I recently read: Where did Pierre 303 go? He was an all-star!

I understand that there are issues/difficulties that I'm ignorant of, and everyone wants programmers to be the best it can be, and a community to be proud of and a lot of people work hard to make it good, but have there been signs that it is a community that isn't compatible with the StackExchange engine?

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Seems to me it's a sign that it was working just fine, back before it was forcibly changed on us to no longer be what it was designed as. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 31 '12 at 19:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Users leave Stack Exchange sites for all sorts of reasons.

Users leave Stack Exchange sites all the time. They usually just abandon their accounts, but I suspect that more are requesting that their accounts are deleted. This is purely anecdotal and an impression on my part - the team would be the only people who could answer this definitively (but I suspect they wouldn't want to).

You should not read too much (or indeed anything) into the fact that a high reputation user has asked for their account to be deleted.

New users are signing up all the time. I think this is a sign of a healthy community.

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I don't it's "reading too much into it" if the reasons that people give for leaving are both common and agreeable. If a seismologist leaves his home in Tokyo expressing concern that an earthquake is imminent, it'd be silly for Tokyo not to take it seriously. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 28 '12 at 9:29
    
@ReiMiyasaka That's a false (and unfair) analogy. Both high rep users that left the site never said the site is failing (I'm assuming that's what you mean by "earthquake"). They just didn't find the current scope worth their time, and that's perfectly understandable. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 30 '12 at 9:37
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@YannisRizos Yes, it's a fair analogy, because the scope was not the complaint. You're understating the sentiment of overall frustration. For example, the reason Pierre 303 left is in fact quite clearly explained in Rachel's post: like myself and many others, it's not the scope that we're upset about, although I think a lot of us don't agree with it either. What bothers a lot of us more is that, to quote Rachel, "the current style of moderation is not for [us]". –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 10:07
    
@ReiMiyasaka And how does that translate to "earthquake"? A few of the regulars don't appreciate the moderation on Programmers, and that's fine, but most of the regulars actively participate in moderating the site. In any case, no one, regardless of whether they are satisfied with moderation or not, has ever brought forth actual evidence that moderation is detrimental to the site. Pierre disagreed, and raised his objections constructively, but never implied that the site is going to fail or anything dramatic like that. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 30 '12 at 10:15
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@YannisRizos The gravity of the situation is not what's analogous. At risk of repeating myself, it's that the reason behind certain people leaving shouldn't always be ignored. It's really unwise to say, "oh, a few people left, and more people came in, no big deal", when the reason certain people left is, again, common and agreeable, and a clear indication of other problems. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 10:22
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@ReiMiyasaka The reason certain people left has been discussed on Meta ad nauseam, nothing and no one was ignored. At some point though, we just got to move on, we can't spend all our energy on discussing the scope over and over again, especially since the current scope seems to be working for the majority of users. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 30 '12 at 10:32

Don't use Programmers to judge other subjective SE sites.

The history of Programmers is what caused many of the high-profile users to leave, and I think SE learned a lesson from it and is very unlikely to repeat the same process for other SE sites.

We started out as "Not-Programming-Related", a place for programmers to get answers from each other about non-programming subjects that were popular, but not welcome on Stack Overflow. But "not programming related" was a rather broad scope, so SE decided to change it to "Conceptual Questions about Software Development", and many in the community did not agree with this change.

Also probably closely related is this graph, where you can see where the change in site direction started getting enforced by moderators. Most users weren't aware that the site scope had changed so much until questions started getting closed, which caused a lot of tension in the community.

enter image description here

You can view the full history here

But anyways, what I'm saying is you shouldn't use Programmers to judge other subjective SE sites because of its history. This site would probably be fine if it wasn't that it started out as something else, and I think other subjective SE sites would do fine as well providing they have a fairly clear definition of their site up-front and don't change direction after the site has launched.

