Very early on in the life of Astronomy Stack Exchange, during private beta, Jon Ericson expressed concern over the level of questions the site was getting. The problem then was that the site was getting questions that were a) commonly answered elsewhere; b) answered no better than they were answered elsewhere; and c) aren't really high-level questions. Scrolling through the old questions that motivated this post, it's easy to see the trend, even though many of these questions were quite popular, as is common in private beta.
It's almost three years later, and I'm a little concerned that this hasn't really changed. The issue was actually brought to my attention by What are the intended boundaries of this question and answers community?; my answer there shows some of my basic thoughts on the issue:
- We've certainly got a number of experts covering a variety of topics - stellar evolution, galactic dynamics, general relativity - but their (valuable) contributions come mainly as answers, not questions. Is it bad that they're no asking questions? Not necessarily. But I still consider it a concern.
- We're no longer asking the super-easy, commonplace, already-answered questions that concerned Jon nearly three years ago, but I still don't see a lot of technical questions. Technical questions attract technical answers - which we certainly see - and more experts, which hopefully raises the overall quality of the site.
- The site's not dying, or in danger of being shut down (I think!), because of the question level (and I'll be frank, the questions certainly aren't terrible), but it's not at the level where I could look at it from a distance and say, "Hm, this site is really, really healthy and is living up to its potential. Graduation, maybe?"1
So, all that said, I think a push to consciously raise the quality of questions on Astronomy Stack Exchange - not overly artificial, if possible - could really do some good. I haven't been here since the star of private beta; I joined nearly a year later. However, I feel like I haven't really seen a change in the site's evolution. Yes, I admit it, I might be unconsciously comparing us to what a graduated site - whatever that is - should be like, because I've been with several sites as they've gotten all the way there from birth, but I do think that, even though graduation and success aren't necessarily the same thing, we're farther from either than I'd like.
And yes, I think that increasing the number of technical questions - not eliminating all the beginner ones, for the record - can certainly help.
1 To be clear, I'm not saying that this will make a difference between graduating or getting shut down or something in between - if any of that happens - but I am trying to compare us with sites that are healthier.