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Comments on How can we grow this community?

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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 Linux is large, from software developers to hobbyists. 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 "conferences". 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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  • Don't answer too many questions
  • Avoid major tag gaps
  • Keep the front page lively.

My armchair analysis is that the funnel for this site is like this:

  1. User gets linked from internet search or elsewhere
    • Non-early adopters drop here because they don't want to bother clicking on some unknown site
  2. User skims the first page to see if there's any questions that seem relevant to them
    • Many drop here because there's not enough questions for them or they're not interesting enough
    • Possibly some drop because the interface is too different from what they're used to
  3. User checks activity
    • Drops here because site is dead/too slow - not really much point in asking
    • I will refer to people who drop here as "askers"
  4. User decides to help community grow by answering questions
    • Drops here because there's few unanswered questions, and they're all too hard
    • I will refer to people who drop here as "answerers"
  5. User becomes dedicated early adopter

I think the biggest losses are happening in steps 3 and 4.

You cannot fix stage 3 by advertising because that acts on stage 1. But it can be improved by increasing activity.

Fundamentally, askers care about their question being answered; quickly, thoroughly and correctly. I don't think the number of answers is important. As an asker, once you've already gotten a good answer, more people answering doesn't really do anything for you, in fact it's kind of annoying when popular questions keep getting mediocre answers years after they're settled.

So what matters most to an asker is activity. As an asker, I glance at the most recently active question list and if I see words like "month" or "year" I'm out. I don't want to wait a year to get an answer to my questions. I'll wait maybe a day, less if I'm impatient. For the sake of helping the site grow and being an early adopter, I can possibly swallow up to a week.

The action item here is that someone must patrol the site daily or weekly, and any time they see that the front page has old questions, they should go generate some activity until it doesn't. They can ask questions, answer, comment, edit typos, doesn't matter what they do so long as it bumps an old post and generates some evidence of activity. Of course genuine activity is better than fake bumping, but even that is much better than having old posts on the front page.

This patrol becomes a lot easier if there's many regulars to share the load. That brings us to step 4.

Answerers fundamentally want to answer questions. Activity is not that important to them, but there have to be questions they can answer. The problem is that the existing users of this site have already done a great job of answering just about everything, and what's left unanswered is obscure and difficult. So now we're boring and discouraging the answerer because there's nothing for him to do.

The solution is for the regulars to leave a few easy questions unanswered. This will intrigue potential new answerers and convince them that there is something to do here after all. So for the regulars, the focus should be asking not-too-hard questions you know the answer to, but not answering them.

Additionally, I assume "accepted answer" is deliberately not implemented. Fair enough but it creates a problem. Answering questions with 0 answers is "easy", because almost any answer is better than no answer. But if there's none of those, you can go try to look at answered questions and see if you can give a better answer. But it's hard to tell at a glance which of the 1 answer questions is "done", and which one is still looking for a better answer.

As the answerers grow, they will increase organic activity, which then attracts askers, who organically ask more questions, which attracts more answerers.

Lastly, I think you don't want to miss out on any major subgroups of the audience by giving them the impression that their interest is out of scope because it's rarely asked. My solution would be to look at major tags on bigger sites and their relative proportion as a target. For example, linux:bash:debian is 35k:25k:15k there, but 6:8:9 here. Somebody should post a bunch more linux questions, and a few more bash questions.

Also, some things that are going well, and should be continued like this:

  • Lightweight site design - other sites have a lot of pointless JS/bloat
  • No overmoderation
  • Allow subjective/recommendation questions if not badly written (in the early days of "other sites" this drove a lot of the traffic)
  • Keep the sites broad, sometimes merge multiple topics into one
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1 comment thread

Thank you for this detailed analysis. I think the points you make about where people drop are key. ... (3 comments)
Thank you for this detailed analysis. I think the points you make about where people drop are key. ...
Monica Cellio‭ wrote 12 months ago

Thank you for this detailed analysis. I think the points you make about where people drop are key.

We don't have accepted answers but we do have reactions -- not random emoji stuff but ones like "works for me" and "outdated". This allows people other than the asker to provide these signals. Unfortunately we don't yet have reactions integrated into search; that's on our list. We did recently add filters for the category list; "unanswered" means no answers with positive score, as opposed to just zero answers, in case that helps. We're aiming to improve search and the filters built on top of search.

matthewsnyder‭ wrote 12 months ago

Thanks for the response Monica Cellio‭ ! I do like the idea of doing away with the accepted answers - but the only thing is, how will people find questions that need improvement? I wasn't aware of:

We did recently add filters for the category list; "unanswered" means no answers with positive score, as opposed to just zero answers

That's pretty good already!

Monica Cellio‭ wrote 12 months ago

matthewsnyder‭ thanks. That's a stsrt, but if you could also search based on reactions, then you could search for "- worksforme", and being able to do those kinds of searches could encourage more use of those reactions, and none of that would depend on one specific person coming back to mark answers. We'll get there -- it's a very small team right now and there's lots to do, but the important thing is to keep moving forward.

Here's the announcement for filters.