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So, I was wandering the site last days, weeks, months. I've seen many questions regarding building or managing communities, I've seen many answers which are helpful, I've seen the same users over and over again. But somewhen we suddenly stopped growing, well, we didn't shrink, too. It's like we are on a constant level now.

At times, some questions are asked but currently it's at a low score of 0.2% per day which makes a question every five days. It's somewhat 'depressing' to see how this community is suffering from the lack of content. I often come here since I enjoy building up communities from scratch. However, lately I've been less active due this lack of content, it somehow makes me feel sad. I saw this site in way better conditions, right now the sites isn't degenerating but decaying.

We're a bunch of administrators, moderators, community managers, and so on, yet, we can't manage to get this site growing. We tried to make us more visible to other SE-communities by providing and showing ads. We thought about the problems by holding discussion about the things going on. However, the situation didn't improve. The meta post I linked had better stats than we have now.

@MonicaCellio said:

This site started out as Moderators.SE and then broadened its scope a few months into beta. I think we are still recovering from that; the original scope was too narrow and failed to attract (or keep) enough people, and the broader scope hasn't "gotten out there" yet.

I don't think so. We still cover the original scope since we are about building communities. Therefore we should have the same mass of content as before and the additional we gained by broaden our scope. But we don't have this content, actually we have less content.

@AnnonomousPenguin stated:

Our biggest problem is that we do have such a limited audience.

I can't agree with this, too. I did some research and found a subreddit on redit called 'Modhelp'. (They have even more subreddits, just google it.) Well, I guess they slightly have more content than we do. Of course, I can't compare Reddit with StackExchange since Reddit is widely known. We do have a limited audience on StackExchange. Why?

  • We can't really compete with The Workplace. This community is way bigger than ours and also established. Because the workplace is a kind of a community, too, we can't compete with them. They get questions because they have more experts over there. Our scope crosses with theirs so that many users are unsure where to ask and simply prefer to ask on The Workplace. The rate to get a qualified answer is higher since there are more users.
  • Well, most people come to SE to discuss about their subject. Community Building is on the rise, nevertheless not a real subject yet. Therefore most people go easy on it. I often, and I'm sure you too, came across people stating building up a community is easy. It always makes me laugh if I see them failing. I usually recommend them to ask here then. But people still think, even after failure, that they just had a bad day. Community Building isn't recognized as a real topic that matters.
  • Most problems can be discussed on the particular site itself by starting a discussion on Meta. There's no need to ask us since everything can be solved on the site itself.

Although we have a limited audience on StackExchange itself, we didn't think about the opportunity to promote us on bigger sites like the mentioned subreddit. We are deeply focused on SE. We do topic challenges but honestly, are they even worth the work right now? We could barely fulfill the last challenge by having one question regarding the topic in question.

We tried (don't know the current situation here -- sorry) to submit ads to other communities which are more or less suitable for our search of users. Well, why should anybody switch from The Workplace to Community Building?

We close questions which seem to be interesting for people. Yes, not everything is in our scope, yes, not everything as specific as we would like it to be. However, can we risk it to close questions which even were favorites from some users? The questions are that one and that one.

Then there's something that made me a little bit upset. A few days ago, @Phillip asked a question. He asked about a theoretical community. It was put on hold because it was too broad on the first sight. I decided to write a comment to point out the necessary points I'm interested in. He answered those and I voted to reopen that question again because I had enough information to give an answer. However, it disappeared then. I don't know if it was removed by himself or by moderators. But in both cases: Why did that even happen?

If he deleted it on his own, we clearly weren't as professional as we're supposed to be. I asked for detail, nobody else did. But as I voted to reopen, nobody else did. Why? I asked for the additional information and he happily provided it, if you need any further, you should ask so you can get the question back into the scope again, right? Maybe he wasn't interested in the content itself, too.

However, I'm really sad about the current situation because I know that we could easily get more content. We are community managers, and we are good at it. If we weren't, we wouldn't have so much reputation from so less questions. If we cooperated with sites outside of SE, we could maybe increase our general stats of contribution. Isn't this what we try to achieve? We want to grow! I want to give advice to fellow community builders since I often had problems. But right now, we're not really at it. We became kind of lazy.

There's always the point that we shouldn't force growth. Quality content is more worth than lots of content. Nevertheless, can we afford it shrinking on a lower level of contribution in order to keep up high quality content? That's what we do right now.

