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This site has been averaging about 1 to 2 questions per day for the past few weeks.

This is a strong indicator of how unhealthy the site is despite having had plenty of time to develop.

Is it time to shut down this attempt and possibly return to the area51 drawing board?

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It is not time for that yet, we've only been in beta for a year and many sites have gone on longer.

It is true that we are only averaging 2.0 questions/day (I am referencing the stats here) but that isn't really a big change from anywhere in this site's history. We were at one point averaging a bit over 3 questions/day, but that is about all we've achieved.

However, that number is but one of many. Throughout the sites history we have been adding users and seeing more daily visits. As the user base that visits the site surges, our questions/day will inevitably rise. Along with that we currently have an active base of community moderators (500 rep for close votes and 1000 rep for edits) that keep the review queues clean and close any junk that appears.

I would also argue that we are carving out a niche that isn't served by other SE sites. One of our closest siblings is physics.se. Our top tag (meteorology) is much more active than that tag ever was on the physics site. There are more geophysics tagged questions on physics than there are here, but our tag is growing faster and will surpass them soon.

In summary, questions/day may be stagnant (for now), but users are growing and site visits are growing. Voting is active as are a core group of community moderators. We are still answering questions. This site is still very much alive and it is nowhere near time to talk of closing this place down.

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    $\begingroup$ A very firm "I agree" here. Our site is fairly active in other terms -- questions/day might be a bit low, but that's not too worrying. Other betas have this same problem -- we simply haven't met critical mass yet. $\endgroup$ – hichris123 May 6 '15 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ Earth science is more specialized than physics which encompasses a lot more topics. So to generate high quality questions is also not trivial. The stats must reflect this specialization feature as well. I also see a lot more "practical" questions being asked i.e. related to earth science software usage which is a positive sign. People want to come here to get help in their day to day work $\endgroup$ – gansub May 7 '15 at 10:02
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It's easy to put too much weight on that Area51 group of stats. It was devised, years ago, as a proxy for a site's progress in developing an expert community with a substantial audience.

And like any proxy, it has its problems. The proxy is not the target. If it was the target, it wouldn't be a proxy at all. The two are not equivalent, and that means that there will be times when they diverge. It's easy to focus on the proxy, because it's a simpler thing to grasp and to measure than the target - that's its job, after all. But focusing on the proxy is a mistake: it's the target itself that matters.

The target is to build an expert community with a substantial audience.

Earth Science is, as far as I can tell, doing really well at building an expert community with a substantial audience. The proxy is, in part, out of step with the target here.

So the site is not unhealthy. Far from it, it's pretty healthy as young beta sites go. There's activity on the main site, here on meta, and on chat. There are good questions coming through, some great answers, lots of regulars, and lots of new posters coming in all the time.

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I just wanted to add that even for communities with the same size and engagement, you can't expect the same amount of questions from a topic like Earth Science than for others related to programming, software usage, etc. Questions in Earth Sciences are more meaningful, they doesn't arise just because a piece of code is not working but by actual curiosity.

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