I've noticed a gradual decrease in participation amongst the top 10-15 or so active contributors here on Photo-SE, in the past ~6 months (roughly since June 2019). Coincident in that timing is the larger Monicagate issue that has affected all of Stack Exchange sites collectively. For Photo-SE in particular, we have (had) one active moderator and two semi- or slightly less-than-active moderators. Our active moderator is one of the signatories of the Reinstate Monica open letter, and presumably as a result has substantially reduced their activity to only addressing site-critical issues.

As an example, I have noticed that the flag moderation queue has been left alone since around mid-October.

As I mentioned, coincident with the Monicagate reduction in moderation activity has been a reduction in participation from the site's most active contributors. I consider myself amongst this group, and I have also slowed down my own contributions. Not necessarily through any overt intentions of reducing participation, but life circumstances, etc. (a.k.a., "overcome by events").

I am not blaming anybody for lack of, or reduction in, contributions. I support and agree with AJ Henderson's signing onto the Reinstate Monica open letter, and support his actions to reduce his moderation role as a result of SE's actions towards Monica.

But in the larger picture, am I wrong, or have I noticed a larger pattern of the Photo-SE community effectively dying in the last half of 2019?

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    I'm pretty sure that 99% of PSE users don't know what the MonicaGate is (or relate this to Bill Clinton).
    – xenoid
    Dec 13, 2019 at 21:58
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    @xenoid Good point, that's why I linked to the Meta-SE question re: Reinstate Monica. But underlying your comment is a larger truth: when you say "99% of PSE users", I think we need to be specific. 99% of all PSE users are very much inactive and have been for a long time. 99% of new users don't know anything about the Meta-SE issue, but then again, 99% of new users are largely inactive of all activity. So, regarding users who have been somewhat-to-very-much active in say, the last 1-2 years, it seems to me that activity has been waning. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:28
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    @xenoid Also, just to be clear, I didn't mean to pin the premise of my question on the Reinstate Monica issue. Rather, I wanted to acknowledge it as a possible factor to my larger "observation" (for what that's worth). I was hoping to convey that I feel that even absent of Monicagate, I feel that site participation of, say, 5-10k+ rep users feels down since around June. Is that feeling correct(-ish)?
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:31
  • Please see the answer that I posted on MSE to address this question.
    – Yaakov Ellis StaffMod
    Dec 17, 2019 at 8:27
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    I'm not going to lie. The hats have brought me back. For a moment.
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 20, 2019 at 18:30
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    @Hueco it's like Strava or Untappd badge motivation. I look down my nose at them, but secretly I really collecting ones that my friends don't have,
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 20, 2019 at 18:36

5 Answers 5


Even before all the big events network-wide, I'm feeling pretty down about things. The fact is, we need some work to make this site realize its potential.

The moderator response to the community is plan to revive the contest was basically just "no", and I think that killed the chance of rebuilding community interest there. (See Contest is definitely dead. Now what? and follow links from that.)

Then, there's the total lack of engagement and response here What resources is Stack Exchange dedicating to meeting the needs of Photography Stack Exchange? — literally nothing in months.

And for that matter, What can Stack Exchange do to better build a photography community of practice here? has more votes than typical for meta these days, but most of the suggestions are from me. Surely other people have ideas.

  • 1
    100% expected your answer here, and frankly, your opinion ought to be weighted more than anybody's. You are the canary in the PSE coal mine.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 14, 2019 at 0:13
  • The response to the community is plan to revive the contest was basically just "no" -- False. The Response by Mods was basically thus.
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 16, 2019 at 19:27
  • @Hueco Yes, sorry, exactly that. And nothing from staff.
    – mattdm
    Dec 16, 2019 at 19:28
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    I vote for mutiny. Sorry AJ. I like you and all but I think it's time to let the sailors steer the ship for a bit ;-).
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 16, 2019 at 19:30
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    Mutiny is afoot!
    – mattdm
    Dec 16, 2019 at 19:43
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    Put my money where my mouth is
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 16, 2019 at 20:40
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    I left this question open (it didn't seem like it needed to be accepted), but now, the canary has stopped singing. While we might have some active participants, with Matt's departure, the community (or at least its pulse) is definitely on life support at best. The only question left, is does it have a DNR?
    – scottbb Mod
    Jan 20, 2020 at 5:27
  • Matthew, I am sad to see you go. I believe it is for good though, considering the current fire in meta.stackexchange. I am interested in knowing what other photo community have you joined. Jan 31, 2020 at 16:22

As someone who has participated at a higher level in the past than in the last few months, for me it is mostly about available time.

