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Here are some statistics I put together from the main page:

  • 16 of the 50 newest questions were asked by users with over 200 reputation.
  • 10 of the 50 questions were either closed or migrated.
  • All of the closed or migrated questions were asked by users with less than 200 reputation.
  • 8 of the 10 closed/migrated questions were asked by new users with less than 21 reputation.
  • These stats do not include deleted questions. There is only one that I know of offhand; it was deleted by the owner.
  • Most of the visits that we have to PMSE are from casual, drive by visitors who find PMSE through search engines. This means most of the people who view this content are not members. This is a good thing as it means Google ranks the content as high.

Observations:

Regulars Ask Great Questions:

It appears that when a regular member of our community asks a question -- statistically speaking -- it's going to get great answers. Our main source of issues seem to come from new users with little to no experience with Stack Exchange, who need more guidance.

New Users Need Hand-Holding:

This isn't anything we didn't already know. New users with less than 100 rep -- who aren't members of other Stack Exchange sites -- generally ask questions that shouldn't be answered until someone steps in and helps that person clarify their question. With community involvement up, there is an increasing number of people who are likely to be hanging around to ask the new user some clarifying questions in comments and turn the posted question into a positively-scored post! :)

I don't have a question at the moment, but I wanted to share these stats with you. (They're public stats. I just simply counted what I saw on the "newest" tab on the main page.)

Feel free to comment or post your thoughts, ideas, or general reaction to the stats if you'd like.

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    Excellent analysis!! Thank you! – David Espina Aug 10 '12 at 16:13
  • @DavidEspina - I was really impressed with how this question worked out in the end: pm.stackexchange.com/q/6191/34. Glen's post was excellent! (I also saw your tweet asking him to come answer it! Nice work!) – jmort253 Aug 10 '12 at 20:52
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James, these are really helpful stats! Thanks for sharing them. To me, it sparks a few areas for further discussion, around the general topic of shepherding new users.

  1. Are new users being turned-off by the way their questions are handled (migrated or closed) i.e. how many of the users who had their questions migrated or closed remain engaged with the site (as compared to new users who's questions are answered)?
  2. Should we explore a policy of "attempt to edit first before closing a question" for users with less than 200 reputation?
  3. What is the best way to shepherd new users....
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Salvageable questions should always be edited for inclusion. The tricky part, as always, is deciding what's salvageable.

In my personal experience, re-framing most "bad" questions to give them a PM perspective would go a long way towards limiting closures and migrations that aren't strictly necessary. In some cases, the underlying questions may be good if they are asked from the viewpoint of a practicing PM. Helping new users to articulate that perspective better would be a great use of our editing super-powers.

We have plenty of tools for handling off-topic or poor-quality questions. The comments and editing tools are our best mechanisms for bringing people into the fold, rather than sending them out into the dark empty-handed.

  • With more editors coming out of the woodwork, it's more likely that someone will be lurking on the site and spot a new question, which presents an opportunity to catch the user before he/she leaves. If we commit to improving salvageable questions, I think we'll help more people and hopefully prevent more awkward situations. – jmort253 Aug 11 '12 at 1:22
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I think some http://ux.stackexchange.com might help a bit :)

I realize this is somewhat common to all StackExchange sites, however...

A few observations and suggestions about the "Ask a Question" screen:

  1. "How To Ask" is off to the right, with a pretty small font. Compare with the colors and font on StackOverflow. In fact, I didn't even notice it until I specifically looked for it.
  2. The 'read the faq' link is all lowercase, even smaller, and blows away your half-written question if you click it. (Yipes)
  3. The text itself is a bit ambiguous. I'm not a linguist, but perhaps someone here can suggest better wording.

As for the help/FAQ, it might be nice if, after typing the title, you popped up a little box below the title that said something like:

How to write a great question:

  1. Is your question about Project Management?
  2. Can your question be answered, not just discussed?
  3. Have you provided all the details you can?
  4. Not sure? Review the FAQ first. [link that opens a new window with appropriate icon]

Something like this might improve question quality right at the point of submission.

  • Thanks for pointing this out. When I get some time, I'll attempt to post a question and click the faq to see if the question gets lost. I thought Stack Exchange used localStorage to store text data in Google Chrome and most modern browsers, but I could be wrong. If it does kill the question, I can post a feature request/bug report on Meta Stack Overflow. – jmort253 Aug 17 '12 at 2:39
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(1) Are new users being turned-off by the way their questions are handled (migrated or closed) i.e. how many of the users who had their questions migrated or closed remain engaged with the site (as compared to new users who's questions are answered)?

No. Look at the old questions we recently closed. Many were asked by people who we haven't seen in 6 months. I specifically started with older off-topic and not constructive questions because I knew no one would be around to care. These same folks are hit and run users just the same.

I can ask for stats from Shog9, but we should be careful not to confuse what the numbers say on recent closed questions with what we know from going 15 months without really addressing any quality issues.

A question that just encourages lists of things with no explanation should be closed, unless it can be quickly edited into something more substantial.

(2) Should we explore a policy of "attempt to edit first before closing a question" for users with less than 200 reputation?

Check out the list of the 50 newest closed questions for perspective.

I think focusing on editing more is a great idea; this involves focusing on improving the actions of the avid users in our community (200+ rep) than focusing on new users.

The problem, as Mark has pointed out before, is that we're abundant in answerers but lacking in question askers. People who answer questions know the rules and should theoretically know better about answering a question that could be fixed. Thus, a process that puts some more pressure on the answerers to participate in the process more effectively may be more helpful than putting all the pressure on the question-askers.

The idea would be that, if the question can be fixed, we as a community fix it. We downvote wrong answers, even if they were right before the edits but are now wrong. We leave comments asking the other answerers to review the updated question, edit their answers to match the new questions, and then we remove downvotes if the answers are fixed.

When posts come into meta about why right answers suddenly became wrong, we use that as opportunities to educate.

Could this encourage more 200+ rep avid users to get more involved in helping less than 200 rep users adapt?

(3) What is the best way to shepherd new users....

  • If a question is unsalvageable, we need the asker to fix it or we close it. There's nothing we can really do if the asker isn't willing to participate.

  • If it's salvageable but editable, we edit anyway, even if there are answers already. We encourage more participation in moderating from 200+ rep users, so there's someone here to say "hey buddy, why do you want those books? What can we help you with? We really want to be the ones to solve your problem."

  • Lastly, I've noticed many regular users seem to really get the concept of what makes a great Stack Exchange answer. For instance, David or Pawel would never answer a "What resources should I look at to solve X" with just a link. They always provide expert analysis and plenty of detail. Thus, this gives us an opportunity to let the newbie question asker go about her way while we edit the question to match the answers. I've done this quite a few times with older questions with good results.

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