it's almost spring time now! If you've been watching our traffic stats, you would've noticed a near doubling of traffic in just about two months. Indeed, more and more folks are getting to know about us from Google searches (yes, more than 90% of our traffic comes from search, which is great!) as seen from the charts for traffic (left) and Q&A (right) since last Fall.
With all these new eyes and potential new users, it is important to make a good impression and make newbies feel welcome here. To that effect, here are some things you could do (if you have not been doing already):
- Welcome new users to the site; fix up spelling/grammar mistakes in their posts and provide suggestions to improve their post. Install the Autoreview pro-forma comments userscript, which makes leaving such comments a piece of cake.
- Vote regularly and vote often. If you see a well written question that's useful (doesn't matter if it is immediately relevant to you or not), upvote it. Upvote good answers. Also remind new users that they should upvote good content. It is equally important to downvote bad/poor content. Remember that votes can always be changed if the post is edited, so if you downvote and leave a comment to that effect, it actually helps the user improve (upon which you can change your vote).
Vote to close (requires 500 rep in beta) if a question is a duplicate/off-topic/not-a-real-question/other. It takes 5 community votes to close and 5 to reopen. We haven't seen as many off-topic questions in the past few months as we have in the first month or two of beta, but things will certainly change with the increased exposure. Users with <500 rep can cast close flags.
Closing a post is something that a lot of users (especially those new to SE) take personally. It is important to remember that closing is not permanent. Let them know in a comment, as to why their post was closed (or is attracting close votes) and how they can fix it to get it reopened. Let them know about the means they have at their disposal to protest a closure — flag/meta/chat.
If you see a new user's (good) question not getting enough attention, consider placing a modest bounty on their question. Some of us have been doing it regularly, but it's always nice to get community participation. Let them know why you're doing it and what a bounty does, so that they understand and hopefully, they'll remember and return the favor to the community in the future when they're in a position to spare some rep. Never let a new user go for days without getting an answer.
The road to graduation:
Now you all know that we've been in beta for about 9 months now, and we should really be aiming at graduating sometime this year. While the exact details of what it takes to graduate are fuzzy, here are some areas we could improve that I, in my experience with Stack Exchange, feel will help us greatly.
Very few of our users actually vote (you can search for your name to see how many you've cast). Only 10 have the Civic Duty badge and about 20 each for the Suffrage and Vox-populi badges — this is from 900+ users and 160+ who are considered "Avid users". This number certainly needs to improve.
It is OK to edit other people's posts, as long as the meaning and intent is not changed. Please fix links/add references/correct mistakes/improve formatting, etc. in posts as you come across them. Editing stats are even worse than voting and only 5 have the Strunk & White badge and a single Copy Editor badge.
- Tag wikis:
Often neglected by most, tag wikis serve to convey what the tag is used for. It is not, however, a substitute for Wikipedia. So please edit the common tags to provide tips on using that tag, some FAQs in the tag, what not to use that tag for, etc. There's even a cool Research Assistant badge for it, that only 1 user has as of now. I personally think that identification and watering are good examples of tag wikis done right.
- Meta activity:
A larger and more vocal community is good in ensuring that different view points are heard in discussion. This means stepping up and posting an answer even if it is contrary to the popular opinion. If you agree/disagree with existing answers, vote accordingly! If you see something tagged as support, do not hesitate to provide an answer if you know it.
- Chatroom activity:
A dead chatroom is not a very pleasant place to hang out. Try to drop in every day or every other day. Share your garden with others (some of them do that regularly). Discuss your issues more loosely with your fellow users instead of in a rigid Q&A format. Having an active chatroom also gives new users (those with 20 rep) a place to hang out and maybe learn the ways here or bounce their question for a quick sanity check on whether it'll fly on the main site, etc.
- Community blog:
While there was initial interest in a community blog, we need more volunteers and a decent plan for potential topics in order to actually move forward. Share your ideas — even if you can't write, just propose potential topics. Perhaps someone else can write them.
How can you help?:
You can help us improve in all these areas by participating in a community driven spring cleanup and a focused effort to polish the site. There's something that everyone can do, no matter what their rep or gardening experience.
- Make use of the
/reviewpage and improve it where ever you can.
- Go through old posts, from the early days and see if they need retagging or other improvements (be a little careful here as to not introduce any new wild and over-specific tags).
- If you come across a post that you haven't seen before, pause to read it and upvote it if it's worthy. Perhaps you can try browsing through the list of unanswered questions and see if something can be answered.
- Got ideas for our final design? Suggest them as an answer to this meta question.
- Let your friends know and share a link to this site on your twitter/blog/facebook/what-have-you to improve our visibility.
In the past, people have tended to worry about the statistics on Area51. Do not focus on the statistics, but instead on our content. I believe we have a great Q&A resource on gardening and landscaping and that beats any crummy stats. What we need to build now is a community spirit and collectively take part in the site's janitorial work.