Where did the cool kids go?

I started using this site in 2010. At the time it was a hive of activity. There were about 20 or 30 respected names in SQL Server regularly contributing. Discussions were lively and often entertaining. A wide variety of questions were posted, and often the questions were "seeders" by experts, designed to provoke discussion about common issues that arise. It seems that over time, a lot of the big contributors have moved on.

My impression is that the maintenance of the site (answering and editing questions, retagging, reporting spam etc) has been left to about five people. This must be dreadfully demanding on them and a bit dispiriting. So where did the others go?

My theory is that there are a few factors at play (not Phil, sadly).

  • The elephant in the room is Stack Exchange. Nobody can deny their success and the fact that SE finds its way to the top few of most SQL Server Google searches. Nevertheless I think AskSSC has a niche role to play because it is a SQL Server specialty site.

  • The quality of many questions is just dreadful. And I'm not talking about the language barrier. I'm talking about plain lazy questions where it's hard to even divine what the question is. My theory is that contributors have been worn down over time. If you can't be bothered asking a thoughtful question, I can't be bothered answering it. Of course this creates a bit of a spiral. Fewer thoughtful answers beget fewer thoughtful questions too.

  • Maybe there are issues with the behind-the-scenes maintenance/management of the site. For example is the platform too complex and inflexible for it to be configurable? Is it too hard to prevent spammers? How passionate is Redgate about the future of the site?

So what can be done about it? I don't think you're going to solve it by hoping that more and better quality questions magically start coming in. I think you need to contact previously enthusiastic contributors and see if they're interested in submitting seeder or discussion questions. It might not work but it's probably better than doing nothing. I also think that rather than ignoring lazy questions, we might be better to do what we can to turn them into something valuable. What else can we do to reinvigorate interest?

Lastly I want to recognise the contributions of the experts who have hung around and give freely of their time and knowledge. You've improved the worklife of countless SQL minions around the globe. Your efforts should be lauded. Thank you. Sincerely.

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asked Sep 07, 2014 at 01:03 AM in Site discussion (meta-askssc)

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3 answers: sort voted first


As one of those still crazy after all these years, let me chuck in a few thoughts:

  • Elephant - yup. That's a biggie. ISTR that originally this site was being hosted on the Stack platform, but we migrated over to this platform a while ago - something to do with copyright, I think. shrug. Whatever the reason, this is probably not particularly relevant to the discussion. But yes, the StackExchange system is a runaway success, with questions being answered so so quickly. I, for one, can't keep up - by the time I've seen an unanswered question, and crafted an answer, there are three other answers there all way better than mine and being voted up!

  • AskSSC is no longer a SQL Server speciality site. Over 700 questions mention Oracle questions, 120+ mention MySQL, we've even got 100 questions mentioning db2.

  • Question quality - yes. I frequently read a question, and then just give up trying to make sense. I applaud those of you who do make more of an effort to unravel these - but I just don't have as much time to spare as I did. (Also, strictly between ourselves, I don't spend enough time working with the more recent versions of SQL Server - I still have production systems on SQL 2000 & 2005, and will continue to do so for at least another year.)

  • Spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, bloody vikings. It's not as bad as it used to be! I don't know if that's because we are flying more under the radar / elephant, or that other moderators are killing off more of it than I am...

  • Platform itself - you would need to ask someone from Red Gate.

  • As for what can we do... pass. Sorry.

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answered Sep 07, 2014 at 07:00 PM

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ThomasRushton ♦♦
42.2k 20 57 53

Since the forums on SSC still get most of the questions (a house divided against itself and all that), I think it would make sense to ask SE about merging our content into their dba.SE site and converting our user accounts to SE accounts.

SE is so much larger, it might not worth the effort to them. There's a very good chance that ASK is just a subset of SE at this point.

Sep 16, 2014 at 01:30 AM KenJ

@thomasrushton When you say that the SE questions are answered so fast, do you mean the MAIN SE site or DBA.SE? I think SE has many of the same problems we do here - I find that most people post SQL questions on SE instead of DBA.SE. I suppose the only reason that doesn't hurt DBA.SE more is just the sheer number of folks, even if it is a fraction of the main SE traffic.

Feb 05, 2015 at 07:18 AM ScottEdwards2000
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Sorry, I don't come over here much and probably should. Great question.

I'll say this, as of my last trip to Red Gate back in... September I think, Red Gate is still dedicated to this site. That may change, but the site has seen a constant and steady growth in the number of users and the number of questions (however horrible many/most of them are), so they see a reason to continue its support.

As to the rest, while we may not have some of the bigger names answering questions, I do think we've got some of the smartest people I know answering questions around here (especially @ThomasRushton).

I'm not sure the seeder questions is the key. I mean, we could take the SE approach and just nuke questions that are, in our considered judgment, not worthy of answers. But I don't think that's the approach that RG wants. It's not terribly nice or helpful and we are trying to be that. Is that working? I guess it depends on if you're one of those people asking or answering questions.

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answered Dec 02, 2014 at 01:15 PM

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Grant Fritchey ♦♦
137k 20 46 81

Thanks Grant. It's good to know that Red Gate still appear to be committed to the site.

Dec 04, 2014 at 07:44 AM GPO
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Well, I'm sure if I am cool enough for the "cool kids" group, but I'm back. :)

"Back in the day", I was one of the most active contributors here, but then a former manager who disapproved of me spending any time here and other excuses pulled me away. I'm back and active once again, and I hope to stay that way for a long time. I love and support this site because I know some of the people here and am confident in the quality of the answers. I typically only check "that other site" when I have a .NET question or something else I can't find here.

I've reached my quote quota for this answer, so I'm done.

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answered Dec 31, 2014 at 06:55 PM

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Tom Staab ♦
14.5k 7 15 21

Welcome back Tom! Your record speaks for itself. I look forward to more of your thoughtful insights.

Jan 01, 2015 at 04:54 AM GPO
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asked: Sep 07, 2014 at 01:03 AM

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Last Updated: Feb 05, 2015 at 07:18 AM

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