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We all love Quantitative Finance Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!

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Final Results

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A few thoughts on this evaluation:

  • Quality on this site remains high.

    There's a simple way to measure quality if you don't know a particular topic: if you don't understand what you are reading, it's probably of good quality. On questions that I have a passing understanding, the answers are clear and helpful. Some of the answers seem a little sparse, however. (Not knowing much about the topic, it's hard to tell how much more ought to be said in those cases.)

  • Voting seems low.

    On the other hand, it surprising how few votes some of the detailed questions and answers are getting. I know the site is small and the number of users who are actively voting is smaller still. Since so many parts of the site are tied into reputation, votes are like currency on the site. It's difficult for a site to grow when people are stingy with their votes.

  • The core is small.

    Having a core of dedicated users is important because these folks curate the site with edits, flags, and reviews. There are probably half a dozen people who make it a habit to participate on the site each week. We need more people to join that group.

  • More answers might help.

    According to the Area 51 statistics, there are an average of 2.1 answers per question. But this sample showed only two questions with more than one. (One had 3 and the other 2 answers, so the ratio on these is 1.3.) Not every question needs to have multiple answers. But questions that have just one answer might be too basic for an expert site. Or answerers might not feel like additional answers are being rewarded (via voting) enough to take the time to provide an alternate or expanded response.

  • Google searches generally find this site.

    On a smaller and more technical site, this is too be expected. The search terms I picked to look for the sample questions tended to be technical jargon. Most of the other hits were to online textbooks or encyclopedias where the terms were defined. It seemed unlikely that the answers to the specific questions could be found anywhere else on the internet.


Voting and user participation are closely tied. As they say in Chicago: Vote Early, Vote Often. Sometimes simply breaking the ice by upvoting an answer can give others courage (or at least a hint) to do the same. If you find a really great answer, you might leave a comment:

If you like this, please vote it up. It's important for the community!

Positive feedback from others on the site will encourage more of the same.

On the other hand, it sounds like some of the core users are getting bored (understandable after such a long beta) with the questions. Fixing this problem might also address the other two. The difficulty is for experienced users to find questions that other experienced users will find valuable. Renewing the weekly topic challenge might be a step in that direction. Posting questions and self-answering them when you learn something new is another useful strategy.

It can get discouraging to be in the doldrums of a long beta, but the good news is that it doesn't take much to get the community excited again.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for elaborating nicely on every bullet point. Re: Voting seems low. Is there anything that can be done by moderators to encourage users to vote more actively? And how do we entice higher rep users to join the core? $\endgroup$ – olaker Sep 19 '13 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @olaker: I've updated my answer a bit. There's no easy answers, but I think a little bit of effort spread over several weeks will pay off. $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Sep 20 '13 at 0:29

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