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I touched on this before, briefly, in Matt's Moderator Pro Tempore announcement...

This is a great site, but it's... got no middle class. There are only a tiny handful of users with more than 2K reputation points on the site! That's bad news for a healthy community: most of the tools for editing, closing, review are out of reach for most folk.

You have a few high-rep users, and some moderators, and a huge mass of low-rep users... But there's no middle class, no healthy population of shopkeepers minding their tags.

Obviously, y'all need to be voting - early and often. But I don't think that's the only or even the best solution... At some point, we need to get more users coming back regularly, feeding back into the site.

I see Sam has a "promotional" thread going here - that's a good start. If you haven't already chimed in there, please do so! Anything we can do to help you guys reach more people is a good start...

But beyond that, as an active user of the site, what have you observed standing in the way of users reaching that middle rung?

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    It's been a few months, @Shog9. How are we doing now? – ale Nov 25 '11 at 4:23
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    @Al: in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, Stand by for news! – Shog9 Nov 25 '11 at 4:49
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    Was the news the mod election? We don't seem to be doing much differently now. Some related concerns: Is this site active? – Matthew Read Jan 24 '12 at 16:33
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    @matthew: it was. Which isn't to say you're out of the woods by any means... I'm afraid some of this is simply the nature of the topic - I've recently started playing around with an Android device, and while this site has been helpful, the experience has also hammered home just how fragmented both the platform and the documentation are - getting this place to the point where it can be a "one stop shop" is no easy task... – Shog9 Jan 24 '12 at 17:28
  • Yeah, that's kind of been my feeling as well. Thanks. – Matthew Read Jan 24 '12 at 17:30
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I guess I fall into the "middle class" type of user (at the moment). I like to think I'm being generally helpful and contributing, but there's definitely a large, empty gap in the middle rep ranges which I've wondered about for a while. I'm going to go ahead and throw out a couple of things I've personally observed which have a negative impact on the number of available answerable questions. I don't claim any kind of statistical backing to any of this, mind you:

  • A lot of people legitimately don't know what this site is for. We get development questions regularly, and some users have even seemed completely perplexed when their questions were summarily closed. This makes me wonder if there are "power users" out there who aren't using Android Enthusiasts because they think it's for Android devs.
  • We get a lot of duplicate questions masquerading as legitimate ones. Everyone operates under the assumption that their particular phone model is a special snowflake, so there are repeat questions with the only difference being the device(s) involved. This gets out of hand pretty quick and people lose interest in answering them. As an example, there are quite a few tethering questions here.
  • We sometimes get questions that are totally obscure, either because people are trying to do really crazy things with their device (someone was asking about setting up a Ruby development environment the other day) or they're trying to use some really obscure app that nobody else has heard of. These generally don't get any answers, or just get poor ones.
  • I personally think we get a rather unfortunate amount of just plain bad questions. Usually things of the nature "My phone's [feature] isn't working. How can I fix it?" with no symptoms or other details. These are pretty much the same as the bad questions SO gets, but it's really impossible to guess what's happening here, whereas on SO you can often take an educated guess based on past experiences or common programming mistakes. Comments are left on said questions, but the posters very rarely follow up on them. We also seem to attract subjective "Which phone should I buy?" or "What's the best app for X?" questions, which dilute the good content.
  • People aren't voting as much as they were in the beta. I have no hard evidence for this, but I will say that I feel like I see a lot more questions and answers that are good and useful but only sitting at +1 (or even 0). I'm not excluding myself from this, either, and I'm trying to vote more (though I've been gone recently). Obviously this has a negative impact on the growth of any potential "middle class".
  • I agree with Matthew Read: We get a fair number of users who just use this site as tech support and then never come back. It's convenient, it says "Android" in the title, and it's got the adorable green robots. It certainly seems like as good a place as any to dump a quick "help me plz" question.

That said, I also think that it's somewhat hard to attract real power users to a Q&A site like this. Now I'm not saying we can't or that we should give up because I really enjoy having Android Enthusiasts around, but the nature of the beast is that much of what happens on e.g. XDA is very discussion based. There's a lot of trial and error, people experimenting with things and almost bricking their phones then collaborating on solutions, and developers putting out bleeding-edge stuff for others to test and give feedback on. We just can't cater to that here, and I think it does affect our userbase to some extent. Is it necessarily a bad thing? No, I don't think so. I'm personally glad to be able to come here when I have a question so that I can ask it without it getting lost in a sea of discussion and just get answers. I do think that it's a little bit of a handicap, though.

That turned out to be a bit more lengthy than I intended, but that's my $0.02.

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    Good stuff, man - thanks for taking the time to write it up! – Shog9 Aug 16 '11 at 2:02
  • This is all stuff I had thought about but couldn't put into words properly. Great post. – Matthew Read Aug 16 '11 at 12:43
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    +1 I couldn't agree more, especially to "masquerading as legitimate ones.". We have an overflow of insufficient-memory and locked-out tagged questions in which I've lost complete interest, even though I'm very active and engaging with questions in general. – Firelord Aug 8 '15 at 18:40
  • couldn't find this on Google, but what does that's my $0.02 mean at the end? – iBug Nov 1 '18 at 12:28
  • @iBug My two cents means someone's opinion being worth only 2-cents (i.e. not a significant amount). – Andrew T. Nov 17 '18 at 9:49
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I've thought about this some more, and I think we had a bit of a shift after the site went public. Though I won't point them out, there were a few highly active users I can think of who largely disappeared after that.

