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Edit (June 2015): Another related meta.SE post about community evaluations can be found here.


This is mostly a post to draw MESE users' attention to the meta.SE piece here, entitled:

Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites

Quoting verbatim, SE's own summary is:

  1. When a site starts to consistently receive 10 questions/day, we’ll consider it for graduation.

  2. If a public beta site does not produce consistently helpful content, and lacks the caretakers needed for flags and spam to get handled and our Be Nice policy to be upheld, it will be closed.

(They also comment: As of this post, no site which is currently active is at risk of being shut down.)

To this end: MESE is certainly not at risk of closing down (cf. 2) but it is also not close to graduation (cf. 1 and our stats here of 1.5 questions per day at the time of this post).

So, since this is supposed to be a meta question:

Now that the site has existed for over a year, and assuming (non-trivially) that graduation is indeed an eventual goal, does anyone have novel ideas about how to increase the number of (quality) questions per day?

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  • $\begingroup$ MathOverflow 1.0 had a banner for temporary announcements. Does such a feature exist for this forum? Gerhard "Not Talking About The Sidebar" Paseman, 2015.06.04 $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Jun 4 '15 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ @GerhardPaseman the banner, the system message, still exists for all I know, but is used essentially exclusively for urgent technical messages. It is not controllable by per-site mods. What is the context/intent of your questions? $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 5 '15 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ The intent is to advertise/inform of a special event organized by the community members to attract more questions. I don't know what would serve as a draw, but if we started with an appropriate theme ("specific problems in the classroom") and rules (e.g. no duplicates), we might get a specific convention-style effort to gather questions that could be formally entered at a rate decided upon by the event. I can generate a mass of questions of interest to me, but no one else. With a theme, I might contribute five questions. Gerhard "And Maybe Some Answers Too" Paseman, 2015.06.06 $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Jun 6 '15 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ As a rough sketch, a theme and rules are announced on meta, and members answer with five or more descriptions of roughly 60 words each that describe the questions. Using comments in meta, the best are chosen, and the proposers then flesh out each question in main, and the community is encouraged to improve the full question to community standards. This is different from what currently happens in that a certain theme is requested and community editing is encouraged, not just understood. Gerhard "Try It; See What Happens" Paseman, 2015.06.06 $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Jun 6 '15 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ If the goal is 7x more questions, drop "math" and make this educators.stackexchange.com. $\endgroup$ – user173 Jun 14 '15 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ I see we're currently down to 0.5 questions per day according to area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/64216/mathematics-educators. $\endgroup$ – J W Aug 10 '16 at 12:41
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When you are a teacher at any level approaching the teaching of a particular topic, you may have a question of the flavour "strategies to teach X effectively". The internet is not often forthcoming on such things, instead directing you to resources for students. MESE could fill this gap.

Such questions are specific and answerable, and so fit on a Stack Exchange site. They would also fill a need I think maths educators have. (I would personally love it if there were more answers actually describing how/why methods actually help students, but I'm not sure how to encourage that, and this is not the question at hand.)

Compare this to a lot of the questions now, which are quite general or at a high level and so difficult to answer: "How can we help the very anxious student?", "How to encourage women to study maths", "Nontraditional calculus recitations".

I am not sure how to encourage more of these questions except to post more of them and answer them when others do post them. Suggestions most welcome.

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One flavor of question I think it interesting:

how would you design a course in blah?

Ideally, quote the standard selection of topics and beg the question of what alternative directions you might try. We've had some big-picture questions in this direction about the whole undergraduate curriculum, but, not so much about specific courses (unless I missed them, which seems entirely possible). Of course, mostly I'm thinking about university courses.

Much in the same direction, questions about what you'd like to see in a book on subject blah could be very useful. In my estimation, the writing of texts on math is an important component of math education.

I'm pretty busy with all my summer relaxation at the moment, but, these are my thoughts.

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I hesitate for quite some time to post in this thread, first as I was curious in others' opinions, second as I was a bit busy with the end of term, third as I do not really have a new idea. But let me recap my view on this:

In my mind the key take-away from the quoted meta.se posts is that there is no need for concern. We can continue what we are doing now as long as we want. This is good news. There is no need to inflate question or view counts just to "stay alive."

Now, of course, more activity would be nice yet the coming month will be rather calm (for seasonal reasons). But in April for example we were doing pretty well. Also, last year there was some minor frustration over the lack of activity at this time of the year, but then in September the site gained traction again.

What can be done to get more questions?

