This question was posed by me in the ongoing election campaign.

This is a tough one but to stimulate your thinking to what you can do as a moderator to improve the situation. Our site has about 180 users with reputation in the bracket of 2k to 10k and this number doesn't seem to have changed significantly, at least in the three years I have been a member of this community. I like to think of this section of the community as the White Blood Cells (immunity cells keeping the site clean and healthy by editing questions and answers, casting close & reopen votes, approving tag wiki edits, reviewing and deleting questions) while the moderators are like lungs, liver and kidneys taking care of eliminating more toxic stuff. But, there are a couple of issues around this: Low strength of this section of community is perhaps endemic to the site as discussed several years ago You need the bourgeois blues. Low activity levels of this section as discussed recently, though focusing only on review aspects (How can we spend some effort on improving our over all activity?). A clear indicator of the low involvement is the fact that one rarely sees even a blatantly off-topic question being closed by 5 votes; invariably you find the mod hammer as the deciding vote. As a moderator, how would you address these two issues (if possible) to keep the site more vibrant and active, while freeing your time for more important stuff that only moderators can do?

Elections apart, this question merits to be discussed separately in site meta to address this white elephant in the room for improving health of the site. The very fact that it is the only question asked highlights the indifference and is symptomatic of the problem being discussed. It should be a wake up call for some introspection and healthy discussion


3 Answers 3


Yes, the situation seems endemic to our site only with only 60-70 users between 2k and 10k reputation points. On top of that, not all of them are active Q&A contributors which aggravates the problem. The situation is so bad I can easily count on my fingers the users who participate on the site regularly and visibly (to others). I also know that we have the second lowest percent answered rank network wide. So, I understand the gravity of this situation well enough.

So what I can do as a Moderator to ameliorate this situation?

First, we must grasp the reality that we are not a site oriented strictly to professionals (which makes us different from SuperUser which shares the same motto with us), and that acts as a problem. We are a site oriented towards consumers, who do not care about anything our community needs, expects or wants (and why should they, as we are, too most of them, just an online support). On top of that, the consumer base is incredibly big, something Apple.SE doesn't have to deal with, so despite sharing the same motto, it is we who are different!

Being an enthusiast is a hobby, not a profession . You can be an enthusiast when you are young, in school or college, or have a profession giving you ample time to spend your time on your hobbies. But once life kicks in, enthusiasm fades away or has to give space to more serious things in life. (Movies.SE and Travel.SE are no different from us in this regard.) It happened with me too, when I could barely post 30 answers within a span of 12-13 months, with nearly no other contribution to the site in 2016-17. Even two of our veteran Moderators recently left (one is due soon) because they just couldn't maintain the same level of enthusiasm or perhaps, couldn't find time for it.

We are an anomaly. We have survived and thrived, to an extent, for 8+ years. We have to adapt accordingly, and we may not be able to meet all the criterias other sites in the network do, in terms of overall performance. A mature (in terms of age) generation prefers more signal over noise over time, so they can easily see the benefit in sticking up with this site than the various forums out there, provided they can find time. So we need to actively target new and young blood, provide an atmosphere where they can thrive without deteriorating signal-to-noise ratio beyond a point, contribute here, and possibly, make them understand (action speaks louder than words) the merit of contributing here than elsewhere.

Some hardcore power users cannot join us such as Magisk (topjohnwu), Xposed (rovo89), GravityBox (CEC0) et al, because they develop things so they need feedback and for that, forums are much suitable. We have to aim for users who stick with former's products because they are often power users too and many of them are willing to find solutions technically and simultaneously help others. They are the same people who sometimes stick up with forums for quite some time, despite the various structural shortcomings in their forums.

I really do not know why this latter category of users do not come and hang around on this site. Do they not know about us much in general or do they fail to find content useful to keep them here, or do they like a community more on informal side?

I can't change people's taste. All I can do is help in increasing this site's visibility and improving its content. I have always believed that great, insightful and helpful content drives, attracts and inspires people to help others, as it inspired me to stay here and see merit in this site and the whole network, in general.

Hence, since my beginning here, I have tried some reasonably doable things, in my capacity as an ordinary user.

First and foremost is the quality control of this site. It is no doubt that Google search often, if not always, links to our site in first few results when searched with Android related issues. I have sometimes made well written (i.e easily comprehensible) answers, even both Q&A, with that thing in mind. I have also heavily flagged, close voted (explicitly, and not much through review queue though), and edited posts. And I could continue to do this because the Moderators did their job well enough despite the workload of this site and their life.

At other times, I have been around subreddit Tasker, whenever time permitted, and linked to a Q/A of our site's wherever felt appropriate. This part is something our very active users with active presence here and on other forums can do without explicitly making efforts.

