8

I was poking around with the users list today, and I realized something. If ELL graduated tomorrow, we would have:

  • One user with 20k privileges
  • Two users with 10k privileges
  • Four moderators

That's a total of seven users with high-level moderation privileges. And that's really not enough. We're doing just fine now; we're in beta, and privilege levels are lower. And I think we have a great community and are making great progress, and it's not like graduation is coming up in the super-near future. But it's out there, and it's a goal we eventually want to reach. And to that end, we need more high-rep users.

Getting new users to join ELL is also important, and we've had meta discussions about that before. But although new users with new questions and answers are great, what I'm interested in discussing is how we can encourage and motivate current users to be more active and reach those higher rep thresholds.

Another interesting metric: if we graduated tomorrow, we'd have 16 users with 3k+ rep (and therefore access to all review queues) and only 6 more users with 2k+ rep (and therefore access to all but the close/reopen votes review queues). We are building a great community with great questions and answers, but we're still a bit light on users who could contribute to moderation on a graduated site.

So... As I said, this isn't really an urgent issue; I don't imagine we're graduating any time soon (though I can't read SE's mind, either!). But I do know that this is something we're going to have to work on before we can graduate, and so it's worth discussing now. Does anyone have any thoughts on how we can get our existing (awesome!) userbase to participate more?

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    Well, I will admit that as far as I myself am concerned, the Winter Bash seems to be helping. A lot. If we had hats more often, I'd stay more active, too. I know it's not feasible. But a man can dream. Of hats. – ЯegDwight Dec 29 '13 at 22:58
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I think I fit the description of the sort of user you're wondering about, so I'm going to speak up.


Background:
I'm a member of both the ELU and ELL Stack Exchanges. Generally speaking, I ask questions there and answer questions here, and I don't do very much of either.

I've become more active here on ELL because I feel that I make more of a difference here and my primary motivation in life is being helpful.


Growing pains:

  1. Finding several questions that were edited in ways that changed their meaning and in some cases left them ungrammatical

  2. Having my own edit-suggestion privileges revoked for a week due to rejections

    • Furthermore, the comments on the rejections were
      • Not helpful (did not cite guidelines/resources or suggest improvements)
      • Revealed that the moderator did not review the original post, edit history, or in some cases even appear to have noticed the entirety of the suggested edit
  3. Being angrily accused of fabricating an answer out of thin air and misleading people

  4. Not seeing very many questions that both lack and merit an answer

Obviously most of these are specific to my experience, but I write this section in the hope of leaving the generalizations for you to conclude on your own rather than making them myself.


Suggestions:

  1. Expand site guidelines

    • This is something that a small number of knowledgeable people could accomplish
    • There are unspoken rules in practice that should be recorded
    • This would provide new users with fewer barriers to learning the ropes all the way
    • It seems like basic help pages could be translated into multiple languages by the community, which would probably be very helpful to people who are prevented from asking questions that fit the site by the very difficulties they're here to address
    • Pointing someone to an existing guideline will help them see that the issue is not personal
  2. Moderate carefully

    • The vast majority of my impressions of site moderation have been positive, but a single action in haste (without consideration/explanation) is all it takes to take the wind out of someone's sails and have them abandon the site
    • Have some helpful tips at the ready for the problems that new users have often, filled with links to guidelines and clarifying questions, that can be deployed quickly in situations where they might otherwise feel shut down or unheard
  3. Cultivate quality

    • Taking a question or answer from good to great sets a tone and helps newcomers understand what makes a question or answer good in the first place
    • More questions with good edits and good answers will increase attraction and retention
    • The levels of quality of questions, answers, and user participation are inextricably linked

That's all! I'm not too worried, generally speaking. It seems like the snowball is rolling along fairly well.

