I signed the petition and committed to participating in this website. This pledge accounts for some of my involvement. However, it seems clear from tracking the site statistics that Physics-Stack-Exchange is ill. (A healthy sign would be exponential, or at least super-linear, growth.) Why?
- How many working physicists know about the site? Probably not many, and I believe the answer is tied in with #2.
- I understand that the community disfavors simply research-level questions. However, without high-quality answers the site rambles through low-level questions with a high noise-to-signal ratio. This state of affairs will not attract the attention of those who who can make the site better. It's fun to ask about fans and cars and planes and sails, but modeling these things seriously to reveal deeper phenomena is formidable. Instead, we get a mostly qualitative, hand-wavy argument about why things work. That has value, but it is not academic physics. (Maybe that's the goal? If so, I [personally] would discontinue using the site after fulfilling my start-up commitment.)
- I think some physicists do know about the site but are unwilling to reveal their uncertainties and insecurities. This may be a physics-culture thing or it may not. There is some similar phenonmenon in Math-Overflow, but at least postdocs seem very open to the Web exchange.
Solutions? I don't know. You?