Our Questions stats are pretty bad, currently 2.3 questions per day.
How can we encourage more questions on the site? Has anything prevented you from asking questions? Do you think anything is intimidating other users from asking questions?
Hmm. I have earned 12,200+ rep points in four months on another SE forum (under a different handle), so I am an active participant on SE in general. I was thrilled when I saw cogsci.se available. As a psychology graduate with almost 20 years experience in the criminal justice field, I thought I would enjoy cogsci.se -- I've always been fascinated by topics in neurology, psychology, psychiatry, addictions, and forensic psychology.
Unfortunately, I don't enjoy it at all. :( I'd like to be part of your community, but . . . the questions that come up are so far removed from anything I know or care about that I just toggle over to the other SE site I frequent (and absolutely love)
Throughout the day my RSS feed hums with the same question coming through again and again as people tweak the title. And then, inevitably, it comes through one last time as "closed".
Frankly, there's little chance I would ask a question here (although I certainly have questions). Why would I? If I did it would likely be closed. I've been reading cogsci.se for a couple of months and, as a lurker, I don't see any room for my professional expertise here. The overall consensus seems to be that researchers and professors are the only types of professionals worth attracting to cogsci.se. I've already been to college -- I don't want to go back.
I encourage the community to allow growth, not discourage it by closing half the questions people post. It's okay to not be perfect.
Please accept my bluntness in the spirit it is intended, which is to be helpful to those trying to understand why more questions aren't being asked. Mine is but one opinion and probably not a popular one at that. Nevertheless, I'm going to stick my neck out there and share my experience with cogsci.se.
The reason so few questions are asked is because this site has a high initial research requirement. This means that people do the research, find the answer and so don't ask the question. Or, alternatively, never get round to the research, so never ask the question.
I actually think the decision to make this a research based site (like MathOverflow), as opposed to a more popularist one like StackOverflow may have been a mistake. For a research based site to succeed, it is important to start with a core group of researchers, which recent meta posts seem to indicate that we don't have. With a more popularist site, you still need experts, but they can be workers in related fields who studied psychology in college, rather than researchers. Nonetheless, this is a research based site, so it is vital to get a critical mass of researcher as quickly as possible.
For me there are three issues:
asking/answering questions is an autocatalytic cycle (at least for me). When I see well-research, and thought-provoking questions, or when I read their great answers I get new ideas for questions, try to research them and ask them. Seeing well researched questions also makes me want to dedicate the time to ask new questions, or to answer the question.
With questions related to my research, I have a backlog of questions that I want to ask, but no time to carefully formulate them. Since it doesn't seem to me like the site has developed a sufficient user base of experts, I do not expect to get answers to technical questions quickly, and so usually chose to invest my time otherwise.
Seeing posts where it seems like the user spent only 10 minutes thinking about the question discouraged me from investing time in formulating my own questions. However, I am (usually) not willing to post 10 minute questions associated with my name, so this does not lead to me asking lots of quick easy questions, but instead leads to me not asking any questions.
An issue some people I talk to in my lab raise (and I am sure will come up in other answers) is that people are afraid to ask a stupid question. The knee-jerk reaction to this (and one we have embraced) is to say "no question is stupid; ask questions at any level". Unfortunately, this does not help people that will ask good questions. People are their own worst critics, and the reason people that will potentially ask good questions are afraid of asking a dumb question is because they have internal high standards for questions, not because they are afraid of what moderators or users on a random site will think of them. Thus, lowering the threshold for participation, will not help us grab these people.
However, ensuring a high standard of questions and answers will let the people that are willing to invest time (and it does take time!) into asking questions see that their investment will not be in vain.
Thus my (slightly-paradoxical) suggestions for encouraging questions on this site:
1. Take the time to ask, answer, and upvote good questions, and
2. Discourage, close, and down-vote the easy-to-ask, unresearched, and low-quality questions
I will try to contribute to this, by investing more time and energy into asking questions, but I do not support the idea of seeding with questions that we already know the answers to, or don't care about.
Casebash made some very important points on the present & future situation. NOBODY is really responsible for this. Creating a high quality site is very tricky. The problems of this beta site lie all in the failed area51 process. There are many proofs:
Now you will say, how does this information help us? That's not my point. But the question is "Why arent we asking more questions". Because most of professional commiters left the proposal, after it was merged with psychology/psychiatry (much bigger branches than cognitive science) and renamed to cognitive science. Dont put this into question. They told it explicitly. Read the answers and comments. I dont see any of the user in the linked thread on this site, and a lot commiters who didnt uncommit or follow area51 proposals discussions (most) think probably the same way. So, due to the merging, this site went into private beta with probably more than 80% complete laymen if you look up "commiter roles" stats. Nonetheless the mods here still try to establish here very high or research level questions (which is admirable but tilting at windmills).
Even the SE creators noticed that more and more proposals fail to generate enough traffic and community regulars that keep a site alive. (SE grows expontentially, so does the amount of laymen and therefore these laymen ("hey brain research is cool and I can commit to 3 proposals!") commiters "dilute" the expert rate for a proposal, so wisely they set the number of questions up to guarentee this clear common scope and enough good questions in private beta).
This site started at the same time as biology.SE, but that proposal had nearly 50% academic and professional commiters. Chemistry.SE is starting soon, also 50%. Biology has very much high rep users with academic background near or in biology. It has good quality and future. Chemistry too. The big problem for humanities is, there are currently nearly zero experts on the programming network SE, but many natural and computational scientists. That's why these sites are successful, not because they attracted experts by clever twitter/facebook advertising, they had experts already in private beta! This is necessary.
