Retreading old ground
This has been batted around several times before on Meta, but I think it's worthy of a periodic refresher. With that in mind, it would be counterproductive to duplicate-close this question.
What, concretely, and with reasonably immediate results, can the long-time or regular users (and mods, in their dual capacity as users) do to attract new interesting questions from new or less-regular users?
In search of novelty
I want to emphasize interesting. We get plenty of new questions every day; on that score EL&U is among the most productive non-trilogy sites in the network.
But for the most part, the kinds of questions we see are workaday questions from (mostly) non-fluent users of English who are trying to solve small, practical problems. And, for the most part, looking at it from a more abstract lens (which regulars, perforce, do), most of them are repeats, falling into a handful of higher-level patterns.
And we regulars, having seen so many of these, tend to find them terribly dull, and not only not engaging, but to a good extent off-putting¹.
Navigating the woods
There are enough questions about reducing or redirecting this stream, though, with no clear solution in sight, so instead I'd like to focus this question on improving the ratio of novel-interesting-questions : banal-questions by raising the numerator, rather than lowering the denominator.
Again, I'd like to focus on concrete, relatively immediate suggestions. Given that this has not organically occured, it suggests there's a investment of our own time and effort in order to reap the benefits of a more engaging and less disheartening experience on the site.
Drawing a treasure map
So, what can we do? Ideally, I'd like to see answers in the form of suggesting and elaborating a single idea (one idea per answer), along with the commitments we (the regular users) would have to make to realize this benefit.
- Ask new and interesting questions ourselves (like Mari-Lou and Josh [sorry I forget your new numeric ID] make an effort to do)
- Is this scalable? Seems to me we need consistent infusion of fresh voices with novel, interesting questions to sustain the flow.
- Reach out to groups with similar interests (e.g. the communities around LanguageLog, etc) and market EL&U a bit (organically, so people are attracted over the long term)
- Relax rule X or constraint Y (e.g. permit and encourage questions of new usages, slang, or jargon which haven't been firmly established in reference works yet, in full knowledge this will make it more difficult to substantiate answers).
And so on. I'm open to anything.
But the objective is to collect concrete ideas for which there will be a relatively immediate return in the proportion of novel, interesting questions asked by newcomers, given a specific, documented investment by the regular-user community.
We've had a couple of suggestions for improvements to the site which could -- almost certainly would -- improve the number of novel, interesting questions.
These are good ideas, and I endorse them, and I've upvoted them. But I would like to ask future answerers to keep the focus on "self-actualization", i.e. changes within the power of the community (and the mods, sans diamond hats) to effect ourselves.
I say this because SE has a "standard 6-8 week waiting period" to implement new features, which in practice results in an effective delay of between 6-8 months and eternity.
In addition, they are currently focused on other projects (which are covered on the big Meta), so I'm even less hopeful such feature requests will get priority over the next couple of quarters.
So, I think it would be most helpful for answers to focus on change we can make ourselves, and in particular change that requires some sacrifice on our behalf, because it's my firm belief that you get what you pay for.
¹ Meaning this question, of course, is asked in a terribly self-interested spirit. I love EL&U and I've loved participating here. But my participation falls off week by week, inexorably. I don't want that to happen; I've extracted so much joy and learning from this site.
But the gamification system (rep and badges and votes) has failed to motivate me since, I don't know, 2K? And where once I saw every new question with fresh eyes, found some element to pique my interest (remember when you'd see a comment from @DanBron at the top of almost every question chain?), that has long since faded too. I'm as jaded as the next 25K user. I've seen it all, and all I can taste is dust.