I understand the betas for Literature.SE and a whole mess of others are shutting down in a few days.

Now clearly we didn't get the axe. However, comparing our stats on Area51 with theirs, frankly the numbers are quite similar. The only place we have Literature clearly beat is that we have four times their "questions per day". However, we'd need about 8 times more than we have to make it into "healthy" territory there.

Most of the rest of our problem stats to me seem to boil down to "not enough people here".

So are we set to go the same way?

  • I see you accepted a answer. But we still don't have a comment by a SE mod, if our trend is positive/negative and they might not look on a "resolved" question. I would leave it open until we get a comment
    – Hauser
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 14:44
  • @shog9 I ping you to notice you of imo this important question. Your comment/thoughts/info would be really welcome :)
    – Hauser
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 14:45
  • @Hauser - I'd like to see that too. However, I think that's unlikely, Steve is a History SE mod (they have access to the same stats, right?), and his reasoning seems quite sound to me. Additionally, there's now a followup discussion question at meta.history.stackexchange.com/questions/208/… , which I think would be a more productive place to move most of the contents this particular discussion not covered by his answer.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 18:39
  • ...that being said, If I see a second (comment upvote or two) of Hauser's reuqest, I'll do it.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 18:45
  • Steve is a site mod, shog9 is a SE wide mod and member of SE team afaik. A site mod cannot see any background stats, only close and edit any question.
    – Hauser
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 19:08

4 Answers 4


Only time will tell. Each SE site has certain expectations they must live up to, and if they don't then they get the axe. Your observation that we don't have enough people here is spot on, and ultimately that is what leads to the demise of most SE sites that don't make it. If anyone has any suggestions on how we can increase the number of regular site visitors, then please share that with us. Thanks!

There are five specific criteria they use to measure the success of each site, and we are doing "okay" in 3 of the 5. Below is a current summary, but this link will allow you to monitor our status in real time moving forward.

  • Questions per day - Currently at 2.9, 15 per day is considered a healthy beta.
  • Percentage answered - Currently at 94%, which is excellent, with 90% the goal.
  • Number of users - Currently have 112 avid and 938 total. This is considered okay, but we need 150 users with 200+ rep (we have 112), 10 users with 2000+ rep (we have 9), and 5 users with 3000+ rep (we have 3).
  • Answer ratio - Currently at 1.9, but the goal is 2.5 answers per question.
  • Visits per day - Currently at 341, and the goal is 1500.

The first and last items both need a LOT of work, while the others are acceptable. If we can't improve considerably on the two bad ones, then this site will end up being dropped along with the others that didn't meet expectations.

BTW - We have some people who are close to crossing over into the higher thresholds, but they cna't get there if we don't have folks voting up their answers/questions. There are a lot of things we can do to get all our numbers up, and if we don't then we are going to lose the site.

  • I guess the hope is that we slowly gain users as people find the site. I guess the best thing that could be done there is to take every legitimate oppertunity to link to questions here (to get more visibility on Google).
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 14:58
  • What is the reason for giving sites "the axe"? Are our sites requiring such maintenance that it isn't worth it? I think there is plenty enough activity on sites like ours to justify our existence. I really appreciate the fact that SE has a diverse range of sites, and would rather not continue to contribute if there is any danger of SE being reduced to a bunch of "technical support" and gaming questions. Commented May 3, 2012 at 16:40
  • 3
    Is there advertising that is done for the site? I mean I think college age people are worthy contributors, but I'm not sure that there is much awareness of the site.
    – ihtkwot
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 12:48

I suspect the reason History was spared is similar to why Biblical Hermeneutics is still allowed to remain open. Shog9 posted in our meta that high-quality content and strong participation among core users were the primary factors for letting the site continue. Like hermeneutics, history is somewhat of a niche topic (though not quite as esoteric) and somewhat removed from the Stack Exchange core audience of technical people.

It also appears that the SE management takes into account subject matter when they evaluate a site. Literature seemed to have a lot of cross-over with the Science Fiction site, but I'm not sure there's much competition in the history space.

Finally, Shog9 encouraged us to find more people like us to participate. The problem is that if too many people stop participating, the site will cease to be viable. So leaving the site open is a risk for the SE folks. Growth (even slow growth) is probably more important than the Area 51 targets, from what I understand.

