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Right now, my assessment is that this community is very healthy, and doing very well in most stats. For example, my anecdotal experience is that we have a lot of very knowledgeable vim users who are always eager to help answer questions. I'll very frequently try to answer a question only to see that Carpetsmoker, or Nobe4 or Statox has already provided a much better answer. ;-D

And most of our stats back this up too. For example, our stats on A51 say:

  • 90% answered (Excellent)

  • 293 users with 200+ rep (Excellent)

  • 22 users with 3,000+ rep (Excellent)

  • 1.5 answers per question (Okay)

  • 2,382 visits per day (Excellent)

All of these look great. However, there's one stat that is seriously lacking.

  • 4.6 questions per day (Needs Work)

Now, since I have recently starting following the tag across the whole SE network, I'm sure there's no lack of vim questions people have. Across the entire SE network not including this site, there are roughly 9 questions per day. When you include the questions on our site, that means there are about 15 vim questions being asked per day. (Most of them on stack overflow, but some on Super User, U&L, and Ask Ubuntu)

Now, I don't think it should be our goal to steal questions from other sites, but if only one out of three vim-questions are being asked on a dedicated vim site, something is wrong. It seems like a community of dedicated vim-nerds should be a better place to get answers on vim questions. What's holding people back from asking questions here? A lack of awareness? A previous bad experience on the site?

More importantly, what can we do as a community or as individual users to attract curious vimmers to our site? I'm aware this is a pretty broad question, so there might not be a great answer, but I want to start a conversation, and hear what other users think about this.

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    More to the point, though: the one stat that's lacking is the only one that matters. SE's current graduation criterion is a beta site consistently making 10 q/day. – muru Sep 24 '16 at 19:28
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    Also, from site analytics (mod-only): site views have been on the rise, but questions are down. So, most questions people are looking for probably have good answers here. If voting was also down (which it is), I'd take that means we aren't retaining new users well. Indeed, feedback from low-rep/anon users is also consistently on the rise, and the no. of users who post at least once a week has been mostly the same since May 2015! :/ – muru Sep 24 '16 at 19:37
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    Visitors, Posts, Voting, New visits, Low rep/anon feedback – muru Sep 24 '16 at 19:43
  • @muru Wow! Thanks for that, it's really interesting and helpful. – DJMcMayhem Sep 24 '16 at 19:46
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    Why should we attract more questions on this site? – romainl Sep 25 '16 at 22:33
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    I'm not sure the important point is to attract more visitors or more questions: SE doesn't delete the sites in beta so we can stay in beta for ever and that wouldn't really be a problem. In my opinion our problem is to generate more general and interesting questions: I have the feeling (but no data to prove it) that lately most of the questions asked here are questions about really particular workflow or about installation problems and I think that these questions are not the ones which are helpful to other users than the one asking it. But I don't know if/how we can change that. – statox Sep 26 '16 at 7:46
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    @romainl We don't have to, but I really like this site and would like to see it grow and eventually graduate. I'd like to do whatever I personally can do to help us to this point, and if I can inspire other users to want to bring more traffic in, even better. Questions per day just happens to be the particular area we are most lacking in. – DJMcMayhem Sep 26 '16 at 16:31
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TD;LR: Two things: 1- indeed it'd be better to answer questions in only one place, 2- users stay on the sites/forums they frequent.

IMO, having yet another vim resource is (was) an error as it scatters the energy we pour in answering vim related questions -- let's also put aside there is a vim_user mailing list where high level gurus (and some of us as well) already answer questions, and vim.wikia where we've invested a lot of energy in trying to produce a reference site from original vim tips (from vim.sf.net/vim.org).

I still see a lot of vim related questions on SO where I answer as well. As SO and vi.SE don't want to be the same thing, I can't flag Q/A with: "duplicate to this Q/A I've answered 2 days agos on the other site". I've almost been moderated for "link to an external resource" when I pointed a VI.SE Q/A from a SO Q/A (or was it the other way around?). IMO, this is utterly nonsense and counter-productive.

Unfortunately, SO/SE sites are trying too much to put boundaries that mean nothing to development tools like vim.

Regarding user habits. Somebody who already has an account on AskUbuntu, SU, SO, may not want to open a new account (even when it's quite easy). Indeed there already are several, if not many, questions about that tool on the SO/SE site they frequent.

If we really want only one site, then we should migrate all vim related question to vi.SE. And by migrate I mean moving absolutely everything, and redirecting URLs.

But then, what about the questions that ask how to process a stream to obtain some result, with whatever solution works (awk, vim, perl, ruby, python, *nix text tools, etc)?

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    I personally strongly dislike using mailing lists, and while you're certainly correct that the vim_use list has some great people, I still dislike using it. The medium is just difficult to use IMO. The Vim tips wiki is powered by pretty crappy and difficult to use software (MediaWiki) and peppered with ads in an annoying way and not exactly great either. More importantly, it's a very different format; SE sites are powered by Q&A, meaning that people encounter questions which they never thought before. Many (though not all) questions I answered on this site thought me something as ... – Martin Tournoij Sep 30 '16 at 18:22
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    ... well − that's why I answer questions in the first place − the tips wiki is different; you start with a blank piece of paper and are expected to write something interesting. Plus, I don't like wikis (I wrote a bit about that here, although that was at 3 AM and perhaps not the best meta post I've made, it does highlight some of the fundamental problems of wikis). As for the duplication with SO/SU/etc.: I mostly agree, but the Powers That Be don't, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon − if ever :-/ – Martin Tournoij Sep 30 '16 at 18:23
  • Isn't SO an SE site? Why would they moderate you for "external resouce"!?. Whatever the case, isn't the problem rather that while say, a question about a python program someone wrote in vim would be out of scope for vi.SE (and thusly be moved), questions pertaining to usage or settings of vim is in scope for SO (and thusly not moved)? It seems a lot of the time questions that rather fit other SE sites end up answered on SO. – Wolfie Oct 7 '16 at 14:23
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When I noticed these stats about a month ago I thought - ok, it's easy, I'm an 1+ year vim-user, I can easily come up with dozens of questions.
And... I couldn't. I just know how to do everything (I think) I need.

