I wonder if there's a startup opportunity in helping online communities avoid the Eternal September effect. Some would claim reddit has solved the problem (subreddits) but others would disagree, citing front-page quality decline. So it seems to be an unsolved, universal problem right now.
If you (or someone else) hasn't managed to look it up, it refers to the days when the internet was primarily used by universities (i.e. home users were not a thing). Every September there'd be a bunch of freshmen who didn't understand the culture or etiquette, who would quickly dissipate as they got bored or figured out the rules. The spread of the internet into homes via AOL in the 90s brought about the same phenomenon previously only observed in September with frosh in that now there are continuously new/ignorant users on the internet who really don't get the "rules".
I use Wikipedia as basically an extension of my brain. I'm in a history program at university, and so many of the names and dates that are essential to it I don't actually know. I realized this when I was writing something last night. I was writing about the English Civil War, and the Restoration, and I wanted to comment on the relationship between Charles I and Charles II, and I went to Wikipedia...and it was down!I had to go to my shelf and get a book. Who does that?
I don't think that's quite the point: I'm sure most people here know how to access the content, but clicking a link and having the anti-SOPA popup appear jarringly reminds us of how frequently we use Wikipedia for information.
See MetaFilter for an example of a community site that suffered a decline in quality (starting around 2002) and then recovered. I'm surprised that MeFi's "MetaTalk", which segregates talk about rules and norms in its own sub-forum, hasn't been more widely copied.
I doubt software could handle the problem. It would likely require some sort of consulting SWAT team to handle the issue, since it's such a policy and behavior driven problem. The reason HN has been the most successful in fighting the ES has been through the culture the PG built. Trolls are not tolerated, and off topic articles are punished ruthlessly.
If you think about it too hard, it seems a little brutal, but you have to remember that this is just a discussion board.
Maybe you could enable people to build their own pay-for-registration high-quality communities, like MetaFilter or Something Awful, and take a share of the registration fees? Though, I'm not sure how many such communities the market can really support.
Funny there is also a "Eternal September effect" with regard to domain names. To this day we always have someone contact us and want to know if they can register a really good domain for the base reg fee because "it doesn't come up when I type it in".
The truth is though that the effect is the way many of us make our living. By what we know that others don't.