But there is also a bit of frustration that we get very few to no new questions about actual photography as in:

  • Planning and executing the creation of artistic, historical, and documentary photographic images.
  • Studying the history of creative and documentary photography
  • Inquiring about the methods that were used to produce significant images in the history of photography or that are used to produce contemporary images (beyond "What filter does this?")
  • Yeah, I've also participated a bit less in the past few months for the same available time reason, and I assumed similar reasoning applied to other high contributors such as yourself. But part of the motivation for the OQ was that it seemed highly unlikely to me that everybody was under such a similar lack of available time, for such a prolonged period of time, at the same time. Especially when those constraints didn't seem to all coincide the same way 2, 3, 4 years ago.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 14, 2019 at 8:53
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    I agree completely with this answer. Michael, do I any more ideas for What can Stack Exchange do to better build a photography community of practice here?
    – mattdm
    Dec 14, 2019 at 14:31

Oblique question to perhaps drive an answer to my OQ: if PSE didn't exist until 2018 or 2019, if it were created in Beta in the last year or so, would it have been able to graduate?

In the vein of mattdm's answer, just trying to discern some of "community consensus" threshold in Meta-PSE questions in the last couple years:

I guess the point of this answer is that dwindling Meta-PSE activity and consensus is another indicator that the participation trend is downward.

Another indicator is the decreased general activity in chat. Several times this year the chatroom has gone 2 or more weeks without anything in it.

  • It would have graduated under the new "let everything graduate" scheme
    – Valorum
    Dec 17, 2019 at 21:46
  • @Valorum lol, I didn't realize that was a thing. =)
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 17, 2019 at 21:54
  • They graduated a lot of sites that were sub-par, simply because it's embarrassing to have them be permanently in Beta; meta.stackexchange.com/questions/331708/…
    – Valorum
    Dec 17, 2019 at 22:00

As I write this, I'm looking down the list of newest questions, and lo and behold, a Photo Question! (How do I take a photo so the moon doesn't have bright "rays"?)

And holy hell it's got 4k views! What gives? Smite this down so that we can get back to basking in the excrementglory that is electronics or programming that only tangentially touches photography.

Alright, I jest. But in all seriousness, the front page is just...rather boring.

At one point, I thought questions asked here would push me as a photographer - make me recreate scenes and lighting and post-pro so that step by step examples could be given to others. But those questions really never came. They're not even diamonds in the rough...more so small flakes of gold found in the sand after weeks of panning.

I don't consider myself a prolific user of this site - but I know that I was probably in the top 10 and have slowed down considerably. I also use that other instrument that is capable of shooting (lead, mostly) and participate in other sites revolved around that. Yes, there are a lot of dumb debates on calibers and actions, but there are also a lot of new shooters looking to learn a thing or two - and it's just been more fun.

I don't think my efforts at moving the needle here towards photography have really helped. So, I'll poke my head in from time to time and maybe I'll find some gold.


It's a bit of a swing for the fence, but rather wait for community consensus (which appears to be dwindling), I decided to act and (hopefully not need to) ask forgiveness, rather than wait for group permission:

Maybe rather than try to design the contest by a committee that might never get chartered, maybe we just go for it and see what happens. What else do we have to lose at this point?

I hope the contest itself gets a lot of upvotes (just to gauge interest and reception to the idea). I plan on donating all positive goodwill as bounty at the end of the contest period.

I basically made up the rules, following guidance from our old weekly contest, as well as taking ideas from the following as suggested by a comment to Contest is definitely dead. Now what?:

  • FWIW I haven't posted anything in this contest because the theme isn't a good match for my existing work. I do hope we see some more entrants!
    – mattdm
    Dec 18, 2019 at 3:26
  • @mattdm yeah, I thought the theme was kinda topical, but in retrospect maybe it should have been something more mundane such as puppies. I've been trying to come up with something to contribute, I don't have anything in my library that would fit either.
    – scottbb Mod
    Dec 18, 2019 at 13:43

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