This site is in a rut. It has been in beta for six and half years. The most obvious factor preventing us from graduating is our questions per day stat. All our other statistics are excellent. (https://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/1623/writers)
While graduation decisions are not made on stats alone (Be clearer on what a beta site needs to graduate), questions per day is a vital stat for even being considered for graduation:
When a site starts to consistently receive 10 questions/day, we’ll consider it for graduation. -- (Graduation, site closure, and a clearer outlook on the health of SE sites)
We are barely halfway to that threshold with no particular signs of growth. We also have several users expressing frustration that they seem to be seeing the same questions over and over again. This leads to turnover without growth. We lose people as fast as we gain them. We are in a rut. We need to do something to get ourselves out of that rut and get the site growing again.
A big part of the rut we are in is that the information scent of this site strongly suggests that we are a site for aspiring authors of fantasy fiction. This is only a tiny fraction of the scope that the site was chartered to serve (which might, by itself, be a reason the deny graduation). To graduate we will need to fulfill our mandate better and get the site growing again, and that means attracting fiction writers from other genres and professional non-fiction writers from fields like technical communication and business writing. But we can't do that if we look like a forum solely for aspiring fantasy fiction writers.
This problem has been discussed before in these meta posts:
- Should we change our name?
- Improving our information scent
- Can we improve our short network pitch?
- Do the on topic rules fit non-fiction, particularly technical writing?
- How can we encourage technical writing on this site?
and several others.
Unfortunately, until we graduate, we can't change our site design. A graphical treatment that shows the range of writing styles and purposes that we are supposed to cover would be a great way to improve our information scent and thus attract a wider range of writers and writing questions. But we can't do that until we graduate. To get there, we have to do it by other means. So here is a proposal for a set of changes that will hopefully improve our information scent and allow us to increase our questions per day:
Change our name to something that reflects the full range of our concerns. As noted in Should we change our name?, the name "Writers" suggest fiction writing rather than professional writing. The current top contender for a new name (but based on very few votes) is Prose and Comms. This name is designed to suggest a broad range of interest and a more professional focus for the site. EDIT while Prose and Comms has several fans, it also has several detractors. A change we can all agree on is better than no change or a divisive change. A less contentious change that has been suggested is Writing.
Change our short network pitch to Q&A for the craft of professional writing, including fiction, non-fiction, technical, scholarly, and commercial writing. as discussed in Can we improve our short network pitch?
Change our SE category from Arts (https://area51.stackexchange.com/categories/1/arts) to Professional. This does not suggest a move away from fiction. Writing and publishing fiction is a profession, and can and should be treated like one, but it opens up the site to other forms of professional writing, a category it was always intended to serve.
Change our on topic rules to better support site growth and to make it more attractive to commercial and business writers. Specifically, change our current "what to write" rule to allow "how do I express this idea" kind of questions while still excluding "help me think up an idea to write about" questions. While "how to express this idea" questions are seldom transferrable to others in fiction, they can be highly useful to others in commercial and technical writing. As such they are actually our closest analogue to the "how do I write this algorithm" questions that are the bread and butter of Stack Overflow.
Suggested wording for the new rule is to replace:
This question appears to be off-topic because asking what to write or asking for help rephrasing a sentence or passage are both off-topic here, as such questions are very unlikely to help anybody else.
with something like this:
This question appears to be off-topic because asking us to help you generate ideas to write about is off-topic here, as such questions are very unlikely to help anybody else.
Nothing in this proposal is intended to make fantasy fiction questions unwelcome of off topic here. They are obviously an important component of the site. But to get out of our rut, we need to broaden our appeal and bring in other writers, which would, in turn, produce better questions and answers that would benefit all writers, including writers of fantasy fiction.
Why not allow critiques?
Another change in our rules is sometimes suggested, which is to allow critiques again. This proposal specifically rejects that suggestion for two main reasons:
Online critiquing is well supported by other sites that have rules and mechanisms well suited to the critiquing process. This site could never work as well for critiquing as those sites do and being second best at something does not do us much good.
Opening up the site to critiques will make our information scent even worse than it is now. It will drown the site in second rate prose (Sturgeon's law applies here: 90% of everything is crap) and it will never look like anything other than a site for amateur fantasy writers. Even if it improved our numbers, it would do nothing for our site quality or to help us fulfill our mandate, which are both equally important criteria for graduation.
So, that's the proposal. What do you think?