Is there a community-wide interest to get CogSci graduated?

In the past I, and others, have started close-vote campaigns here at CogSci to bring the %answered questions up to 90%, which is the target in Area51. At Bio, just before graduation, several active members used this strategy quite successfully.

Admittedly, there are other issues at CogSci, especially the questions/day, but that issue can't be solved easily by the community.

Closing old, long-unanswered, poorly posed questions is an effective strategy to bring the %answered questions up.

I haven't been very active here at CogSci lately, admittedly, (move overseas, a stack of manuscripts on my desk etc.) but I've bettered my life and I've been answering quite a bunch of old questions to aid the purpose in a [more] positive way.

However, with nearly 4k questions, there is a need to up the %answered by 10%, i.e., some 400 questions. Quite frankly, even the best of efforts to answer questions can't beat the numbers.

The close-campaigns, however, generally prove to be relatively inefficient here at CogSci - about 80% of my proposed closures were kept open. Admittedly, doing the effectiveness stats is cumbersome and I can provide estimates only, but at least I'm sure the majority was left standing. Don't understand me wrong - I really like the relaxed attitude of this site, but it might be its demise given the SE philosophy.

Because skimming through thousands of dusty old questions takes a lot of time, I thought it wise to bring it up first and see if folks support this strategy, before investing precious hours into it [again]. If supported, I'm totally willing to commence another close-vote wave. Admittedly, being raised a biologist, I might not be the best of choice to do this, but identifying poorly posed, ill-defined, broad and self-help questions is doable. However, it would be good to gather a certain critical mass (i.e., 5 :-) of active members willing to shoot-to-kill at old, low-quality questions.

Importantly, for the sake of graduation, the bar to define a question as low-quality should be lowered. The weighting factor could, and probably should be, the chance it will be answered. If that chance is low, and the odds are against it due to quality reasons - close it.

Let me know your opinions, please.

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    Just a few quick comments: (1) regarding graduation, worthwhile resurfacing this post, (2) regarding close votes, I started mod closing starting from three close votes recently since I did notice we often do not reach the necessary five votes, (3) I noticed your recent efforts in answering older questions and believe you are doing a tremendous job! Don't think this is less worthwhile than close votes since quality content is also what constitutes more google hits, more visitors, and thus graduation. Perhaps just the long game. :)
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 21:39
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    I am all for closing low quality questions, old or new. I am less eager to close quality questions, no matter how old they are. Having some good open questions can be a great way to lure in new expert users, which is what I think we need most. Commented May 23, 2016 at 23:37
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev - I totally agree with leaving open good questions. However, the bar what constitutes a good question may have to be lowered.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 7:44
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    @StevenJeuris - can I conclude that you are willing to jump in and mod-close questions with 3+ close-votes? That would already help in an effort as proposed. However, I will wait for non-mod responses first and try and answer some more old questions in the meantime. Thanks for your support!
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 7:46
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    @Christiaan Yes, I do so already. ;p
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 9:47
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    @Christiaan I've tried to be more aggressive with mod-closing as well. Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:32
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev - That's interesting. If you mods are on this, it may prove worthwhile to start an effort like this. But I'll await further input a little bit. It would be good to have more support from the.. well... common foot folk :)
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:40
  • Hi @Christiaan, I recently have been a victim of your doings, but I must admit you're right. We could become a little bit stricter in what to accept, and I am willing to review and give close-votes. I do wonder however, what will happen if CogSci graduates? What is the practical differences between beta and not-beta? Commented May 25, 2016 at 9:49
  • @RobinKramer - whoohaha you make it sound like I'm a trigger-happy serial killer :) But good to have you on board. The practical difference is that we get a nice looking shiny site design and that we leave area51 and don't have to worry about site statistics :) As of now, we're in beta for 4 years and beta means it's basically a trial site. When we graduate we will be a full site. Betas are there to show the site is worthy for the SE network. I know it is, we all do, but we have to beat the numbers in are51.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 10:26
  • @RobinKramer - if you support my proposal please upvote this post, it counts as a vote. The more votes, the better
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 10:44
  • @RobinKramer - and btw - how on earth have you been affected by [my] close-votes without having asked a single question?
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:48
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    @Christiaan Not on Meta, but on CogSci self I have asked some questions. However, what I actually meant (and phrased incorrectly) was that I received quite some feedback from you on older answers of mine, what I think happend in your visiting older questions. Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:55
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    My understanding re: graduation is that the only metric that really matters now is questions per day and a vague notion of site quality. A closing spree might help boost questions per day, but the main way to move this site towards graduation is to attract new users who are experts.
    – Josh
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 1:05
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    @Josh removing low-quality questions, and most of all, removing new ones of questionable value will improve site quality, which will appeal to folks with expertise
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 5:30
  • One of the main effects of graduating CogSci will be that more reputation is required for various actions. Does CogSci has enough members that this would be good for the site?
    – Christian
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


Having tried too much the same twice before myself, I'm sympathetic to the cause. I'm even tempted to jump in. But I also know from experience what will happen to a purely momentum-driven project here, and it's not good. It'll start off well. You'll gain a couple of percentage points, and on paper it looks like the numbers might work out. But as soon as you've energized the peripheral regulars enough to actually drive close votes, once you've grabbed the low hanging fruit, you're going to run into what I call Garbage Valley. And Garbage Valley is a very smelly place. When you hit it, you might find it difficult to breathe.

