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According to Area51, the number of questions per day for Skeptics is 3.9. The comment says it all:

Needs Work – 15 questions per day on average is a healthy beta, 5 questions or fewer per day needs some work. A healthy site generates lots of good content to make sure users keep coming back

Is a higher number of questions per day desirable for this site?

If so, what can the Skeptics community do to bring up this number?

I'm just opening this for discussion and thoughts.

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    Not an answer, but the cause is not the lack of traffic :-) – Sklivvz Jan 26 '12 at 17:24
  • @Sklivvz: Great point, and great suggestions below. The traffic on Skeptics is spectacular. I especially like the point about a "help guide". Down-votes and closings make people reluctant to bother contributing, and makes them feel like their work is unappreciated. The best response is to point them towards information on how to improve their questions. – Brian M. Hunt Jan 26 '12 at 18:25
  • Are closed questions counted in the statistics as a question? – Sonny Ordell Jan 27 '12 at 10:55
  • @SonnyOrdell I think they are as "close" is a visible question state. I would doubt that deleted questions are counted though – Sklivvz Jan 27 '12 at 15:28
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It's a bit complex to ask questions here, with our requirements of notability and questioning real claims.

Let's prepare some clear and simple material, like a walkthrough or some other form of aid, on how to ask questions so we can refer new users to it instead of having to use comments and chat.

If it is effective we can then ask the SE staff to add links and splashes for new users.

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    This would be a very nice add! – Alenanno Jan 26 '12 at 19:22
  • Looking for volunteers :-) – Sklivvz Jan 28 '12 at 11:34
  • Asking questions here is a bit intimidating; I agree with this suggestion – Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 22:56
5

Let's create monthly topics (e.g. "ancient egyptians") and ask questions on those. Other sites have done so succesfully.

  • This is what I was going to suggest. – Sam I Am Jan 28 '12 at 0:39
5

As suggested in another question, let's leverage the US elections to do political fact checking.

Election Factcheck - For the People, By the People. Can our platform harness political passion to create a resource for political fact?

  • I like this so long as we try to restrict it to items not being addressed in the media. If it is already being beaten to death on the news further proof refuting a claim is hardly adding to the site. I think political questions probably need to be held to a higher standard to avoid opinion. – Chad Jan 27 '12 at 14:15
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A grace period between when a question is posted and when it may be down-voted, voted to close, or deleted might help. In particular, giving the poster a day or two to respond to criticism in comments would at least give them fair notice of the need to conform to the requirements of the site.

Instantaneous down-votes tend to be off-putting and feel unfair, particularly for new users whose questions have a kernel that legitimately belongs on this site but which may be stated in a way that is unacceptable.

  • What about the answers? Should unfixed questions be answered? If so, should the answers be voted upon? – Sklivvz Jan 26 '12 at 19:51
  • @Sklivvz: Honestly, that's the aspect I would like to see. It's hard to salvage a question once it has started to receive answers. – Borror0 Jan 26 '12 at 20:10
  • If it's technologically possible, perhaps a "moderation" period within which answers cannot be posted? i.e. no answer can be posted to a question without 5 votes (except by, eg, users with >1k?)? Or a warning that answers may be deleted prior to some sort of approval? Just some food for thought. – Brian M. Hunt Jan 26 '12 at 20:43
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    @BrianM.Hunt you are basically describing closure :-) – Sklivvz Jan 26 '12 at 21:26
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    @Sklivvz: Of course he is, but is that how closure is perceived by other users? I don't think so. – Borror0 Jan 26 '12 at 21:37
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    @Borror0: Agreed; it's a question of perception. Maybe any question that's closed should have a comment along the lines of "Your question has been closed, but don't give up! We close questions that may not meet the requirements of the site to only to prevent potentially off-topic answers, and not because we wish to remove your question. We appreciate your submission, and we encourage discussion and editing of closed questions to ensure they meet the accepted standard of quality for the site. We will re-open it (i.e. permit answers) if and when it meets those standards." Just a thought. – Brian M. Hunt Jan 26 '12 at 22:02
  • I put together this meta post by stealing from another site :-) meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1345/… Should we link to it in the closure comments? – Sklivvz Jan 27 '12 at 0:36
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    @Sklivvz: I think that link would greatly help in keeping people involved. It's a great find. The "close = improve mode" language in it also invites further participation, whereas "close" without any context probably comes across as a conclusive rejection (and sad feelings ensue). – Brian M. Hunt Jan 27 '12 at 0:55
  • I think an approve question feature would be great. So it can not be closed or down voted before it is approved. But can be deleted by mods if it is unsalvageable. But that would be a new feature to the site. – Chad Jan 27 '12 at 14:10
  • Also - I have been trying to give a suggestion to make the change before I down vote or vote to close for questions I think are salvageable. I think most people do. There are some bad questions and posters who fight the suggestions to improve. – Chad Jan 27 '12 at 14:12
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Change the terminology for "closed" to "protected".

