I'm not very active on the site anymore. I recently came back a bit, and was a bit puzzled.

Most of the metrics look fine, but the answered-question ratio is down to 75% - which is much lower than it used to be during my active time here. I think we never actually went below 80% during the first year. I had a quick look at the questions without answers - and they look, at a first glance, fine. My first guess - low quality easy homework questions causing this - doesn't seem to be necessarily true.

This metric needn't be bad. For example, if this comes from a larger user base and more representation of small fields with little activity, it's quite natural that very specific niche questions are less likely to be answered.

So, the first step should be gathering more data.

If you used to answer questions, but are doing less so today - what's the reason?

If you only contributed with questions and not with answers - why is that so?

I'll start with myself: I used to answer questions a lot, but a combination of less time, and an increase in the uninteresting-to-interesting ratio of question made me stop participation in this site alltogether somewhere in the beginning of the past academicyear.

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    $\begingroup$ The 75% appears to have been calculated from 829 "unanswered" questions - defined as those with no upvoted answers. These include 84 questions with answers - in some cases more than one answer - but none upvoted. I'm not suggesting that we should lower our standards for upvoting, but it may be worth reviewing such questions to see if some merit upvotes. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 8:44

3 Answers 3


Looking at the list of unanswered questions, I suspect part of the reason might be that there aren't enough experts on the site. Most of the questions I see listed there are fairly long and technically detailed, and it seems like many of them would benefit from some particular field expertise when being answered.


I completely agree with Adam Bailey's comment.

Another reason could be that many (unanswered) questions seem to be posted by new users who join the site just to ask that one question and never come back to check on it. This means that answers to these questions will usually not get accepted, nor receive any further attention from the OP. Especially if I happen to see such a question already a few days after its posted (as is usually the case for me), I know from experience that such OPs won't be checking back to see the answer as they've moved on already.

Hence I feel a reluctance to answer these questions, since I never really know if I've answered it fully, or the asker needs more explaining. Nor do I know if my answer has even been read or helpful to the OP.

Many questions by first time users are not of much general interest to others. So on top of not knowing if I'm helping OP, I don't think I'm helping anyone else much really. Also usually such questions are not very interesting in the first place anyway. = No intrinsic motivation.

Furthermore, the reputation incentive is not as strong with these questions, because they are usually not accepted. Since answers (especially to easy questions from new users) do not get upvoted a lot anyway the reputation incentive is especially weak. = No extrinsic motivation.

Barely any reputation reward coupled with not knowing if the answer has been useful to the OP or anyone else makes it feel like I would spend my time answering for nothing.


I suspect that people who have the highest marginal benefit of using this site are people like me, graduate students who are gaining technical knowledge to answer a lot of the lower level questions that might be uninteresting to the skilled users on the site.

The problem is that of course is that I don't have the higher level knowledge or experience to answer some of the more technical questions, as Ubiquitous points out. Despite this, I've managed to become ranked #9 on the site. My impression is that there are a lot of more skilled economists than me that have perused this site (e.g. author Steven Landsburg), but simply have other things to do.

If anything, this community is going to need to be sustained over time with graduate students who accumulate some sort of "social capital" and stay invested in maintaining a community here, and also are able to drag their close peers into using this site. :P


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