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How can we grow this community?

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Codidact's communities have a lot of great content that is helping people on the Internet. Our communities are small, though, and sustainable communities depend on having lots of active, engaged participants. The folks already here are doing good work; our challenge is to find more people like you so we can help this community grow.

This calls for a two-pronged approach: reaching more people who would be interested if only they knew about us, and making sure that visitors get a good first impression. I'm here to ask for your help with both.

Reaching more people

The pool of people interested in the outdoors is large (even during a global pandemic). My question to you is: where do we find those people? You're the experts on this topic, not us. Where would it be most fruitful to promote Codidact? How should we appeal to them to draw them in?

Please don't give general answers like "sports clubs". We need your expert input to decide where, specifically, we should be looking. We are now able to pay for some advertising -- where should we direct it, and what message would best reach that audience? Can you help us sell your community?

Finally, some types of promotion are best done peer to peer. You are the experts in your topic; messages from you on subreddits or professional forums or the like will be much more credible than messages from Codidact staff. For these types of settings, we need your help to get the word out. If you know of a suitable place and can volunteer to spread the word there, please leave an answer about it so we all know about it (and know not to also post there).

Making a good first impression

Pretend for a moment that you don't know anything about Codidact. Visit this community in incognito mode. What's your reaction? If it's negative, what can we do about it? Some known deterrents from across the network:

  • Latest activity is not recent. This tells people the community isn't active. Anecdotally, we have lots of people ready to answer good questions, and on some communities, not enough good questions for them to answer. Can you help with that?

  • Latest questions are unanswered. This tells people it might not be worth asking here. Why are our unanswered questions unanswered? Are they poor questions in some regard? Unclear, too basic, too esoteric, just not interesting? Can they be fixed? Should they be hidden?[1]

  • Latest questions have poor scores. This tells people that either there's lots of low-quality material here or the voters are overly picky. If it's a quality problem, same questions as the previous bullet. If good content is getting downvoted, or not getting upvoted, can you help us understand why?

These are issues we've seen or heard about from across the network, but each community is different. What do you see here? What might be turning people away, and what could we do about it?

Are there things about the platform itself, as opposed to content, that discourage people we're trying to attract? If there's something we can customize to better serve this community, please let us know. If there are other changes in presentation or behavior that you think would encourage visitors to stick around, what are they?

Conversely, what is this community doing well? What draws newcomers in? I don't just mean the reverse of those bullets. What do we need to keep doing, and what might be worth highlighting when promoting this community?


  1. Should the question list not show some questions to anonymous visitors? What should the criteria be? ↩︎

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2 answers

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You've asked some good questions. Unfortunately all can't be answered honestly in an open message like this one. Ping me privately if you want more detail.

Structural problems

  1. Old content. We've talked about this before, but nothing ever seems to get resolved or done. This site is very deep into the sunk cost fallacy. The old content is hurting us with search engines (this was proven with quantitative evidence in main meta quite a while ago). It makes the place look like a cheesy knockoff, invites newcomers to go elsewhere for the real content, and it's annoying to see questions pop up that were not only asked years ago, but somewhere else.

    What's the solution? Delete it. Blow it all away without mercy. Be ruthless and don't look back. Trying to preserve a few isolated home-grown answers to imported questions is a false economy. Realize that this stuff just isn't worth the cost of keeping it around.

    If someone really wants to keep that brilliant answer of theirs, they can write the appropriate question in their own words, then copy their answer there. We wouldn't close such questions as duplicates if the duplicated question was imported, and scheduled for imminent deletion anyway.

  2. Too many catagories. Having what little content there is here spread over more buckets just emphasizes how empty all the buckets are. Strip it down to just Q&A and Meta, at least for now.

    The photo contest can be revived once there is enough activity here to support it, and volunteer effort to curate it. Having the last activity be 8 months old is worse than having no photo contest at all. It makes the site feel abandoned. Remove it, and the issue goes away. Again, don't fret about the "lost" content. Nobody is seeing it now anyway. A store of knowledge may be a good long term goal, but right now activity and a good impression is much more important.

    The Gear Recommendations category only has 16 questions. 6 of those have no answers. Only 6 questions were asked here. Of those, only one has an answer, and that's a self-answer. There is no value there. Loose it and don't look back.

Policy problems

As noted above, some of this is difficult to discuss openly, so I'll be brief.

