Now the site has graduated and the user count increased, there is no need to artificially create popular questions. As I predicted before :

Once we reach the critical mass, those question will be generated naturally by users.

I think we reach the critical mass, as we saw recently with the post credit scenes questions. Though, it's still good the have incentive to make sure we are the first to get those question on new stuff.

Here my reasoning:

We get new users with 'Popular Question', and we keep them with 'Nice Question'/'Nice Answer'.

  • A nice question is a clever question that tends to get lots of attention when it shows up in the main page. It usually shows up in the Hot question Stack exchange list and typically gets a huge boost of views in a short time, but then slows down to almost no views, like a logarithmic curve.

  • A popular question is less clever, but it's something that the lambda user is more prone to ask. Those questions won't necessarily get a huge boost of views at first, but they constantly get views. Days after days, after days, like a linear function.

I came to that conclusion after seeing what was happening to one of my own questions : Why did Harry Potter intentionally lose the Resurrection Stone in the Forbidden Forest? . In fact, this question was inspired by a comment by gunbuster363 on Was Harry Potter killed and then brought back to life? I knew the answer, but I did not have the time to properly answer the comment. Anyway, that led to my most "famous" question to date and it's still constantly getting views.

So, although those views came from Google users that simply type the question and land on our site, it led me to ask the first other obvious Harry Potter question I could think of : Why did Harry Potter break the Elder Wand? as an experiment to prove my theories -- and it worked! This question is also constantly getting its share of views, slower than the previous, but still at a decent rate.

I think we need more questions like this. They would lead to better visibility for the site and and more users. But I don't know where to start. For example, if I type "does Harry Potter" in Google, it suggests thing like "does Harry Potter die" and "does Harry Potter kill Voldemort", but I have no idea how often those question are asked through Google.

harry potter google query

Does anyone know how to get those numbers, or any other way to get more Popular Question?

Update :
After reading some of your answers, I think I need to be more precise why we need more "Popular Questions".

Right now, the site didn't reach is critical mass. If we look at the Area 51 metrics, the 2 main sections on which we need to improve are questions per day and visits/day. I think we already attracted a solid base of core users who could amazingly answer the questions that are asked right now. What we need is more questions from newbies. But to attract those newbies, I think we need more "Popular Questions". Once we reach the critical mass, those question will be generated naturally by users.

There's also the fact that for almot all ours users, scifi.stackexchange is not their first account on the network. We need to diversify our recruitment sources.

Google's auto-complete was just the first thing I thought of to find those questions. And I dont think we should seed the site with question like "Does Harry Potter die in the last movie?". I just think that a quick look on popular search queries that include some of our topics could lead to good questions.

It's the same when you browse the Hot question list. There are always those questions that "I always wondered why , but I never thought of asking." (For me, programmers.stackexchange is specially good at this).

  • TL;DR but +1 for "lambda user" Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:12
  • The Area51 stats are frozen at what this site was at back when we graduated from beta.
    – user1027
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 15:11
  • 2
    @Keen But we now have access to data.stackexchange!!!
    – DavRob60
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


The real trick is to ask something that is nowhere-to-be-found online. I'm not saying the Harry Potter questions weren't good. They were, and do capitalize on what people wanted to know right then. They also got better answers than the pre-existing questions.

But what really justifies the site are questions that have never been well-answered before. And there are tons of them.

Those are the ones that get the most views ultimately, like my own Reading Order for Heinlein's "World as Myth" Books. Which currently has about 2600 views, answer a question that doesn't have any answers anywhere else online. (Which is why I asked it)

My question is in no way the ideal, but it satisfies that requirement. And considering it is about a very niche topic, it is amazing that it has gotten so many views. Imagine if we had never-answered-before questions about Harry Potter, or Dr Who, or any of our other big topics.

That's how we both increase our exposure AND add a ton of value to the internet. That's how we justify our existence.

  • Yes, I agree. That is exactly how I ended up here. This is the place where the burning question, years long in the search, was finally and definitely answered.
    – Morgan
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 6:15
  • @Morgan It would be nice to have some of those burning questions included in this answer after all this time. The 11,000 views the reading order question has is not the example it was 3 years ago. (and it wasn't the best example then, either.)
    – DampeS8N
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 13:27

I would not think of this in terms of

Let me find popular Google searches and go out of my way to ask arbitrary questions about those topics.

That's not genuine. At that point you're borderline evil, like Demand Media. (However, if you do have a real, honest-to-goodness question about a topic that just happens to be searched for a lot in Google, that's great, as it will help lots of other people. But the question and its quality has to come first, not the desire for fame or notoriety.)

Rather, I suggest thinking of this in terms of

How can we can improve existing question titles to better match what people with this same question would be searching for?

Don't hesitate to edit the questions to make them better at any time. A good, proper title is a huge part of that!

  • I completely agree, and I apologize if something in my post made peoples think that we should load the site whit stupid but popular question. My point is, since we got a lot of Expert some good but pretty basic question are not asked. So a tool to spot those questions would be great. Also, to improve existing question, we might need some data to know in which form the question is must commonly asked. That's the goal of my question; how to harvest those data?
    – DavRob60
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 18:15
  • by the way, scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4602/… is a good example of question that the title could be improved to get more view, but how?
    – DavRob60
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 18:18

In pure metrics (looking at Famous Questions) there appears to be two good ways.

One is to ask a question about a property that is just released that many others will be asking themselves at the same time.

These are all examples of those.

The remaining couple are questions on popular franchises:

Given the over-representation of movies in both of these lists my suggestion would be to make a bigger deal over questions from "big releases" like the Amazing Spider-Man (just released - Jul 3), The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), The Bourne Legacy (Aug 10), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Nov 16) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec 14).

Something along the lines of the Futurama promotion, or Gaming's Diablo III, etc, promotions might be worth considering - especially for the big two or three I see in that list (Dark Knight, Twilight and the Hobbit).

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