Earlier today I was eyeballing other people's badges because, you know, badges, and I came upon something of a curious observation. If you look at the answer badges - specifically Nice, Good and Great Answer, there is a clear sense that, even for the bronze badge, established users of the site - and particularly users with, say, 1k+ rep - get a lot of the badges. However, if you look at the users who have earned the gold question badges, the picture is completely different: Famous Question, Great Question and Stellar Question have been earned overwhelmingly by <1k rep users; ditto for the silvers and bronzes.
This is of course not news. This was discussed in depth in Question self-destruction: why don't experts ask more questions?. It is also not a surprise in any sense that more questions come from lower-rep users and more answers come from higher-rep users - that's to be expected in some form in any Q&A site.
However, I'm quite struck at how we do have a pretty big set of really nice questions, and that they were mostly asked by quite low-rep users. While it is natural that questions will tend to be asked by lower-rep users, it is not a given that the good questions will come from that end of the scale.
I therefore decided to explore this theme a bit and, in the meantime, dredge up what's left of my SQL skills after ten years (!) of rust. I came up with this query for the Stack Exchange Data Explorer: What reputation do people with Popular/Notable/Famous Question badges typically have?. It produces a cumulative-distribution-function-like plot of the number of users below reputation
rep that have asked a question with
>viewsThreshold views. For the gold badge, the plot is this:
Over 90% of such questions were asked by users who (even now) have less than 1k. There are a few between 1k and 2k, and really not much other than this great (cw) question of Mark Eichenlaub and this one of nibot's. I genuinely think this is surprising and really puts the nail on what we knew all along: 'expert' users need to start asking more questions.
It also raises an interesting question as regards why this happens: can it really simply be explained by low-rep users "stumbling" on the good nuggets of question space, as part of the huge body of questions asked by the overwhelming majority of users that have <1k rep? Looking at, say, the questions that earned the Good sobriquet, I think there is something else at stake. Those questions have a simplicity, and therefore a generality, that I think tends to be lacking in the questions asked by more established users. What do people think about this?
For comparison, I have also cooked up the corresponding query for the Nice/Good/Great Answer badge series, What reputation do people with Nice/Good/Great Answer badges typically have? . There aren't enough Great Answers to give a smooth enough plot, but the silver earners, at 25+ votes, are distributed like this:
Note: (1) the horizontal scale is very different, (2) the slope is much shallower, and (3) only 20% of silver-earning answers come from <1k users. (And, also, multiple good answers from Luboš M, John R, Anna V, David Z, and Mark E.)
Finally, for completeness, here are the corresponding queries for the other two question badge series: What reputation do people with Nice/Good/Great Question badges typically have? and What reputation do people with Favorite/Stellar Question badges typically have?. Both have, as far as I can tell, the same behaviour as the views-based series.
I'm well aware, of course, that so far I've been talking a lot but there aren't many actual questions. The main motivation of this post is to share this observation and the (moderately hard and solid) statistics that back it up. I guess the real question is something like: what do people make of this? Does this correspond to the image this community has of the site? Or is there something missing from this analysis. What are the core reasons for this to happen? Is it simply a volume thing - i.e. the bulk of questions tends to come from lower-rep users than higher-rep ones - or is there indeed some core simplicity and accessibility to those great questions that eludes many of our great answerers? (I think there's quite a bit to that. And, in that case, we should really go and learn how to ask from those great questions.) If this is happening, is it a good thing? Is it a neutral, that's-how-things-are, thing? Or is it something we should try to counter-act? If so, how?
In response to the comments and the Pulsar's and Manishearth's answers I'd like to say two things.
One is that of course question score is only an approximate, stand-in metric to the completely undefinable "question quality". However, I feel it is not entirely a bad metric, particularly at the high end of the scale: most of the badge-earning questions are indeed good questions. (That's not to say, on the other hand, that all our good questions get high score, and particularly so for high-end questions.) But there's nothing wrong with a highly-voted, low-level question: if it gets good physics across to a lot of people, at a level where they can understand it, what else could you ask?
I'm on this site, mostly, to refine my outreach-fu, and I suspect most high-end users are here at least partly for that. As I see it, these questions are a very valuable resource. Seriously: go read our Good Answers and tell me you didn't have fun. And, at least, it's something we can and should learn from.