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I have just noticed that Health Stack Exchange is in the top 5 of the SE websites with the smallest percentage of answered questions:

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Deleting answers, seems to me, has turning off potential contributors, and in doing so seems to have contributed to this. Is this the case and if so, what can or should we do about it?


  • As of 2016-11-22, the percentage of answered questions is 61%.
  • As of 2017-02-26, the percentage of answered questions is 60%.
  • As of 2017-03-14, the percentage of answered questions is 59% (mirror).
  • As of 2017-04-13, the percentage of answered questions is 58% (mirror) .
  • As of 2017-05-01, the percentage of answered questions is 57% (mirror).
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    68% is terribly low, but then again it's the only bad stat about the site :) Maybe some tag challenges like they do on other sites, that would encourage more answers and increase the percentage. – Pobrecita Feb 15 '16 at 7:21
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    @januarium What'd encourage more answers is the site's non-insistence on itself being treated as some kind of authority on health-related answers. While I'd agree that promotional content etc should not be posted as an answer, the bar on what's considered a "good answer" on this site is unusually high. Regardless of what users of this site may think, a normal site-surfer like me is not going to consider their advice as a 'final-word', just something to consider. – user2583 Feb 16 '16 at 5:52
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    @cst1992 One person's opinion doesn't constitute the whole. We don't post high-quality information for the people who don't care about it, but who do. If we posted lower-quality content, we're ignoring those who might happen to make decisions based on this information. Who will judge, "good" from "bad"? We allow sources instead of opinions to be our criteria. – Dave Liu Feb 16 '16 at 6:02
  • If we posted lower-quality content, we're ignoring those who might happen to make decisions based on this information. Do you have any proof that people do that? – user2583 Feb 16 '16 at 6:03
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    @cst1992 Do you have proof people don't? If just a few make decisions based on this information, are you saying that's ok? – Dave Liu Feb 16 '16 at 6:35
  • Retracting vote to close for the reworded question ;) – Dave Liu Feb 16 '16 at 7:39
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    @cst1992 I don't really know who this comment is aimed at, but if you are talking about the moderators then they may just be trying to keep the quality of the site up. And I don't think this site is trying to be a leading health authority, but just something to be considered. I think they are giving advice not diagnosises and they are trying to make sure that their advice is not subpar. However, I do agree the standards of the questions are debatable and this site is still trying to figure that out. – Pobrecita Feb 16 '16 at 20:14
  • Based on percentage it looks bad but by number it really is not as long as it does not continue to grow at this same pace. Look at Super User current 93,779 versus Health having currently 512. This is just my comment and not answer though. – Facebook Feb 19 '16 at 1:50
  • Building good answers and a source of valuable information takes time. There aren't many of us, and those of us who are putting an effort into answer questions and moderating have other commitments too. This issue has less to do with deleting answers as it does with finding valuable contributors. I haven't been active in a while, so I'm not sure, but based on a few dozen Q&As it seems difficult to moderate the activity, and there have been less deletions anyways. The main issue is how to get quality contributors, which should be another question I suppose. – Dave Liu Nov 27 '16 at 22:28
  • Looking at the votes on the answers, there were only 20 in the past year. We really don't have a lot of contributors. I understand it's frustrating to move so slowly when developing good content. Are you familiar with the recent issues with Facebook distributing fake news? News sites need to be meticulously inspected and their underlying sources found. Bohannon even wrote BS about chocolate just so that he could prove a point. npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/05/28/410313446/… – Dave Liu Nov 27 '16 at 22:39
  • That being said, I think we should (and kind of have) go on hold with deleting answers, unless blatantly wrong and harmful. You're right that it turns people off to contributing. – Dave Liu Nov 27 '16 at 22:54
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    2017 and the percentage of answered questions keeps on falling... I do think this is a huge problem for the site – Narusan Apr 21 '17 at 22:10
  • just a nitpick, but the date format officially used in the Stack Exchange system is Mmm dd 'yy – Ooker Apr 23 '17 at 12:29
  • @Ooker I prefer to use international standards :-) ISO 8601 in this case – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 23 '17 at 14:40
  • @FranckDernoncourt i was once reading about this, but not sure why they don't use this notation – Ooker Apr 23 '17 at 16:01
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No! :) On our site, I think it's good to encourage unanswered questions over bad answers! Bad as in no legitimate references or incorrect information. That's why our unanswered questions statistic is so high. Think of it as a treasure mine of questions for health experts! However, I agree that deleting too fast is unfair to the contributor who attempts to make an effort. We should guide posters to craft quality content instead of simply shooting them down.

