This is getting to be a bit of a dubious distinction.

A quick observation as we cross this milestone:

Hordes of qualified people aren't going to be flocking to this site to answer questions, especially the people interested in the topic: personal finance bloggers. The few who are on here (myself, JoeTaxpayer, littleadv, and a handful of others) are the exception. The average personal finance blogger is more entrepreneurial than the average programmer. They (PF bloggers) will see not only little opportunity to promote their own work here, but also a group hostile to said promotion, and either go where they can leave their website URL as many times as they want, or just build their own blog, attract their own traffic, make their own money. What works astoundingly well for programmers works very poorly for personal finance guys/gals; we (as a whole) know exactly what digital sharecropping is, and know to avoid it.

I participate because I like helping people. But I've always enjoyed benefiting financially from what I write about, and considering I'm the fourth-highest ranked user on the main site, and have less than 300 profile views, total, the reward (to the rest of my online presence) is miniscule compared to the time I spend here.

CFPs and the like probably won't come here in droves, either. Too many legal restrictions on what they can say, and they're probably going to want to use the site to bring in more business, which is all but verboten here.

So, that's my take as to why we're still in beta, why the number of questions per day still "needs work" and why the site's visits per day is stagnant.


  • 5
    Very good points, but I would also add that, IMHO, Stack Exchange Inc. expects too much of a site in order to "graduate". Jul 6, 2012 at 3:54
  • Keep in mind it's not that out of line with recent graduations; User Experience and RPG were both over 500 days (if I recall) when they graduated successfully
    – Ben Brocka
    Jul 13, 2012 at 10:40
  • 2
    Really not sure what the issue is. Per the SE benchmarks the site is doing good. My suggestion would to focus being as welcoming/friendly as possible to the users visiting, and for the core users to post one "expert" question for every 3-5 questions they answer. Do that, and in my opinion the site will leave beta in 60-90 days.
    – blunders
    Jul 16, 2012 at 17:45

7 Answers 7


Here's my take: There are two kinds of people I've seen around here, people who ask questions and people who answer them. I mean, there's some overlap, but there's a lot less overlap than on StackOverflow. Also, that's an observation, at present, not a value judgement. Programming is a field that's very broad; there are a lot of people who are an expert in one area but exposed to some intricate little detail of another area where things are very finicky. Our questions are usually a little broader than "what have I misconfigured and how do I find out why isn't my site-to-site ipsec VPN tunnel attempting to do NAT traversal?". Most people who are experienced are also more capable of self-service. Most people who are not particularly experienced probably won't stick around to answer more questions, for lack of expertise or perceived expertise. And most personal-finance questions only come up occasionally - when dealing with a new loan, credit card, or other complicated transaction - whereas a programmer may be exposed to new things much more frequently under the right conditions.

With that observation in hand, I'd like to ask whether or not our question is a lack of "personal finance blogger" personalities, as opposed to a lack of J Random Citizen participation. Have there been a lot of people asking questions which could have been easily answered but weren't, or which lingered for days and weeks on end? Are the personalities who do exist being too self-promotional and linking to their personal sites all the time to get referrals? My casual observations say otherwise. If that's the case, I don't think that we should worry about personal-finance-blogger-type personalities coming here as much as we should worry about getting a large quantity of what the SEO types would call "organic traffic" to land here - new users, and lots of them, even if our retention appears weak in relative terms.

Also - I'm not a personal-finance blogger, I'm just a dude who grew up with a Ph.D. economist in the house who realizes a personal benefit from doing helpful things for random people like that. I could set up a blog, and try to attract followers and make money, but the opportunity cost of the time and effort to do so is too high for me to bother. ;)

  • Not sure your point about top answerers not answering questions is true; it appears to very much be the case that the top SO answerers ask extremely few questions relative to how many the answer. In fact in many cases it's several thousand answers to tens of questions. I've noticed a similar trend on UX, Programmers and CogSci that top scorers simply answer a whole lot more than they ask.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jul 13, 2012 at 10:53
  • Maybe that's true - I'm admittedly going based on gut instinct and casual observation here, not in-depth research and analysis. How about the next few tiers of mid-level answerers? And even if the trend is actually similar elsewhere, does that change anything else?
    – user296
    Jul 13, 2012 at 16:23
  • The SE model rewards a good answer 2x as much as it does a good question. As such there is 2x the incentive to answer as there is to ask.
    – Chad
    Jul 18, 2012 at 17:13

I enjoy contributing to the site, and there's alot of good information out here.

That said, I think that the scope needs to be broadened to be a more vibrant site -- there's only so much that you can ask on this topic without talking about specific securities or subjective stuff that the SE people freak about.

