By running this query and comparing the first 4 months of this year to the same months in past years, a downward trend in activity becomes apparent.

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Of all these the downward trend in votes, users, and posts are most concerning, the fewer comments might not be a bad thing although that does reflect much less activity. Fewer review tasks might also be a good thing if that means that people aren't close voting for silly reasons.


In the four years since I joined this site, at least three very active users closed their accounts, and other very active users have become much less active. Not surprising -- people have lives outside of TGO-SE and those lives become more demanding, for example, as careers develop.

Other users have joined and become very active (e.g., the OP), and older users have become more active (e.g.,@Sue), but my impression is that TGO has not attracted enough very active newcomers to replace those who have left or become less active. Thus, not only fewer questions are asked, but fewer answers are written, which can be off-putting to people who are interested enough to try out TGO but do not find an exuberant community.

My conclusion is that we discuss whether we are unconsciously making TGO too narrow in what is on-topic. We've had this discussion before, but with a different focus: What is off-topic? The focus of the discussion I am proposing is: What is on-topic that we have been ignoring?

I also suggest that someone answer this question, because I think I edited it down enough to be answerable at least in part. The same OP has extensively edited his second question to a point where I can't edit it further because of lack of knowledge. This new OP should be encouraged, not discouraged by being ignored.

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    I don't understand the downvotes either, especially on the second question (the first is still very much all over the place), however the problem of not being answered is that the terminologies are not understandable to me and I suspect the average climber - that might be due to it being arboring specific. And I wouldn't know of a TGO user prolific in that field (though I'd guess there is one out there). And "Please critique my gear or longish explanation of purpose" simply aren't very good questions to attract the experts needed in that field. – imsodin May 27 '19 at 17:03
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    @imsodin I don't know anything about climbing, so apologies if this sounds dumb. I suggest that someone answer one of the questions as though it was about rock climbing, making it clear that this is what he was doing, and translating (as best he can) the terminologies, from tree-climbingish to rock-climbingish, also making clear that is what he is doing. There are subjects on which I can, and have (but not on TGO) done this. It should spark a discussion and clarification of the Q. It is work, but it is what I mean by nurturing in my second answer. – ab2 May 27 '19 at 17:13
  • That definitely doesn't sound dumb, but to translate something I need to understand it first, which I don't. And I have no personal interest to get to know arboring, so diving into the deep end of that topic isn't an option. I suspect that's not just my issue. – imsodin May 27 '19 at 19:58
  • If there's no one that's already an expert on arboring, it's entirely natural that no-one will answer. That's how I try to view answering anyway. If it's not something I have experience on, I stay away from it. – Gabriel C. Jun 3 '19 at 14:02
  • I assume that most of the downvotes are from earlier when the question was very awkwardly written and extremely verbose. – Qudit Jun 10 '19 at 19:23

The focus of this answer is different from my first, so I think it is better as a stand-alone answer.

We have to be more tolerant of the defects of questions by newbies. The newbies of today are the Liams of tomorrow, both on this site and in the greater Great Outdoors.

A snap reaction to this will be, I suspect:

What, lower our standards? Never!

English Language and Usage faced a similar problem (but theirs was too many elementary questions), and caused the creation of English Language Learners. TGO does not have that option.

We need to be more nurturing, more willing to edit questions instead of downvoting them, more careful of dismissing questions as duplicates, more accepting of what we, as experienced outdoors-people and gurus, consider elementary questions.

As for the duplicates, I have looked at many, many claimed duplicates, and found few of them truly duplicates. Most are similar, but not duplicates, and their duplicativeness could be fixed by an edit. Sure, we ask the OP to do that, but it must be very off-putting for a newbie, particularly when the question isn't truly a duplicate.

So, think hard before hitting close because duplicate button!

Another suggestion: There is ample blank space to put in the winning photo of the month on the first page of TGO. Can we do that? It would attract attention.

And maybe we need a "missionary moderator". If so the OP of this Question would be ideal.


As @ab2 said, if there are good ideas as to topics to tackle and users with experience in that topic, that want to promote it, that's great. However in general I don't think we should worry too much about these statistics due to a lack of practical implications. There have been times when people were dreaming of graduation, but since the no-longer-recent change in the graduation process, that's off the table. Looking at this graphic displaying daily questions and visitors by community we are quite well off (if you have trouble finding TGO, it's right on the 10000 line first from the left). We do act as a knowledge repository and if someone has a question, it gets answered. We still get good questions and answers. In my opinion we should accept and embrace being a low-volume community instead of stressing about it - after all it's TGO, people well served by our community should automatically spend less time in it by being outdoors :)

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    It is not the values that the OP (and I) find disturbing, but the slopes, all of which have been negative for two years. If these graphs described our business income or our portfolios, we would be very unhappy. – ab2 May 27 '19 at 17:22
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    Sure, if we were a business - I don't look at it that way. We are a Q&A site - as long as we get quality answers and/or adequate voting to discern answers I am happy. Obviously I am not saying everybody needs to think this way, I am just offering this alternative viewpoint. – imsodin May 27 '19 at 19:59
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    Agreed - we aren't a business, and there is nothing to say whether that graph is good, bad or indifferent - as we do not have competition to compare against. – Rory Alsop May 28 '19 at 10:51
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    @Rory I respectfully disagree. Look at the graph of Posts vs Time. That graph will hit zero in a year, if the trend continues. Of course, the trend is unlikely to continue, but is more likely to level off for awhile, or turn around, but at what point should we take the downtrend seriously? – ab2 May 28 '19 at 12:53
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    @ab2 I also disagree: That data is nowhere extensive enough to support a hypothesis of a downward trend. Looking at it a cyclic function would fit best, which would predict a level-off and increase again soon - however that would be just as pointless, because correlation is not causation. What I am saying is the data itself is not a problem, however if you do see a problem, that data might back your problem up. That's the direction it should work: Formulate a hypothesis and then test it against your data - not look at the data and fit an explanation to it. – imsodin May 28 '19 at 13:32
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    Anyway I think this is a pointless argument: If you want to start a drive to include new users, explore subjects or any such endeavour I am all ears (it might not fit into my area of interest though). Whether or not we agree on the significance on the data is in my opinion a pointless debate. – imsodin May 28 '19 at 13:34
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    I agree that any activity to increase traffic would be good, and I support Charlie and others in doing that. I have been approaching local outdoors retailers myself to see whether we can pop flyers up with questions and answers on. But the data doesn't worry me at all as there are other stats that show we are doing fine. – Rory Alsop May 28 '19 at 14:29
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    Its like a drop off of 40% and given that posts inspire other posts and votes make people more likely to post more, it doesn't look like a good thing – Charlie Brumbaugh May 28 '19 at 21:26

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