There's always room for improvement. We're stuck growing. The level of contribution is low, the content is a rarely seen Pokémon, new users are diamonds found in dark caves.

Should we try to get out of this, or let it hang there a little bit longer to see what it brings? Are we okay with the low rate of contribution or are we not?

I'm really interested in this discussion since I value this community. Can we pull the trigger and get back on the contributing track?

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    I hadn't noticed that the first of those was put on hold - 6 weeks ago. Please bring up individual cases on meta as they arise. – Monica Cellio Apr 12 '15 at 1:20
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    I'd sure like to see us get more exposure on, and visitors from, other online communities like Reddit. I'm not there, so I don't know how to do that. If somebody here is and does, please share. – Monica Cellio Apr 12 '15 at 15:23
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    This is a highly useful community, I have often found good advice when facing some difficult issues concerning our own (non-SE) community. Community building is a high-level expert community, which naturally has a rather slow turning time (so far), and this is ok at least for me. – just_curious Apr 12 '15 at 16:10
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    @just_curious even if we are a community type that grows slower, we still need to have at least two or three questions per day asked. But yes, I don't think we will ever get to a point that we have a hundred questions per day (nor do I think that we need so many to sustain our community). – Anonymous Penguin Apr 13 '15 at 2:28
  • @MonicaCellio On Reddit, there's a sidebar on the right side. I guess we could get us listed there. However, I don't know if the impact would be great. We could try to contact some of the moderators there and tell them about our idea. – Zerotime Apr 13 '15 at 21:42
  • @Zerotime even better would be to find out what kinds of questions/problems Redditers have and get those questions asked here -- ideally by them coming here, but if they don't see the value yet, can we provide some content that'll help them? – Monica Cellio Apr 13 '15 at 21:53
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    @MonicaCellio Honestly, I don't believe that Redditors would leave their site to seek for content here, at least the most. I guess most of our content is interesting, nevertheless, I'm quite sure that some questions were already answered over there. Maybe a cooperation or something else? What is the benefit of cooperating with us? – Zerotime Apr 18 '15 at 21:47
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    @Zerotime Joel Spolsky once mentioned a strategy of "poaching" questions for mutual benefit: if he saw somebody ask a coding question on Twitter or a blog or something, he'd turn around and ask it on SO (or find it if it had already been asked) and then go back to the other site and say "found your answer here (link) (summary)". I was thinking of something like that -- share what you learn here on Reddit, but provide the links too in hopes that people who see enough good answers coming from one source will check out the source. – Monica Cellio Apr 19 '15 at 2:43
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There's a lot here. I'll try to hit most of your comments.

We can't really compete with The Workplace. This community is way bigger than ours and also established. Because the workplace is a kind of a community, too, we can't compete with them. They get questions because they have more experts over there. Our scope crosses with theirs so that many users are unsure where to ask and simply prefer to ask on The Workplace. The rate to get a qualified answer is higher since there are more users.

I'm not active on Workplace, though I have visited it many times via the Hot Questions posts that appear on the sidebar. The questions have been interesting and educational. One thing I've noticed in those questions (and after a quick glance through their tour) is that they focus on issues within the professional environment, not on building communities. There are certainly areas that could overlap, especially with one of the items in our scope being:

Questions about both online and offline communities

"Communities" is very broad. I live in a community. I work in a different community. Within the work community their are various sub communities (IT, HR, Marketing, Engineering, etc. etc.) and within those there are even more sub communities (Engineers for valve mechanisms on an engine, engineers for fuel pumps, engineers for the entire engine product, Software developers, Server administrators, database administrators, etc. etc.). I have recreational activities in several communities.

"Communities" are groups of people that a feel connected to one another, because of common circumstances (work, same activity, similar geographic dwelling) and similar outlooks (let's all not get fired today, let's all go ride our bikes on Saturday, it seems odd that these last few years the river has been flooding our streets in April let's do something about it). The "Work" community is the area that I see an overlap possibly occurring.

Despite this small amount of overlap, I do not think Community Building could just be absorbed into Workplace and fit in. So much more of our content is about building these communities or managing these communities.

Well, most people come to SE to discuss about their subject. Community Building is on the rise, nevertheless not a real subject yet. [...] Community Building isn't recognized as a real topic that matters.