On the part of maintaining that user base, I have became somewhat liberal over time in dealing with noise, whether flagging it, or reducing my expectations for upvoting, when I calculated the contribution a user seems to be making, just to help in providing an atmosphere aligned with their taste.

I really don't have a pompous offering of organising some virtual or real-world event to attract people, because I have been doing aforesaid things all alone (and I know some users who do it better than me), on my own initiative, to make this site a more better place for me and fellow users who shares the same passion like mine.

So honestly, I conclude that Moderators don't really have much time, because they are regular users like us with added burden and responsibilities. We can chill out, don't return for long, but they have to think a lot (I believe) to do just that. So there is not much they can do within their free time reserved for this site, especially when they are working professionals and have a family too, except to do their job well enough, efficiently and in time. As long as they clear the mess swiftly, amicably, and maintain good will with others, the burden of the responsibility actually falls over the shoulders of us, the community, together.

  • +1 for the conclusion that it is entirely on the community shoulders
    – beeshyams
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 12:10

Houston, we've been having a problem.

From my experience here since early 2017 (or late 2016 - doesn't matter), there are a large portion of users thinking we're a help forum ask asking their specific, highly specialized questions, like "My Android phone had this and it's now behaving like this". These questions are generally hard or impossible to answer without checking the OP's phone, and therefore they're best asked to the aftersale service rather than a public forum. Further more, there are many, many duplicated bad questions just like that, and we can't even close them as duplicates because we don't know what the causes are, and more importantly, whether the same solution applies. While this issue more or less also pertains to Stack Overflow, it's probably not a real issue, as most new users' questions are easily answered if they Google for 5 seconds (fun fact: the new CoC banned comments like LMGTFY). Questions from new users on our site? No. You can Google them? A small data collected at the time of composing this answer: 13149 out of 20975 questions on our site has zero answers - worse than almost every single beta site - and a number of them even have 10k+ views. Meanwhile, A note on this is that XDA is having the same issue, but very way too much significantly less severe than we're having here. This issue has been well-addressed in the 2016 moderator election questionnaire (I just read it all a few days ago).

We are a Stack Exchange site designed for professional or at least civil Q&A, not a help forum. There are too many differences between us and a forum like XDA. We have a relatively strict quality requirement, as designed by SE, and consequently more restrictions for users to participate. For example, one needs 50 reputation to be able to comment on others' posts, making the startup difficult for users wo want to contribute. It is difficlt because the majority (> 80%) of our questions are those personalized, specialized questions, as talked about in the 1st paragraph, which, without asking for further information, are solely impossible to answer. Consequently, we're getting 10+ NAA's on a daily basis, which roughly takes up 1/3 of our daily answers (from all users).

As a result, it's getting harder for new users to be able to participate effectively. In the meantime, there's no way we can stop existing users for quitting. It's a constant process. Existing users, especially high-profile users, often quit for reasons that no one has control over, for example their lives are getting busier, they're moving to their new jobs, etc. Every commmunity faces this, and we're no exception. A community needs a sustainable stream of new blood to keep alive, and that's what we're dying for.

Stack Exchange is a series of websites, whose value depends almost 100% on UGC (user generated content). If we don't have valuable content, we can't attract new users. While we do have some noticeably good questions and answers, the quantity is just too small. Have a look on XDA. They have many posts about Xposed (where rovo89 is a moderator of that section) and modules, Magisk, TWRP, SuperSU (now dead) etc. They have separate sections for those topics, and dedicated sections for developers who want to discuss about developing on those frameworks or announce their projects. Users can ask questions about corresponding projects developed. Users who are familiar with the projects, sometimes developers themselves, answer them. That's a healthy cycle, where problems continue to get solved, and discussions go. We, on the other side, being a Stack Exchange site, have been rejecting open discussions, which is more or less unavoidable.

There's another thing that I'd like to talk about - Android itself. It's year 2018, the era of smartphones. Nokia's Symbian has long died, and Microsoft killed Windows Phone by repeatedly carrying out developer-unfriendly updates. There are only two living industries in the smartphone market - Apple's iOS and Google's Android. iOS is Apple's proprietary software and never runs outside of iPod touches, iPhones and iPads. Apple controls everything about iOS. They're raising the prices so iPhones and iPads are less and less affodable by the lower class. While I dislike the contempt between iOS users and Android users (it's been an old meme in at least China), I can't deny that it's true, even if it's partially. Apple users are generally richer and tend to be more educated (more literate), whereas a huge amount of Android users fall into that "lower class". This is a decisive reason (one of them) that Android forums attract more low-quality than Apple forums. Slighter symptoms are like when they submit online posts as if they were chit-chatting, employing bad English language, and subsequently less readability and overall quality. Heavier symptoms are such people don't know how to Google, or even how to ask. This results in bad questions, usually lacking key details or being plainly uncomprehensive. (Stack Overflow don't really suffer from this, as questions of such class are generally Google-able, and sometimes better yet, closed as duplicate.) We're a greater victim of this, as as it's currently designed, we have little to no way to defend against the stream of LQ questions. This adds another burdening layer to our overall post quality. A lesser problem is that we don't rank high in search engines, as opposed to Stack Overflow or XDA Forum, but I don't know the exact impact on this case.

