This will be primarily written as from our moderator staff to network's higher powers, but I will be happy to see opinions and input from users on things outlined.

The good

At almost year since public release and well over that if counting beta period - we are no longer very new site.

We are averaging over ten thousands visits and over forty questions asked every day.

I am happy to see many developers mention us as highly useful resource, that helps them get better at working with WordPress. This is kind of value that WordPress community needs and what contributes to make it better.

The bad

By now it seems that issues we are having since site's early days are not getting solved with growth and age, but only scale (for worse) with it.

We have the worst answered questions rate in Stack Exchange network overall. The backlog of unanswered questions went from inconvenient to unmanageable.

We have one of the worst expert inflow rates among released stacks.

We have not that many active high rep users and I feel mood is slipping among them into getting disinterested in participating and highly annoyed by question quality issues.

The ugly

I feel that network's self-regulation mechanisms and concepts are failing us.

We are in death spiral of not having users capable (as well as willing) of keeping site clean and we are not attracting (but losing) such because of site turning into more of a dump by day.

This puts community moderators under pressure way worse than their supposed function of light control and correction of self-regulating community.

I used to come here to answer questions and now I come here to take out the trash in flag queue. Seeing flag count light up makes me feel ill. And it never stays out for long.

Requests

As moderator staff we talked over situation internally.

  1. Me (Rarst) and MikeSchinkel would like to formally request some time off our moderator position. I will snap and ragequit if I don't get away from it for some time. Mike hasn't been able to dedicate considerable time to moderation for a while.

  2. We would like network to increase our moderator staff (both while we are off and in general) in a way they see fit (new pro tem mods, election or whatever other approach).

  3. We would like review and possible adjustment of reputation requirements and mechanics to make community moderation viable for our content and user volumes.

  4. We would like more attention (even if temporary) to outstanding issues and our meta. WPSE does not have strong integration in SE network as part of its culture and it feels (subjectively) that we got forgotten and left to run ourselves.

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4 Answers

From my profile, one can see I embrace SE and am a top user at Personal Finance.

That said, I have a number of WP based blogs and have been using WP for 3 years. Unlike money questions, I find that a WP question will rarely be something one can consider general. Fewer than 10% of questions seem to fall into that generalization. More often than not, it's troubleshooting some issue and hoping to find someone had the same problem. The site is great, but I think the expectation for this Stack shouldn't be the same as many of the others. Just my thought.

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I very much agree. Some of the questions are comically specific, to the point where I fight the urge to respond with "You need to pay a freelancer to do this for you." When you target a specific niche such as "WordPress", it should be expected that you'll see specific questions; most of the general ones have been covered en masse elsewhere (and here too). –  Matthew Boynes Feb 13 '12 at 3:18
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I don't think we should be "purging" the questions that are along the lines of "contact form not working" or "how do I do x in php". Whilst this may technically belong in StackOverflow or maybe Programmers, they may be asking as it's a WordPress thing. I have done many a thing in "standard" php that has conflicted with WP and not work, most notably of these is jQuery damn thing never seems to work in WP.

Essentially, whilst WPSE is a niche SE I don't think we should be trying to tighten the scope, but rather be more accommodating to new WPSE users. Part of the reason nobody may go deep is cause they posted a "how do I do x in php" and they got closed in 15mins because there was no explicit mention of WP.

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Conflict of something with WordPress is in scope. The check is - if you take WordPress out of the question does it remain exactly same question? However PHP (as well as JavaScript, MySQL and whatever else) are all giant topics on their own. There is no reason or benefit for specialized WordPress resource to cover full extent of them. –  Rarst Feb 8 '12 at 9:46
    
However if they are posting here one could safely assume it pertains to WP. You don't ask a question somewhere you don't expect it to get answered –  Joshua Feb 8 '12 at 13:54
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@Joshua Yet people do that, all the time. We see questions regarding CSS and IE compatibility that have nothing to do with WP. We see questions about jQuery plugins that have nothing to do with WP. We see questions about structuring/iterating PHP arrays that have nothing to do with WP. So no, you can't safely assume that just because it's posted here that it pertains to WP. –  EAMann Feb 8 '12 at 14:45
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Just because an issue is observed in the context of WordPress does not automatically cause that issue to be within the scope of WPSE. @rarst says it well above: if the question and answer remain the same, whether or not WordPress is part of the equation, then the issue is not within the scope of WPSE. –  Chip Bennett Feb 8 '12 at 16:32
    
True. However that only becomes apparent once the answer has been given. If we close every PHP/jQ question people will just ask on SO regardless cause they don't go around closing q's –  Joshua Feb 8 '12 at 21:09
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I think a big part of the problem isn't necessarily the SE network abandoning the WPSE community, but rather the WPSE community not adapting fully/properly to the intended use of the SE network.

  • For the active WPSE users, we don't up/down vote often enough, for questions, answers, or comments:
    • Only 22 users have even earned the Civic Duty badge, by voting 300 times.
    • Only 2 users have earned the Electorate badge, for voting on 600 questions.
    • Only 35 users have ever earned the Suffrage badge, for voting 30 times in one day.
    • Only 12 users have ever earned the Vox Populi badge, for using the max 40 votes in one day.
    • By contrast, the Tumbleweed badge, for asking a question with no votes, answers, or comments, and low view count for one week, has been earned 1,118 times.
    • Similarly, and discouragingly for would-be active users, 45 users have earned the Tenacious badge, for 5 zero-scored accepted answers (20%+ of total accepted answers), and 10 users have earned the Unsung Hero badge, for 10 zero-score accepted answers (25%+ of total accepted answers).
  • The WPSE community has yet to flesh out the site scope fully, or to enforce that scope rigorously.
  • The active WPSE users also don't do much editing. While 1,862 users have earned the Editor badge for making at least one edit:
    • No users have earned either the Archaeologist badge, or the Copy Editor badge.
    • Only 34 users have earned the Excavator badge, for editing a post inactive for 6 months.
    • Only 3 users have earned the Proofreader badge, for approving/rejecting 100 edits.
    • Only 10 users have earned the Strunk & White badge, for editing 80 questions.
  • The active WPSE users also don't self-maintain our tags:
    • Only 17 users have earned the Tag Editor badge, for editing a Tag wiki.
  • Very few WPSE users participate in Meta, which IMO is symptomatic of the issues at hand.
  • The vast majority of WPSE question-askers view WPSE as yet-another-support-forum, and treat it as such, by not reading/understanding the site mechanics before posting questions, and by not following up on their questions, or in any way using WPSE as intended.

