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I'm not a heavy Server Fault user, but it seems to me that it's growing a lot slower than other sites. The front page is often full of questions with hardly any upvotes, and I often find old questions without any answers.

I just found this meta post from two years ago about this. Any updates? Is SF's traffic being diverted to Stack Exchange 2.0 sites?

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Here's some analysis of our... analysis of the last 18 months

  • Questions/Answer volume is roughtly identical to 18 months ago
  • Total page views is growing at a steady pace, it's approximately 60% higher than it was 18 moths ago
  • Volume of votes is virtually identical to 18 months ago
  • Volume of new users/week has grown by 300%
  • Visits by "new" users us up by over 200%

Unfortunately I can't share the actual data with you, but what this says to me:

  • The volume and quantity of questions are not increasing
  • But the good we are doing for the wider community is growing

And ultimately that's what I'm here for. I don't really care if the site explodes to be like Stack Overflow, what I care about is that my questions or answers are found by googlers and are helpful, and according to the stats of new users and page views, this is what's happening.

It's also not uncommon to see a question with 0 or 1 or 2 upvotes with 10,000 views. Take this discrepancy:

They're roughly our two most popular questions (I'm excluding anomalies like this, which got their views from being the top-rated SE questions for weeks straight and using emotive language in the title), and they seem to get about 5 votes per 30,000 views. That's because we as professionals don't value the questions (too basic?) but the rest of the internet really needs that sort of information. And we're providing it.

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  • I thought we got rid of that last one. Just seeing it again took away some of my cheer (and I don't have that much to spare at the best of times). – John Gardeniers Oct 27 '11 at 20:44
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In short I'd say we're holding our own but not everything is rosy.

The stats don't agree with your perception. Of the original trilogy we are where we have been for some considerable time. Our answer rate is 81%, the same as the other 2 trilogy sites. That suggests we have fewer unanswered questions than SO/SU. If you look at the user leagues you'll see that we are a smaller community than either SO or SU and fewer of us participate actively answering questions (as measured by rep >=200).

There are definitely far too many poor quality questions that should be closed. There is though a reluctance to do so and there are few of us who actively participate in this.

It feels to me like there is a negative feedback situation with voting. Reputation is hard to gain here so people seem reluctant to vote for competing answers which makes reputation hard to gain ...

More voting would get more users with the privilege to participate which would help with managing the poor quality questions.

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  • 6
    SysAdmins being generally grumpy and/or self-righteous people also makes votes hard to come by. – Chris S Oct 27 '11 at 12:36
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    ahhh yea olde stereotypical grumpy SysAdmin get out clause ... :) – user9517 Oct 27 '11 at 12:42
  • I vote enough for 5 or 6 other people! I'm not sure what's so hard for the rest of you... – Ward - Reinstate Monica Oct 27 '11 at 18:49
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    Voting is def. an issue. I attempt to use up all my votes at least once a week, but I find it hard to do because there's not that much stuff worth voting on. Perhaps I'm being rough though. But even with 4k votes, I think I'm the 2nd highest voter on the entire site, and I've still only averaged 4.75 votes/day. Take this question - three votes for every answer, but 0 votes for the question. C'mon... if it's worth answering, it's worth a +1 – Mark Henderson Oct 27 '11 at 19:20
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    @Mark, I disagree with the last bit. Just because a question is worth answering doesn't necessarily mean it's worth voting on. I think we've all answered some pretty ordinary questions. – John Gardeniers Oct 27 '11 at 20:38
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IMHO, we have one or more of the following problems:

  1. Too many low-quality questions. People with very little or no competence are asking questions which are either too "stupid" (entry-level) or out of their scope
  2. A handful high-end admins who refuses to spend their time on the latter example
  3. Not enough intermediate admins who sticks around to help novice users
  4. Not enough high-end admins who help intermediate admins

I have no idea how we are going to solve it..

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  • I'd like to get a status update on this from someone in Stack Exchange LLC. It's a sustained situation that's not very healthy. – ripper234 Oct 27 '11 at 11:41
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    It's not a sustained situation, it's cyclic. We're in a "ebb" right now, but in the next we months we'll "flow" again. There's no shortage of new users and Questions; it's the quality thereof that seems to change. – Chris S Oct 27 '11 at 12:33
  • I try my best to go through and weed out the "this question will require playing 20 questions with the original poster" questions, as they not of the best use for this site. – Aaron Oct 31 '11 at 22:37
  • This pretty much sums up my opinion as well. I will add that as "entry-level" or "intermediate" admin there's not much incentive to answer the "entry-level" questions. No one views them, no one upvotes them (because they aren't interesting) and at least half of the time the OP never returns to either comment or mark an answer. it's really not worth the effort - there's no psychological reward because the community doesn't value the work and neither does the OP (or so it seems). – user62491 Dec 3 '11 at 9:43
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While most SE sites are able to cater to both professionals and amateurs there is no real amateur equivalent to a systems administrator. This has two effects.

  1. The user base is far more limited and restricted.
  2. We are generally much more discerning and less likely to throw votes about unless they've been earned.

While on a site like SO even a really crappy question can at times get massive votes; that rarely happens on SF. We expect people to perform a level of due diligence that I haven't seen on the other sites I've visited. This is also reflected in our voting.

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3

It's worth remembering that our question acceptance bar that excludes low quality, or non-professional or subjective questions is going to mitigate against ever having a vast number of questions asked here.

A lot of questions are about home server setups or asking for shopping/comparison opinions, and these all tend to get closed and migrated pretty quick. And lets be honest, no matter how good our intentions are, someone who asks a subjective "what's the best email server" question and gets it closed as off-topic probably isn't going to think of this as the first place to come back to when their chosen email server starts going wrong 6 months later.

This is a choice we've made. We've chosen to have low signal to noise rather than lots of unprofessional or subjective questions. I'm comfortable with that choice personally. But we can't have it both ways by enforcing that stance on the one hand and asking where everyone is on the other.

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With regards to unanswered questions, personally, I think on some level there's a fundamental difference between the questions that serverfault and the other stack sites deal with (though I'm willing to bet that superuser will exhibit the same issues): No matter how many times the user reboots or reinstalls, they will still need to "iterate and process an entire table from a database" (from a recent SO question). Meanwhile, we end up with questions where the answer is apparently "I rebooted and it stopped doing that", except that the poster put that as a comment/edit to their question and is never seen again.

As for upvoting, it seems that SF users just don't upvote at the same frequency as SO users for some reason. It may be worth noting that when I land on an SO question from Google, I get a banner at the top reminding me to upvote the question and answer if it was useful, but I'm not sure that I've ever seen that banner here (just searched for "what port does sftp use?" and didn't get that banner after clicking into it).

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    One of the reasons many SO posts get upvoted absurdly is that many of those doing the voting really don't have the level of skill needed to determine whether the post is good or bad and simply follow the crowd. – John Gardeniers Oct 31 '11 at 6:53

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