When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.
It all depends from the attitude of the person viewing the site.
If they are beginners, they will see a lot of useful content and will learn indeed a lot. We have done good job covering some tricky endgames ( B vs R or N vs R, many pawn/rook endings etc ), popular typical pawn structures ( Carlsbad / Isolated Queen's pawn etc ) and we have very good general coverage of the openings. This is all good to point the beginner in the right direction by giving him/her the basic principles and then providing literature and other sources to further improve. Beginners will also highly appreciate friendly and highly educational quality of our answers, regarding analyzing their positions. We did not ridicule anyone here, and have upvoted basically everything which serves well to "break the ice" with the newcomer. As far as 1400 u to 2100 ELO, this site is probably the best they can get.
If the viewer is a professional, then things get grim for him/her. First of all, we completely lack in standard. We do not have clear definition of what questions are allowed here and what are not ( this was mentioned on Meta before ). This is the consequence of not having highly skilled players in our team. Our highest reputation users are mere amateurs or FM at best. Because we are in danger not surviving Beta status, we get extra pressure and allow a lot of bad questions, like "What are some chess songs?". This question is not regarded to chess and should have been heavily downvoted and closed. The reason is that it asks about a song, which is not what this SE site is about. We massively upvoted it, which degrades the seriousnes of this site in my opinion ( what is next? "What are some chess snickers?" / "What are some chess cars?" / "What are some chess..." well, you get the point ). The lack of consistent review and standard will deter serious players from this site. PGN viewer is riddled with bugs and has limited capabilities. For a site that is a part of the best programming site online this is a joke! StackOverflow is packed with professionals who work for famous companies or are in the very top of the computer industry ( e.g. they own their own companies ). You can't tell me that you can't implement quality PGN viewer, that is bullcrap! This degrades the value of this site even more, and deters possible new user to join because nobody will "suffer" with comments for free which must be kept in mind -> we are free of charge Q&A site. Eventhough we have no clue what we are doing ( chess songs will not kill anyone I guess... ) and eventhough we experience technical difficulties ( crappy PGN viewer is still very useful ), the worst problem we have is lack of questions that should attract highly skilled players ( IM onward ). Without GMs in our pool of high reputation users, we have no ability to answer such questions and new users become quickly aware of this. Some "high quality" questions were asked in the past but the answers to those were ridiculous if we objectively look at it. We just can't cope with this and it is a painfull fact.
In short, if you are new and you're a beginner, this is the place for you. If you are FM, there is a slight chance you to find something useful, but if you are IM or GM just skip this site, it is a waste of time. Sadly, this is the truth at the moment.
Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well?
I have asked here on Meta a question regarding getting GMs to join and in return got the Tumbleweed badge ( for those of you who don't know, this means in short that nobody cared about my question ). Since nobody here gives a damn about raising the quality of this site to the highest possible height, I came to the following conclusion:
Chess SE team only cares for this site to pass Beta and will do anything to achieve this.
Tolerating questions that don't belong to this site, not having clearly defined reviewing standards and being overtly lenient towards crappy questions ( those questions where OP didn't show any research effort and similar ) might "save the day" in the short terms but will destroy the site in the long run.
I can already point out few crappy questions that got polluted with this type of approach, but what's the point? It seems to me that everybody already "agreed" that this should be site for players between 1400-2100 ELO and I honestly doubt that anything will change. I am very very sad because of this approach and feel like powerless "black sheep". I just don't know what to do to make people realize that we need GMs in our pool of top ranked users.
I said it once and I will say it again: without questions that cover problems of the master skilled player we can't seriously hope for healthy, respected, strong site.
Some people are willing to come here and "give a try" but they believe that they will not get quality response they expect. Many friends of mine who are masters did me a favor and "checked out" this site but ultimately said that "it can't help them." This is the second thing I have said before: we need highly skilled chess players as top users. The last thing is good PGN viewer. If we manage to fulfill these tasks the Internet is ours, there will be no chess force to compete with us because we offer free advice. The only thing missing is high quality. Helping FM /IM users would attract GMs and they could come to the same conclusion as I did: that this place has a great potential to become central place for the online chess world. It could unite chess fans all over the world thus raising overal chess quality in the world just as ChessInformant did in the 1960s when it first came out. this is my "ace in the sleeve", this is the potential I see for this site that might attract GMs.
- Get high skilled users;
- Ask questions that address problems of high skilled players;
- For the God's sake make a good PGN viewer and stop embarassing yourselves ( StackExchange has StackOverflow, they should "eat" this task "for breakfast" IMHO );
Just my two cents... Hopefully it will help in changing things towards better...