Roughly I see four sources of questions (and users)

  1. Us. We could ask more questions. You could ask a question, I could ask a question. Somehow I never asked a question, perhaps I should change this. Maybe I will this weekend, let's see. (I like the specific proposal in two other answers.)

  2. Our colleagues. If somebody has colleagues that do not know about our site, or only saw it long ago, yet might be interested in it. By all means tell them about it. If you hesitate to promote the site for some reason, please, speak up perhaps there is an issue that can be fixed.

  3. The SE network. While I am not completely convinced about a detail of a proposal made in this thread (drive-by traffic over the hot-list hardly has a long-term effect in my observation), it is no doubt true that there are many potential users in the network that we might want to attract one way or another. Are there any older questions that are in need of an answer? We could compile a list as a guide for interested passer-byes.

  4. "The World." It is always possible that somebody just finds our site via searching for somethings. Indeed, more than half of our traffic comes from this source. Thus, it is important that are content is discoverable. This came up in the context of the site self-evaluation thread: often our content is not easy to find. For some questions more expressive titles could help. An activity that could be useful is to go through old valuable questions and see which titles could be changed to something that might make them easier to find. I do not propose we start to educate ourself in SEO to optimize our titles, but I think it can make sense to try to anticipate what somebody that might want to find this information could type into a search engine. A side effect is that some older questions might resurface and draw additional attention.

Personally, I do not believe in organized or drastic activities. But I think being actively aware that one could do some small things here and there to create more questions or traffic, and doing those as time permits, is a good thing.

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    $\begingroup$ I very much agree with #4; an earlier response of mine on MESE.meta also mentioned the importance of clear titles. I think this might be a good place to start implementing (non-drastic) changes... $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jul 2 '15 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ A question: Is my Suggestion 1 here possible to implement while the site is in beta? $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jul 14 '15 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ I am afraid, no. It seems to me it would need a non-minimal change to the site layout plus some additional functionality, and I doubt this will be done for us specifically. There is no harm in making a feature-request though; it is an interesting idea. What might make the problem a bit less of a problem are tags. When looking at the tag-page secondary and somewhat lesser primary education seem visible. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 14 '15 at 11:33
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Right now we're at an average of 1.1 questions per day (we need 5 to 10) and around 393 visits/day (we need 500 to 1,500). One way to attract more views and with it more questions is to get one of our questions on the "Hot Network Questions" list (currently at the right side of the screen for those using desktop or laptop computers).

(For some idea of what questions on mathematics education became popular at Mathematics Stack Exchange, click here.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain why you think that "we need to do something drastic"? There is no risk of the site being closed and these level of activity are not the lowest we saw and pretty much expected for this time of the year. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 2 '15 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, I guess I'm just paranoid. I'll remove the sentence. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jul 3 '15 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ Related: meta.matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/372/77 $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Jul 7 '15 at 1:08
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I think it's time to say that 10 questions/day and graduation are no longer worthwhile goals for this site, since they are not realistic.

On that (also non-trivial) assumption, some options include:

  1. continuing with low traffic
  2. voluntarily shutting down
  3. merging into Math StackExchange
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    $\begingroup$ MSE traffic is so high, the educator questions would be lost. Is a low traffic stack such as we have, that awful to keep going? A narrow focus, but a group of intelligent members who are helping handle some important issues. $\endgroup$ – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 30 '16 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ The discussion could be more robust and more helpful within a bigger site. Educator questions wouldn't be lost, they'd be tagged. $\endgroup$ – user173 Jun 30 '16 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ The site was essentially split off from math.se and MO for various reasons. All of them still apply; some became rather more severe. (It should be noted that many of the question on this site would simply not be on-topic on math.se, or at least their topicality is controversial. Same for MO, though somewhat differently.) Also even if the question would not be lost (though I think this is an issue), the drive-by answers and attention they would get would over all rather decrease the quality. Thus I think 3 is neither viable nor desirable. I see no reason for 2. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 30 '16 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ Here is a relevant old discussion: discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/13439/…. @quid, I see your argument there for a distinct culture, and I like the goal, but the low volume of questions is an impediment to achieving it. $\endgroup$ – user173 Jul 1 '16 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that some more questions would be desirable. But I also believe that the culture I am talking about is easier to maintain on a smallish site. It is not clear to me why you think it is an impediment. The culture on this site is in my opinion distinct to the ones both on math.se and MO (which are also different). $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 1 '16 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, the culture does not feel right for me. I admire your facilitation all the same. $\endgroup$ – user173 Jul 12 '16 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ What does not feel right? Maybe we can improve things. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 12 '16 at 18:13

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