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In Is our community healthy?, labnut asked if our community is healthy. I'd like to make sure we understand what's meant by "healthy", though. Note that I chose to include "community" -- I like that reference in labnut's question, and I think it's important to understand the health of the community as being related to, but not covered by the health of the web site.

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  • Ah, I understand the importance of your question. By understanding what it is, we have something to measure ourselves against. We have something to work towards. – labnut Apr 29 '11 at 14:30
  • Yes; that's what I'm suggesting. I like the measurements you showed in your answer on the original question, but they're the "42" without any prior knowledge of the ultimate question, so to speak. – D. Lambert Apr 29 '11 at 14:43
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Is there any reason the stats at

http://stackexchange.com/sites?expand=true

can't suffice?

Also relevant are

and of course

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    The stats are exactly what we'd need to measure what we want to measure, but we still don't know how to evaluate the numbers (ie, what indicates "healthy" vs. "unhealthy"). – D. Lambert May 1 '11 at 4:13
  • Why do we need to evaluate "the numbers"? – Jay Lance Photography May 1 '11 at 6:59
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Labnut edited his original question to add a common definition of "healthy community":

a community evidencing growth, interdependence, and cooperation in a variety of areas. (Common usage)

Source: http://www.moricelakes-ifpa.com/glossary/index.html

This is a great place to start, but I think the real value for P-SE is to understand how these value statements are indicated and measured here. I'm actually a bit surprised I couldn't find a stock answer for this on meta.stackexchange.com, but the closest I found was one that talks about beta sites. Although the answers to that question explain why fixed numbers don't make sense across all the SE sites, I think that a "framework answer" could allow our community to evaluate its own health a little more precisely.

To that end, here are some metrics that we could conceivably watch over time (assume these are measured per month, or week-to-week, or month-to-month, or whatever -- just do it consistently):

  • Duh, traffic. Very possibly too much of a macro measurement to be interesting, but I'd expect that we don't want to see traffic fall over something like a 3 or 6-month moving average.
  • Total user count. Again, possibly not as important as more targeted metrics.
  • Active user count. More interesting than total user count -- do we have growth in the number of people contributing?
  • Average votes per question. Presumably, if we see this decrease, we've either got less activity on the site, or the questions are becoming less interesting (to large groups of people).
  • Number of badges awarded (per x-time). This should remain steady or rise over time as the community grows, right?
  • User "stickiness" - how to measure users coming back to the site frequently?
  • Percent of users who are active / inactive (over x-time).
  • Moderator turnover - same moderators == consistency (which is good), but also shows no new blood. Do we look for a small amount of turnover to keep fresh ideas flowing?

Note that I've taken care not to supply any specific numbers in any of these measurements; I think these need to come from community consensus, ideally. At a really high level, though, I think it makes sense that we don't want to see a really low activity level (indicating that the site has stagnated), and I think we also would be concerned about a huge spike in activity (which could lead to quality issues for questions and answers). I'd even go as far as to question whether absolute growth is really needed in order for us to consider ourselves "healthy".

In any event, I don't think there's a community platform in existence that's better able to monitor its own health than the SE platform -- as soon as we decide how we want to measure it.

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    "...could allow our community to evaluate its own health a little more precisely." Three things. 1: Do we need to evaluate our health, or is this more navel gazing instead doing more important things like asking great questions and responding with great answers? 2: Are you duplicating effort that's being done above your 'pay grade?' 3. Isn't it possible that the owners of the company that our little site operates under the umbrella of are better equipped to ask these questions, find these answers, and be able to do something about it if there is a problem? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 30 '11 at 1:39
  • 1 - This was a direct response to another question that asked if we were healthy w/o defining what "healthy" meant. I thought it was important to put the cart before the horse. I guess I can't tell you if it's navel gazing, though. That was really the direction of the other question. – D. Lambert May 1 '11 at 4:02
  • 2 & 3 - Although the SE platform makes all these numbers available, I think the specific measures that make sense could vary for each community. – D. Lambert May 1 '11 at 4:03
  • OK, let me put this another way... Does it matter if we "evaluate our health" (whatever that means)? Because if it doesn't matter, then it is a complete waste of everyone's time to devote any more time to the question "What do we mean by a 'healthy community?' It appears that you assumed the question that @labnut posed mattered, and thus asked your question... – Jay Lance Photography May 1 '11 at 7:21
  • I propose that despite your good intention to do otherwise, you have also put the cart before the horse because @labnut's question is not one that the community has deemed to be important enough to care about. Thus, all our time would be better spent asking great questions and giving great answers instead of 'hanging out in Meta' talking about this... – Jay Lance Photography May 1 '11 at 7:21

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