Site                          Visits/day  Users     200+ users       Questions
gaming.stackexchange.com          15,004  6,279   490 (54/day)  4,654 (20/day)
askubuntu.com                     14,771  9,152   479 (80/day)  6,645 (49/day)

Why do we have more visitors than all other SE 2.0 sites (not for long, though) and yet have more trouble turning visitors in contributors? Is it a problem in the first place? If so, what can we do to fix it?

I know, I know, the parallel isn't really fair.

We didn't sell our souls to corporations. We don't have a top level domain name -- but to be fair, if we did get to have one we wouldn't know what it would be. We don't have an existing, successful forum linking people our way. Still, it doesn't explain the divide.

I think the main difference is that when people have trouble in game they tend to assume it's their fault, not the game's. Especially for certain puzzles, there's a certain shame in asking. "Look mah, I'm too stupid for this. I'll ask this so others don't have to look stupid."

...or is there more to it than that?

  • Source: stackexchange.com/sites?expand=true
    – badp
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 21:05
  • I think AskUbuntu (and Programmers) are bad examples, a much better example is Mathematics
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 21:32
  • @tzenes Math.SE also had a preexisting community (a SE 1.0 site), there are no fair comparisons to our site. I think we probably have a much larger share of users from search engines than other SE 2.0 sites, but I only suspect that, I don't have the data. Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 23:51
  • @Fabian my understanding was there was a very significant split between the SE 1.0 and 2.0 sites, but ok, ignore Math, look at Cooking (or LaTeX or Android)
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 0:03
  • @tzenes I don't have data for Cooking and Android, but TeX is not growing faster than us according to my data (see my updated answer below). Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 11:34
  • @Fabian this isn't a concern about growth rate, but rather conversion rate. If we can bump up our conversion rate, then we can dramatically increase our growth, and that would be awesome.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 20:11
  • @tzenes I agree, but I don't know how to increase the conversion rate, but increasing Traffic is easier. I think we need critical mass, we Need gamers talk about us and recommend us. Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 20:22
  • @Fabian all good things, but this thread here is about why our conversion rate is low so we can up that. Getting the word out will also help, but that's a little beyond the scope of what we're talking about here
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 21:11

3 Answers 3


I think you're underestimating the value of an existing community like the Ubuntu one. They have an existing community and just now are using a Q&A site, that is a huge advantage compared to us.

I would guess that we have a far greater percentage of visitors from search engines than other SE2 sites. Many other sites are mainly visited by people from other SE sites, those are also much more likely to contribute. Getting people to contribute who have no prior connection to any SE site is much more difficult.

I don't think we can force the issue in any way, we just have to be patient. Even if our conversion rate is bad, the relatively high number of visits provides us with a big pool of users to recruit. We just have to convince them that it is worth the effort, the best way to do that is to have a big archive of high quality content. To get that high quality content we need more people, it might seem that I'm going in circles here but I think we just have to be patient.

It takes some time to really appreciate the advantages of the SE system, I don't really know how to change that. The ability to improve any question is very important to me, but new users most likely won't see the significance of that. The SE sites attract a certain kind of user, but they are also a bit elitist (in a good way), the whole concept discourages users that are not constructive and that don't put any effort into their contributions. I think that this is a good thing, but it also limits our potential user base. I see nothing wrong with just growing organically, without forcing the issue.

And in the end the low conversion rate can be compensated by a high volume of traffic, which is probably easier to achieve.

To get some quantitative data on our conversion rate I created a query for active users with >200 reputation that visited the site in the last 30 days before the data dump. This data is certainly not ideal, but is the only data available to me.

Site          active users         views
Gaming        348                  15k
AskUbuntu     373                  16k
English       198                  3.5k
Photography   183                  2.6k
Tex           189                  4.2k
WebApps       199                  3.3k

While our conversion rate is worse than that of other SE2.0 sites, in absolute numbers only AskUbuntu is better than us (out of the sites available in the data explorer). Therefore I don't think we really have a problem here, though it would certainly be nice to improve our conversion rate.

I still think that most users for other SE 2.0 sites arrive from the trilogy sites, and that those users are far, far more likely to become active users than people arriving via search engines. But I don't have access to any data that could confirm my hypothesis.

  • 1
    I think everything you said is true, but sort of irrelevant to the discussion. There are SE 2.0 sites which had little or no starting community with much higher conversion rates.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 21:33
  • @tzenes Besides the exisiting community issue, I think we also have a much higher part of our traffic from search engines, and the conversion rate from them is most likely much lower than the conversion rate for people coming from other SE sites. Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 23:35
  • Again, true, but irrelevant. The issue is not whether or not community plays a roll in conversion rate, its how to build that community. While you've explained why a community site builds faster, you haven't explained why there are non-community sites which have built faster.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 0:06

Part of it is because unlike places like AskUbuntu or Stack Overflow, it's not like our scope is often dealing with new problems. The vast majority of gaming problems are already solved - and importantly, not solved here. They've been solved for years. And also unlike those places, the solutions are relatively easier to find.

