Over on Meta Stack Exchange, we've announced a process we call design-independent graduation which allows us to confer all of the benefits (and drawbacks) of graduation without waiting for our designers to replace the beta theme first. So far the experiment has worked well. We've been watching the progress of this site and the statistics suggest it's about time for Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair to graduate.
Among other things, graduation implies a privilege level reset and a moderator election. With 16 and counting 3k users, I think the graduated privilege levels will probably be fine, if a bit annoying for some folks. But I don't think this site can support an election just yet. In the past we've noticed two problems with sites that don't have a large middle class:
- 3 or fewer viable candidates nominate themselves.
- Low voter turnout.
The first problem recently forced us to restart the first election on Japanese Language. It's embarrassing and discouraging; the polar opposite of what we hope a newly graduated site will experience. But the second might be a bigger risk. I looked at our history of elections and discovered there were 26 elections with fewer than 100 voters. On the whole, smaller sites tended to have better turnout:
But they are also a lot less predictable. Mechanics currently has 258 users with 150+ reputation. We can't know if there will be a record turnout (44%) or a median turnout (14%). A low turnout would undermine the democratic process. We have some internal metrics based on reputation distribution that we use to evaluate election readiness. According to our rules of thumb, there just aren't enough likely voters to sustain an election.
So we are delaying the graduation of Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair until there are more potential moderator candidates and voters. We will be reviewing the statistics every few months (I get an automated reminder) in anticipation of graduating this site. In the meantime, I'd like to suggest a few things you, as active users on the main site, can do to hurry that process along:
Vote. I don't know if this is the root of the problem, but voting is the engine that drives the reputation economy. In addition, new users are tend to be discouraged if they aren't making progress toward important privileges. Please continue to vote on the basis of content, however. This is just a reminder that useful posts should be upvoted.
Invite knowledgeable people to participate. By just about every measure, this site is doing great. It does not lack questions. As far as I can tell, those questions are generally well answered. The only thing that really seems to be missing is a wide variety of people who are invested in the community. That's more of an opportunity than a problem. If you see an interesting question that hasn't been answered and you know someone who might be able to solve the problem, you have a perfect invitation opportunity. Nothing is more intriguing to a potential user than a question that they are in a unique position to answer.
What other things can we try to get this site ready for an election?