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My unsubstantiated impression is that the SE site has become less active over the last year in terms of # of new questions, posted answers, etc. Is this true? Are there stats available?

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked at space.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3008/… and the link to the data for the prior year? $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2023 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ There's certainly been a rising tide of BS. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ "My unsubstantiated impression is that the SE site has become less active over the last year in terms of # of new questions, posted answers, etc. " and yet you've accepted the first answer to be posted, which as far as I can tell doesn't say anything about the number of new questions or answers. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 8, 2023 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ I think a small number of high-activity users significantly reduced participation over 2021-2022, and I suspect that SpaceX flights were generating a lot of questions from 2015-2020 as they were frequently doing new and exciting things (like landing boosters or blowing up); they're pretty routine now. $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2023 at 19:26

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I think uhoh's criticism was correct, so I desperately tried to remember what little SQL I learned a couple years back and eventually refined that into the query What are Space SE's Vital Signs (Count of Questions and Answers by Year)

The raw query results:

Year Q (1) or A (2) Number
2013 1 982
2013 2 1436
2014 1 1006
2014 2 1808
2015 1 1357
2015 2 2311
2016 1 1672
2016 2 2706
2017 1 1523
2017 2 2240
2018 1 2758
2018 2 4117
2019 1 2661
2019 2 3877
2020 1 2435
2020 2 3353
2021 1 2201
2021 2 3057
2022 1 1249
2022 2 1896
2023 1 194
2023 2 290

And a quick chart with 2023 omitted since it isn't complete

line chart showing questions and answers from 2013 to now.  both peak in 2018 then trail off as time continues

It looks like the data supports your impression: Space Exploration is becoming less active, and has been since 2018, though the year-to-year dropoff was pretty steep between 2021 and 2022.

Google sheet where I put the data into Markdown and then into a chart

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    $\begingroup$ my SQL knowledge is very rough, so someone else should probably check that I haven't accidentally made all of the numbers very wrong. I did cross-check the eventual output against a much simpler "how many questions only each year" query and got consistent data and was satisfied, though $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Mar 8, 2023 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ Great info, thanks. $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2023 at 22:33
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The 2021 and 2022 "year in moderation" posts posts don't follow exactly the same format. I'm not completely confident I merged them correctly, so here's the spreadsheet where I gave it a shot (or if folks want to add prior years etc). I believe the footnotes were identical between both posts; I haven't attempted to correct them.

Action (2021) Moderators Community¹ Action (2022) Moderators Community¹
All comments on a post moved to chat 34 0 All comments on a post moved to chat 15 0
Answer flags handled 463 450 Answer flags handled 402 289
Answers flagged 0 915 Answers flagged 0 689
Comment flags handled 273 52 Comment flags handled 535 856
Comments deleted⁷ 986 2,175 Comments deleted⁷ 921 1,790
Comments flagged 0 329 Comments flagged 0 1,387
Comments undeleted 5 0 Comments undeleted 2 0
Escalations to the Community Manager team 2 0
Posts bumped 0 91 Posts bumped 0 83
Posts deleted⁶ 207 674 Posts deleted⁶ 224 493
Posts locked 3 36 Posts locked 2 24
Posts undeleted 20 70 Posts undeleted 6 36
Posts unlocked 1 1
Question flags handled⁵ 95 75 Question flags handled⁵ 77 171
Questions closed 32 289 Questions closed 34 223
Questions flagged⁵ 1 176 Questions flagged⁵ 9 249
Questions merged 3 0
Questions migrated 15 2 Questions migrated 3 1
Questions protected 1 20 Questions protected 2 13
Questions reopened 11 20 Questions reopened 2 7
Questions unprotected 0 1
Revisions redacted 1 0 Revisions redacted 2 0
Tag synonyms created 9 0 Tag synonyms created 1 0
Tag synonyms proposed 9 1 Tag synonyms proposed 1 0
Tags merged 10 0 Tags merged 2 0
Tasks reviewed⁴: Close Votes queue 0 1,241 Tasks reviewed⁴: "Close votes" queue 9 947
Tasks reviewed⁴: First answers queue 0 135 Tasks reviewed⁴: "First answers" queue 0 347
Tasks reviewed⁴: First Post queue 0 723
Tasks reviewed⁴: First questions queue 0 175 Tasks reviewed⁴: "First questions" queue 2 436
Tasks reviewed⁴: Late Answer queue 0 266 Tasks reviewed⁴: "Late answers" queue 1 221
Tasks reviewed⁴: Low Quality Posts queue 0 681 Tasks reviewed⁴: "Low quality posts" queue 2 589
Tasks reviewed⁴: Reopen Vote queue 1 256 Tasks reviewed⁴: "Reopen votes" queue 6 189
Tasks reviewed⁴: Suggested Edit queue 5 796 Tasks reviewed⁴: "Suggested edits" queue 21 1,082
Users contacted 15 0 Users contacted 17 0
Users deleted 6 0 Users deleted 15 0
Users destroyed³ 14 0 Users destroyed³ 6 0
Users suspended² 11 16 Users suspended² 13 26
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    $\begingroup$ The review tasks are the closest of any of those metrics to actual site activity. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto Mod
    Mar 3, 2023 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ Is there really no way to find out if this "...site has become less active over the last year in terms of # of new questions, posted answers..."? The recent Q/day for example is 2.8 according to the summary at stackexchange.com/sites (screenshot: i.sstatic.net/xz21e.png) I wonder if there's a plot somewhere that shows the trend over the last few years? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 8, 2023 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh presumably data.stackexchange.com/space/queries can be made to do it (I didn't look through all the saved queries to see if one already existed, but I looked through some). I agree this was not a great answer $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Mar 8, 2023 at 1:28
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While mods cannot share specifics, the analytics tooling we have shows that total number of visits has been pretty constant over the last year (since May 2022 - prior to that numbers were higher but the reporting changed with Google analytics) with a wee dip at the turn of the year that bounced back.

