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The New Year quickly approaches, and the site is fairly mellow these holiday seasons. It gives one some time for reflection. (This is a long post, and if you want the nitty-gritty you can read just the stuff in bold and the boxed question at the end.)

Most of us who are still regularly on the site have been here for a long time now. I was maybe 16 or 17 years old or so when I first eagerly looked into the first try of getting the Econ beta off the ground (I did not have much to contribute haha). There is always some sort of core group of familiar faces we see on this site, though for myself I know I am much more quiet than I used to be. With time maybe comes a little less of that youthful zeal from being a fresh youngin' wanting to make their mark, though for us who have stuck through the, what, over 4 years now of this site, I know we very much would like to see this place continue to grow and be healthy.

If you got through my corny paragraph okay let's talk candidly about the site.


Observations

  • There's a lot of unresolved close votes and other review queue votes. Part of this is that we are slowly getting more people around, some with good questions, some with not-so-good questions. More activity will lead to more reviews in the queue. But I also think we are getting less people who cast votes in the review queue. Some questions will get stuck at 3 close votes and then...not much activity afterwards. I have not been too active in sitting down and busting through all the items myself, but that gives me some ability to observe the queue over time. Preferably, our core users would not have to wait for me or another mod to cast the (binding) closing vote on something in the queue, but my lack of activity probably is not good either.

  • Our percent of questions answered continues to be a bit low. We're stable, but fairly small, so my guess is there's not enough time for us to answer all questions in a way that we might find satisfactory. The Community Bot nonetheless continues to bump lots of questions to the front. Fresh faces are needed to help us keep up "output" (answers) on this site, but fresh faces also probably look to see what kind of "output" there already is to see if it is worth investing their time into making a place for themselves in our community. You could make an analogous argument for attracting working economic professionals to this site (indeed, we have before.) Then there is also the fact that lots of questions often are just noise, and people do not like walking through a house with everything lying on the floor.

  • Our questions per day are on the low side. Although we continue to get good traffic, probably because of our growing base of useful existing answered questions, our questions per day has been steady, but hasn't really gone up. Part of this I blame myself for not enough of a moderating presence. Clean house analogy blah blah blah.


There are smaller, interrelated observations I will make as I go through some plans and proposals I'd like to suggest for the site in the answers below. Some personal resolutions by me, some involving a little bit of public contribution from some of us who are established, and then a few proposals that maybe are a little more out there and involve a bit more public participation. You are encouraged to vigorously voice your opinion on the viability of some of these resolutions/proposals. Do not lend my voice extra weight because I am a mod or because I have been here a long time.


In short, though we've hit an equilibrium where we have pretty consistent activity, I think one more push can get us on a steady state to a better one, where we can potentially finally graduate this site. So to summarize my big questions for you all:

What resolutions would you suggest for increasing the overall activity and/or quality of our SE?

Essentially, I just want some central place for discussion of our site going into the New Year. Thanks for your time.

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    $\begingroup$ You have bundled a lot of different topics here. Perhaps separating them to multiple questions and even moving some parts to answers would allow for better voting. (In case that is something to want.) $\endgroup$ – Giskard Dec 30 '18 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I made this thread all in ome shot so maybe I'll re-format it later today xd $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Dec 30 '18 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I've split all the resolutions/proposals which feels a little weird for me but there you go, now you can vote on each aspect piecewise. Please feel free to put out your own proposals, as that was the main reason I wanted this thread tbh $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Dec 30 '18 at 17:24
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Resolution 3

  • We should vote more.

I still don't exactly know if people agree with my characterization of how we vote, but for whatever reason our community tends to have a lot of indifferent voting. We treat a lot of content as grey area where we don't feel strongly positive or negative about a question that is asked. Answers might even be worse, where a lot of answers sit at 0 score for long periods of time. Probably one of the easiest ways to encourage more activity is to cast more up or down votes. If not casting vote, we should suggest specific ways to improve the question so that it is vote-worthy. Some of you may have noticed I have tried to make this habit to comment on a few more questions, especially if the users are newer.

New members who come on the site need feedback, so we should try to give it to them.

