TL;DR: I list what I see as obstacles to site graduation: 1. Not ready to self-moderate; 2. Not enough questions per day; 3. Not enough upvotes on upvote-worthy content; 4. No experts.
To turn this into a question...
Question: What (other) obstacles are there to site graduation, and how can we overcome them?
I think if we solve item 3., items 1., 2., and 4. will fall into place naturally. Some places to find upvote-worthy posts are:
The Greatest Hits page lists 1000 questions that got a large amount of views or a large amount of feedback.
The list of posts for the Teacher and Student badges contains posts that others have deemed worthy of upvoting. Questions that earn the Popular Questions badge have had 1000+ views, and might be worth upvoting.
1. We are ill-equipped to self-moderate. The community is currently dependent on moderation for closing questions, and this become more difficult after graduation.
In beta, voting to close requires 500 reputation. This would go up to 3000 reputation in a graduated site. (Currently 19 users have 3000+ reputation.)
On the first two pages of the newest closed questions, I found exactly one question which was actually closed by five votes (What if husband wants potential wife with big bosom?) and exactly one closed by the author accepting it as a duplicate (*Allah* is greatest, *God* is greatest). Thus, it is currently very rare for closure to occur without moderator intervention.
And where are the 10k+ (4 users) and 20k+ users (0 users) that should be around to self-moderate? See: users.
This problem was raised four years ago in A guide to self moderation -- help moderate Islam.SE:
Diamond Moderators are to intervene in exceptional cases, but they are expected to not intervene all the time and to help guide the community. The community must help moderate itself. With the number of users we have that are not diamond moderators and have enough reputation, we can start trying to moderating this site.
See also Jeff Atwood's A Theory of Moderation.
Ideally, moderators shouldn't be needed to close questions. At other sites, they use their binding close votes in obvious cases, or when they would be the 5-th close vote (and their vote would have resulted in closure anyway). It's different here---almost all closures are made by diamond moderators, and not the community.
Moreover, according to data explorer, in 2016, there was one question that was reopened: Is there nothing in the Quran and Hadith about praying in Arabic? which was only reopened to change the close reason from "unclear what you're asking" to "duplicate" (see the question's timeline).
[Note: This isn't intended as a criticism of the moderators (à la Issues with moderation); indeed this site would likely have not survived without their valuable contributions.]
2. We are not getting enough questions per day
When a site starts to consistently receive 10 questions/day, we’ll consider it for graduation.
Here's a plot of the number of questions per day that we're receiving (generated using data explorer):
The number of questions per day is increasing, and maybe this trend will continue. From Quantcast.com, we have the following traffic statistics:
The attention this site is getting has been consistently growing since it's launch. Thus, it's possible we could reach 10 questions/day in the near future (if we keep up the good work!).
(We can also learn: (a) Ramadan is a busy time of the year for Islam.SE, and (b) Most users access the site from mobile devices, by a factor of around 2.3.)
3. We're not getting enough upvotes on upvote-worthy content. (We seem to be good at downvoting non-upvote-worthy content, though.)
The biggest problem is that we can't self-moderate without users with sufficient reputation, and upvotes are how we get users with reputation.
Encouraging voting early was done at the original MathOverflow site. Scott Morrison writes:
We should encourage everyone to vote positively as often as possible!
Every Stack Exchange site will eventually end up with a different "base level" of voting --- that is, the expected number of upvotes for a question of a given level of excellence. (This effect occurs because people see a good question, but already with a certain number of votes, and think "oh, I would have upvoted this, but it already has enough".)
It's easy for us to affect this "base level" by encouraging high levels of upvoting now. We're setting the standards, and this really will have an effect.
In case it's not obvious: the rationale for wanting this base level to be high is that it provides better positive feedback to good contributors.
I would suggest aiming for mediocre posts getting mediocre levels of upvotes, and good posts get high levels of upvotes. Let's make it worthwhile to take the time to write a high-quality post.
Poor answers end up at the bottom of the page (where they are ignored). Poor questions end up closed, ignored, and even automatically deleted, or quickly answered and finished with.
Look how few good questions/answers we have:
is:question score:10 created:2016etc. gave the following results:
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 Islam 2 0 23 30 202 Buddhism 7 56 139 Hinduism 23 63 270 Chess 25 30 60 68 169 Astronomy 60 40 80 210 Russian 25 11 24 57 136 Christianity 41 101 118 333 316 Judaism 39 129 206 193 518
(NB: These numbers would have changed since I generated this table.)
We're falling behind on getting highly upvoted questions compared to other beta sites with comparable age and/or topic.
The following two graphs are the question score distribution [score vs. number of questions with that score]. Which site would result in a better user experience?
Islam.SE (data explorer):
Christianity.SE (data explorer):
Prior meta posts (e.g. here, September 2012 [average 64.5 upvotes per day]) discouraged artificial upvotes. This was a reasonable concern at the time, but it's hardly a concern now (September 2016 [average 34.8 upvotes per day]). From the Voters tab, there have only been 14 people who voted 10 or more times this month. The following plots the average daily votes per month (data explorer):
4. We don't have any experts.
However, we have high rankings in search engines; high visibility is a big advantage of the StackExchange network. Islam.SE posts are competitive with online scholarly fatwa in search results.*
* So people could be coming here for Islamic advice, instead of going to scholars or reading fatawa themselves.
I suspect we can attract experts if we can get their attention, get them to think "I can give a better answer than this", then value their response by upvoting their work above lower-quality work. (And by having a professional-looking site, where effortful contributions are rewarded, and without all this bickering in the comments.)