The puragatory in perpetuity thing needs to be resolved. Make the modest investment at making the site a real, first tier site, or shut the thing down and move on.

  • 1
    +1. This begs the question: What makes a real, first-tier site? SO has some of the best, professional programmers in the world contributing lots of great content, for free. Who is analogous here? JoeTaxpayer is making the rounds more and more, but just about everyone else I met after I contributed to this site. I know I'm a small fish. I don't see any of the really big bloggers here (Get Rich Slowly, Bargaineering, Consumerism Commentary) nor any mainstream PF folks (Liz Weston, Suze Orman, etc.). They're the Jon Skeets and Eric Lipperts of PF, and these guys already have their own empires.
    – mbhunter
    Jul 6, 2012 at 17:57

I know there are board out there that deal with personal finance or some sliver of it. The worst ones are areas I feel are a bit scammer-ish. I remember reading a forum for a while that was all the rage during the mortgage meltdown and how to negotiate.

Eventually I guessed that forum was run by a guy who always directed people to the same law firm for money. I won't say it was a rip off, but it wasn't necessarily the fair advice.

What brought people to that site however was hearing what they wanted to hear and commiserating with each other about their bad luck.

How perhaps we can work on the bright side of personal finance. Truth, but in a nicer package?

  • 2
    +1. (Almost) invariably these sites you speak of exist to make money. You can be sure there's a plan to have these sites make money. And as great as the SE platform is, it's a very, very hard sell to get many personal finance experts coming here to contribute, because they're not going to be making money at it. The power ot the SO/SF/SU/SE vision, and sticking to this through the immplementation, will make everyone richer, but it will make only the developers directly richer financially. And that doesn't sit well with most of my PF blogging colleagues.
    – mbhunter
    Jul 6, 2012 at 17:43

MB - interesting article you link to. Me, I need to find a balance with how I spend my online time. There are times I'm writing a well researched answer here, and realize I'm neglecting my own blog writing during that time.

That said, it's my choice whether to visit SE daily, weekly or otherwise. I've used material here for an article I posted, and gave credit per the FAQ. We are closing in on 8000 questions asked here, not bad.

I agree with your observations, I don't know how traffic finds its way here. I've not seen PF.SE turn up on any Google searches that I've entered, aside from when I search on the exact question asked. Your point about the pros is well taken, don't know if any CFPs post here at all.

  • 2
    Actually Chris linked to that article for me, but that was exactly the one I meant! ;) That article is more indicative of the size of JA's balls; it's largely what we all do when we create content on these sites, and not only do we continue, JA told us the reasons not to! But anyway, this wasn't meant to judge how you spend your time. It was more to say things that I don't think have been said yet about why all of the really famous money people aren't here yet. I think growth will be slow for a long time and won't attract pros the way SO does with programmers.
    – mbhunter
    Jul 7, 2012 at 4:34

Thanks for bringing the issue up. I'm actually flattered that you've mentioned me, but it is something to point out: until recently I had no formal education or qualification in personal finances of any kind (until recently because I decided to take and pass SEE this summer). A regular RT/E C programmer for you here, who got swayed into money@SE from the main site (at some point I was even making effort to raise my rep on the main site not to let money@SE rep pass it, but gave up in the end...). Yes, I do have a blog, but it is not for profit, and probably that's why I don't mind not being able to "promote" it anywhere.

My point is: there are many people who can get interested in joining the community, in the places least expected. We just need to make sure that people can actually participate, and that means - widen the range of accepted topics. I would definitely consider consumer issues, taxes, ans similar to be things directly related to "personal finances and money".

What I would not want is to see the site being filled with macro-economics, technical stock analysis, bit-coins and conspiracies, and similar topics that have no relation to the daily life of a normal person. That limitation might turn off some of my fellow RT/E C programmers, I know.


Agree with observations of mbhunter & fennec.

There is no overlap between askers and people who answer ... that's OK. As long at things are getting answered. We are pretty high on that front [thanks to a few dedicated people].

The key question is why aren't people finding this site via search engine? We are somehow not able to crack that wide open ... most of the traffic gets diverted to blogs or other infrormation sites rather than here ... I don't know what we can do here ... but if we are able to do that then site will grow. To me it's less important that new user's stick around ... what is more important is people discover this site and ask questions ... if we can crack this aspect we will be graduated. IE the page view increases [right now its down back to ~1500 from a peak of around ~2500] and number of questions increase ...


+1 for bringing this up.

Personally I think the site is just pigeon holed into a small niche and should expand.

It was heavily debated about economics being included. As if economics is such a far leap...

I think "Personal" should be dropped from the name and the scope of this SE should expand.

  • 7
    I think "personal" needs to stay. Jul 6, 2012 at 3:46

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