Is there a definition of an "active user" here, and, if so, are there statistics available, either on an individual or global basis, about how many still participate?

I've been rummaging through unanswered questions, looking for anything about which I might have some insight, and I couldn't help but notice that some of the older questions were from people with very low scores and almost no badges. I can well understand that being active may well be an on and off thing. But I would think that even occasional participation would slowly nudge up the scores.

Not every site is a good match, and it makes sense that people drift away. Interests also change. There's no blame attached. It's just an unfortunate aspect of the Internet that it is easier to silently vanish. Or maybe not so unfortunate.

I would still offer an answer to any question I could. But I have to wonder if low-score people from long ago are ever coming back.

Clearly, this isn't something confined to here. It's just a place I've quickly come to care about.

  • Short answer: no.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Mar 21, 2016 at 21:36
  • @randal'thor - Okay. Has there ever been discussion about this? Mar 21, 2016 at 21:38
  • 2
    The length of time people haven't visited the site is (obviously) a sliding scale, and there's no point beyond which they count as "inactive". And anyone can surprise you by suddenly reappearing after a long absence. Accounts on SE don't expire; they always stay on the system unless the user gets deleted.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Mar 21, 2016 at 21:44
  • There's a related discussion here, and a less similar one here. Both specific to story-ID askers.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Mar 21, 2016 at 21:46
  • @randal'thor - I've read the first discussion so far. Interesting. Do we have unregistered users, mentioned as existing at Movie:SE? The timeframes suggested for tabling orphan questions were a lot shorter than I would have guessed. Mar 21, 2016 at 21:55
  • 1
    This answer is by an unregistered user who coasted to almost 3000 rep with one answer.
    – Molag Bal
    Mar 21, 2016 at 22:00
  • @amarillo - Wow! Mar 21, 2016 at 22:03
  • 1
    @rosesunhill Yes, lots of them. Pick a few random 1-rep users; a large proportion of them are probably unregistered. There's also several incarnations of an unregistered M.A.Golding, one of whom has got to >2k rep. Unregistered users don't show up on the "users" list though, which makes them harder to find if you're looking for one.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Mar 21, 2016 at 22:15
  • @randal'thor - good to know and interesting. I've still got lots to learn. Mar 22, 2016 at 2:06

1 Answer 1



The only thing resembling a measure of activity is the "Last seen" metric on your user profile:

enter image description here

As you can tell (since that's a picture of your profile, and I am not you), you can see this stat for any user, not just yourself.

In principle you could use SEDE to find the last action taken by a given user (posting a question/answer or comment, accepting an answer, editing a post), but that is also imperfect, because it doesn't account for people who browse without taking action1.

Both of these, however, are poor indicators of how likely someone is to return to a site to, for instance, read an answer to one of their old questions.

About the only thing I'm prepared to say with anything approaching confidence is that if you have a user with only one question, posted more than a few months ago, who was last seen within a couple of days of asking their question, they're probably not coming back. But even that is a generalization.

1 You also can't get vote or flag activity through SEDE, which also limits the reliability of this metric

  • Here's a particular SEDE query you might want to incorporate into this answer (though as you say, it's not terribly useful).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Mar 21, 2016 at 23:24
  • @randal'thor huh, that finds unregistered users too.
    – Molag Bal
    Mar 21, 2016 at 23:38
  • @amarillo It's because SEDE is based on the SE production database, which doesn't distinguish between registered and unregistered users. An "unregistered" user is really just a user that authenticates with a cookie, rather than a password Mar 23, 2016 at 13:47

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