Our site is facing an overrun of lack of moderation and few contributors. Of the ones who do, some of them may need guidance on how to develop quality answers.

I'm not blaming anyone- we all have our own lives and matters to attend. However, in the scope of this site, and in consideration of its continuation, Veteran Franck Dernoncourt brings up a relevant point: is there a way we can encourage people to contribute?

Bad information is always going to be common. We as a community should always and continuously work towards high quality posts. But as of now, do we have any ideas or plans to increase engagement and traffic? Should we do anything about engagement and traffic?

I'm personally conflicted and wondering what the rest of the community thinks.

  • 4
    I'm an M.D. and I've tried to post quality answers. Unfortunately, however, most of them have been downvoted - either because I don't know how to produce a good answer, or because voters don't do an honest job. I will try to answer a few more questions but I'm very inclined to leave the site. I've been here for a few months only but I don't have a good impression. I complained to the mods three times in November but they seem to be very busy guys as I received no answer at all.
    – Centaurus
    Nov 30, 2016 at 23:55
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    @Centaurus I haven't looked through all your answers, just the first two. I'll try to find time to scan through some more. Immediately, I note that on this site, assertions of any fact have to be backed up with references (which is a good requirement considering some of the crap that get's put up and is upvoted). It's not that you're wrong, just need citations (take a gander at my answers). Also, link only answers aren't a good idea SE wide, not just hear (so give a little be more of an explanation to go with the link).
    – Atl LED
    Dec 2, 2016 at 17:19
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    @Centaurus Please see this meta post for additional details.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 2, 2016 at 19:40
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    @AtlLED While I don't disagree that the policy is a bad one, the demand for citations is one of several reasons I've walked away.
    – Fomite
    Dec 5, 2016 at 23:59
  • @Fomite Interesting. So perhaps you think the site would be more open to professional without the citation requirement on answers? Or perhaps most interesting would be citations in questions but not answers...but that doesn't sound like a good idea. I'm not sure how it would work with out requiring references, but I'd be willing to try it.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 6, 2016 at 4:03
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    @AtlLED Consider a site like CrossValidated. While many things have citations for complex answers, answers that are basic in nature, or being answered by an expert, often don't have any citations to them. I'm much more likely to answer an easy to address question, even if its of passing interest, on CV than I am here.
    – Fomite
    Dec 6, 2016 at 6:00

3 Answers 3


I just came back to the site after a few month hiatus (which will always be true due to my schedule, and ID Week was hectic this year).

One of the reasons I came back was to show the site to a colleague, who promptly said "why would I want to jump into that mess" after looking at the first few questions and the current featured questions.

I think I made my concerns about research known, both in my question and awnser here.

I certainly can't speak for all physicians, but I can speak about myself and colleagues I have mentioned it to. I am a believer in the Stack Exchange model generically, but even I have a hard time wanting to be involved with this site. I think the biggest deterrent is the low quality question pool (which again I think could be raised by requiring a base level research).

The SE model doesn't work without [health] professionals (way wider than physicians), and I truly haven't been able to argue (after trying) for their participation. I really think the community will have to make a decision between much harsher regulations on question quality and professional involvement.

  • I agree with your points, but I think we tried to choose harsher regulation, but haven't been able to get more professional involvement.
    – Dave Liu
    Dec 2, 2016 at 22:27
  • Really? Because the at least 1 reference in a question would be clear cut rule that would cut down the vast majority of questions on the site, but that would also make the much better. My understanding is that was never tried, And if we enforce that, we would probably grow to have plenty of good questions.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 2, 2016 at 22:33
  • @daveL I'm not qualified to know whether or not this site is headed towards death. I just get the impression that it might be. If so, a drastic action like the one I proposed might be worth revisiting (I don't think it would constitute as a drastic action if implemented close to the launch). However I'll leave that to someone else to recommend on another meta post.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 2, 2016 at 22:43
  • Maybe it was mutually agreed upon by a lot of the community but never formally established.
    – Dave Liu
    Dec 3, 2016 at 1:35
  • @DaveL If you look at that meta question, you will find that my "at least 1 reference/link" criterion, and subsequent logic flow, were not popularly accepted/voted up by the community. I further acknowledge that it would be a blunt hammer move (I liken it to prednisone, a heavy handed drug, but it works). But I think in Health, linking to research is the only way to show that you attempted to answer the question yourself, and that it's "reproducible" [other people care], which seem to be very important in SE. If others think it's worth revisiting, it should get yet another meta post.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 3, 2016 at 3:42
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    The 1 reference in question rule sounds interesting - what sort of references do you think should be acceptable? Would you go for reputable references only, or would you accept Wikipedia or something similar, for a question? (Sorry if you gave the answer to this before, I can't find it at the moment.)
    – Lucky
    Dec 4, 2016 at 2:39
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    @Lucky to start with, I would take any reference that was not a comment. I would happily accept Wikipedia, and even be willing to deal with total crap sources , just to see it written out and that other people are actually holding to it. If you look at my answer in the meta question I referenced, it should be more clear.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 4, 2016 at 2:51
  • Hmm... the concern from some in the community was that this could potentially and severely mislead people to things that are not commonly accepted in the scientific community, simple because there's a "study" that supports some claim, making it difficult for users of the site to discern good information from bad. Yahoo answers tried to encourage people to cite sources too. Didn't turn out so well. The importance of sources gets underlined by a scientist who published a study claiming "chocolate helps lose weight" only to point out the gullible nature of media and people in general.
    – Dave Liu
    Dec 4, 2016 at 6:33
  • I'd totally encourage people to read this article written by that researcher. It's very insightful. io9.gizmodo.com/…
    – Dave Liu
    Dec 4, 2016 at 6:34
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    I would be happier with even stricter guidelines on sources. But right now I feel like Beggars can't be choosers. @lucky
    – Atl LED
    Dec 4, 2016 at 13:57

