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I'm asking because of the general lack of activity on this site. If things stay the way they are, it doesn't seem likely to make it out of Beta, considering the depressing asking rate (or is it just me?). Should this be a legitimate and immediate concern of ours? What are some concrete actions that we can take to prevent this from happening and to rejuvenate our community?

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  • $\begingroup$ it is true, but new users are still joining and asking questions. So long as the majority are answered well (as mentioned below, we do lack some expertise in some areas) things will keep picking up as more people join. $\endgroup$ – Luke Aug 21 '12 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ I really object to the rigor with which we are closing out questions from naive users who are asking questions that need small edits to be fine additions to the site. Some are claiming that this doesn't fit the format of stackexchange, but if you look at stackoverflow, the most successful site in the family , beginners are tolerated as are somewhat imprecise questions much more than here. I feel the tone has been set to create a textbook reference here, and I'm don't see why this is helping. $\endgroup$ – shigeta Feb 21 '13 at 4:54
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I don't think we're in any acute danger, and our question volume is not as bad as the current value seems to imply. There is a sharp drop in question and answer volume since about a week ago, maybe people being on holiday or something.

We were averaging around 3-5 questions before that drop, I assume we'll get back to that value. We certainly need some more activity to get out of beta, but we're not in a region where we are in danger of being shut down.

My larger concern is that we still have a pretty limited number of experts on the site. My subjective observation is that we're struggling a bit to cover all the major areas of biology. But with a subject as large as biology, this problem is to be expected, and it should get a lot better when the site grows larger.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that a site on such a non-computer-geek-related topic as biology is less likely to be "discovered" by experts (ala StackOverflow or SciFi). Therefore I would suggest you guys spend extra effort popularizing it physically - e.g. contact Biology departments, advertize on conferences, etc... ask for Stack liasons' help. Just my 3cents worth of opinion. $\endgroup$ – DVK Aug 19 '12 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ I tried advertising the site with biologists from my institute. Some seemed genuinely interested but so far I haven’t seen anybody from the institute here; of course they might use pseudonyms but I suspect that, if at all, participation is really rare. I think that it’s (at least partly) just a lack of habit of using online communities. $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Aug 21 '12 at 9:22
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I think that as Mad Scientist points out, this has a lot to do with the time of year.

I certainly don't think that there is a danger of us imminently falling to the scrap heap!

Furthermore, if we look at the four most recently graduated sites and the questions per day they crossed the line:

  1. Mathematica - 12 Q/Day ("Okay")
  2. Role Playing Games 3.4 Q/Day ("Needs Work")
  3. Skeptics - 5.7 Q/Day ("Okay")
  4. Judaism - 6.6 Q/Day ("Okay")

With the exception of Mathematica, none of the above were achieving drastically more than we were before the academic holiday (as Mad Scientist notes, a rate of roughly 5 Q/Day). Indeed the only property defined as "Excellent" for all four freshly graduated sites was the "Active Users" metric, which Biology will soon green up itself.

Without being able to see statistics about Q&A on other Science sites (which I'm fairly sure will have activity variation with the academic calendar) it is difficult to be sure if this is "normal" for Bio.SE however if people are interested we can liase with the moderators of the other sites and see if we are fitting a trend - if we are then I don't think we have any reason to be concerned.

Perhaps if we get to mid September and it hasn't picked up, then we can start to take more serious actions.

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    $\begingroup$ It is mid-September and things don't seem to have improved much. Perhaps it is time to take some action. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Standage Sep 19 '12 at 17:34
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One way to improve the content is for the experts on this site to ask questions and self-answer.

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While I agree with Rorys and Mad scientists points from a short term point of view, I'm more than unsure if science sites not related a bit to progamming like TCS and phyiscs can grow in the long term here. I made a post on MO because of the bad stats of chemistry.se.

Do science sites need a better advertising and user-interface on Stack Exchange due to different growth?

Biology has a steady growth

http://www.quantcast.com/biology.stackexchange.com

chemistry and cogsci look to me like they never reached the critical mass in the first months

http://www.quantcast.com/cogsci.stackexchange.com

On cogsci they invested quite some effort in the last weeks to seed the site with high quality content, nonetheless, these sites get less attention via google or existing SE user, as nearly never a question pops up on the hot questions front page (only this math, english, programming, scifi stuff)

I really like the SE system more than quora and reddit, much more. But either SE has imho to start advertising non-programming proposals better or we as user of the science sites have to ask for more features and/or better advertising of our sites.

The point is, while we have high quality physics and TCS and biology sites here, if non-programming or programmer's hobbies proposals dont work here, in the long term students and scientists will join rather sites like reddit or quora, where you can ask questions on all sciences and get a relative good and fast answer.

Some very easy features would be, show questions that have tags (e.g. biochemistry) existing on biology.se and chemistry.se on both sites (crossposting) and establish a front page of science sites that shows the hottest questions of all science sites, its a mess to browse all science sites individually on your smartphone and sort every time by hottest questions of the week.

Many of the physics.se high voted questions have 10x more views than on biology.se, because much more of those questions pop up on the front page and therefore more new user join the site, the newer proposals have it much harder to get attention on the front page and grow further.

And while my post on MO got some upvotes, they will probably only start to advertise science sites better and add features for very broad and overlapping branches like physics, chemistry, biology, psychology if we make more trouble over there and high-rep user ask for those features.

I currently think chemistry and cogsci will have a very hard time to grow towards 5 Q/day, they probably wont close those sites, because they cannot convince all the commiters to invest their time a 2nd time into the same proposal. So I dont see another way then better advertising of such sites.

Everyone browses quora and reddit via hot upvoted questions and front page, for SE it worked fine with few high quality sites, but nowadays with 80 proposals even the programmers have a hard time here to find new good questions on newer programming proposals. Sciences cannot be categorized into small specialized proposals as some programing languages, science is interdisciplinary. A "science", "progamming", "languages" hottest questions front page would be the way to go imo or many new proposals will have a hard time to grow. Besides some progamming proposals and islam.se I havent seen many successful beta sites here in the recent past.

From a personal point of view, Im a open science enthusiast, but I dont have the time to seed sites with Q&A, do a lot meta communication and moderating but have no means to improve advertising of the site and in the end all this content will maybe deleted. Then it looks safer to author on wikipedia, researchgate, academia, quora or even reddit...

As long I dont see some significant improvements for new science proposals here, I cannot really recommend any of my colleagues to join this place and work for the profit of SE. The current hot questions algorithm for stackexchange.com is pretty unfair for non-programming and newer proposals. This has to be changed.

I have seen people on cogsci downvoting my posts for being not "constructive" or "optimistic". But what do you think will save your site? Hope, optimism, time? Chem and cogsci didnt grow for months, why should they start to grow now and graduate? By a miracle? I mean its really that simple, no rocket science, the only thing that can save these sites is more advertising and better features to find the hottest questions. And this has to be communicated, not here or there, but on meta.stackoverflow or discuss.area51 (which seems even more dead place than some beta sites). Thats the light at the end of the tunnel.

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually, you don't have any posts on CogSci. You do have Cog Sci meta posts, but keep in mind that votes on meta are different. $\endgroup$ – Josh Aug 17 '12 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ I really like the idea of being able to cross-link posts that fall into both Biology and Chemistry, because many do and getting the expertise from both angles would really help! $\endgroup$ – Luke Aug 21 '12 at 15:42

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