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    $\begingroup$ The low number of votes is indeed a problem. Especially for new users, who need ore encouragement to stay on the site. One easy fix would be to promote the policy that "if a question is good enough to answer, then it is good enough to be upvoted". I often see questions with answers and zero votes. That is not sensible. The person answering clearly thought it was worth their time to handle the question, which should make it a good question in their eyes, at least. $\endgroup$ – BB King Jan 5 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ @BBKing your sentiment is not new, I think I have seen Alecos with the same suggestion way back when, and I've made the same observation you have. So 100% agree. $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Jan 5 at 15:14
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Resolution 1

  • Established users should ask questions about contentious or current events that are politically relevant, but still economic topics that we can lend our expertise to.

I think this is probably the most important resolution I will try to adhere to. I'm going to ask questions about what literature there is about immigration's effects on employment and wages and set the question up with academic articles that I already know. I'm going to ask for reference requests for cross-state externalities of different gun laws on gun violence in the absence of unified federal policy. I'm going to ask about what research has been done to determine if the internet should be treated as a utility. I'm going to ask about the Peterson Institute's study on steel tariffs due to Trump's trade policy.

If needed, I will even answer some of these myself (Q&A style content is allowed, and encouraged according to site policy.) I think the benefits of putting questions like this out there are very clear. It's relevant enough to get us a lot of good traffic from laypeople, and we can put it out on social media (such as our Twitter which @EconJohn still maintains) and get attention from laypeople and maybe serious economists or financial types who use these platforms (yes, they do exist, see Alan Cole and Menzie Chinn for two examples, both pretty far on the political spectrum from each other).

Most importantly, I think we need to set a high standard for asking potentially emotionally charged questions. For our humble site, the best way to defeat bad content is to compete! We've had plenty of questions that are too broad, have conspiratorial undertones, have some sort of anti-intellectual undertones, have some sort of political lean, you get the idea. We can set the precedent for well-thought out questions that are clear and answerable, and answers that are backed with strong sources and writing. We've got some really smart people on this site, who are more than capable of stepping up to the task.

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Resolution 2

  • We should make a community wiki for easily misunderstood or misrepresented topics.

The gigantic glaring example (maybe the only big one I can think of for now) is central banking and banking in general. Let's be real, there are a lot of people who go around trying to purposefully misconstrue the role of the Fed, and it's easy to see why people would come to our site with questions or suspicions of how central banking works. I want to at least start a "FAQ" for this topic, where we have a question that asks a set of common or intellectually interesting questions (e.g. Does the Fed print money directly? How is fractal reserve banking not just one big scam? Etc.), and then a big answer that links to many different sources and articles, including pre-existing answers our users have given. Making this a community wiki style project is probably the best way to go about it, as it will need a lot of effort for such a FAQ to be pretty comprehensive.

Making this will probably not rid us of some of the less well-thought out or researched questions, nor will we probably have unique information that other sites do not provide, but the important thing is it will be our aggregate of useful or interesting questions and answers that will be helpful to the community. We may even get an interesting enough question every now and again not covered under our FAQ that will allow us to build it up even more over time.

Edit: Trade esp. w.r.t. budgets and deficits would be a good one to deal with perhaps.

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Resolution 4

  • I should moderate a little more (and to be careful to be judicious).

Moderation is usually fairly hands-off and community driven for good reasons, but for myself personally, I feel like EconJohn this year has definitely been the more active new mod compared to me (this is an anecdotal observation on my part). I have found myself asking advice from other mods about dealing with some users, once because I, frankly, completely lost my cool in a chat conversation. I am still learning the ropes of this whole moderating thing and always will be, so I hope to be a better mod going into 2019, both in my duties, and in my participation on the site.

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Misc. Proposal 1

  • We should have a best question and best answer award for each month.

We can discuss the nominees in a meta post, maybe have up and down votes for them, and then the winner/honorable mentions get put in a community wiki. Perhaps some generous user awards some bonus points for it as well. As with all competition, there is always room for friction of course, and preferably we want to unite the community. So this is something I want to float out there.

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Misc. Proposal 2

  • We should start an economics book club.

My inspiration for this idea was a book I got for Christmas, Unelected Power: The Quest for Legitimacy in Central Banking and the Regulatory State by Paul Tucker, though members of the club would come to some sort of consensus on what to read. If we made a book club, the benefit would mostly be that we can ask concrete questions about the book on this site and see what content comes out of our endeavor.

But the other benefit is we'd probably have to arrange the club outside of this site (unless we wanted to use the chat feature on SE?). Most of us only know each other through our formal contributions to this site; I feel I barely know my community.

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  • $\begingroup$ Let's do this! Any good suggestions to start with? $\endgroup$ – caverac Jan 9 at 22:51

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