(I could go on, but hopefully you get the point.)

Compounding these issues is the lack of "critical mass" of users/user participation. We simply don't have enough active users to make the SE content-vetting/self-moderation process work properly. The root cause of lack of critical mass is, I believe, external to SE:

  • Stack Exchange has not yet gained appreciable traction within the WordPress developer community, resulting in only a very, very small fraction of WordPress experts even participating in WPSE.
  • User/developer support itself doesn't seem to have as much traction as it should within the WordPress developer community. Perhaps it is a function of open-source development communities, or perhaps it is unique to the WordPress developer community; either way, again, only a small fraction of developers take an active approach toward support.

In short: we need more active users, and we need user activity to be deeper, rather than the mile-wide/inch-deep activity we have currently.

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I don't blame networking for abandoning us and causing any issues by that (issue are happening by themselves just fine), but I do feel that their input and presence on meta had been very low. I said "not in my powers" and thought "and good luck getting attention of someone who has those" few too many times. –  Rarst Feb 2 '12 at 17:01
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Perhaps "abandoning" was too strong; perhaps "not completely meeting the needs of" is more apropos? –  Chip Bennett Feb 2 '12 at 17:15
    
Lots of useful info here. I'm new to the network and (unless I missed it, which is entirely possible) I didn't really find a place that summarizes the value in a lot of what you've mentioned. Perhaps it would be worth while to have a blog post on "10 tips on getting started with WPSE" –  Matthew Boynes Feb 13 '12 at 3:07
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We do have a handful of fairly active individuals on the site. For example, you only need 3k rep to vote to close a question - that's 23 people on the site ... but people more often than not just flag questions for moderator attention rather than voting.

If enough people vote to close a question, it closes itself. No need for moderator intervention.

If this threshold were a bit lower, it might be easier to clear out all of these "off topic" or "too localized" questions that sit and idle on our unanswered list. Rarst has done a fantastic job of clearing out a lot of them, but it's a lot of work and really more a community responsibility than a moderator one.

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Only 23 people (minus three mods) out of ten thousands users can vote to close. And five of them need to vote on single question to get it closed. As per other recent question on meta this is simply not working and needs adjustment to be viable. –  Rarst Feb 2 '12 at 14:58
    
I'm not sure lowering the rep requirements for close-voting would even help. We currently have 32 users with 2K+ rep, and 70 users with 1K+ rep. So, lowering to 2K+ rep wouldn't really help appreciably, and lowering to 1K+ rep might be too low. –  Chip Bennett Feb 2 '12 at 15:52
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A couple other points: 1) I concur with the suggestion to lower the close-vote threshhold from 5 to 3, so that more questions auto-close; and 2) if users with close-vote capability are flagging questions instead of voting, moderators can discourage that practice by rejecting/denying the flag. –  Chip Bennett Feb 2 '12 at 16:30
    
@ChipBennett That was what I was trying to get at. But for the most part, we need to encourage participation to increase the number of people with vote-to-close privileges. –  EAMann Feb 3 '12 at 18:39
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As a 2K user, it's extremely frustrating to use this site. I'm biding my time here until I'm 'privileged' enough to actually do some real good. There are plenty of people like myself who want to step up to the plate and help the moderators. It's my humble opinion that reputation scoring somewhat skews the quality of this site. Novices are posting answers (regardless if they know what they're talking about) more frequently just to get 'street cred.' The motivation should be to genuinely help others with solid answers. –  Brian Fegter Feb 5 '12 at 6:35
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And finally, I think a profile scoring system would be better suited for assigning roles within the community. It would essentially be a place for moderators to vote up other members who've proved themselves. –  Brian Fegter Feb 5 '12 at 6:38
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Even without lowering the vote to close threshold it would be much easier to identify questions with existing close votes if there was a way to list them without having access to moderator tools. –  Chris_O Feb 8 '12 at 11:09
    
@BrianFegter contributing to your frustration is the fact that "established" WPSE users (where "established" refers to users who know/understand how the SE mechanics work) don't often enough do our part to up-vote questions and answers. If we're not upvoting, then new users have far less opportunity to increase their Rep scores. –  Chip Bennett Feb 8 '12 at 16:35
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For me, the reputation levels are excessively prohibitive. I feel like I've spent a lot of time learning how the site works and how to use it correctly, and I'd be happy to do some light moderation when I see something wrong, but there's no way I'll ever get anywhere close to the level of points needed to do that. How many hundreds -- thousands? -- of hours does it take to get 10k, or even 3k? I don't think it's realistic to expect a large number of people to give that much of their time. –  Ian Dunn Feb 11 '12 at 17:53
    
I say drop the threshold low and see how it goes. Worst that can happen is it gets put up again until the right balance is found. I've struggled to get even 100 points; mostly because questions frequently aren't marked as answered or because (as pointed out by others) questions are too specific to answer in a way that's helpful to the WP community. –  Dominic Feb 14 '12 at 5:44
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