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The earlier incarnation of Literature SE - "Lit.1", as I call it - came to an untimely end after 269 days of existence. As the current Literature SE is 269 days old today, I thought it was a good time to make a comparison between the two, to the extent that we can do so using data from Area 51 and hearsay.

Questions and answers

First of all, hard numbers from Area 51.

  • Questions per day: 0.4 for Lit.1, currently 3.2 for Lit.2. We're certainly doing better at generating content in the form of questions.
  • Answers per question: 1.8 for Lit.1, currently 1.4 for Lit.2. We're not doing so well here, but that must be partly because of the fact that Lit.1 allowed recommendation questions, which (at least from my observations on SFF from the days when recommendation questions were allowed there) tend to generate multiple low-effort answers.
  • Questions answered: 95% for Lit.1, currently 72% for Lit.2. We seem to be doing spectacularly badly here, but again that's partly due to recommendation questions, which are easier to answer than deeper analysis questions or most of the other questions we get here. All it really shows is that we're getting hard questions, and that people aren't posting poor answers just for the sake of having answers, which is probably a good thing.

In summary, we're doing much better on question volume and not so well on answer volume. For harder-to-quantify quality considerations, see below.

Traffic

This is pretty hard to evaluate with a closed site, but again we have an Area 51 statistic to use. Visits per day were at 230 for Lit.1 and 1087 for Lit.2, so we're definitely doing much better here. It's easy to attribute this to Hot Network Questions - the HNQ sidebar was introduced in 2013, well after the demise of Lit.1 - but I don't think that's the only or even the main factor. We haven't had many HNQs in the last several months, and yet the visits-per-day statistic has been steadily increasing for most of that time. The notoriously unreliable site analytics data indicates that 91.1% of our traffic comes from search engines. I think our SEO and/or usefulness to the peoples of the internet is genuinely much better than it was last time around. This is something to be proud of.

Users and reputation

For this we can glean a lot more than just one or two numbers from the old Area 51 info.

  • Highest-reputation user: a little over 4k rep on Lit.1, over 15k rep on Lit.2.
  • Number of 3k+ users: only 1 on Lit.1, currently 11 on Lit.2.
  • Number of 2k+ users: only 2 on Lit.1, currently 21 on Lit.2.
  • Number of 1k+ users: only 7 on Lit.1, currently 34 on Lit.2.
  • Total number of users: a little over 1000 on Lit.1, well over 2000 on Lit.2.

So we have more users and - more importantly - more engaged users. People are staying on to participate, and seemingly voting more than on Lit.1, leading to a far bigger group of users with high enough rep to take part in moderation of the site. This is more important than it might seem, for the long-term future of the site: if people are committed enough to stay, and are actively taking part by posting or at least voting, then the site's activity isn't likely to nosedive.

Quality

This is much harder to evaluate, as there are no objective statistics for it and I haven't trawled through all the data dumps from Lit.1, but from what I've heard that site's veterans saying, I think we're doing much better this time round. We've banned recommendation questions from the start (yeah, I know I keep saying this), and we've been trying to educate ourselves and each other about what good answers should look like, with IMO at least some measure of success. This is the main reason why I'm not too worried about our low statistics on answered questions and answers per question: our volume of answers is less than on Lit.1, but the quality is higher. My hope is that volume can be built up over time, but a precedent for low quality is hard to fix once it becomes embedded.


I may add to this if I can think of anything more. Let me know what you think in comments/answers!

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    came to an untimely end - hmm. You might say that it came to a timely end then, from all I've heard ;) – user58 Oct 15 '17 at 18:24
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    This is nice perspective. It makes me think it might be time to drop the comparisons to Lit 1.0 entirely - our situation may be far too different. We learned their lessons, and maybe it's time to move on. Succeed or fail, it won't be for the same reasons. – Aza Oct 15 '17 at 18:56
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    "We seem to be doing spectacularly badly here" - I don't see why it should be made a big deal of. It's normal for a site of this scope, theme, and quality standards to have some unanswered questions. I know from my own unanswered questions that some of them are about books that are read by a fairly small group of people, and I know from some other questions that they are just too hard to be answered, at least now. That's just how some questions are; it's not spectacularly bad for physics as a science to have lots of unanswered questions, for instance. – Gallifreyan Oct 15 '17 at 19:37
  • I'm actually with @Gallifreyan on this - it suggests that we're asking questions that are difficult to answer, either because of specialized knowledge, or because they're uncommon books. This is, in and of itself, a good sign. – Aza Oct 16 '17 at 4:53
  • @Gallifreyan Yeah, that's why I said "seem", and followed that phrase immediately by a "but". I wasn't really clear enough there, so I've edited to stress the "seem" and add another sentence. – Rand al'Thor Oct 16 '17 at 8:59
  • @Zyera Yup, agreed with both of your comments. (Re unanswered questions: I just hope this hasn't contributed to our loss of users. As a wise mod once told me, "[t]he one thing that causes new users to leave most often is a lack of human interaction." I wonder how many people have posted a question, not got an answer, and then never bothered coming back.) – Rand al'Thor Oct 16 '17 at 8:59

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