I asked in main meta help to do a SEDE query for questions, answers and upvotes in the history of Earth Science Stack Exchange since its start in 2014.

Here you can check the query for questions, answers, average votes, upvotes and downvotes done by user rene (all datasets are updated each month).


I modified the SQL sentences to make a query about questions and answers. I added the tendency lines.

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I guess at the beginning some questions were stored and progressively liberated, but I am not sure how a site starts.

Then we had between 2014 and 2020 an increasing tendency.

At the end of 2019 we have a pick of answers. I associate this with too events. One is surely that we started to appear firsts for searches as "help identify my rock" in Google and the world is many people trying to know what rock they found in the field. The other is user Michael Walsby was giving non sourced wrong opinions in every question he saw in the forum. The drop came when we banned those low quality questions and we deleted all the questions solving the issue, and when moderators suspended Walsby account in March 2020.

Then the tendency continued being a bit positive. That's good.

I did another query for only upvotes to see if I could infer more analysis:

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We have a decreasing tendency and something that breaks the general tendency between 2018 and mid 2020. That something is the id-my-rocks questions we started to receive massively in 2018 after appearing in Google searches.

The general tendency is a site health problem. It should be related with a decrease in the number of quality answers and with the loss of active users also voting. Both are a sign of loss in active experts. That's bad.

I did another query for comments

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Comments have a positive tendency until the beginning of 2020, when we banned id-my-rock questions and user Michael Walsby was suspended. That's good too. They have a peak related to the discussions and then drop.

Then the tendency is not clear and it would be too risky in my opinion to make an analysis.


In my opinion, for the next years our biggest challenge is to attract and keep the loyalty of more experts.

If we want to keep the loyalty askers, we need, if possible, to give more than one answer or two to a good question and upvote the question strongly to try to encourage the poster not to leave the site once his query is solved.

I will use a quote of World Chess Champion Emmanuel Lasker to encourage people to post complementary answers:

“When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

To loyalty experts, we should not forget to reward those who answer for their time, to encourage them to stay on the site and go for the moderation privileges.

I encourage also people to talk to your partners about the site and to put a link if you have a site about Earth Sciences.


3 Answers 3


Nice work "user27958"! I like that you mined site data and came up with good insights and some important questions. I'll add to your thoughts with my own experience.

Firstly, my own earth science experience: College-trained geologist with some graduate level studies. 25+ years in geoscience-related work. Newly retired, but still keeping up with some academic-level geoscience topics. I consider my geoscience interest at least "enthusiast level".

I enjoy providing answers at ES Stack Exchange for the following reasons:

  1. It's always fun to teach someone something new. Especially when a new member creates a new account just so they can ask their question, it shows that they are curious enough to follow up added effort beyond just googling for some sort of answer. It's also fun to point out, sometimes, that the answer is far more complicated than their question alludes to and that scientists have dedicated huge resources to answering similar questions.

  2. It's always fun to revisit an earth science topic that I found interesting enough to keep in the back of my mind and discuss with someone. Those answers come quickly and are easily beefed up with some updated information.

  3. It's a lot of fun to see questions that I may have long thought about or never thought to ask and then dig through scholarship for an answer. Getting spurred into learning new things is enormously rewarding.

  4. It's always fun to point out outright bullshit, nonsense, ignorant, partial, or misconceived answers.

Here's what I do NOT enjoy about providing answers to Earth Science Stack Exchange (some of these can be extrapolated to other SE topics that I've been involved with).

  1. It's not very fun or interesting to have spent time and effort into providing a good, well researched answer that does not get tagged as "the answer", especially when all other answers are very clearly wrong. Sometimes, I may invest a few hours in providing an answer with photos or linked references! Remember, I'm learning something too and this is supposed to be fun. Perhaps the OP is:
  • too ignorant or unqualified to recognize a correct answer
  • too lazy to make the effort to understand
  • it has been years and the OP has dropped off the site and has not checked for replies (this seems to happen a lot)
  1. It's not very fun to see the same few people providing answers; often very quickly after the OP asks the question. I've seen this on other SE topics where the same two or three people monopolize the answers and associated discussions. Occasionally, their answers are even incorrect, or answer a different question altogether. One quickly loses all trust in the answers provided in these topics.

  2. It's not very fun to answer upper level homework. Sure, I can easily ignore these super specialized questions, but it annoys me that some people assume others will do their work for them. In a way, these questions are worse than "Identify this rock."

  3. It's not very fun to interact with zero sense of humor. Sure, I understand the difficulty in transmitting online nuance, but thin-skinned replies make discussion and interaction "un-fun".

Despite enjoying thinking about questions and answers on the Earth Science Stack Exchange, I have largely dropped off the site because of reasons listed above detailing what I do not enjoy. I hope this helps understand some part of the drop off in user loyalty.

Keep up the site analysis!

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I wrote that. I think the site is in troubles because of the upvotes. The upvotes mantain the system. I hoppe you can stay with us and participating in the forum. $\endgroup$
    – user28185
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ I come back with more analysys. You can use ChatGPT to generate the query from english instructions I think. $\endgroup$
    – user28185
    Commented Mar 25, 2023 at 11:45

I come back with more graphs. I am using GPT-4 (available in ChatGPT plus) and it does SEDE queries well I think, at least simply ones.

The comments evolution since the ban of id-my-rockquestions:

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Monthly questions and answers with three or more upvotes:

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Houston, we have a problem.

I wonder if this comes from a reduction of number of active users in the site, so I asked for a query of number of monthly users that posted at least a question, an answer or a comment and for reputation monthly earns in the site.

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Not especially a lack in users, it is a lack in reputation points. I wonder if the reason is the fact we are no loosing users, but we are loosing experts with judgement to vote. We might be asking to vote for quality content.

Feel free to sugest me more queries to ask the AI.


I run the first query again (questions and answers).

It looks we are in serious troubles:

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I have published my mineralogy app with 3k users, 30 daily installs. I have been bussy and I hadn't published the advertisement yet.

Please, elaborate a good advetisement for me to see if the students can get up this.

Can I publicize ESSE in my geology apps for first courses students? What should I say in the ad if so?


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