  1. Answers in comments. Some of the few pieces of wisdom users have shared here are buried in comments, see for example Is there a reason for the seemingly over labeling gear in the UK with "unisex" ?.
  2. No apparent action in response to low quality content, even when directly against the site guidelines and consistent from a particular user.
  3. Active squashing of public discussions about what the policies should be.

User problems

  1. Not enough engagement. That's in part what this question is about, but here I mean engagement by the users that are already here. When someone asks a good question, upvote it. Answers that aren't wrong, badly written, misleading, and that do actually address the question should be upvoted.

    These actions make the authors feel appreciated in that someone is actually reading what they write. That encourages more writing. More importantly, it makes the place feel more alive to casual visitors. Lots of negative or 1-2 vote questions on the front page make the place look dead and uninviting.

    Of course the problem is that there is little good-enough content to upvote. We've had a rash of dumb and poorly researched questions in recent months. We certainly don't want to encourage that or appear to condone it with positive votes. However, the few reasonable questions and answers get very few upvotes. Lighten up folks! Voting is free, and a little "Thanks for the effort" takes only a single click and makes the place look and feel more inviting and active.

    There are some examples of this on the front page currently. Yes, there are some dumb questions, lazy questions, and old content dredged up, but that makes it even more important to upvote those that aren't. For example:

    OK, those aren't all stellar questions, but they're certainly not bad, inappropriate, or lazy. Still, the most upvotes any of these questions got is 5. Do we really only have 5 active users here? I don't think so.

  2. Vandalism or vendetta voting. Voting should be about the content of the particular post being voted on. I admit that when someone writes a series of lazy or stupid questions I'll set the bar for upvotes a bit higher on subsequent questions, but that's not the kind of thing I'm talking about. There can be legitimate disagreement on some technical issues. Those are actually quite rare, and also not what I'm talking about. It's one thing to not upvote if you don't like something about the post, but a downvote specifically says the post is wrong, misleading, or badly written, and actively warns others against it.

    There have been, particularly recently, downvotes that make no sense with no comment explaining why. Of course we can't ever know that someone didn't have a legitimate disagreement, but there are enough examples to suggest vandalism or vendetta-voting in the aggregate. I'll use my own answers as examples since they're easier to dig out, and of course for me to notice in the first place:

    Answers to your specific questions

    The pool of people interested in the outdoors is large (even during a global pandemic). My question to you is: where do we find those people? You're the experts on this topic, not us. Where would it be most fruitful to promote Codidact? How should we appeal to them to draw them in?

    A good way to promote this site is by personal references. Existing members mentioning the site to others when doing outdoor group activities would be a great way to get the word out.

    However, the site needs to clean up its act first. I sometimes lead hikes with the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) and on behalf of our town's Trails Committee. I haven't mentioned the site to anyone yet because - frankly - I'm embarrassed to do so. The place looks too unkempt with too much drivel, old content floating around, and otherwise crickets chirping. People are going to be most critical when they first look. Too many would go away. Getting them to come back for another look later is much harder. I don't want to put in the effort and put my reputation on the line until I'm confident more people would say "Thanks for referring me.".

    Are there things about the platform itself, as opposed to content, that discourage people we're trying to attract?

    No, I don't think so. Everyone will find something they think should be different, but I don't think that's much of a deterrent. People aren't expecting to find the perfect Q&A platform that works exactly like they would want it too. Codidact has come a long way from the beginning, and I think the site mechanics are "good enough" at this point to not be a deterrent to new users. I think this is especially true of the more fun or leisure sites (like this one), as opposed to more technical sites like Physics and Electrical Engineering.

    Conversely, what is this community doing well?

    I think we do a decent job of answering good questions that aren't in too narrow a niche.

    What draws newcomers in?

    Nothing. That's half the problem. The other half is that they're not likely to stick around if they do somehow stumble upon us.

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As far as this site goes, the rudeness has completely killed my willingness to ask questions, it's also why I stopped doing the photo contest.

To an extent the rudeness here is a copy of the rudeness on the SE site, there it stopped once the user(s) got suspended, but then after Codidact started they migrated here and continued. In other words, the arguments over rudeness give remind me of the unpleasant rudeness on SE because it's the same rudeness by some of the same rude users.

As the moderator its a double edge sword where I can delete the rude comments, but that means I have to read them, and were I not a moderator I feel like the comments would not be deleted especially given that some of the rude comments come from user(s) that moderate different Codidact sites.

Until the rudeness is fixed I do not see it being worth it to participate here and certainly feel unsupported by the Codidact staff on this issue.

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Different definition of "rudeness"? (4 comments)

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