I'm not sure why that happened, but I do wonder if it's related to the rep requirements suddenly doubling. I was about to hit 10k rep then (Trusted User) and it was a bit of a shock when I realized I was going to have to duplicate my entire performance so far just in order to get back where I was before, since now Trusted User is 20k rep.

That must have been immensely discouraging for some users. Maybe now we're just waiting for new users to come up and fill the middle tier that was suddenly vacated by the change in rep requirements?

I'm not sure it makes sense to have the same rep requirements as a huge site like SO either. I would happily trust GAThrawn or eldarerathis, for example, with the 10k tools. Their work flagging and close-voting is immensely useful and they have great judgment. We don't require mods to have 20k rep before making them mods, right? I'm the only one over 20k and I just got there recently!

Maybe we already have a middle class, and we're just not making effective use of them.

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    I do tend to agree with your second point (however self-serving that may seem). The influx of questions on SO is so great that hitting 10k rep (or 5k, or 2k, etc) isn't that hard if you want to do it, but this and other sites just move more slowly. SO is a very different ecosystem than any other SE site, so maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to consider adapting smaller sites a little bit in light of that fact. – eldarerathis Sep 9 '11 at 1:29
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    Actually I think the rep requirements more than doubled after beta. I had the mod tools with 2K (I think) during beta, haven't got them back yet, and I'm standing at over 8K now. I know it was quite a disappointment to suddenly lose all my powers, though I do understand why. Can agree that it would make sense to do some kind of scaling on rep requirements (maybe based on total active users, or total rep of all users or something similar) this would also mean that beta sites wouldn't need an exception for rep requirements, they'd just be a small site, with appropriately small rep reqs. – GAThrawn Sep 9 '11 at 9:33
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    It would probably be better for new/small sites to have dynamic rep limit, e.g. top N user or top X% of user having certain level of privileges, to ensure there is always someone to fill certain roles. – Lie Ryan Sep 10 '11 at 6:28
  • @LieRyan: yes, but that's not easy to calibrate. You might get positions full with people no longer on the site but still with high rep (since it doesn't fade), and you might simply not get enough people for the job. – o0'. Jan 28 '12 at 11:17
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    @Lohoris: you won't need to calibrate it; the dynamic rep limit I was suggesting was only for the earliest stage of the site, say, in the first 6 months, when normal rep limit would rule everyone out of every privileges; dynamic rep limit would let the privileges grow together with the site. – Lie Ryan Jan 28 '12 at 12:02
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A few projects in the works that may remediate some of these concerns:

  • Improving the algorithm that controls the official Twitter account so that it brings better content and value to followers.

  • Building relationships with mobile & Android blogs for upcoming collaborations (You will soon see an ad for Android Guys in the sidebar + an upcoming program that will "port" over our Android release calendar wiki to Android Guys and other outside sites - Please let me know if you know someone else who wants to host this release calendar).

  • Contests! - This relates to both bullets above. Expect a giveaway in the near future executed through Twitter/Facebook in collaboration with an outside Android and/or mobile site.

Any other ideas? Further questions?

Also, does anyone have a connection at a major Android manufacturer who can help me get a hold of a Thrill, Bionic, Vigor or Galaxy S II?

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I think part of it is the type of user we attract, for whatever reason. Most people seem to come looking for a quick fix to a problem and then leave. Like I've said before, I've seen the same problem on XDA. Lots of users who take a little and give nothing.

I do wonder if that's just how users break down across the Android platform itself -- hardcore early adopters, and then a bunch of people for whom it's just a phone. Not a ton of power users who aren't experts. If that's the case, it will take extra effort to bring in a disproportionate number of those users until the platform matures and we get those users naturally.

I've also seen several users get excited for a week or so, answering a bunch of questions ... and then leaving, before really reaching the middle-class you speak of. I'm pretty confused as to why that happens.

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    I wonder, does super user experience this problem? A mass exodus of "one time askers" and a smaller margin of people who are willing to help them? – Bryan Denny Aug 15 '11 at 17:59
  • Good question. It does have a low number of active users. – Matthew Read Aug 15 '11 at 18:22
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    "I've also seen several users get excited for a week or so, answering a bunch of questions ... and then leaving, before really reaching the middle-class you speak of. I'm pretty confused as to why that happens." -- I've witnessed this behavior for flashing ROM or kernel/filesystem related questions. The answers to them are hard to verify or test, so I think the voters generally would tend to ignore such complicated answer, and since they can't really verify the usefulness, hence no voting, and the encouragement of the user loses after a week or so. – Firelord Aug 8 '15 at 18:56

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