Here are some factors that I think do not encourage contributions, in no particular order:

  • too many unexplained downvotes
  • comments tend to be deleted too often. It's especially annoying when one tries to discuss with the OP or some answerer to better comprehend something or discuss potential answers. As a result, I avoid writing comments.
  • answers tend to be deleted as well. I am OK with that if the answer is obvious garbage, but otherwise I think leaving the users votes or have moderation add warnings (e.g., "no reference" warning) is preferable. I personally have all my answers but one deleted one day, even though most (all?) of them had references and had been upvoted, so I simply stopped writing answers.
  • questions without any answer, upvote, few comments and less than one visit per day are automatically deleted after a while without any warning, regardless of the quality of the question. I find these automatic deletions to be nonsense and a complete disregard to user content, and I understand users who don't want to put effort in writing questions that can disappear overnight.
  • There is no way for the user to see all of one's deleted question/answers/comments

Related: Is Health.SE sick?

  • 2
    I didn't know about this auto deletion and I agree, it doesn't seem helpful at all.
    – Dave Liu
    Dec 2, 2016 at 20:05
  • sometimes I wonder, why you still be here if this site seems to not encourage your participation?
    – Ooker
    Dec 6, 2016 at 7:48
  • @Ooker There are some factors that I think do encourage contributions. Dec 6, 2016 at 14:46
  • and they are...?
    – Ooker
    Dec 6, 2016 at 15:28
  • @Ooker User content license, SEDE, website design, markdown, lack of better QA website alternative, quality of some user content, etc. I just want to focus on the negative factors in the answer to keep it short. Dec 6, 2016 at 15:51
  • @FranckDernoncourt that's the advantages of SE in general I guess. I mean that you are still actively contributing to Health particularly, on both main sand meta sites, even when you faced such disencouragements that I hardly see on other users (maybe because you are more active than those?).
    – Ooker
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:03
  • @Ooker I don't see any positive contrition factors that are present in Health Stack Exchange but absent in the other Stack Exchange websites. Dec 7, 2016 at 0:00

I occasionally check in on the site, but to be honest, I'm not an active participant anymore. That I'm still safely one of the Top 20 users of the site is worrisome all its own.

To me, what killed things for me was two-fold:

  1. Extremely poor question pool. I think when I finally walked away for good there were multiple penis enlargement questions on the site. The site is populated with vague, poorly worded questions that don't feel like they're either interesting for me (an epidemiologist) to try to tackle, or likely to have that poster do anything other than go back to their usual community until they have another oddball question. There's no sense that answering grows the community.
  2. The burden of answering. I got a downvote for using "medical jargon" like asymptomatic. I spent a bunch of time defending an answer that was "If X was true, you would see Y, we don't see Y" without a bunch of citations for not seeing Y (a low priority study if there ever was one). Combined with the poor question pool, and the simultaneous need for expert opinion but demanding said expert opinion doing a literature search for things that are honestly just known pushed it into the "More trouble than it was worth" category.
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    It would be interesting to see a requirement for a reference on questions but not answers. Though that would probably be seen as unfair. I think that I am finally walking away from this group though.
    – Atl LED
    Dec 20, 2016 at 18:18
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    @AtlLED That‘s a pity. We are trying to re-organise health and think about how we can improve the site. Both you and Fomite are invited to join a chat event (hopefully) soon where we can all have a talk and consider what worked and what didn’t work.
    – Narusan
    Nov 9, 2017 at 20:39

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