I can't think of anything that could improve my coding speed more than now. (I'm doing primarily c++ and web programming). My vimrc is ~420 lines; I don't know what I can add to it or ask about. (I have asked 3 questions on this site at all)

It seems to me that everything relevant about vim has already been asked and answered; or can be found on the first 3 google results.
Most of the questions' answers here are either :h something or a combination of functions that are again already documented.

I'll be interested if you can come up with some reasonable (interesting) question that can't be answered this way.

  • I think you make an important point here which is related to my previous comment: Once one has been using Vim for some time the doc and the experience will allow to overcome most of the problem. In my opinion your answer shows that this site is "doomed" to get mostly questions of people discovering Vim and not yet used to using the doc and their skills to solve their problem. – statox Sep 27 '16 at 13:54
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Hard problem, harsh answer. Apologies in advance.

This answer has been cooking in my head for 3-4 days, so it is quite long. Apologies again.

I am one of those users that could not be kept by the vi.SE community, I got bored after a couple of days and left. When I looked at this question I decided to analyze why I left, and this raised extra questions, which i describe below.

This is an expansion of @AI.G.'s answer most notably:

Most of the questions' answers here are either :h something or a combination of functions that are again already documented.

I'll be interested if you can come up with some reasonable (interesting) question that can't be answered this way.

That's wrong! Not AI.G.'s way of putting it but expecting that we can make a website out of Vim questions that cannot be answered with :h something.

Why is that wrong? 90% of all posts on SO and SE sites can be answered with RTFM, but they still provide value. Why is that? Because they add a couple of points that the author of the answer added in his own words. There is value in the answer because someone searching for that answer may find the authors explanation easier than the one provided in the manual.

(Yes, some SE answer are literally: RTFM , and those do not provide extra value. Yet, that kind of answer is only common in certain niches.)

I'm not discrediting the Vim help. Vim has one of the best documentations around, and since I started reading it I learned a lot. What I'm saying is that a community saying go read the docs, they're great does not need an active Q&A website. But I'm ranting, let's add actual arguments to it by describing why do I visit SE websites in the first place:

Why do I come to SE websites?

Because it is fun, and I always learn something new. That's it, it is that simple.

I come to my communities, read the first two or three pages of active posts, cherry pick some 5 or 6 topics and read them. Often I find one or two I can reply, other I read simply because I'm curious about the topic. Example:

When I see a question about subprocesses in zsh I read it because I always wanted to learn about subprocesses in zsh but never had the time to go through man zshcompsys. A question with a good answer will allow me to learn something about zsh subprocesses without going through the man. Will I learn all? No. Will I learn more if I read the man? Yes. But I want to read the answer because I have returned home from a day at work and want to read 6-7 paragraph written in a funny way instead of the 3000 words man.

And that is what we are doing wrong here on vi.SE

As Vim users we are most often minimalists and value practical solutions over exact ones (contrary to the emacs pedants, hehehe). But StackExchange is not the kind of place suited for minimalism.


Proposed Solution

When we answer with RTFM, let's add some of our own impressions about the commands the user is asking about. Write one or two paragraphs of extra info related to the command so the user and an observer can learn from it.

There are pretty much two kinds of questions on SE sites:

  1. This does not work. Can be made into a great answer by extending the problem explanation into: (1) explanation why it does not work (2) how can it be made to work (3) other options of making this work.

  2. How do I do X. Can be answered with different ways of doing X. Citing plugins is fine. But we want an educational way of presenting it, therefore explaining pieces of code from the plugin (literally going into the repo and pasting the 10 most important lines of code here and describing them) is best.

We need to leave the minimalism and extremely practical approach to the side when coming to vi.SE, and instead turn on teacher mode where we try to be more verbose in the explanation.


Final thoughts

Personally I left vi.SE when I joined the vim-dev mailing list to report a problem. I found that skimming the emails from vim-dev everyday provided me with more knowledge about Vim than skimming the first page of Q&A here on vi.SE.

Other places follow a convention where, even if a question is answered with the first comment you should still post an answer. The reasoning is that, probably, the author of the comment decided that he does not want to maintain an answer for this question or maybe simply had not enough time to write it. Some examples of question that have been answered with the first comment but still produced a lot of actual answers:

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    I'm not so sure if I agree with your observation that most answers have a "minimalist and extremely practical approach". Certainly in my own answers I've always tried to provide additional context and explanations which add to the manual (if any), rather than just copy it (exceptions apply, of course, because in some cases there isn't really anything to add). I don't think I'm an exception here, as I see multiple people do the same. I'd love to see some examples of this. – Martin Tournoij Nov 17 '16 at 3:40

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