, which is at the bottom of the list of all sites. – Laurel Oct 28 '19 at 16:50
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    @Laurel I used chats to get these graphs. Unfortunately, Ja.SO's chat was a bit too dead for this. I could use SEDE, but then comparison won't be easy. If anyone has any info on Ja.SO, I'd appreciate it. – Athari - Make SE Awesome Again Oct 28 '19 at 17:15
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The main reason

Many websites experience an initial fast growth since the date of their creation. After that there might be a decline in activity which is very normal.

The activity decreases because many questions have already been asked. The Q&A site enter into a different dynamics once they are filled with most of the basic questions.

Other Reasons

While it is perfectly natural/expected for the site activity to decline it is important to keep an eye on the healthiness of the community. It is of course more difficult to keep the community vivid when the site is less active.

The decline in activity due to a decrease in potential questions, may have a negative effect on further activity in the community and create a negative spiral. There are many interaction effects that may play a role here.

  • The change of the type of questions might reduce the quality of the questions on the website (for instance more homework type of questions or more esoteric/complex/specific questions that do not help many others). This could lead to a decline in overall activity (it is not nice to contribute to a messy site with less exciting questions).
  • The community itself is changing, it is getting old. Newcomers, they won't have the same experience now than when they would have arrived many years ago. There is much less of a vibrant start-up mentality. Not much new is happening. If there is anything new, then it mostly negative like StackOverflow eliminating the community.

A closer look at the graphs/data

Your graphs may be presented in a slightly different form using the following script:

https://data.stackexchange.com/ru/query/1137128/questions-and-answers-per-month#graph

different views

These images show the questions and answers without the deleted ones. Although there is still a decline in the recent years there is some nuance.

  • The decline in the number of questions is mostly due to a decline in the number of deleted questions.

  • The gap in difference in answers and questions is mostly due to the deleted questions.

Of course, this is only a small nuance and there's still a decline. But these types of differentiation of the answers and questions may give a better idea of what is happening and in which corners the decline is occuring mostly (in deleted - low quality - questions). With this nuance the interpretation might be more strongly towards the idea that there is not so much a problem with the answering capacity and more with the quality of questions. This does correspond to the idea that 'many questions have already been asked'.

Most of the pretty fruits have already been picked. The sort of activity we see now are monkeys picking the low hanging fruit (I am one of them) and occasionally there might pass by a giraffe that is able to pick some fruits from the top of the tree. There is an increasingly number of fruit that ends up rotten on the floor and we do not have enough ants to clean that up. Recent developments, reducing moderators, are not helping with this scale problem.

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