New visitors is a bit more variable, but again generally trending level.

All in all, pretty good. Especially as some sites have been seeing significant downturn in numbers. See questions like this one regarding impact of ChatGPT.

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Out of curiosity I re-ran the query. I believe the complete data for 2023 continues to support the idea of a continuing decline in participation.

Graph showing a gradual increase in questions and answers until 2018, then a decline since with a possible knee-down in 2021

I've updated the same spreadsheet with the raw data. Note that there is some variation in what the query returned for some years, and I don't know why, so for example 2022 has 18 fewer questions this time. I don't think that makes a qualitative difference in the interpretation, but it's worth nothing.

Adding as a separate answer because I don't think me re-running the query should change the sentiment of the previous query, but maybe me re-running it is annoying so if I get downvotes about it it will be more obvious to me.

I started wondering about per-user contributions so I put together another query which again made me realize how much I don't know about SQL, but at least got some useful per-user per-year posting data. I removed the names corresponding to the users on the version I uploaded; if you really want to know, the query will reveal it. Most of us in Meta can probably guess the top few. WOW, we had some active posters.

Number of posts, by user, by year. Each (year, number of posts) point is a user. There are obvious high outliers in about 2016 through 2021.

Sometimes the top user accounted for more than a tenth of the posts (questions or answers) on Space Exploration SE in a given calendar year.

Percentage of posts, by user, by year. Each (year, number of posts) point is a year. There are obvious high outliers in about 2016 through 2021.

So what does the site activity look like (not broken down by questions and answers this time, but just by posts--sorry, I'm being a little lazy here) if we remove our Friendly Neighborhood Supercontributor?

Basically the same graph as the beginning, with a clear peak in 2018

Oh, the same. I honestly didn't expect that. Looking further at the data there are probably another couple contributors I could try considering outliers and dropping but I assume the ultimate effect is the same.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm definitely less active. My user page says "You have no recent positive reputation changes." :-\ $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Apr 19 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ In case anyone saw my incorrect initial claim that some users had contributed around 1/3 of total posts per year, I initially did the post scaling wrong (turned out my VLOOKUP was only finding the 2013 value because I messed up the range). It took me a few hours to look at the last graph again and say "wait, that doesn't agree with the earlier one." $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Apr 20 at 4:00
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SE site has become less active over the last year in terms of # of new questions. Is this true?

An active user posted ~400 questions in 2021, and stopped posting questions in 2022-03. That alone accounts for almost half of the 2021->2022 drop in number of questions. And of course, fewer questions results in fewer answers. No idea about the other half.

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    $\begingroup$ perhaps it was space-question-asking burn-out due to a case of Rigelian Space-Question-Asking Fever :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 16, 2023 at 5:44

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