There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics - Benjamin Disraeli

Remember that people who tend to use stackexchange will probably be VERY different from people who conventionally search for medicines and health information! (As possible indication of this, look at the highest-rated question on Health. Spoiler: It's about computer usage.)

What you don't understand is that the community isn't just for people from other stack-exchanges. It's for EVERYONE, which hasn't reached this site yet. If you look at exponential growth, it always seems surprisingly small at first and inconsequential. That's the beauty of virality.

If you went to 20 U.S. Colleges, and introduced this site to the medical students, within a month, our site would probably explode with traffic but that's not the focus right now- or it shouldn't be. We need to set a precedence. When things take-off, we can't be loose with "looks good" information. Else, it'll set a trend that perpetuates, and moderators may not be able to catch everything. That's where trend comes into play. If most answers on the site are well-supported with facts, others will view this as a standard and continue the good pattern set!

It's ok if people get turned off to contributing or don't like the site. If they left that easily, you can imagine they'd probably fail to put quality-effort into their questions and answers anyways.

Look, Health.SE has areas that it needs work on, like slower deletions. I understand your frustration. Based on your previous questions and attempts to communicate, it's been difficult for you to contribute earnestly, but you've stuck it out, which has helped the site grow. However, bringing your personal feelings into this will make contributing very difficult. Your pre-edited question violated our "Be Nice" policy with your toxic sarcasm towards the community as a whole and your negativity doesn't help.

I am, in contrast to you, extremely encouraged when my posts are deleted, down-voted, and flaws exposed! It's a tremendous help and one can learn so much to improve!

Clearly you've made helpful contributions to the site, the only question that remains is whether you will continue to antagonize moderators, or try to adjust to meet the standards and needs of the community. I sincerely hope the latter.

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    "There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics" - very true. There are beta sites that have over 90% response rate, but get below 3 questions per day - it's easier to respond most of the questions, when there are fewer of them. I've never had my answer deleted, and I would probably be rather angry if that happened. Also, I rarely write answers because it takes a lot of time to write one that meets health SE standards. Nonetheless, I very much agree that the standards mustn't be lowered. Health is a very different topic from any other on SE. – Lucky Feb 16 '16 at 18:18
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This is indeed a problem, answers are not judged correctly here which leads to people not bothering to give answers. Also, it has to be noted that this also means that answers that are judged to be good answers, may not be all that good when judged based on the actual content instead of whether or not it satisfies certain formal criteria.

  • What were the criteria, and do you have some examples? Was that problem somehow related to the medical dilemma — i.e. giving someone medical advice with false pretenses as to certifications or the like? – can-ned_food Apr 26 '17 at 2:54
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Yes, this is a problem

But I think it is only one visible aspect of a much wider problem.

  1. We don't have many active high-rep users. Lucky and Carey are the only ones I see around often.

  2. Many visitors to this site are newbies and never return - they don't actually accept answers. This is turning people down, presumably. Also, this means that there is no solid base of active users willing to provide good answers.

  3. Most questions are uninteresting. To me it feels like every second question I face is about personal diagnosis, or at least comes very close. The other half is about dietary recommendations, and I'm not really into food science. Therefore, there are not many questions I'm willing to write an answer on. Additionally, only high-rep users can close a question or accept edits, and as there are not many of them, this also takes ages.

Solutions

Maybe it's time for more active moderators?

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