I noticed that some users on SO only ask questions while hardly answering anything, whereas others do most of the answering. I wondered what the balance between these user types looked like. For example, would the most active users be doing most of the answering? Would the less active users be those who come in only when they have a question? Such information might give some insight into the "healthiness" of the community.

With the April 2010 data dump and some Python code (below), I came up with the following plot:

Number of answers versus number of questions, per user http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/349/qacount.png

Each point represents a user; the location of the point corresponds to the number of questions and answers written by that user. Where multiple points coincided, they have been merged into a bigger point. Note that one user, presumably "unknown (google)", fell way outside the plot range, so I removed him.

I'm not quite happy with the result; the graph is not as informative as I'd hoped. Any ideas for improvement?

Python code: count.py and plot.py. Usage:

cat posts.xml | python count.py | python plot.py

Output will be written to a file qacount.py.

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    I gotta say I don't like the composition of that plot. Maybe I'm spoiled having used tools with good intensity plotting for 2D histograms for decades, but Blech! Commented Apr 5, 2010 at 23:11
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    Kinda looks like the top view of a very large and evil food processor...
    – Aarobot
    Commented Apr 5, 2010 at 23:44

2 Answers 2


The log-log plot tends to magnify the small numbers, where most of the noise is. What does the plot look like if it's linear on both axes?

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    yeah, I really dislike the really obvious lines at values < 10, which took me at least 10 seconds to realize was an artifact of the log-log axis choice. It has no meaning, so it really shouldn't be emphasized.
    – Jimmy
    Commented Apr 6, 2010 at 0:45
  • Linear makes most of the values bunch up in the lower right corner. It's not very informative either.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 6, 2010 at 9:43
  • Where, with "right", I meant "left", of course :P
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 6, 2010 at 10:27
  • @Thomas: Try linear in answers and questions, but log(count). Commented Apr 6, 2010 at 14:06
  • @dmckee: Tried that too, and variations. It doesn't really help. I think I'd need to do some more bucketing, or something.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 6, 2010 at 19:55

I agree with Greg that the log scaling may be hiding some salient features, but that appears to show a broad spectrum of usage patters that includes many users who engage in both asking and answering.

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