Garbage Valley is what I call the approximately 800, usually heavily assumption-laden, unanswered questions we have that can be characterized as "might be interesting to a lay user, given a sufficiently exhaustive negative answer--an answer telling them why this makes no sense--but which are absolutely uninteresting to an expert user who would be qualified to answer them." This is diagnostic of our problem as a community. We cannot retain two contradictory userbases, we have to choose--that's just textbook community management. But this is not our problem as such. Our problem is our decision-making process is so atrociously ineffective (I would say nonexistent) that, in four years, we have not managed to reach a resolution on the basic question of what users we are trying to retain.

We can't push through Garbage Valley with pure momentum. It's just not possible. We also can't just whimsically decide. If we want to actually fix this and not just flail around between 78-85% answered depending on the season and which way the wind is blowing, we need to get behind Christiaan, organize a community meeting like we did the last two times, get all the mods in the damn meeting for once, then focus entirely on reaching a consensus on decision-making that guarantees continuous progress. Once we have a decision-making process, people can go out and apply that process to the Meta backlog autonomously, knowing that the mods will support them. Over time, if enforced, the decisions will become ingrained and automatic.

I suggest we (that means you, mods) set a firm date and time, agreeable to all of you, several months in the future. A new question to organize might be an idea.

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    Fully agreed with 'garbage valley'. Quite honestly, I'm also fed up with it, and it is what I was referring to in chat. I'm all for introducing a close reason against such questions.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:56
  • The valley is basically what I call the close-vote threshold. That is what this effort is all about. We need to get rid of questions that will not be answered.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 14:05
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    You finally put a name to the thing that's been bothering me. Garbage Valley. Maybe we should have a seperate Meta discussion about what to do about it? Aside: We miss you Christian.
    – Seanny123
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 14:31

Given the silent response from the community at large (but thank you mods and @RobinKramer for your willingness to jump in here) and, more importantly, given the correspondence with the moderators in chat, it has become clear to me that we lack the critical mass to efficiently close vote questions, old and new alike. Some of the mods have indicated, carefully, that they are already mod-closing some off-topic questions (barred that at least one or more close-votes from the community have come in, generally). With their overriding influence these mod-closures should be used with caution. However, with the relative small number of active community members here it is, imo, a necessity that the mods step in to participate in the closing process, and I am grateful they do so already.

Long story short, I will start to work my way backwards in the question list and start to look for questions of questionable quality and close-vote them, where appropriate. It may take me a while to start this time-consuming process, but I think it's worth it.

Please don't refrain from entering this discussion in this stage if you haven't done so, I have not started yet! If there are community members opposing this strategy and are already inclined to systematically vote to leave-open regardless of the question quality, simply because they oppose my efforts, please let me know, because then everything will be pretty much in vain anyway[!]. If you dislike politics or meta discussions or whatever in general, simply upvote or downvote my answer here so I know your opinion, albeit indirectly.

Progress edit: the first wave of close votes from old questions was a big success. I'm limited to 30 close votes per day and I will try to reach that limit daily in the coming week. Thanks to everyone supporting the process a. I will try to compensate the closures by answering as many old questions as possible. We went from 80% to 81% answered, which is a great start.

Progress edit2 [June 02, 2016]: the second wave was also a big success; it is a great thing to see that the community was able to push a few closures through without the mods. Further, more questions were closed with 3 to 4 non-mod votes present, which makes it a bit more of a democratic process. Congratz everyone! The mods are definitely still critical in the close-voting procedure at this time, and I do not mean to say in any way that the effort as put forth in this can do without the mods at this time, but the more prevalent participation of the common user is definitely worth mentioning, as it shows this community has the potential to gain critical mass.

Progress edit3 [July 02, 2016]: The third wave has ended a while ago. We're now at 82% unanswered, so another 1% up. There was reference to my efforts on chat that urged me to complete this effort, hoping that @Krysta can join this battle front. I just completed a fourth, and final wave of close-vote suggestions. I worked backwards from the least to the most upvoted questions and some of my newest suggestions today are actually well-voted posts, but imo close-worthy nonetheless. Thanks everyone for looking through all my suggestions and thanks to the mods, and especially StevenJeuris for his relentless effort in this and that while finishing up his PhD. Kudos.

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    I'm not back, and I have no intention of coming back unless I see some non-lip-service support from the SECT and a substantive change in our decisionmaking process on Meta. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:01
  • @ChristianHummeluhr - I saw you appearing in the voting queues, that's why, Answer edited.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:02
  • Call it moral support. For what it's worth, I am interested in graduating the site, but we have deeper problems than a burst of momentum can solve. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:03
  • @ChristianHummeluhr - that is very much appreciated. Thanks.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 11:05
  • @ChristianHummeluhr I can hardly call your efforts moral support any longer ;)
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 20:14
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    Not to go all Marvin on you here, but the stats are updated hourly. We're just not having much impact relative to the scope of the problem; you need to close 40-60 questions per percentage point, IIRC. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 9:31
  • @ChristianHummeluhr - StevenJeuris told me this. But the numbers certainly ask for large actions, the math pointed out in my question
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 9:45

I definitely agree with you. Although I am only a member for a month I find the CogSci community incredibly nice and helpful, and with some extra control we could finally get the graduation CogSci deserves.

I will back you with the closing votes and reviews.

  • Being a member for such a short time and acquiring that amount of rep testifies of dedication and know-how. Glad to have you as a supporter.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 20:28

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