"Yet" is hopefully the key word. The field is growing. The ultimate goal would be to lay down the ground work now to attract those new community leaders that get hired in the coming years. To do that, we definitely need the content though.

Most problems can be discussed on the particular site itself by starting a discussion on Meta. There's no need to ask us since everything can be solved on the site itself.

Perhaps we can use this to our advantage though. Certain types of situations are relatively uncommon on Stack Exchange. When they pop up on a child-meta they are dealt with there and then mostly fade away. The reason I say that is because child metas are more rarely visited by drive by users. Those that DO visit, probably don't search as frequently for an obscure topic. Thus, that information fades until an "old timer" brings it back up or a moderator on another site has an issue that triggers a memory of some even from years ago.

Why don't we encourage generic versions of Meta drama to be questions here? An exact copy/paste of a Meta question wouldn't be appropriate (to specific to a single site or group of people), but we can boil it down to a generic version of events. One generic question that we've had since almost the beginning is about how to handle minority opinions so they aren't stomped out by the majority.

Other questions are common across child metas. Are the answers different on each? Perhaps (seriously, I don't know, I haven't wandered through all 130+ metas). But, if it's a common questions on the child metas, it's probably a common question in the community building world at large. Where is our copy of the question?

Although we have a limited audience on StackExchange itself, we didn't think about the opportunity to promote us on bigger sites like the mentioned subreddit. We are deeply focused on SE.

Yes we are. I agree that this is a flaw. Some non-spammy name dropping around the larger communities wouldn't hurt things around here. We've had discussions about the Stack Exchange bias and about encouraging questions about other networks. My take away from those is that more questions related to more types of communities is a good thing.

Then there's something that made me a little bit upset. A few days ago, @Phillip asked a question. He asked about a theoretical community. It was put on hold because it was too broad on the first sight. I decided to write a comment to point out the necessary points I'm interested in. He answered those and I voted to reopen that question again because I had enough information to give an answer. However, it disappeared then. I don't know if it was removed by himself or by moderators. But in both cases: Why did that even happen?

The user deleted the question almost exactly 24 hours after making edits based on your comment. Moderator involvement in the deletion didn't occur. I did cast the last close vote about 3 hours before the question was edited to include more information. It was put on hold two days after it was asked and one day after your comments for clarification. It was closed as unclear. The original question was very broad.

The item entered the reopen queue. From there it was voted on and the consensus was to leave it closed.

Should we try to get out of this, or let it hang there a little bit longer to see what it brings? Are we okay with the low rate of contribution or are we not?

I am all for more quality questions. Recruiting new members is important, but if I learned anything from April Fools day this year it's that you need the quality questions to get quality answers to get quality users.

What can we, the small community that is here now, do to provide quality questions? Those questions can be a springboard into other communities or may simply turn up in someone's Google search for the same issues. Our questions that have hit the Hot Questions list have drawn in traffic and answers from users around the network. My idea about wandering around the child metas may not be a bad idea.

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    I'm a moderator on Workplace, and I think 90% of our questions would be off-topic there. The Workplace really is about the workplace, which is only one of many types of communities. And we're still largely about online ones, which pretty much doesn't come up there. – Monica Cellio Apr 12 '15 at 15:22
  • For the "general meta" thing: those questions are generally asked on Meta Stack Exchange. I may be misunderstanding what types of questions you are saying that we should 'copy,' but I don't think SE would allow us to stay around just to be an extended Meta SE. Do you have an example of such a question that we would 'copy' to our site? – Anonymous Penguin Apr 13 '15 at 2:25
  • @AnnonomusPenguin "Community members are upset at actions community managers took toward moderators, how do all parties move forward in an amicable manner?", "User posts semi-rant targeting a specific group of users. There is slight merit to the rant, but the overall tone is offensive. Community gets upset when moderators step in and remove post. What is a more constructive way to handle it?", "Quality on site is not being moderated by community. How do I encourage the community to participate in moderation (they have the tools?)" – Andy Apr 13 '15 at 2:37
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    I'm not saying to copy the support questions or even specific questions, but the examples I've pulled from above are from three different exchanges that occurred in the last week. Each of those are community building type questions. They reflect different issues and can be written in such a way that the question is applicable to a large audience, not just the groups of people impacted by the events. – Andy Apr 13 '15 at 2:39
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    One thing that we do need to be careful of though: If we recognize the situation as being influenced by events elsewhere, we don't want to make it about that incident. We are not here to place blame or point fingers. – Andy Apr 13 '15 at 2:41
  • Ah, I see what you mean now. Good idea! And yes, we want to harvest questions that cannot be connected to a specific event or person for various reasons (generally good advice for posting here anyway) – Anonymous Penguin Apr 13 '15 at 3:29
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    This sounds nice. However, I wouldn't stop just asking those questions here. Why do we not answer those questions by ourselves on the meta itself? We would do some shameless self promotion this way. If we did a good job answering those questions, maybe some users are keen to take a quick look at this community here by looking up our profiles. I know that this effect may be little, still it's something. We could still write down some of the questions to extend our content by a natural way. So actually, this would be a win-win situation for Community Building SE. – Zerotime Apr 13 '15 at 21:27
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Specifically regarding other platforms from your top post and some of the comments:

