The questions do an excellent job as a way to bring in new users, which is important for us to continue to function as a community. While the core regular users are important, a constant influx of new participants is essential.

- from @Beofett's answer on moderator candidate chat

Is there actual evidence to support or rebut this assertion?

E.g. that we have a non-negligible (however one defines "do an excellent job") ratio or absolute amount of users for whom:

  • Their first or second question that they asked was a question

  • and they participated in the site since then (participated means either logged in after the question was fully answered, or better yet posted some other content).

  • 2
    This should be a relatively straightforward query. Select each user whose earliest question was tagged story-identification. I'd have to hammer out the SQL later, assuming someone else doesn't beat me to it.
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 5:33
  • 4
    On Gaming, identification questions clearly did not bring in such users. It may be different here, but I think you also need to ask whether it matters. Attempting to design a site around bringing in users often ends up being a really good way to not bring in any users, or to alienate existing ones. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 5:38
  • 2
    I know I delete quite a few “me too” answers on story identification questions, which show that they do bring in users. Whether these users stick around is a different proposition. A cursory look at scifi.stackexchange.com/… (mod-only) shows that the me-too-ers are mostly unregistered users who posted nothing else — but I have no way to tell whether they went on to create a registered account (on SE in general, lots of new users register only after making one or two posts).
    – user56
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 10:35
  • 1
    There are some useful numbers that can form a jumping off point for a methodology here and here Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Gilles - arguably, "bringing in" a user who doesn't stick around after 1 post is not really "bringing in" a user. It's like giving away free food at a vendor if NONE of the people getting the free food EVER shop there again. Pure expense, no return. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:44
  • 2
    @DVK Does bringing in over 600 users, who post an average of just over 2 questions or answers each, sufficiently validate my claim? Roughly 150 users who post an average of just over 6 questions/answer? I realize I made a subjective and unquantified statement; but now that we've added some actual data, do you feel my statement was valid? I'm just curious; no hard feelings if you don't....
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:11
  • 1
    Related, on Movies & TV: Stats on people whose first question was an identify question
    – user56
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 21:42

3 Answers 3


I'm trying to work on my query still, but what I've learned is this. By far, the most popular tag for first time users to this site is story-identification. Note that I make no difference between questions and answers with my query. The second column shows the average number of posts per user, including the first one. Looks like Story-Identification doesn't do as well there, although there are worse subjects. Bottom line is, they seem to bring people to this site, but most of them don't stick around for very long.

tagname                Users PostsPerUser 
---------------------- ----- ---------------- 
story-identification   627   2.242424242424   
books                  112   2.339285714285   
movie                  98    5.551020408163   
short-stories          98    1.877551020408   
star-trek              92    11.858695652173  
star-wars              85    8.658823529411   
harry-potter           81    4.975308641975   
aliens                 73    2.082191780821   
novel                  71    3.422535211267   
time-travel            61    6.081967213114   
futurama               54    2.166666666666   
lord-of-the-rings      53    3.735849056603 

In addition, I made this query to filter out cases in which a user only asked/answered one question.

tagname                Users PostsPerUser    
---------------------- ----- --------------- 
story-identification   148   6.263513513513  
star-trek              50    20.98           
star-wars              42    16.5            
movie                  36    13.388888888888 
harry-potter           35    10.2            
novel                  26    7.615384615384  
short-stories          26    4.307692307692  
lord-of-the-rings      26    6.576923076923  
time-travel            24    13.916666666666 
books                  23    7.521739130434  
suggested-order        18    23.222222222222 
star-trek-tng          17    38.35294117647  
tv                     15    12.666666666666 
doctor-who             15    11.4            
magic                  14    5.857142857142  
a-song-of-ice-and-fire 14    8.214285714285  
futurama               14    5.5             
george-r-r-martin      13    8.461538461538  
stargate               12    4.166666666666  
aliens                 12    7.583333333333  
comics                 11    9.818181818181
  • I'd be curious to see what the answers-per-user is like for these users. I imagine that most users tend to pose more answers than questions.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 15:41
  • 1
    @phantom42 - User Donald.McLean - 1 question, 85 answers. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 15:51
  • @phantom42: I actually gave posts/user, which is both questions and answers. I could filter one or the other out, but I'm feeling lazy... Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:00
  • Gotcha, thanks.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:19
  • I would venture to say that story-identification probably doesn't convert a lot of people into users. However I am willing to bet they are some of the questions that drive the most traffic to the site and convert people to users through sheer volume of traffic.
    – Caimen
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:36
  • 2
    @Caimen: Actually, that seems to be exactly the opposite of reality, Story Identification questions are notoriously low in views. See also data.stackexchange.com/science%20fiction%20and%20fantasy/query/… Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:40
  • The number maybe low compared to something like Game of Thrones, but it's not insignificant. It is lower than I figured it would be.
    – Caimen
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:42
  • @Caimen: I'm not questioning their validity, but I will say that they don't contribute a meaningful increase to the site statistics. Still, I've used them before, I think they are invaluable as a service, they just don't have a large number of views nor bring in a whole lot of new people. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:47
  • Could you be so kind and separate one-post-only user averages from more-than-one-post averages+counts for Story ID? Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:49
  • @DVK: Done. I've included both in my answer. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 17:55
  • 1
    Taking (users) * (posts per user) the two most productive categories are story ID (927) and Star Trek (1049). Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 18:02
  • 1
    I just got here because I googled something like "science fiction short story where a man raises his clone". I asked my question and then started looking around. I can't say for sure whether I will stick around and be a productive user but it doesn't hurt anyone for my question to be there. I bet often the vague nature of the titles leads to poor SEO for story id requests.
    – pg.
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 21:02

My first interaction on this site was asking a story ID question. In fact, it's the only question I've ever asked.

I think it's safe to say that I've participated in the site since then.

  • 3
    Bringing in one person is not doing "an excellent job as a way to bring in new users". I don't think anecdotes are useful here -- the people who weren't brought it certainly won't be leaving any. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 5:46
  • 7
    @MatthewRead - The only way to ever make a difference is one person at a time. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 5:57
  • 2
    @MatthewRead: Donald has been and active and helpful user and many of us appreciate his presence here. While it's anecdotal, his comment has shown an example of these questions bringing someone in. That it brings in people at all is good.
    – Tango
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 6:03
  • 3
    @Tango I think that's the issue. This is functionally a comment in it's current anecdotal state. It doesn't feel like a complete answer to the question. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 13:29
  • 2
    @Donald.McLean - the question was whether they do an excellent job. 1 user is NOT in any way shape or form indicative of a good job, even if it's an excellent user like yourself. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:48
  • I'm another such user, not that I've participated even close to as much.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 2:45

I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but I'll say it again here for the record. Asking and answering story identification questions is the main point of the site for me. I don't see the point of sticking around if they don't.

  • 3
    Flagged as NaA. This should be a comment :) Of all people, you ought to know better :) Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 16:46
  • 3
    I disagree. This is a very partial answer, but an answer nonetheless. My presence, like Donald's, shows that story identification retains users.
    – user56
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 20:02
  • did you TRULY came to SFF just in order to ask (or answer any given) story-id question? As in, would you have joined the site if it had zero story-ID questions on it at the time? For the record, your first Story-ID question was #5 of yours, a month after your first question was posted :) Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 20:08
  • 6
    @DVK I think there was zero story-id question when I joined the site, because it was the very beginning of the private beta. I did join with the expectation of participating in story-id. I even created the tag.
    – user56
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 20:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .