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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:

  1. 3 or fewer viable candidates nominate themselves.
  2. 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:

Voter turnout improves on smaller sites.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  • Mix it up. Let people who have at least 20K on any SE site AND have voted in at least 5 elections on SE sites, vote in a graduating site's election. We know how to pick good moderators (more or less). What could go wrong? :D – Brock Adams Dec 30 '15 at 6:04
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    You mention voting as being an issue on the site. I've noticed there isn't much of a culture of voting as there is other sites. New users get frustrated early and abandon the site at whatever rate. Do you have any suggestions regarding shifting that paradigm? – DucatiKiller Dec 30 '15 at 8:03
  • Jon - by voting do you mean specifically voting in elections? Do you have any correlation data between voting on site and election voting? I think we are a low-voting site compared with some. – Rory Alsop Dec 30 '15 at 18:39
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    @RoryAlsop: I haven't looked at post-voting compared to election voting. (I wouldn't be surprised if that correlation exists after controlling for views.) Rather I'm suggesting that more voting could lead to more participation and more people eligible to vote in a moderator election. I'll dig into the stats a bit more, though. – Jon Ericson Dec 30 '15 at 18:56
  • @JonEricson What chat rooms do you lurk in? – DucatiKiller Dec 30 '15 at 19:44
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    @DucatiKiller - I think he lurks in all of them? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 31 '15 at 2:59
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    @BrockAdams Oh god no. I really hope that was sarcasm. – Zach Mierzejewski Jan 8 '16 at 18:54
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    @BrockAdams - Then it wouldn't be the community of Mechanics.SE electing their moderators. ANYONE could come on the site and with a few helping hands, be elected a moderator of the site pretty much without anyone on the site really having any say about it. Elections are about the community, not SE at large. Like Zach said, I really hope that was sarcasm. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 4 '16 at 0:55
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First of all, I'd like to say I'm excited at the prospect of graduation. I, along with many others, have put a lot of time and effort into this SE to ensure it not only succeeds, but that it flourishes as well! Thanks for the vote of encouragement in knowing that our humble SE is being observed :D

In our lowly chat room, The Pitstop, we've discussed the issue of voting a little bit. There are some key users on this site who are trying hard to ensure it graduates. I believe the key to getting more people voting is for those who are here to vote their little clickers off. I've advocated for this before, but sometimes I wonder if it falls on deaf ears. I personally am not immune to voting, but one person will not be able to do this alone.

I believe voting to be a self fulfilling prophecy. If you vote, they will come. I personally don't believe we need to vote on crap answers or questions (we get enough of both). I also see good questions/answers only getting three or four votes total ... to me, that's crap. If a question shows some sign of intelligence, it should be upvoted ... period ... end of conversation. I don't see that happening.

For this exercise, I personally don't need the points. I have over the 25k threshold to have all the privileges just shy of full moderation. It's the other guys who need more points. For instance: DucatiKiller, Zaid, vini_i, Steve Matthews, & Rory Alsop. Others fall into that group as well. These guys are regulars on here with great answers. Some of them are newer users, some are older users. One thing I'm seeing with the newer users is they aren't voting. For instance (and not trying to be mean here), vini_i has been on the site for over four months and has gained 3k+ points ... nicely done. The issue is, this user has only voted 76 times in that time (up/down/otherwise). 76?? That is a pittance. Those of us who will read this post by Jon should encourage users like vini_i to vote! As we can tell by Jon's message above, it's not doing us any good not to. Another user, Steve Matthews. Absolutely some great answers. He's a great asset to the site for his knowledge ... but he's only voted 39 times in the past six months!

My suggestion here is, we open a new Meta question which will be tagged as featured so it will show up on the front page. The title of the question needs to be something to the effect of, "New users please vote!" (or please come up with something better). In the question we can call out (nicely) the new-ish users who are not voting and encourage them to do so. This isn't trying to be mean to them, it's just showing them why we need them to be more active in this area.

Another means would be by putting comments on their answers encouraging them to vote on the questions they are answering. I don't know if this is strictly legal by SE standards, though. It wouldn't be commenting specifically on an answer, so I don't know how that would be received. We need to have some communications with these users, though. We need to have them understand getting points is great ... giving points is even better. I'm definitely open to suggestions if this is not to be encouraged.

In the end, we need to treat this site as though it has just come out of private Beta and vote until our fingers bleed. If we aren't voting our 40 times/day, we're wrong. Secondly, we need to encourage others to vote, as I've stated above.

Let's get it done, guys! I'm truly excited!

  • Someone posted a link recently (I think in chat) to a page that gave all sorts of stats about the site - one of the scripts gave a list of people who haven't voted much, on a votes-per-rep scale - perhaps include a link to that? – Nick C Dec 31 '15 at 10:39
  • @NickC - I believe I remember seeing that. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 31 '15 at 23:35
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I haven't even been here a year. So I don't feel I've necessarily earned the privilege to really put a stake in the ground. I've seen a timeslice of this sites growth. I will say that I am, at this point, emotionally invested in the outcome. I don't feel as though I'm capable of truly understanding the sense of accomplishment that many of you must feel that have been here in the trenches for multiple years. I'm just coming in on the tail of something great. I hope my contributions have added some value though.