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  • I did want to comment on bounties, since those came up in the comments above and I recently received my first. I don't really feel I necessarily earned all those points (my answer was not stellar, in my own opinion) but it was still pretty exciting to receive them and definitely encouraging overall. – Tyler James Young Oct 1 '13 at 0:05
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    You've brought up a lot of interesting things here, but there are two I'd like to respond to right away: 1) Multiple answers on questions are actually a good thing; if a question merits an answer but already has one, you might consider leaving one anyway. (Encouraging users to wait to accept an answer would also encourage this!) 2) I think there's a feature-request in progress network-wide to translate help pages into multiple languages, but I'm not sure what the status on that is. I'll check back up on that! – WendiKidd Oct 1 '13 at 0:08
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    @WendiKidd I'm glad to hear I'm not the first to bring up the translation of help pages. I think that will help a lot. As to your other point, I do occasionally write answers in cases where none so far seems complete... and I haven't had much of any problem with hasty acceptors. If anything, I'm more likely to be annoyed that the person asking the question does not seem to be aware that they can and should select the answer that suits them. – Tyler James Young Oct 1 '13 at 0:17
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    This is quite a long answer, covering a fair few issues. I'll read and cogitate more deeply another time when I'm not so tied up with other things. But I'm upvoting right now because it's pretty obvious from your contributions over the past few weeks that you're exactly the kind of user ELL needs, to address the "shortfall" Wendikidd is concerned about. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 1 '13 at 23:30
  • @WendiKidd Another thing I thought of just now is that it might help ELL if there was more reputation reciprocity with ELU (I say “more” only because of the fact that 1k rep on any SE translates to 200 rep on all SEs). Has anything like this ever been discussed? I think more people from ELU might participate if they could start off with some of the privileges that they're used to. – Tyler James Young Oct 3 '13 at 18:07
  • @TylerJamesYoung Actually it's if you have 200 rep on any SE site, when you link your account you get a +100 bonus. It's a good idea, but it's been brought up before and rejected (not specifically in relation to ELL/ELU, but in general). The idea is that new ELL users, even if they have a lot of SE experience, shouldn't have those privileges, because every site works differently. You have to "put in your time", so to speak, and the hope is that by the time you earn a privilege, you understand the community enough to use it properly. (Beta sites do have much lower rep levels for privs tho.) – WendiKidd Oct 3 '13 at 18:51
  • @WendiKidd Ah yes, that was it. Well, my thinking is that these two sites constitute a "special pair" where there might actually be a reasonable expectation that merits on one would extend to the other. I guess where it gets a little sticky is when you get down to actually deciding (and quantifying) the details of the two sites' relationship. Are they truly "sisters" as some have said? or is ELU more of a parent? – Tyler James Young Oct 4 '13 at 17:12
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It's not a productivity problem--as Mistu4u says, most of the folks doing the heavy lifting are probably maxing out -- it's a retention problem.

Back on August 1, I had occasion to survey some Answer data from several SE sites. After seeing your question I tabulated the current ELL data for comparison and came up with some medium scary results.

  1. Of our top 60 Answerers as of August 1—every user with 300+ rep and 10+ answers who had been onsite within the previous 30 days—24 answered no questions at all over the last 60 days. 5 of those 24 had been in the top 25 on August 1.

    Of course you have to expect some attrition; but 40% in two months strikes me as regrettable.

    Another 15—25%—answered fewer than 5 questions; 3 of them had been top 25, 1 top 10.

  2. Our AA/QQ ratio has declined to around 1.8 for some time now, after standing for quite a while at 12.5-15. But in the last 60 days we've had (3204 - 2159 = ) 1,045 questions and ('5.7k' - '4.5k' = ) about 1,200 answers: 1.15 AA/QQ ratio.

An interesting fact—and I think Good News, if we play it right—is that those retirees' places on the leaderboards are not being taken over by less active players moving up but by new recruits. As near as I can tell with manually collated data, 16 of today's top 40, 11 of the top 25, 2 of the top 10 Answerers over the past 60 days have been users who had answered no questions at all on August 1. Here's a shout-out:

#3  Gilles              #16 chrylis           #22 Aaron Brown    #39 Monkey Push Button
#5  Peter Flom          #17 Derek Knight      #26 Howard Pautz
#12 Tyler James Young   #18 Sweet72           #32 AWT
#13 Greg Hullender      #19 Richard Williams  #36 Verbose
#14 ramit               #21 akkatracker       #38 Dave Moore

What's it going to take to keep these guys on board? Tyler James Young suggests (after his thoughtful and temperate response) that Bounties are pleasant to receive. I have about 10k of spare rep capital, and a fairly steady income, which at this point serve no useful purpose except to give me an inflated opinion of myself (which I'm sure everybody will agree I don't need). I'll fund the effort, if the Community can come up with a mechanic for designating appropriate recipients—I don't think it proper to impose my very eccentric literary tastes on the gift. Added benefit would accrue if the bounties could be wrangled to push recipients into higher service privilege brackets, too, and to call attention to worthy questions—Quærents don't get nearly enough credit for their often astonishing insights.