Concerning Platform Questions:

I think there is absolutely a question of perceived value of this site by users of other platforms, and that is working against us. I don't have a link handy, but I've brought up this site before in reddit threads while it was still "Moderators" and the users that replied to me didn't see the point when they could just go to on-platform Q&A places like /r/modhelp. There's certainly merit to that point. Why should they leave their platform when there are experts there? This problem persists even with our scope change, there are plenty of subreddits to discuss and Q&A about meta community issues.

It is a bit of a catch 22, because I feel that the best way to address these concerns is probably help is simply to grow our collection of quality questions/answers. But it isn't so simple, right? Who is going to ask those questions if end users feel that they could be answered better elsewhere?

For my part, I've posted questions that describe community building situations I've experienced on Reddit. I've found that is hard to post a lot of them without creating really contrived questions, a few were closed very early on for that reason. I expect that they would also be of dubious value to prospective users if they saw that it was just one guy asking the lion's share of questions for a given topic.

Concerning Technical Questions:

Perhaps another issue that hasn't been brought up yet in this discussion is that we've decided that questions that describe a community building issue, but have an answer that is purely a platform-specific technical solution, aren't really welcome here. Would that be worth revisiting in light of the current question drought? We have user testimony that suggests this is interrupting participation. There isn't really anything inherently wrong with that class of question, and we wouldn't be the first SE site to have scopes that are sufficiently similar so that a question is appropriate on more than one site.

Slightly broadening our scope in this respect would help to build our local knowledge-base on platform-specific issues. Even if they are of a technical bent... I think the key distinction that lands a question as on-topic for us is that the technical solution solves some problem that has been presented as a community issue.

Potential pain-points/things to work through:

  • We could work to encourage questions that miss that mark by editing instead of closing. Especially the first few questions of this nature that get asked, we should treat them like they were asked in private beta and work to clean them up, making sure that they really do work on our site.
  • This Meta.SE answer has some good discussion on the potential for "cross-site duplicates" and when they are okay/not-okay.
  • Add WebApps as a migration route? There are cases where a platform question will just be cut-and-dry off-topic for us, and we should be able to kick those off to the right Q&A site without frustrating the asker too much.

Hopefully with changes like these or others proposed, we can improve our reputation as a site worth asking community building questions at.

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    I am a fan of having technical answers as long as there is a purpose behind the question that relates to the community management. (My assumption is that most technical questions will not be at the user level) "How do I ban a user on [platform]?" isn't community building. It's a support request. "User evades spam prevention measures on [platform]. How do I stop this?" (reworded to be slightly less broad), leads itself to a technical answer. – Andy Apr 15 '15 at 16:09
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    I'm also a fan of platform specific questions. The close reason to webapps has been discussed (with input from one of their moderators). – Andy Apr 15 '15 at 16:11
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    @Andy Good thoughts. The attitude in which our "line in the sand" is presented is probably part of the problem. With some patience & good faith, coaxing out the context and motivation behind "How do I ban a user on [platform]?" would bring it ontopic. But... asking questions on Stack Exchange is already intimidating for new users, and having power users demand that I restate my question before I get an answer is frustrating, even if they're being nice or sincere. I'm not sure what the solution to that is; it is surely easier to go to the platform's native Q&A and not have to deal with that. – Anthony Neace Apr 15 '15 at 17:13
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Then there's something that made me a little bit upset. A few days ago, @Phillip asked a question. He asked about a theoretical community. It was put on hold because it was too broad on the first sight. I decided to write a comment to point out the necessary points I'm interested in. He answered those and I voted to reopen that question again because I had enough information to give an answer. However, it disappeared then. I don't know if it was removed by himself or by moderators. But in both cases: Why did that even happen?

