I have a good "problem": a fairly new Stack Exchange site I participate on1 took off running. Our users are active, we get lots of engaging questions and answers, and our metrics are in good shape.
On some sites (with SO as the poster child) it's impossible to keep up with what's going on; you carve out your little niche and pay attention to that, but you're unaware of the vast majority of the doings on the site. At that scale, it can't be helped. But on smaller sites it's often possible to keep up, and for a young site it's especially important to do so because site norms are still fluid -- scope, guidelines for behavior, and the results of experimentation are all somewhat up in the air compared to a mature site.
As a user who wants to be part of bringing all that together, I want to read everything -- but there's enough that I can't. And our community is young, so we're still training people to bring things up in our discussion areas. On other sites I also might not read everything but I'm reasonably confident that we aren't forming pockets of users who might need more attention than they're getting, or developing interesting and novel trends out of view. Imagine if SO were new and you found out that the Perl users were all off in a corner asking and answering obfuscated-regex questions for the fun of it -- not what the site is meant for but they didn't know any better and nobody noticed.2
What are good ways for me to maintain a good "aggregate" view of doings on the site, in addition to the questions I read out of my own personal interest? I can imagine a few approaches; I'm interested in (a) more input and especially (b) reports of what has actually worked for people in this situation:
I could pick a couple tags, read everything on them for a week or two, and then move on to a couple more tags -- taking deep samples in narrow areas, in other words.
I could do the same with users -- pick a few people to stalk for a while, then move on. Maybe we wouldn't actually call it "stalking".
I could (wave my hands and) use a script to read every Nth question and all its answers.
I could use queries or on-site searches to find, um, something. (What might I be looking for -- high votes? High views? New users?)
Let's assume that whatever I do is on top of my regular use of the site -- reading, asking, and answering questions that are personally interesting, using the review queues, and keeping an eye on meta and somewhat on chat.
1 And also moderate, but that's not the point of this question. I'm aware of this question, which asks more from the perspective of moderators, but I'm asking about the user perspective.
2 I hope that's not real; I don't hang out on the Perl tag on SO. :-)