21

Our answered rate is plummeting more and more obviously. I had trouble coming up with explanation, until I discovered in extended stats one metric that seems to correlate with it - how many new active users had appeared on site in last two weeks.

We seem to be terrible at this. Closest site in stats (Tex) has acquired over four times more new active users in same period. Many sites with much lower activity acquired more (in some cases a lot more) active users.

Drupal and Sharepoint seem to hint at similar dynamic, but they are newer sites and probably hadn't reached a tipping points when user base starts to grow rapidly (as it seems to for us).

I blame general situation in larger WP ecosystem. As we all know demand is insane (and rising) and I don't think I've ever heard about remotely competent WP developer lacking things to work on (heck, if I pass for remotely competent WP developer nowadays :) So proportion of demand to expertise is far from favorable for satisfying demand.

Question is - can we deal with this in context of WPSE and if so then how?

  • 3
    I asked the WP community on reddit (3500 people) why, if it provides any insight, I think it might be a combination of not knowing it exists and maybe being to advanced for the actual majority of wp users.reddit.com/r/Wordpress/comments/ljlsy/what_do_you_guys_think_of – Wyck Oct 21 '11 at 16:06
  • Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but ever since I read this discussion, I seem to notice a severe drop in number of up-votes for answers. – scribu Nov 15 '11 at 19:21
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    @scribu we never had that much of active upvoting (compared to other sites in network). In earlier days things lingered on front page, but now it refreshes fast with new question so less eyes on those questions and answers... – Rarst Nov 15 '11 at 19:45
  • Little to no upvoting and comments on questions can put you off, especially if you are used to other SE sites. For instance, my latest question has not provoked any reaction from active members. There seem to be many more questions with 0 votes, 0 answers. So active members should acknowledge questions more! Even if you can not answer it, you can at least vote or comment to improve the question. – Raphael Jan 17 '12 at 13:41
  • @Raphael curiously voting patterns can be quite different between sites in SE network, I've seen this pointed out multiple times. However this is a little backwards - how can one expect active users to do more, if the issue is that there aren't enough active users piling up?.. "At least vote or comment" still takes time and attention and effort, which all are in scarce supply. – Rarst Jan 17 '12 at 13:47
  • New users will be more motivate to join a friendly and obviously active community, it's as easy as that (imho). Why should I stick around if I get no reaction to my contribution? Think of tex.SE. I have yet to post a question there that is not answered in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. So I go there again. – Raphael Jan 17 '12 at 13:56
  • In other words, @Rarst: If you (the active users) don't care enough to upvote nice questions and answers (or help to make them good), why should a newbie? Lead by example, you must! – Raphael Jan 17 '12 at 14:05
  • @Raphael you know, I've answered something over thousands questions. Handled about as many moderation flags since I was elected. Know how I feel when I get told I am not active/friendly/useful enough? :) Not very good. Of course it's not about me, but blaming active users in general for something... Active users are those that actually do something. It may not be much or enough, but it is sure more than nothing. – Rarst Jan 17 '12 at 15:00
  • Sorry, I did not mean to attack you (or anybody) personally. That is just the way it is, anywhere: you need visibly (hyper)active core members to motivate or at least make participation worthwhile for others. The point stands, though: there seems to be a significant number of posts without any feedback. What is the distribution of answers (and questions) over users? You sure got heavy duty top x users, but how is the middle tier? The idea has to be to balance the load once more suitable members have been attracted. Did this happen? – Raphael Jan 17 '12 at 15:52
  • @Raphael you see the loop there? There are no new active users because there are not enough old active users? If everyone waits for someone else to become active there won't ever be any. – Rarst Jan 17 '12 at 17:49
  • @Rarst: my point exactly! That's why you need people to kickstart efforts like this, without guarantee of return of investment. Who else can that be but the already active and motivated? You might be able to get some so far disjoint group of WP lovers to engage here, but other than that, it's the old guys doing something different (not necessarily more). – Raphael Jan 17 '12 at 20:02
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    Allow me a small anecdote: look at this question on english.SE. After one day, it has 2000+ views, both question and some answers have 40+ votes and there are loads of (upvoted) comments. In such an environment, engaging is fun. Note that english.SE is not too far ahead of wordpress.SE in terms of numbers. – Raphael Jan 19 '12 at 10:30
  • One of the interesting things to note about that graph is that the number of new 200+ reputation people is lowest for wordpress, sharepoint and drupal. These are all quite focused stack exchange websites, so it would appear to be a common theme. I can't quite explain TeX but I would say its quite a different concept to wordpress, so has a different type of user. – icc97 Jan 25 '12 at 21:18
  • @icc97 yep, it's been noted several times and working theory is that Drupal (that was out of Area51 later than us) will end up with same issues. – Rarst Jan 25 '12 at 21:37
  • The visits did increase with a 5-fold since last year, so you guys must be doing something good. source – Ivo Flipse Mar 22 '12 at 14:39
19