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  • You bring up a lot of things that I want to think about more... But I think the most immediately actionable item is drawing attention to stellar questions. Obviously we reward questions we appreciate with upvotes, but we could do more than that. Maybe it would be interesting and rewarding to have a monthly "spotlight" of the top 10 questions, as nominated and voted on by our users? – WendiKidd Oct 2 '13 at 0:48
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In any SE site, there are always people who remain active from start of their involvement with the site and maximum of the users just come and go. These some guys always are less in number and they join the site and stay active because they love the site and the site's aim just matches with their taste. These users are always hard to gain and they are assets of the site. As SE's principle stands, the sites are usually user-moderated. So these active users play role to keep the site alive and not the site getting derailed from the path to it's goal.


As ELL currently stands, the active users are already active. Let me give an example. Kiamlaluno is a very active and respected user of ELL. He edits most of the questions/answers, review posts periodically, answers/comments to posts whenever possible. So I don't know what you can more expect out of him to be "more active". Just like him, other active users including the moderators are very active and they are doing as best as they can.


On the other hand, there are users who come by the site just to solve their own problem they face. Search engines push them most to the site. They just ask questions, get their problems solved and leave. You actually can't hope for them to keep hanging around the site. Although, a very little amount of these visits come from users who start liking the site after using it. So, they become eventually active users and that's how we get more active users.


So my point is, active users are already doing their best. Whether they are doing their best or not, IMHO, is beyond any doubt, because they love the site and that's why they are active users. When love for the work is the acting force, you can't be suspicious about their diligence.

Better we should be looking for more new users (which is outstanding for a site only 249 days old) and try to motivate them to become active user of this site. This way we can increase the active users number and relevant activity in the site. Just so that everybody knows, graduating of a site in SE network takes time for the same reason Wendi mentioned i.e. number of users with higher rep and all. We better not be impatient here. TPTB is watching the site all the time. When the suitable time comes, we will be graduated.

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  • Why wouldn't the majority of visitors like ELL after they sign up and start using it? – user1555 Sep 30 '13 at 10:27
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    Oh, I'm not trying to be impatient at all. I'm just wondering if there are any tools we can use to get moderately-active users more interested and engaged with the site (bounties are one option that occurred to me, but I wanted to see what people thought of without any preconceived ideas). I absolutely understand that graduating takes time, and I appreciate and respect all our users, regardless of reputation! I was just trying to think of ways to interest/incentivize users with, say, 1-2k rep, to want to participate more. :) (Oh, and I definitely agree that new users are important too!) – WendiKidd Sep 30 '13 at 13:15
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I don't know if we're not trying to find a problem of a round peg in a square hole. We have a perfectly good round peg and worry it's not square enough; let's square it off a little bit!

This site is about solving problems. People with problem on English come and have their problems solved. Sometimes in a bout of gratitude they solve problems of others. This is a system that works, and it works well.

I myself left ELL for some half a year or so, when writer's block struck and I had no problems with my English writing for lack of writing. Then inspiration struck, problems appeared and I came back, and tried to give at least 3 answers for each I got.

I'm not getting paid for doing this. I get no tangible rewards for answering, for editing, approving, voting. The reputation and badges are all virtual goods with no actual value; bragging rights nobody's going to acknowledge. So, I come here for the actual benefit of this site: knowledge, answers to my questions. You won't "retain" me by posting more guidelines, giving me privileges or anything like this. I will come and go as usefulness of this site grows and diminishes to me - in a way the site has no means of influencing. And whenever I come, I will post a bunch of answers, review a few posts, argue or comment or some - as many others do - and the site will keep going on. Users of top rep will be leaving while new ones will gain enough to get the privileges, these who mastered English will migrate to EL&U and in their place newbies will advance to experts. Flux. Returns, retreats, times of inactivity and bursts of action.

Do current moderators get overwhelmed? Does the site descend into chaos under a flood of spam or flamewars? Do god-complex elites mock newcomers? Does the site die away with no influx of new users as old ones quit? Do people complain they are not getting their answers?

These are problems that kill sites. I see none of such problems here. You put a made-up square stencil against our nicely round site and find it not square enough. Yes, our site is not square. I see. I don't think we need it any more square. You have a problem it doesn't sit firmly unmoving on the table while I tend to like how it rolls around.

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