This site reminds me on philosophy.SE. A sexy topic many SE programmers wanted to have like "brain research" (which seems to be the main topic here). BUT, really only less than 5 user seem to have expertise and good questions here. No philosophy student has ever joined philosophy.se. The level is much too low, and they would only join if other students would have participated already in the private beta and created good content. If you don't have this high quality content and user when going to public beta, these sites are doomed to popular science level or even worse.
That is the whole point of the area51 process, to bypass the chicken and egg problem by creating that very important attracting high quality content and user base.
This huge problem is even more strengthened by the experimental character of of many research fields in cognitive sciences. It's seems a lot of current high voted but unanswered questions, sound interesting, are asking for correlation of X & Y, are probably matter of current research, but it isn't clear if there is really data or experiments carried out to answer this stuff. You have to ask mainly questions, which can be answered by explanations based on background and experience user here have. A "search a appropriate paper" site does not work. Those questions are too localized and special for such a small and broad user base, again its the point of area51 to bypass this problem. As Casebash said, it will be faster for a researcher to search literature to answer his question than formulating a question here and waiting for an answer. Research questions communities work for math, informatics and physics, because there is a underlying common methodology and theory in solving such questions and such questions are answerable by reasoning and experience. Psychology and especially neuroscience is currently not more than experimental trial & error. Even theophys.se has problems to generate enough questions vs. healthy research sites like mathoverlfow. Because most questions in theo. physics better fit a discussion than a question & answer format. This is due to the nature of these disciplines.
I really would like to see a high quality humanity proposal on SE, believe me, I'm really interested when and how a high quality scientifc discussion forum can work, thats why I observe from time to time the science.SE metas and stats. But with current mods and scope (trying to establish research level but not having really serious background like most here) this site cannot reach this level. You should really think about stopping "overmoderating", charging initial resesearch effort and make this a popular science level site or stop wasting your time and trying to reach the utopic level above.
My biggest problem is that new and more narrow specialized proposals on area51 like social psychology, sociology, will be closed as duplicate of this site, which IMHO cannot reach high level or attract any experts cause of reasons explained above. Even with high quality, no social psychologist joins a brain research site. There is marginal overlap in research questions and expertise. If you want that high quality, the best you can do is probably abandon this project and restart a clearly scoped new proposal (neuroscience or psychology/psychatry) with more participating and professional experts in private beta. But as said, its hard to get academics in humanities to SE. But having student-level sites like physics.SE or SO is highly productive to be able at all to start research-level sites like theophys.se or tcs.se. Cognitive sciences missed that step and is thematically much broader than these sites. This cannot work. It has never worked on SE. A healthy area51 process is crucial.
I dont have really much time to discuss my thoughts if anyone strongly disagrees, thats why I listed some facts and threads above, its a fact driven meta analysis. But the community mechanisms and prerequisites I explained above seems something which is not really known or considered by the discussing user or many SE regulars at all on other SE betas, even the SE owner (they wisely raised the area51 requirements and quoted a new area51 2.0 process, something I called for months ago, as cognitivesciences.se is not the only site with this problem, poker.se etc.) My analysis will not show you a way to "solve" your problems, but there seems to be more meta then main site discussion/traffic, confusion what is the way to go, if to go. But maybe the community will stop this endless meta discussion how to pull itself by its own bootstraps (failed area51 process) and focus on a lower popular science level or the tricky (imo impossible) way towards academic level.
@Artem I knew this answer would only get downvotes, nonetheless I wrote it, take this in consideration plz :) I made some Q&A on area51 and other SE sites about quality problems and improvements. They are often very polarizing, highly up or downvoted, because I never draw optimistic pictures (which IS more constructive for meta discussion and favorised by mods (for good reasons)) and say, quite lenghty, what I see and think. But the voting on my answers and over 15 years of discussion from usenet, bulletin to q&a show me that I have some understanding of the underlying social patterns of online communities. And this site doesnt seem to be in a situation for optimistic improvements anymore, as the voting on Casebashs answer shows. There is no common denominator in the community
You deserve a respond for investing time into your comments, although I know we will not find compromise. I didnt ask you to abandon cognitivescience.se. But to rethink the scope and quality that you want to reach instead of additional redundant meta discussion why this site has a serious experts traffic problem. Your counter-arguments dont really falsify the stats/links I quoted above. Some ad hominem attacks and minor corrections on categorization what humanities or semi-sciences like psychology mean in Germany/US. The area51 process obviously failed here, many left, some stayed and recognized in private beta that this site will not be about the type of psychological questions they thought. It was the (wrong, instead they set up now the requirements) decision of the SE creators to merge these sites, as they recognized that sites needing 2-3 years to finish commitment phase will have lost most of its initial commiters, when going finally to private beta. Its tricky to create high quality communities, even they have to learn this :) The questions you seem interested in (theo. neuroscience) fit this proposal title, but not at all the level and scope of questions most commiters where interested in or have any basic understanding. IMHO a explicit neuroscience proposal where computational scientists, physicsists, biochemists doing research in this highly tricky and interdisciplinary branch commit to, can reach that quality with the new area51 requirements, but this site doesnt.
You made a comment above, why no phd/profs are joining this site. Why they should? No philosophy graduate joins phil.se. They are ONLY attracted by good content and colleagues. This is a chicken and egg problem
cstheory.se, physics.se was possible only because of stackoverflow, thats why computersience.se now is successful, dont mix cause and effect. You dont create a working site like theophys.se from the nowhere. Many physicists do professional programming, this is the simple reason. Mathoverlfow started like a private beta with many experts.
I'm sorry, I really would like to see this work, I'm really interested in neuroscience, but this is a tricky topic, which does per se not create so much good AND ANSWERABLE questions like math.se or physics.se (even math much more than physics)., so you need even more very good private beta stats than those sites to get the community going.