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  • In August we had at least 1 question each day
  • In September we had 1 day with 0 questions
  • In October we had 3 days with 0 questions
  • 16 November was already day number 5 with 0 questions in November.

While our total number of users is the highest it's ever been, the awareness of the existence of our site is the highest it's ever been, and our presence in search engines is presumably the highest it's ever been, why is it that we are seeing such a drastic reduction in questions? In fact the "week of November 8th" was our worst week yet in terms of # of questions, since the week of July 5th, and it's looking like the week of November 15th will look even worse when the results come out (if the pace so far continues).

Some possible reasons for this drop in activity, that I'm able to immediately suggest are:

  • While we are at record-highs for all the above-mentioned stats, we are probably at a record low in terms of posting on the Facebook group, and on Twitter, and maybe also on other SE sites. (We are also not begging friends to ask questions anymore, like we did during Private Beta our question spree leading up to the 90-day mark, but this has nothing to do with the drop in activity from August to September to October to November during which there was no such question spree except one that effectively lasted only 2 days during the 180-day mark when we encouraged people to fulfill their Area51 commitments). The Facebook group has indeed helped bring in a lot of our most active users, but I doubt at this point that it's the reason why we're seeing so many more 0-question days. I assume the same is true and even more so, for Twitter. Perhaps we do have to continue asking friends to ask questions, and we do have to continue advertising our questions on other sites, to maintain or grow our activity rates, but again I don't think this has much to do with the growing number of days with 0 questions asked.

  • There was three users that asked maybe an average of 8 questions each, so maybe 24 questions in total, over a period of 2 or 3 days, as they were rushing to fulfill commitment before the 180-day deadline. This bombardment of questions from the same user, many of the questions being slightly rushed because of the time-sensitivity, may have made some of our users cringe a bit and made them feel like the site was falling downhill (one user did express concern over that influx of questions, and surely others noticed it too). There was also an influx of questions asked and answered at the same time by the same user which could have had a similar effect, and after we discouraged the user to do this the questions coming from them would have dropped, but this was an isolated incident over a short period of time and can't be the cause of the long-term (August to November) trend of decreasing activity.

  • Perhaps people have felt discouraged about asking questions, since upvoting has drastically reduced. We hit a rock-bottom in upvotes, two days in a row on 5-6 November when we had 17 and 16 upvotes respectively, and the lowest we'd ever had in a day before that was 20 (!!!). This most certainly can discourage people (especially new users, and people that are completely knew to Stack Exchange and don't have a single clue as to why their question is being so poorly received) and it happened in November, so maybe it's the reason for the huge drop in number of questions we've had this month so far. We also had a bout during which people were not writing very many answers (see this and this), which could have been discouraging to people considering to ask more questions (why spend time asking something if your last few questions didn't get any answers?). Similarly we typically got one HNQ per day but it seems we've only had 1 HNQ in the last 8 days which is quite probably tied to the drop in upvoting habits, and may be responsible for users' questions not getting enough attention, leading to them being discouraged to ask more (though this is a weaker argument than the other two in this paragraph).

Considering the three possible reasons that I suggested above, I think the first one is the least likely to have a major effect, the second one is more likely, and the third one is the most likely. I am curious what others think.

  • Are there other possible reasons for the drop in activity?
  • Was the influx of questions at the 180-day mark such a major turn-off?
  • Or is it simply that we have discouraged people from asking questions because we have allowed so many questions to go unanswered and we have not been upvoting people's questiosn enough?

Finally: What do we need to do to fix this?

Edit on 6 December: We just had our first 0-question day of the month, and in fact our first 0-question day since this Meta post was originally posted, so while half of November resulted in 5 0-question days, the second half of November resulted in 0 :)

Edit on 15 February: It turns out that 5 December is showing up as having one question. 11, 17 and 25 December were the only 0-question days that month, 27 Jan the only one in January 2021, and 12 February the only one this month so far.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't there the possibility that people [students and porfessors] are busy since the semester is coming to an end in many regions?. hence the lack of time to post questions provided they have any. It's just a thought. :) $\endgroup$ Nov 26 '20 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AnoopANair that's one possibility. Perhaps you can write it as an answer? It certainly answers the question "Are there other possible reasons for the drop in activity?" and I certainly hadn't thought of that answer. It would be great if you could write it as an answer so that we can get feedback from the community (that is something very difficult to do for comments, since users cannot interact with comments as much as they can with answers). $\endgroup$ Nov 26 '20 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know how many of the contributors on the SE are from India, but if the number is high then I see why the activity from them would have reduced. It is a festive time, perhaps the most important part of the year in most of India - Diwali. $\endgroup$ Nov 29 '20 at 17:11
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Not sure how many contributors on the site are from India, but there could be a good reason for a dip in activity from Indians (or so I think) - Diwali. For most of India, this is the festival season. Here is an article from The Times of India about a sudden spike in covid-19 cases post Diwali. I live in Ahmedabad where they reinstated a lockdown for 2.5 days due to this rise. We still have a curfew from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM. For most of India, this is the time to relax and throw the throes of work out the window.

Also, Anoop seems right. This is the end of the semester for many. For me when I was in undergraduate it meant less 'new work' and more 'complete old pending work'.

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Apart from the reasons mentioned in your question. There is the possibility that people [students and porfessors] are busy since the fall semester is coming to an end in many regions. This is the case in India with semester exams preparation is taking up most of our [student's] time.

I'm not sure about other regions, it would be nice if the users could provide insight on the same. Since most of the users in this stack are in fact people (PhD's and master's students) trying to learn DFT codes for academic purposes, it's logical to think of it as a reason.

But this hypothesis would be true only if there would be an increase in the influx of questions after December.

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