It's been announced that this site will graduate. That's great news and it's a testament to the hard work that our community has put into maintaining quality content, especially given how this site could have turned out. Looking at the Area 51 metrics, all the numbers are pretty good. While there are still areas we could stand to improve on, none of them are serious issues. However, there is one thing that bothers me about our graduation, which is a number that's pretty easy to overlook:
We currently have only 16 users with over 3k rep. While that's more than 3 times the "excellent" level criterion, I still think it's too low for a graduated site. It's not a problem now, because most of the important privileges are way lower than that. But once we graduate, the Close/Reopen Vote Privilege will be raised to 3k rep. That means that there will only be 16 users on the site with that privilege. Currently, by contrast, there are 73.
16 seems rather low to me. If you include the moderators (I expect we'll continue to have at least 3), that would be only 13 regular users to cast nonbinding votes. Of those 13 users, 3 haven't been seen in the past week (some longer than that). That's not a huge problem, but we can't count on them to be regularly voting on these things. So realistically, there'll be something like 10 users who can cast nonbinding close votes. We'll still need 5 votes to do anything though. So basically, except in the very obvious cases (which mods can handle on their own anyway), it will be quite difficult to close anything without a strong consensus. Practically speaking, it may just happen that mods start closing things once they get 2-3 other close votes, but I'd rather let the community handle this as much as possible and reserve moderator intervention for the exceptional cases.
It's not clear to me that the transition from 73 close voters to 16 will be a smooth one. It could create problems for us at least until we get more 3k users. I don't know how long that will be, but I expect it would at least be a few months, if not longer. It would also mean that even a single user at this level leaving the site would have a noticeable effect.
For comparison, of the 10 most recent graduated sites, only the oldest 3 had fewer than 30 users at this level when they graduated. The average was 33.8 at the time of graduation (more than twice ours), and the lowest was 23. We'd be far below any of those if we graduated today. Admittedly, we aren't graduating today, but I think we should consider this on the premise that we will graduate relatively soon, and if it turns out to take a while, then the problem may correct itself. In any case, I fully expect that eventually we'll have enough 3k users that closing/reopening question will never be something we have to worry about, but I'm not sure we're there yet.
So, with regards to this situation, here are my questions:
- Is this actually a problem, or am I just paranoid? It could be that we've reached a point where we don't need so many close voters, e.g. if the current high rep voters are already mostly handling it.
- If this is a problem, is there anything we should do about it? If so, what? The only things I can think of are requesting to delay our graduation (how long?) and voting more (how would we encourage this?).