  • +1 agree. Still it would be nice to see how the area51 metrics of this site change, so we can see, if we grow constantly, also maybe slowly
    – Hauser
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 16:19

I wonder if the SE format might be imposing limitations on certain subjects. My understanding is that SE evolved out of computer related questions and it would correlate with the way in which questions here are asked and answered. I'm not necessarily saying that it the format is unworkable for history and other subjects, but it doesn't feel like it was designed for it. Particularly, in subjects like history debate is an important part of the subject (granted this is to a lesser extent true in technical subjects, but you can't argue with the BSoD). I'm surprised that the chat function hasn't been used here in 83 days, but I suppose that has to do with the lack of traffic.

Which leads me to my next point. I think the bigger issue is that most of the people involved in SE, from my experience, seem to be people who have some sort of technical background. They were ultimately drawn in from SE proper, CS, or similar sites. Obviously this puts us at a disadvantage as experts in history are less likely to come to our corner of SE as opposed to say network professionals to the technical side of SE. As an activist most of my friends graduated in social sciences and non-technical disciplines such as literature, my friends who are history majors have never heard of SE. I don't know if this has properly been taken in to consideration.

  • Non-technical sites like Cooking, Fitness, Skeptics, Home improvement work too and don't create much more questions per day. This isn't a fundamental problem imo. But it is harder NOW to attract SE user to the new and more diversified beta sites. imho SE should think about better advertising of such sites within the SE network.
    – Hauser
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 17:41
  • @Hauser, That could help, but if the problem is that SE in general is attracting only a certain type of interested parties (such as computer experts and gamers) then this will only draw a fraction of people less likely to be particularly active on sites like history SE or literature SE. The problem to me is that people like myself (who came for the SE and stayed for the history SE), are already largely tapped. I think what we need is to reach out to experts in the field (I have a discussion of this open here: meta.history.stackexchange.com/q/208/742) Commented May 3, 2012 at 17:58
  • @BrotherJack I think you are right. The reason in my opinion that cooking, fitness, and skeptics are able to thrive with so many tech people in the Stack environment is that those are things everyone does. History on the other hand is something that everyone is engaged in, but it takes a slightly different approach than say the problem solving nature of a tech job. Historians are interested in the who, what, why, and how? There is some overlap between that and say cs, but not that much.
    – ihtkwot
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 12:47

Coincidence! I just thought about making a meta thread here "Are we close to getting closed" too, as I saw economics.se shutting down.

I want to ask the stackexchange mods (e.g. @shog9), if they can give us a hint, if this site shows a good or bad traffic trend? All the stats are nice, unfortunately most don't look to often on them or keep track of how they change.

As far as I read some of the currently closed sites showed a traffic decline, less questions doesn't seem to be main problem, considering there are non-beta sites with around 3-5 questions per day.

What this site distinguishes from the closed ones is the amount of user with middle and high reputation putting effort into the site, very good answer ratio, healthy voting and meta discussion.

I'm a member of german.se, similar questions per day ratio for long time, but our traffic afaik grows slowly & constantly as the user number.

I think the only real problem (legitimating a close) our site currently shows is lack of advertising and many history-geeks being more interested in their local history and debating/googling it in their national language. At least in Germany we have a lot of hobby archeologists etc, smaller history forums. Funnily, covering worldwide history often poorly and not showing interesting questions from people from the other side of the globe makes me often watch history.se. It's the most international history forum I know. If this site gets closed I will probably shut down my participation in many of the smaller stackexchange niche beta sites with similar stats.

So I would really like to see a comment/answer by the SE mods where we stand, simply shutting down sites without a warning, while other with very similar stats are kept open leaves me a bit perplexed.

Also showing a bit more history.se questions on the front page would be fair. I don't know what the criterions are for putting a question on the http://stackexchange.com/questions site. But I never see a history.se question, but often very boring (to me) questions on simple english or mathematics problems with dozens of answers, more traffic (as these sites started earlier). I'm not sure the system is very fair here in sense of advertising new and smaller beta sites...

  • I would also like to see an answer to the question of what our trends look like. In fact, given that it does appear to be bad trendlines that got the others killed, you could argue that is my question.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 14:56
  • @T.E.D. thats why I pointed explicitly at shog9. We had a similar meta thread on german.se and no one of the SE mods answered/commented. I don't know if our traffic is declining actually, as nobody notes the stats number down.
    – Hauser
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 15:00
  • Looking over the entries on that questions link, its tough to find a question there with less than 6 upvotes. Perhaps upvoting questions more is part of the answer then? I know I'm probably overly picky for which Q's I upvote.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 17:56
  • @T.E.D. I dont know the "hot questions" algorithm but probably something like #(number)votes on question, #votes on answer, # of answers, #views within a short time period making it HOT :) But the #votes is strongly linked to traffic and registered users. History is a hobby to most here, I dont visit history.se every day, so many votes within short time period will not happen too often here
    – Hauser
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 18:15

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