The problem is several-fold:

  1. People really don't understand our intent/scope, and so we get both a lot of new users asking non-applicable questions, and also a lot of migrated questions that shouldn't be migrated here.
  2. We get a lot of "drive-by" questions, by users who don't understand the WPSE MO, don't come back to accept answers, and who don't participate/contribute in other questions.
  3. We get a lot of - quite frankly - incredibly poorly written questions, that are often nearly impossible to decipher. As a corollary, attempts to answer such questions get down-voted, which discourages such attempts.
  4. A great deal of the WordPress user base demonstrates an everything-for-free mentality that is counter to the principles espoused by most advanced users/developers - principles such as RTM, consulting the Codex, and doing basic Google searches before asking others for help; understanding that code examples are examples, and not necessarily intended or suitable for direct/unmodified copy-pasta; etc. (Perhaps I'm jaded by spending so much time in the WPORG forums.)

How to work around these issues?

  1. Continue to refine and improve our scope, and attempt to educate others in the SE universe regarding our desired scope.
  2. More efforts to educate users who actually stick around; perhaps more extreme moderation of the "drive-by" questions.
  3. More efforts to edit/improve questions - perhaps use the WPSE blog to help educate users regarding how to write questions that will solicit good answers.
  4. I really don't know...

EDIT

I'm not trying to throw this specific user under the bus, but s/he exemplifies my exact points above: 9 questions, zero accepted answers, and three questions closed for being too localized, out-of-scope, and an exact duplicate.

I think, to attract more WordPress experts, we need to work to raise the level of incoming questions - and in order to raise the level of incoming questions, we need a concerted effort to train the WPSE users regarding how to ask better questions and regarding the WPSE MO, including accepting answers, helping to improve one another's questions and answers, searching before asking duplicate questions, etc.

  • 1
    I've been here for 2 days now answering questions and I'm feeling less and less encouraged to continue participating. Chip really hit the nail on the head on this one, I think. – soulseekah Oct 18 '11 at 8:12
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    System is kinda setup that time from landing to question is minimal. There is no gap to fit education in (and even if there were - you know just how much most people online like to read rules and follow them). We had recently cleaned up scope, but having good scope doesn't prevent from bad questions (perfectly in scope) being asked. Maybe we should focus on how to get poor questions out of the way faster and with less effort. – Rarst Oct 18 '11 at 18:42
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    @Rarst I agree, and to that end, I am trying to focus a bit more on suggesting how to improve new and existing/unanswered questions. I'm looking at it as a bit of an experiment, to see if it helps more questions get answered (and because I get tired of saying, "This is a PHP question...", etc.). – Chip Bennett Oct 18 '11 at 18:45
  • And here's another perfect example. Can anyone make sense of what this person wants? This sort of interaction is terribly frustrating, and is a limiting factor for WPSE. – Chip Bennett Oct 20 '11 at 20:01
7

Nice thoughts regarding lack of involvement. I think you could come to grips with the underlying issue at hand with web development as a whole. It's rather simple, it's really easy to call yourself & get hired as a web developer / designer. Over the last 5 years it's become even easier, and with the downturn in the economy (relating to mfg / etc) we have more and more brave souls jumping on the bandwagon without any real understanding of proper methodologies.

Combine that with wordpress theme production / availability and you get the perfect environment for "on the spot need assistance". Research occurs to quickly hack / mod the theme to the need of the client and it's off to the next paying gig. It's just too easy to spend 15-30$ for a theme that nearly fits the final requirement of the gig. If they pull it off, they appear as a champion web developer to the client. For the majority of these people there's no "code" "ethos" "respect" for the proper way of working. Can't blame them either as times are tough and there are families to feed.

As for how to address the issue at hand, that my friends will take a few more coffees.

I for one am extremely thankful for this resource and do my best to answer questions that I am capable of answering intelligently. Thank you for allowing me to participate & grow.

3

I'm a bit surprised that anyone is surprised.