If he deleted it on his own, we clearly weren't as professional as we're supposed to be. I asked for detail, nobody else did.

But, six other people (including me) upvoted your comment. There is no point in duplicating content right next to each other... basically six people agreed with you.


However, can we risk it to close questions which even were favorites from some users?

Note: you can favorite your own question. I don't know if that's what happened or not, but it should be noted. The same applies for voting:

People upvote questions for all kinds of reasons. They might think it's interesting. They might want to give the asker reputation (yes this happens). They might think it's a good question for the beta. Or they might have just seen a kitten and are really happy.

The point is, people vote however they like for whatever reason. Score is absolutely not to be taken as a strict indicator of quality.

Closing, on the other hand, is a more concrete process. There are close reasons. If a question fits one of these reasons, by all means close it.

Don't take into account score when voting to close or leave open a question. Just look at the content and make your decision from there based on current guidelines.

-- https://earthscience.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/111/should-we-close-questions-with-many-upvotes


Our biggest problem is that we do have such a limited audience.

--Me

What I meant by this: Our limited audience is because we have a refined set of target users that we're trying to appeal to. This in fact is why we do have such high quality, but I think we might be trying to be too perfect, which is hindering us. More on this later.


However, I'm really sad about the current situation because I know that we could easily get more content. We are community managers, and we are good at it. If we weren't, we wouldn't have so much reputation from so less questions. If we cooperated with sites outside of SE, we could maybe increase our general stats of contribution. Isn't this what we try to achieve? We want to grow! I want to give advice to fellow community builders since I often had problems. But right now, we're not really at it. We became kind of lazy.

I do agree with you... I think that we have tried various methods but not seen quantitative results. For example, the ads that took several hours to complete brought a total of 94 clicks when displayed on two different graduated sites.


Taking a step back: Like mentioned countless times in this thread, quality is our ticket to success. We cannot survive without having some of the highest quality content of the site.

However, I do think we still have a perceived scope issue, not an actual scope issue. Despite our name change, our questions are primarily from leaders for online communities. A community can be composed of as little as two or three people and doesn't necessarily have a defined leader or a set environment (e.g. an online forum or blog site). It's a collection of people brought together by a common goal. It's your kid's soccer team (football if you're not in the US), it's that book club that you go to once a month, it's that music department at some college. The thing is, the word "community" essentially is a grandiose name for a "people group" :). Everyone is part of dozens of communities, whether they know it or not.

Where people come together, there is always conflict, opposition, and roadblocks that set communities back; that's where we come in. I think we're going the wrong way with all of this advertising--trying to attract people based on the fact that they are a leader when, in fact, we're missing the point of communities: the people. Leaders really don't matter without the people that they lead. Even with our new advertising, I still feel like we're trying to appeal to a minority group when hoping to get people from the majority group. We need to figure out how to make this site friendly and accessible to everyone, no matter their role in the community or what type of community they're a part of.

  • Well, if six other people agreed with me, why was I the only one who voted for a reopen? I don't think that you agreed with my points, however with the phrase of more information. The question got downvoted again after it was edited so clearly some people still felt not able to answer the question due to lack of information. I guess most people don't recognize communities as that broad as you described then. If I had a problem with my soccer team, I wouldn't have thought of going here, I would probably asked at Sports.SE. – Zerotime Apr 13 '15 at 21:15
  • Actually, I'm kinda confused of your idea right now. Do you intend to get more 'members' down here so they can discuss about problems in their communities? It would clearly match our scope. – Zerotime Apr 13 '15 at 21:18
  • @Zerotime they agreed with you that it needed more information (you mentioned how no one else asked for more information, but there was no need to), but it seems like no one else agreed with you that the edits improved it enough for reopening. As per the soccer team—dynamics off the field would likely be off topic. Yes, if I had a question about the rules or communicating with other players during the game, then I would ask it on a sports site. – Anonymous Penguin Apr 13 '15 at 21:25

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