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I have decided to step down as pro-tem moderator of Gardening & Landscaping Stack Exchange and have informed the SE team of my decision (I will stay on until the new pro-tems are picked).

When the moderator pro-temprore program was established, Stack Exchange had a strict "graduate in 90 days or you're bust" policy, which meant that pro-tem mods served at the most for perhaps 4-5 months before the official elections. However, as more and more sites were added and the topics started getting diverse and further and further away from a typical programmer's hobbies & interests, sites started staying longer in beta (in 3 more months, Personal Finance & Money will have been in beta for 1000 days!).

The role of a pro-temp moderator on a beta site is, in some ways, more challenging than on established and graduated sites. One has to delicately guide the community in editing/curating content, closing/deleting spam and off-topic content, teach new users the ways and mores of the site (and Stack Exchange), initiate/steer ideas and discussions on meta and generally be current with the pulse of the site. However, the challenges facing a beta site (or any site, for that matter) also evolve with time and it is easy for veteran users/original pro-tems to get blindsided by these new challenges.

I believe I'm at the point where I'm starting to get blindsided by some of the site's (IMO serious) shortcomings such as high rate of attrition of users given our size, very small "active user" base, slow user growth, etc. and it is critical to address these soon, to secure the long term future of this site. It's not because of fatigue or flag burden or lack of time — it's just human nature to not "notice" certain things after you've been doing it for a while. I think it's in the best interest of the site if I stepped down and made way for some other excellent users here who are regular and active to continue the work and see us through graduation.

On graduated sites, elections are held roughly every year, which brings fresh blood into the pool, but on beta sites it is up to the community/existing mods to request a change. I personally think that having a changing list of pro-tem moderators with fixed terms (stagger their terms, like for senators), with the possibility of serving again would be a better solution (also keeps them engaged), but that's not how it currently is.

I think I have, on the whole, made a positive contribution to building this community and guiding it through some of its initial struggles over the past 18 months (although there might have been individual disagreements), but it's time to pass the torch. Thanks to all for the opportunity!

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    A big thanks for all the work you've done! – bstpierre Feb 5 '13 at 19:09
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    I suspect most of your work is unseen and unrecognized so you could say a low profile is a sign of success. Thanks for helping this community. – kevinsky Feb 14 '13 at 2:20
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Yoda,

First, I'd like to thank you personally for the contribution you made in getting this site and this community so far along. Despite your misgivings, I find this a great site and a valuable resource. I wanted to convey my appreciation for the important role you played in the formation of this site. I have a lot of respect for the work you folks do. I hope you will continue to enjoy this site, but if you choose not to stick around, know that the contribution you made to this community will not be forgotten.

I've never been a fan of "moderator for life," preferring instead a series of regular elections that would allow moderators to come and go as long as they found it enjoyable and intriguing to do so. Moderator for life is a recipe for burnout for the reasons you cited above. Add to that my efforts to decouple this elusive idea of "graduation" from all the activities and benefits it encompasses, I understand completely where you're coming from.

I'd like to talk over your shoulder to the rest of the community —

I think this site has some unique challenges, but you seem to be navigating them quite well. This is a very seasonal subject, and that makes establishing a core audience a bit more difficult. Consider the accomplishment of growing your audience 12-fold from last January through July. Think about that. Traffic started to fall (as you would expect) going into autumn and winter season, but traffic has picked up again… right on schedule. Visitors have already doubled since the new year, and this site has almost quadrupled in visitors since this time last year. Wow!

There are a ton of high-quality, established players in this market, so if this site is to compete, it will be by providing high-quality information in an accessible format. We seem to be doing that. It's just a much bigger hill to climb than we're going to see with most sites.

Despite its challenges, I believe this site will grow into a world-class resource in this topic space.

  • Thanks, Robert. I'd like to correct you in that I have absolutely no misgivings about the site's content and fully agree that it's a valuable resource (this is something I've always maintained). However, I also firmly believe that sites succeed when they are built around a community rather than a topic. A topic is required to bring them together, but an active and vibrant community is what pushes it forward and keeps it going. (continued...) – Lorem Ipsum Feb 5 '13 at 17:19
  • From my experience with other gardening sites, people like to share experiences, their yields, their current crop list, etc. (even when off-season) — all of which are perfect for chat. However, our chatroom has not seen much activity to talk of, despite several of our attempts. One way for this would be to increase the visibility of chat from the front page, but this is not possible with the standard layout. So the end result of this is that newer users see this merely as a good resource for getting answers, but are not keen on curating/taking care of it. (continued...) – Lorem Ipsum Feb 5 '13 at 17:19
  • This explains why we have a high growth in traffic, but small growth in user base. My concerns are only about this — user attrition, small "active" user base and slow user growth. I don't have access to stats, but if you look at the number of users who have more than 15 answers voted >1, it'll be a small number given our age. The quadrupling in traffic is exactly why I chose to step down (the last time I spoke to Aarthi, I only mentioned stepping down from dsp.se for lack of time). (continued...) – Lorem Ipsum Feb 5 '13 at 17:20
  • I feel that the time now is ripe to make some serious progress in growing the community (more eyes on the site), but I've run out of ideas/become blind to this problem, so I might be better off for now as a contributing community member than a moderator. I will still continue to be a part of this community, and perhaps even serve it again as a moderator in the future, if elected, but right now, the site deserves someone more active and with better ideas. – Lorem Ipsum Feb 5 '13 at 17:23
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Belatedly I'd like to say thanks Yoda for the work you've done here and the energy, commitment and time you've given to the community. Whenever we've discussed site management backchannel you've also give wise and friendly advice. Hope you carry on posting.

  • Thanks, Tea :) I hope to return to posting, but these days (the past year, in fact), I spend way less time in the garden (hence the lack of posts) and probably will spend considerably less in the near future as I work on finishing up this phase of life. But I will return once I start getting my hands dirty :) – Lorem Ipsum Mar 8 '13 at 0:16

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