  1. Wordpress is, in the main, used by people who don't know what they are doing, and don't really want to learn - they just want a quick solution.
  2. The whole point of the StackOverflow model is that the good stuff rises to the top, and questions and answers that are ignored or bad, tend to disappear.
  3. Focusing on metrics like % of questions answered is pointless.
  4. Everyone (especially [redacted to avoid coming across like a troll) should relax, and just answer questions to the best of their ability, and partake of WPSE to the degree that they want to. I personally haven't answered a question on here for a few months, but hey, I might get back to answering some in a few weeks.
  5. Meta discussions are fun.
  6. I think there's an opportunity for someone to propose Meta-Meta Stackexchange. I, for one, would dearly love to have more debate about the debate.
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    "I think there's an opportunity for someone to propose Meta-Meta Stackexchange. I, for one, would dearly love to have more debate about the debate." - Isn't that what Chat is for? – Chip Bennett Oct 28 '11 at 12:11
  • You are assuming only bad questions don't get answered. Unfortunately if there aren't enough experts participating then quality of question stops playing a role. It turns into issue of luck - if someone had answered your question on front page or found it later. But the more questions we get a day the less have a chance of getting snappy front page answer. And the more questions we leave unanswered the less good questions will get fished out of unanswered pile later. :( The network seems to equate at ~85-95% answered as functional, which we are way below already. – Rarst Oct 28 '11 at 12:40
2

As a new user, I agree with some of the other things posted... When you begin, you cannot contribute meaningfully as there are many restrictions and given the lack of people 'voting up' and rewarding you for your contributions, it takes a lot of effort to gain privileges.

I am a seasoned WordPress developer - I've been one since WP 2.2.x - and I'd like to contribute. But there is not much activity. I visit looking for new questions, and all I find are old orphaned questions. Perhaps 'stale' questions can be filtered out.

Finally, many of the questions asked really should be deleted right away. A quick trip to the codex would solve the issue in far better fashion, and much quicker, than the experts here. And perhaps that's why THOSE users don't return. They finally did their homework and found their easy answers elsewhere.... Yeh, from my brief experience, the new users asking questions are not looking to learn WP and tackle some true WP issue, they are new self-taught developers just looking for a quick patch for their poor client's project.

  • Welcome to the site! Few things I want to note: (1) as of now we are in a Christmas mode and activity is really down. On usual day there are easily ~40 new questions to tackle. (2) Old unanswered questions are huge issue for our site, but note that question, abandoned by original author, still deserves an [awesome] answer. We are not here to merely solve problems of individuals, we are are here to amass and publish knowledge about WordPress that many people will benefit from in the long run. (3) Don't hesitate to flag things that need to be deleted for moderator attention. – Rarst Dec 30 '11 at 10:04
  • @Rarst Thanks. I will stick around and see how the activity changes in the New Year. And perhaps I'll dig through the archives while I am waiting. :-) – Velvet Blues Dec 30 '11 at 11:09
1

Ya wow it does look dismal, several sites still in beta with more "obscure" communities have better stats. I see much the same thing on IRC/Reddit, many WordPress users come in, ask a basic question, and you never see them again. It seems so transient BUT the over all stats seem to not support this, for example at WordCamp SF;

14.7% of the top million websites in the world
45 million people use WordPress
22 out of every 100 new active domains
6,800 self-employed respondents were responsible for over 170,000 sites personally
Wordcamps often are packed and in larger cities, sold out.
Theme making seems to be gaining more momentum everyday.
Etc..

So where is everyone? Surely there are thousands of people who literally work everyday with WordPress.

WordPress is to just to easy?
People don't like wordpress.stackexchange.com for some aesthetic reason?
Are the Questions just not interesting?
People don't know it exists?

Maybe we can ask people what they like/do not like about this stack?

  • 1
    When I was at WordCampUK everyone I spoke to didn't know about WPSE. I'm sure there were some that knew about it but not many. – Brady Oct 18 '11 at 8:37
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    The problem is not total amount of people working (and "working") with WP, but their skill levels. We have insane amounts of users with none to basic skills. We have some amount of professionals with WP as shallow secondary skill (template tag level). And we have very thin layer of people with skills up to considerable development level. This site has quite a few developers with serious skills here. The problem is for each of them there is crowd of users with basic skills and endless questions. Proportion is not comfortable. – Rarst Oct 18 '11 at 18:46
  • I guess the question is what can we do to improve it, more moderation, more promotion? – Wyck Oct 19 '11 at 2:26
  • Well, problem with promotion is that currently it seems to make things worse. In last two weeks site got something in range of 250+ users. Know how many of them got to 200+ reputation so far? One. Question is - how do we precisely attract more experts, without attracting hundreds of basic users at the same time. Which quite possibly isn't even solvable. – Rarst Oct 19 '11 at 9:18
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    @Rarst I'm sure this idea has been discussed before, but one way to weed out so many basic-user questions is to raise the reputation required to post questions. I'll see if I can find such meta discussion, and link here for reference. – Chip Bennett Oct 19 '11 at 13:01
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    @Chip while that might seem viable in abstract, I don't think it would be ever considered in practice by network. Current mechanics will (since recently) block users who ask poor question consistently, but setting up barriers to ask questions from the start is not in line with principles. – Rarst Oct 19 '11 at 13:28
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    @Rarst but WPSE's purpose is somewhat different from other SE sites. We claim that we want to provide a resource for power-user/developer questions and answers, which ought to imply that those asking questions should more-than-likely be competent to answer others' questions. As such, we're probably always going to have issues, because we are somewhat mis-applying the tools (SE rules/conventions) to our purpose. – Chip Bennett Oct 19 '11 at 13:38
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    @Chip Not different at all. StackOverflow, which was the start, is also site for advanced users (at least in theory). So are numerous others in network. We can entertain such ideas, but I want to be explicit that it is unrealistic to expect exceptions and rule bending for us. We are part of network and play by network rules. – Rarst Oct 19 '11 at 13:50
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    Then we might be dommed to 1-click install users, I find myself ignoring a lot of questions because they are repeats or an easy Google search away, sometimes I even answer them by just providing a Codex link instead of putting the effort it to show an example. At the end of the day I think you're only going to attract more experts if the questions are interesting or useful to those experts, developers inherently like a challenge or problem to solve and in WPSE's case the ratio of good questions is just as low as the answer/expert rate/ratio. – Wyck Oct 19 '11 at 15:04
  • @Wyck repeats/easy should realyl be flagged to their duplicates, ignoring them just make things worse... We can't have expert-only site. There are still more than enough challenging questions, it's just they are no longer jumping at you. – Rarst Oct 19 '11 at 16:40
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    @Wyck summarized my thoughts, as well. If a question's answer is no more complex than a Codex reference link, then such a question at a minimum borders on being too simple/not high-enough quality. We don't have to be an "Elite" site, but I daresay most WPSE question-answerers have no desire to be a proxy Google/Codex search. – Chip Bennett Oct 19 '11 at 18:52
1