Old games account for the vast majority of possible questions to be asked. How to defeat Wrexsoul, how to access that Secret Area of Super Mario World, why I keep putting down the yellow orb when it's a red door, what is the Kraid glitch, what stats and skills affect Regal Radiance, where is the Copy Ability in Milky Way Dreams, where are the gold cards in Shiny Slippy Icy Floor, how can I get the KARASAWA rifle, how can I defeat the Pulverizer Archangel...

There are so many questions like these that we are intended to be able answer. We can cover things from as broad as "How many stars are in Super Mario Galaxy 2" to individual strategy questions for each individual star. It's not like people aren't having these questions... people all over the world continue to play all of these old games. But these questions are almost always already answered, or something the player is just willing to brute force to discover. The only motivation to get these on the site comes from people who are already here and want to improve our library.

This leaves primarily new releases like Fallout 3 and in-dev games like Minecraft. And at the rate we pump out questions for those, the combination of new and old users really doesn't make room for a large conversion rate. We cover most of the concerns people have before they might even know they have them. And so we just become a resource like any other gaming help site - people will stop by knowing we have answers but aren't really needing to ask on their own.

We have superb engine for finding information. The problem is our library. If you compare a site like GameFAQs, they may not have the necessary ease of finding information that we would present. But because of the sheer breadth of their coverage, you can be pretty certain that it's probably buried in there somewhere. We don't have such power - we're very wild and haphazard about our coverage. And that doesn't make a solid impression.

How to fix it? I don't know yet. But it's something I've been looking into.

  • 2
    Well, we aren't Wikipedia. Our aim isn't covering every question everyone ever asked about playing videogames. If we want a more complete coverage, we need a more complete coverage of gamers.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 21:52
  • @badp I'm not saying we should be. But that's where the majority of gaming questions will come from. We can easily survive off of just new information, but the thing is there's only so much to be asked at each point. We can only get as much traffic as we can get actual new questions. It's not even necessary that improving our library will help things - it isn't going to suddenly make people want to ask more because the answers will still exist elsewhere.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 21:54
  • Well, here you can find the answer with something resembling english grammar and typography, unlike some other gaming sites. I don't think the coverage of questions is a major problem, our advantage lies in quality, not in quantity. Ppeople are most likely to join if they find this site answering one of their questions, and they then continue to find this site useful. Jeff puts it quite harshly sometimes, but his point is that we don't care about the users that only ask one question, there are enough of them. We don't need to answer everything to attract people, one answer might be enough. Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 23:45
  • @Fabian Based on your comment and badp's, I have a feeling I terribly miswrote what I was trying to say. I'll try to find some better words, but my point was not to say that we need to have everything.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 23:48
  • 1
    This is an old discussion, but: I think Grace Note has a solid point. "People are most likely to join if they find this site answering one of their questions, and they then continue to find this site useful." I agree, and for the most part I feel like Gaming.SE doesn't have a particularly broad spread of games it covers, mostly sandboxey PC games. I think there's too much concern given to what Gaming.SE is not that fails to acknowledge that what Gaming.SE is is a second-tier place to ask Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress questions.
    – Merus
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 13:19

I think a large part of this has to do with the nature of the audience and the return value of becoming a contributor.

Stack Overflow

  • Audience - Contributors and visitors to SO are quite used to attempting to make a name for themselves in a larger community by helping others solve problems. The very nature of programming is such that you are solving problems other people have. They are used to the solutions to these problems being found over time, whether that be via experimentation or research. Furthermore, the audience tends to be a bit more mature and willing to help those that have helped them in the past.
  • Return value - Contributing to SO can become a large positive factor in your career. By contributing to SO over the course of months/years, you establish yourself as a subject-matter expert and have a vanity page (your profile) that does an excellent job of summarizing where your skills lie.

Gaming @ Stack Exchange

  • Audience - People looking for answers to game questions are looking for their answers now. Given the choice of searching for a few minutes more for the instant answer or taking the time to ask a question on a site, they'll keep searching. If they can't find the answer, they'll create a Gaming account, ask their question, impatiently wait for the answer, then continue with their game. They tend to be more on the lookout for the instant gratification of the answer and don't think past it to help out the community that solved their problem because they are used to just getting the answer via anonymous means, applying the answer, and advancing without any sign that they were even at a site.
  • Return value - Except in some limited cases, your contributions to Gaming will not provide much for a professional career. When gamers compare themselves to one another, they are used to doing it with high scores and tournaments rather than how much they actually know about all of the inner workings of video games in general or even specific video games.
  • Re: audience. Personally, I know that if I had to choose between spending some more time figuring something out by myself and alt-tabbing (or shift-tabbing) out of a game to look it up on the internet, I'd rather try and do it myself. Once I give up, whatever goes from Google is good enough...
    – badp
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 18:29
  • 3
    Hm... obviously, we need to better advertise the fact that you can totally use answers to flaunt your superior scores and skills in games (by picking the right screenshots/replays) when addressing questions, and be commended for doing so rather than scoffed at as bragging.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 18:45
  • @badp I think you (and me as well) are the exception not the rule. If we look at sites like GameFAQs there are few people figuring things out compared to a lot of people just looking for answers.
    – tzenes
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 21:31
  • @Grace lol, that's what I thought when I saw that Gehennom question. I wish I had that problem!
    – badp
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 22:50

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