Our questions per day stat has recently been dropping pretty dramatically. A month ago, we had 5.4 questions per day averaged over the past two weeks. Today, that number is 2.9 questions per day. So far this month, we've never once been above 5 Q/D, hovering between 3 and 4 most of the time, while in April and May our average was definitely above 5 Q/D.
That represents roughly a 40% decrease in the rate of new questions in one month, which is a big deal. Area51's guidelines are that 5 Q/D is "Okay" and 15 is "Excellent". I'm not convinced that these are the correct levels, and two recent graduated sites (Christianity and RPG) both had below 4 Q/D when they graduated, so apparently SE isn't totally convinced either. However, we're getting to the point where it's worth having a real serious look at whether we're getting enough questions just to keep the site thriving.
It's pretty easy to tell why this drop has occurred. In previous months high-rep users were throwing out lots of questions essentially as a form of seeding. This was in conjunction with successful flavor days and April Fools day, which generated a lot of questions as well. The results were clearly pretty positive, as in the past two month period our traffic has increased by 217%, much of it from searches for these seeding questions. Nowadays most of the questions are coming in from new users with real legitimate non-seeding questions, which are ultimately the goal of this site. Flavor day still exists but only brings in a few questions, and high rep users have been less interested in asking their own questions.
I can see both benefits and detriments to having fewer questions asked with most of them coming from new users. For one, I suspect it will lead to fewer niche questions, and the few experts here won't be overwhelmed with the number of incoming questions. From this earlier post, our answer statistics aren't amazing (one of the lowest in the network for answer ratio), and this will probably improve them over time. In my opinion, our biggest problem right now is the small number of experts, especially given the amount of material which is on topic here. Anything which helps mitigate this problem is worth considering.
However, there are real negatives of having fewer questions per day as well, in that it slows our site growth, potentially misses great seeding questions, and can worsen empty restaurant syndrome. Regular users may also get bored and check back less frequently or leave entirely. I've noticed less activity in chat recently, which could be an indicator of this.
Should we start worrying about the decrease in Q/D now? If not, when (if ever) should we start worrying? Also, should we combat this by seeding questions or some other means?
For reference, we're nowhere near the bottom on Q/D. 3.0 questions per day is still tied with or beating roughly 30 existing sites, a few of which are launched sites. By contrast, we're 8th lowest in total number of users, which is a real problem here. However, that still puts us in the bottom third of the network, while we were above the median just a couple months ago.