As a brand new user, the most frustrating thing is I have practically no functionality available. When I join a site, it's to participate in something useful. Currently, the restrictions are so severe, that I'll probably delete my account soon. Many of us join sites to garner resources and help others, but forcing new users to jump through hoops before they can fully participate, is not, in my opinion, a welcoming, efficient or helpful approach. I've had an accepted answer, suddenly unaccepted, as it seems the individual did not understand. Normally this would not be any concern in the slightest, however, it resulted in the little functionality I had, suddenly being removed - In my opinion that's not user friendly in the least, nor is it motivational and conducive to strong community building. Given the restrictions and hoops new users are forced to jump, I no longer feel much motivation to answer more questions (or to ask). I assume some of the entrenched users here might balk at this response, however, it is food for thought, as many others, who may not voice as much, experience the same. In the long term, this does not expedite growth of the site, rather, it places a barrier in the way.

  • 3
    Welcome to site! Reputation restrictions is not something we set locally here, they are rules of larger Stack Exchange network. They might seem a little foreign on your first day if you never used SE network site before, but I can assure you - with some participation you will get some reputation and most restrictive stuff out of the way in no time. – Rarst Nov 3 '11 at 14:42
1

First of all, what do you consider a Wordpress expert? A power user who knows every major bug and has a workaround? A web designer who happens to have created a Wordpress theme? A plugin developer with at least decent PHP skills and Codex knowledge*?

I have been active on multiple SE sites, and what strikes me here is that

  • Some questions get very little attention. Check the main site and count questions with 0 votes, 0 answers. I think any question should quickly generate either good answers or comments that lead to either improvement and eventual answering or closing of the question.

  • Some answers have poor quality, technically. I think many people who are considered WP experts are in reality at best average programmers. And, well, PHP is crap, too, and encourages bad coding. You just find so much junk on the webs.

What can the community do about either? Imho, active users have to police questions and answers more rigorously. Do not be afraid to scare off one or the other unhelpful member. Only if you maintain quality of both questions and answers will you be able to motivate competent people to participate**. In other words, the signal-to-noise ratio has to be improved.

(*) Note: Even many popular plugins are obviously written by amateurs without much thought. In defense of those people -- and my own first plugin -- it has to be said that Wordpress is in many places awfully documented, if at all.

(**) As a (real) expert, I won't bother to answer stupid/ill-posed questions. On the other hand, if I only see bad answers, why would I write up a question about that serious problem I am having?

0

I think WPSE suffers from two issues:

  1. there is already a lot of Wordpress questions asked on Stackoverflow. So WPSE in not necessarily the best place to get your answer.
  2. The wordpress/codex site is also ahead of this site for the order that people will look, and often find their answer.

In answer to Q1, this must have been raised before, but has anyone suggested that Wordpress questions on Stackoverflow should be moved here?

For Q2, the great thing about this site is that we can add a lot of value in examples/explanation above and beyond the codex.

  • WP questions from SO are being migrated here if mods there decide to. I don't remember actual numbers but last time I compared WPSE pretty much caught up to SO in volume of incoming WP questions, which is great progress comparing to early days. – Rarst Jan 25 '12 at 21:10

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