This may require changes to the StackExchange service. Is there a place where we can highlight this functionality as desirable to the SE developers?

  • I would consider making that a separate [feature-request]. Keep in mind that there is already a feature called "protected" (which blocks users under 10 rep from posting on the question) so that name isn't available. – Borror0 Jan 30 '12 at 19:37
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    Interesting proposal. We need a better name though: what about "on hold"? – Sklivvz Jan 30 '12 at 23:24
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    Its not a problem of terminology IMO, but of application. – Sonny Ordell Jan 31 '12 at 8:51
  • "preserved" or "stayed", perhaps? – Brian M. Hunt Jan 31 '12 at 14:13
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I'd like to see a whole lot more restraint exercised when it comes to the closing of questions.

The grace period Brian mentions is a fantastic idea.

Aside from questions that are very obviously off topic, such as the (now deleted) questions asking for a copy of P.T. Barnum's work or questions on original research or offensive questions, questions should be left open. If a question has sufficient downvotes and/or closevotes and/or many critical comments then that is the time for a mdoerator to take action.

I had my question on Simian Lines closed yesterday as a moderator found a paper finding a link between simian lines and race and from that somehow inferred my question had racist overtones. The question was opened fairly quickly after, although it shouldn't have been closed in the first place.

Likewise my question on people having a distinct/unique look to a specific region after generations in that place was closed. This question should have been downvoted or edited constructively rather than closed. Looking at the comments and upvoted a lot of people find the claim notable and interesting enough to answer.

A question on meta asking if the site should have firmer guidelines so it is easier to justify the closing of questions was itself closed. This was on meta, a site for discussion about the main site. Further discussion is now impossible on that question, with no adequate justification being given.

While I am using my own questions as examples here my answer should not be taken as an extended complaint. I think they are good examples of questions that are closed and only hurt the community by being closed.

Often the justification given is that a closed question can be reopened by the community. I don't think this is a good attitude, as many users will not have the option to vote to reopen and users who do may not want to waste a vote. When a question is closed it also tends to "disappear", making it hard for people who would be interested in it to find it.

In short, I feel moderators should adhere to A Theory of Moderation. To quote:

But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!

I take this to mean interfere only when necessary. As far as closing questions goes, this should mean only closing questions that are indisputably offtopic or offensive. When it comes to issues such as notability the guidelines are vague, so restraint in closing should be applied.

For the most part closing a question that has upvotes and that people are interested in precludes any possibility of a good answer, which is hurts more than it helps.

That is the policy on the other SE sites in my experience. I have no idea why it doesn't appear to be the policy on Skeptics.SE.

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    Tbh Brian is suggesting we close more but with kinder words... Also, bringing up your own questions and complaints is not constructive. I have to down vote. – Sklivvz Jan 27 '12 at 7:40
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    You can downvote just if you disagree on meta cant you? In which case no problem with the downvote. Your question is about addressing the rate of questions on the site. I think that excessive closing is a large contributor limiting the amount of questions. The examples I provided are because they happen to be the ones I am most familiar with and I think make good examples, that's all. – Sonny Ordell Jan 27 '12 at 10:54
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    I don't see Brian suggesting that more questions are closed. I see his post as suggesting an alternative to closure, albeit with some similarities. Closing should be a second-last response just before deletion imo, not the reflex action it sometimes seems to be. – Sonny Ordell Jan 27 '12 at 10:55
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    While I also think that "close" is a terrible name for putting questions on-hold, I do think that we have to live with the StackExchange format. – Sklivvz Jan 27 '12 at 20:58

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