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The change in scope scarred Programmers, certainly, but there are some SE sites that have terrible problems (unfortunately) that dwarf ours, even with a consistent scope. –  Yannis Rizos Oct 26 '12 at 20:59
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Was the 'Not-Programming Related' site really so bad? I clicked on your Area 51 link, and I came across so many users who contributed so many good answer. And to the OP's point - Where are they now? –  Jim G. Oct 27 '12 at 3:42
    
@JimG.: The success and utility of an SE site is not measured solely in the number of users it attracts. If the users are all making a site that is antithetical to SE's methodology, then it's a bad site and need to be modified or closed. –  Nicol Bolas Oct 27 '12 at 3:51
    
@Nicol Bolas: ...not measured solely - Who ever said that it was? // ...antithetical to SE's methodology - Was it antithetical to SE's charter? Was it yielding useful information? –  Jim G. Oct 27 '12 at 13:19
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@JimG. I found the original Programmers.SE provided some extremely useful information, however it also attracted many questions that went contrary to SE's standards for their Q&A sites. Perhaps someday SE will consider branching their framework off into Q&A sites that focus more on the community and type of answer needed instead of a topic and the type of question asked, but if not I'm sure someone will do something like that someday. Maybe as soon as next year if all goes well :) –  Rachel Oct 27 '12 at 18:07
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Most users weren't aware that the site scope had changed so much until questions started getting closed, which caused a lot of tension in the community -- The only problem with that theory is that a huge portion of the questions being "closed as off-topic" (of which there are way too many) are by people with 1 point. The reason for this site's downturn isn't just historic; it's a present failure to communicate the purpose of the site, and to accommodate an unsatisfied and important need that programmers hold and understandably hoped to have had answered here. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 28 '12 at 8:52
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@YannisRizos How's the turnover rate? Looking at the questions on the top page, about half of which are being asked by users with 1 point, and about half of which have a < 0 rating, people aren't sticking around for very long. P.SE's growth is probably artificial (as a result of marketing or inwards links from other SE sites), and once the group of potential participants is exhausted, I'd suspect that the traffic will also go downhill fast. When we say "downturn" I'm not just talking quantitative measures; I'm talking about qualitative measures as well. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 10:25
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@YannisRizos "All the available stats show constant growth" -- right, so do we have stats on the turnover rate? The average amount of participation of each user on the site? There's a negative stigma attached to the word "speculation", but there isn't anything wrong with speculation in and of itself; speculation is a necessary aspect of rational decision making. If there are signs of problems, either quantitative or qualitative, it'd be silly not to look into them just because you're afraid of speculating. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 10:37
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@YannisRizos I'm done. We're going around in circles, and you always return to things like "there's no problem"; "it's already been discussed" whilst ignoring my argument to the contrary. The moderators here have their heads in the sand. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 10:51
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@YannisRizos I've presented very clear reasons. Blunt statistics will only get you so far situations in assessing a community's health; at a certain point you should seem to need to start looking at qualitative facts. The complaints of users like Pierre, Rachel and myself are common and agreeable, and so there's a very good chance that the sentiment will spread. Again, I'm repeating myself. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 11:04
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@YannisRizos Yes, I did, I linked to Rachel's answer on why Pierre left, which has 44 upvotes and only 4 downvotes. That's a pretty good sign that it's a common and agreeable sentiment, and there's a good chance that the 10:1 proportion applies at least to some degree to the rest of the community that hadn't seen that question. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 11:09
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@YannisRizos Can you please explain how you interpret the data to conclude that the site's growth isn't a bubble? Because neither of us have data to show that it is or isn't, but a lot of us have given good reasons to suggest that it is. As a general SE user, usually, Programmers itself is noise. You end up here with a question that seems reasonable given the title and the general style of questions, and almost 50% of the time, your question will get -1'd, closed, or more recently, deleted. That's a huge waste of time for all these people both asking and happily answering these questions. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 11:22
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@YannisRizos Yep, heads in the sand. Not even willing to fall back on reason when the data is inadequate. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 11:28
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@YannisRizos The data is completely inadequate and arguably irrelevant. Ask any market analyst: visitor rate and sustainability are two completely different things. I asked for data that might give some sense of sustainability, and we don't have it. Obviously I prioritize empiricism before rationalism just like any scientist would, but even the best scientists use working hypotheses to make tentative decisions when there isn't enough data. –  Rei Miyasaka Oct 30 '12 at 11:33
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@ReiMiyasaka I completely agree with what you're saying here. Sure the site's traffic is higher now than in the beginning, but the site's also been around for a lot longer, and the turnover rate is really high. Think of how high the site's traffic could be if they kept their users. Also, I still see many of the old questions coming up in Google searches, so that's possibly a big chunk of the traffic. But if you want actual stats on user participation with the site, see this answer of mine –  Rachel Oct 30 '12 at 12:06

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