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Proposal: Programming Language Design

Every question that has received more than 5 votes was submitted over a 2 day period, November 17 and 18.

Very few of the questions submitted in the last 6 weeks have received any votes.

Is this a normal pattern for proposals, or is something strange happening here?

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  • 5
    Fairly standard pattern. Big influx and excitement on day one, with most questions and lots of votes used. After that, activity will either continue firmly (demonstrating a serious community with enough content and people to be viable) or will die off quickly (suggesting lots of hype but little or no significant effort or thought, and no support at all from an existing community as required). It basically means nobody has both 1. upvotes left to give to questions and 2. intent to upvote any of them, since the limit is five upvotes per user per proposal.
    – Nij
    Dec 30, 2022 at 10:36
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    To be honest, well... we did kinda cheat a bit (by shifting votes from 11 vote questions to 9 vote questions) so that this site would get enough questions to pass over to the next stage. However the main reason is pretty simple: votes. We have a 5 vote limit, but most of the followers (me included) joined during Nov 17-18. During this time, we used our votes and advertised the proposal on various places. However we omitted the "use your votes wisely" part; people are now just following but not voting, which is pretty much the reason why few questions have over 10 votes. So it's strange, yeah Dec 30, 2022 at 12:19
  • It seems unusual that people are interested enough to follow the proposal and submit new questions but not to vote for any. ¶ The next 19 questions average only 4 votes each. That means that 114 more votes are needed to meet the minimum requirements, and that's assuming they all go to these 19 questions. That doesn't sound good. Dec 30, 2022 at 14:15
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    @RayButterworth We started with maybe a dozen or two interested SE users, mostly from CGCC, who posted the majority of the early questions, and experienced enough with SE to vote on them. After that, most of our followers came from Reddit and Discord advertising, and most of those followers didn't actually contribute any posts/votes. A small number of our followers since the initial period of activity have actually posted questions, and it tends to be around that time that we get a few new questions to the +10 threshold. I don't think many people posted questions but didn't also vote. Jan 1 at 6:35
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    @UndoneStudios - it's not a "cheat" to move votes from 11 vote questions to 9...it's rather inherent in the [arguably [intentionally] broken] Area51 process: what should happen is as soon as a question hits more than the minimum needed to move to the next phase (ie 11 votes, currently), it should disallow upvotes, so that you spread your votes to other good-but-not-as-upvoted questions
    – warren
    Jan 3 at 17:39
  • To make things worse, it looks like almost all the votes cast in the last few weeks have been down-votes, which in terms of helping this site succeed is a total waste of votes. Jan 9 at 1:35
  • @RayButterworth - if the votes coming in are downvotes, it may be a sign this proposal shouldn't go forward. Or maybe that the voters don't understand what they're doing.
    – warren
    Jan 9 at 17:28
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    Note that downvotes don't contribute to your voting limit
    – Seggan
    Jan 10 at 13:43
  • "It seems unusual that people are interested enough to follow the proposal and submit new questions but not to vote for any." Following and submitting only require verifying an email; voting also requires completing a registration. Jan 12 at 19:59

1 Answer 1

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There's nothing strange about the behaviour at all.

It's rather expected actually. As Nij said in the comments, the first day will have a lot of excitement and then things will settle down. And while there isn't as much of a burst of new users, there is still a steady supply of people pressing the follow button every day. The problem seems to be more that new followers on the proposal aren't voting.

Why?

Well let's take a look at how the journey of someone coming to the proposal with no knowledge of how SE/Area 51 works.

This person will see a cool post on a place like reddit (because there are relevant programming language design focused subreddits that exist - and yes, a SE site can coexist with subreddits because reddit is more of an informal site while here is a very organised and structured question and answer system). The post has a title which is written to contain the bare minimum to get people to join the proposal (less is more) and a link to the proposal page.

Once they get to the proposal page and they struggle with the area 51 account creation process (which quite a few people mentioned was an issue), they finally click the follow button. After that, they see a list of top questions and think "hey those are cool I'll upvote them." At no stage have they been informed about the finer rules of site creation and there's a good chance that they never will be informed because they're here for one reason and one reason only - to click a single button.

Now sure some people might be interested in exploring the rest of area 51, but for the most part, humans are somewhat lazy. If there's already been a lot of effort to accomplish something that they think shouldn't take much effort, chances are they won't come back for more on their own.

Every person from an external site will go through this journey and either successfully follow the path described or give up at the start because of the difficulties of actually interacting with the site. That explains why there's a whole lot of followers, but not many 10+ score answers.

But that's not the only factor at play. There's still 2 more things to cover: the Fastest Gun in the West effect and strategic voting.

The Fastest Gun in the West (fgitw) effect is something that has plagued Stack Exchange sites for years - the first answers to a question will be massively upvoted and seen, but later answers will fall by the wayside because of things like default sorting by top and the high visibility of the existing answers. That means that late answers which may be more accurate or correct than the existing answers may never be seen or given appropriate recognition. This effect also applies to the example questions list - the top questions are the first thing many people see, and the pages of 1, 0 and -1 score questions are never looked at because they're hidden away.

As mentioned, there's also the consequences of strategic voting. Due to the decision to only allow 5 votes per proposal, people dedicated to getting the site launched will move their votes around to boost the scores of lesser seen posts. So a question that reaches 10 score will become a 9 score again, even though it once counted towards the required question count.

In conclusion, it's really the result of the site not really being that well suited to onboarding new users in a way that effectively communicates the fact that voting is important. Sure, people can investigate for themselves, but unless it's explicitly spelled out in the original advertising on other sites (which there's a chance it won't be because who wants to read a whole bunch of intricate text on an advertisement), people will just click a button and leave. And then on top of that and the struggles of signing up (see here for an example), voting is going to be impacted by simple physiological effects that can't really be mitigated. All one can do is just wait for the votes to eventually make their way to the right place.

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    That the process to get signed-up and vote helpfully is so [intentionally?] broken speaks to problems with site management. If it's going to stay this broken, Area51 should probably be retired. If Arrea51 "should" stay around, then it needs to be far easier to sign-up ad new users need to know how the system works in a much clearer/more obvious manner
    – warren
    Jan 3 at 17:41
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    @warren that's exactly right. A51 seems to be something crucial to how the concept of SE operates, yet has been left to rot by SE.
    – lyxal
    Jan 3 at 21:38

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