This place has been great for me and I love the idea of sharing and a reward based framework. It drives quality through reward. I couldn't have asked for anything better. with that, the idea of attraction is built into the system.

The entire design is to reward people for various aspects of delivering their response or their question. It rewards for editing and various aspects of participation and giving back. Your rewards are your badge, they are our identity here. The tags reflect the type of answers your knowledgeable about, the badges reflect your contributions. All of it, this advertisement we all where in our profiles adds up to stature. How long you've been here, how much you've contributed. It's meaningful and it matters. The point is, We have the tools to use to give the reward. It's all there, an entire system to reward others and encourage them to keep giving their valuable knowledge, they just aren't being leveraged (IMO) in our favor.

@Paulster2 and @Zaid have been incredibly helpful to me. Being patient, answering questions that are in the FAQ and not complaining, enlisting me to help cleanup old junk. I want to pass that on to other users and help them now. There's a lot of guys out there with a little bit of rep that are super smart. I've been watching their quality go up, using some of the markup, putting in pics with arrows, etc. My belief is, if I help them the way @zaid and @paulster2 have helped me then hopefully they'll be more inclined to continue to contribute and want to stick around contribute more to this positive community. Helping them get there by upvoting their efforts is more important than anything regarding the growth of this site.

Think about when you had 300 rep, 600 rep, 1200 rep. When you snapped open that browser and saw and green number it made you smile. You were validated. The bigger the number the happier you were. You may still get that feeling. I do. I'm being rewarded for my effort. I may have missed something in the answer, I know I do, or my method for remediation is klugy but maybe it's OK, just not great. I'm hoping someone smarter comes along and get's a ton of upvotes because they had the OP accomplish the same goal, just with 6 less steps. Or by using a tool I'm unaware of, or....the list goes on.

The votes will work themselves out over time. When a question is asked and someone takes the time and energy to contribute at least a moderate answer, why not upvote the guy. He tried, he responded quickly (sometimes their are OP's sitting next to their car with a laptop in their driveway working on a rear end) and his end goal was to help. What's wrong with upvoting that guy for those aspects of an answer. I don't think we are upvoting for the correct answer attribute of an answer. There is an overall view of what goes into an answer and many of these softer items about an answer are also worthy of reward. Over time that question will have 3 or 4 response (hopefully) and the winner of the highest quality for all of the metrics regarding a great answer will get the most upvotes. Nobody is going to upvote a moderate answer of a great answer just to be nice someone. As it should be. We're going to upvote quality and the reward system will put a smile on a respondents face when they snap open their web browser and come to the site to see how big their green number is.

I know this is a bit of a rant, thanks for getting this far into it.

Feel free to leave tl;dr's in the comments :)

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    Your last real paragraph there is quite telling and spot on. Especially "We're going to upvote quality and the reward system will put a smile on a respondents face ..." ... absolutely. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 1 '16 at 16:17
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    Compared to EE stack exchange where I came from this sight downvotes a lot less also . – Autistic Mar 1 '16 at 10:03
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It looks possible but it's slow going. You can look at the voting stats for veterans and regulars and they just don't vote. They are in the site digging through beautiful older gems that never received their due while the site flounders. Many of these users can be brought back. I checked their profiles, they aren't active here but they are on other sites. I then go through their questions and answers and upvote 4 or 6 of them. Of the 5 I've done this to I see three of them back on the site and answering or posting questions.

honestly I think there is not enough midlevel participation as well as veteran participation. There is hardly voting on old posts and frankly on newer ones either.

I don't get it. There are some awesome answers out there. There are great questions. Building up a new user is voting, interacting and helping them get better with comments and/or chat.

I just don't see a lot of that. Perhaps I'm not here enough and I rarely goto chat.

All I know is...if your top 3 voters fell of the face of the earth this place would be screwed. There isn't universal voting agreement in the community and nothing I can see is active at educating users to vote. ALL those badges geared toward voting and there still isn't great voting.

I makes me sad. I like you guys. It just stresses me out because I'm powerless. I'm just a low rep user 'complaining'. It's just miserable to see some questions that people put incredible work into and it has 2 votes or 3 votes. That shows me that people aren't cleaning up the mid tier of questions or looking at them either.

Anyway, you guys are cool. You answer my questions. I appreciate that. Just starting being a little less judgy and build the user base and all the cleanup and what not will happen from there but you need people that are involved and the only way to get the serotonin going in their brains is to reward them. As they grow you can hold back on voting if you want but man, get people addicted to the site! It just seems that people don't understand how this place is supposed to work or they just don't care and want cool people to hang with during the day. I don't know. All I know is, we need to vote more.

Thank you for being so great to me.

AND

@paulster thanks for the bounty for me getting the badge. That was super cool to get crushed with all that rep in one second.

Love you guys!

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    My pleasure. You committed to complete the challenge and it was my duty to fulfill my end of the bargain. Easy-Peasy. Thanks for being here and as you suggest, keep voting! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 4 '16 at 16:13

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