An immediate conclusion I can draw now, is that in the framework of Stack Exchange's Q&A style, we're unfortunately out of luck. While I'm not any good at community moderation, all the conspicuous solutions that I can suggest for now, are partially or totally against the design of Stack Exchange, and therefore impractical, for example, opening up to open discussions.

Sorry if all the above paragraphs feels depressing, but that's my real thought. I'd like to fill the last paragraph with some practical, possible eases, if not solutions. The first thing is that we can manually add useful content to our knowledge base, by posting self-answered questions. We generate many questions on a day-to-day basis, by playing with Android (not just using Android). While such questions are easily self-solved by an Android Enthusiast, an average person may not easily find out the solution and usually end up asking. If we share. That says, we can "blog" here, in the form of providing useful self-answered Q & As. It'd probably be acceptable and beneficial to enforce Stack Exchange's quality requirement less strictly.

  • +1 A community needs a sustainable stream of new blood to keep alive, and that's what we're dying for crux of the problem, given we can't change SE structure
    – beeshyams
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 12:07

Since this was asked in election run up, I would like to address it from the point of “What would one do if elected a moderator”.

After several thought cycles on this, I have come to the firm conclusion that moderators are already doing what they can and the ball needs to picked up the community itself. The basic difference between a moderator doing activities to encourage and a normal user is that of impact. Reasons are evident – a moderator being a figure of authority carries more respect and their attention makes one feel special . As a consequence reinforcing positive behaviour is more impactful

I would like to list out things which moderators are doing , and which perhaps can be added on just so that it is formalized and would probably help new moderators :

  • Improving the quality of questions and answers. Be it, new comers or existing users. Izzy, is a moderator who does this par excellence and is a legion (In Izzy’s case it was true even before becoming mod)

  • Appreciating good work done be it in a salvaging edit, efforts taken to find a dupe or giving a meaningful suggestion. This I have seen both as a comment below the question that can be seen by all or mentioning in chat

  • Correcting mistakes and offering suggestions to improve. More often on chat giving an opportunity for the user to correct and discuss if needed , without making it obvious to all (unlike a comment below on the question). This and above I have often seen from Dan Hulme and this shows a sense of discretness (Sorry to see you go Dan)

Only additional suggestion I have is that the user group we have under discussion is small < 200, of which say about 20 are active . Tracking those and giving a shout out when they reach a milestone and offering hep in case they have difficulty in handling review tools may help in two ways. One is recognition and second an indirect reminder that they need to also use tools they are empowered with to help the community.

In response to Firelord’s observation that mods have their hands full already and should not be expected to focus on this, my thoughts are different. Fortunately , our community hardly ever sees snark, trolling, flaming and clash of egos. These I can understand can be major time and energy suckers for mods, so in the absence of these, new mods can make a conscious effort towards this end

What can other high rep users do?

Practically everything that is stated above . To supplement and complement moderator efforts. This cannot be externally driven and needs to be realized within the group that they too owe their bit to make the site a better place. In doing so,there may be push back from new users especially , in which case it is best to flag and move on

There is one thing that we can do that is more impactful - upvoting

Our site for some reason is very parsimonious, when it comes to upvoting. Users who are active on other sites attest to this. Reasons may be many and valid and this may need a separate meta question to discuss . Yet, I think we could :

  • Be a little more liberal in upvoting and make it easier for more to join the backbone pool. I do not mean that this should be at the cost of dilution of standards but when in doubt , to upvote or not, upvoting may be better

  • Upvote if the answer is a good effort and is on the right lines, and mentioning it along with hints to improve it. Again Izzy is the indisputable champion in this. More than a few answers of mines are entirely his in substance

  • Existing answer may lack a detail , instead of posting another answer to draw attention to it , maybe it is more helpful to provide that to the the person who posted the answer and once done upvote that

  • Instead of just upvoting a right answer, also comment that the answer is right. It a) sends a positive vibe and when you point out a mistake on some other occasion, it is taken in the right spirit b) It helps future visitors to see affirmative comments, especially in cases when it is not the accepted answer

That said, I am at a loss to suggest more impactful means. Perhaps, this is partly due to the structure of our site and the topic as iBug points out


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