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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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Firstly, as an official Ubuntu Member who frequents the tech support IRC channels, I think I can help with getting more activity here.

One of the most recent "whoa what happened here" events in the Ubuntu world, phased updates, may be a great boon here, since I wrote a thorough answer as to what phased updates are and why apt now behaves differently on you-know-what-website. It blew up with activity and is still blowing up. I'll just copy the question and answer over here and start directing people on IRC over here rather than to the old place.

Additionally, using this place as a sort of wiki (making good, high-quality self-answered questions) may drive more traffic, as we become a known source of high-quality information that can't be found anywhere else except for official documentation

Finally, I implemented the whole LeftSEForCodidact thing that @re89j suggested. I even wrote an explanation for why I'm moving to over here on my old profile.

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Thank you! (4 comments)
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TL;DR: The problem is not with stuff on the platform that needs fixing. The problem is that the platform appears dead.

I'm still at the "old" platform, and a moderator on a tiny site (Arts & Crafts, and I see someone suggested created a similar community here, but there hasn't been strong enough interest or a champion). At the "old" platform, many small sites, including mine, are atrophying. The core users who keep the communities vital are drifting away and they aren't being replaced by new users who want to get involved. So the core user base keeps shrinking until the sites aren't much more than archives of old Q&A. It's depressing when you care about a site, but no matter what you do, it doesn't help.

So I came to check out Codidact. The platform is impressive, and fixes most of the big problems the "old" platform has. This platform seems like the kind of place where I would want to participate. There is always stuff to fine-tune, but the fundamentals are right.

So good first impression. It's the second impression that's the problem. The problem isn't unanswered questions or bad question scores. A visitor doesn't get far enough to notice those. Inactivity is the issue, but that's the wrong term. The platform appears abandoned, like a ghost town. Communities that I expected should be thriving haven't had a post in over a year. Others have had only a few posts in the last year, with the most recent one months ago. Only a few communities have had something posted within the last week. And it all looks like it's progressively declining. There's almost nothing going on in Discord.

At least four members of the management team are back and active on the old platform, two as moderators. There's nothing wrong with that, especially if there isn't enough activity to keep people busy here. It looks like they are still taking care of business when needed here because their names appear on activity within the last few days. I tried to contact two and never got a response.

The appearance is that people have given up on this project, but are keeping things clean and polished in case a guest happens to show up. As someone looking for a viable replacement for the "old" platform, this doesn't give the appearance of long-term viability. If you haven't given up on this project, you will never get the growth to turn it into a vital platform while people get this experience when visiting.

The very first step needs to be activity, no matter how you create it. Whoever is moderating or championing each community needs to do more than check it for activity. Find questions to ask, even if you borrow ideas from the "old" platform. And get them answered even if you need to rope in people from the "old" platform or improve on answers from there. Every open community needs several new posts per day on an ongoing basis, no matter how you get them populated. And if they're good, interesting Q&A that's even better. People will want to periodically check back.

If you aren't doing that, you're just waiting for the project to slowly die. No other action will matter.

But the next thing I noticed was the voting. Big vote counts on posts indicate that lots of people are reading and voting (activity and an audience). Big positive voting suggests that the posts are good and worth reading. Big negative voting indicates that the post sucks (why bother to read it?) or the voters are overly picky (so why would I want to post myself?). A lot of the posts I came across, especially within the last year, had little voting or substantial negative voting.

A number of questions with substantial negative votes were answered, and the answer had substantial positive votes. If the question is so bad, why did it get answered? And if could be so well answered, why did it merit such a negative score? Occasionally, that can happen, but not with the frequency I saw. The voting didn't seem to make sense, and there was a lot of it that didn't.

That casts doubt on the usefulness of the voter opinions, and suggests that there's something artificial going on. It's something to look at. Do people need better training or explanations of voting criteria? The "old" site has voting guidance as hover instructions on the buttons, which is a good reminder. Is there voting abuse? Are people answering questions that really should be closed or deleted? Might you want the default display of questions to hide questions below some threshold score, with a different view that includes them?

Some of this odd voting could be due to the substantial number of troll posts. Multiply your resources by tapping into the troll and spam identification at the "old" platform. One of your trolls is periodically discussed in the Teachers Lounge, accessible to the team members serving as moderators there.

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These are some useful points, thank you. As an aside, I assume I was one of the people you tried to c... (1 comment)
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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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Thank you for this detailed analysis. I think the points you make about where people drop are key. ... (3 comments)
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I stopped using a former Q&A Network of Sites because of their poor political choices.

Before I left, I noticed a number of people who also objected to those politics renaming their usernames to ${FormerName}Reinstate${Someone} where $FormerName was their former username, and $Someone was a person who was most aggregiously violated by their politics.

So I'd recommend we all stop contributing on the former network, and change our usernames there to ${FormerName}MovedToCodidact or ${FormerName}LeftSEForCodidact

SECOND IDEA: Email notifications. I use email as a task list of sorts, and it would help me be more productive and participate here more if I could get en email notice when there was a reply/answer/comment on a topic I was interested in. Maybe some degree of batching would be nice once this community gets more prominent, but email alerts please!

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"${FormerName}LeftSEForCodidact" - I literally did just this. (Just learned about The Mess earlier to... (1 comment)
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Unpopular opinion?: make it look more like SO.

  • dark theme
  • up/down vote without opening the question
  • comment without opening the comment thread

These kinda stuck out to me as first impressions.

I like the rss per tag and tend to mention this site every time i see SO mentioned.

Curate answers better maybe? I've seen a few that a simple web search could've answered.

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Site design (1 comment)
"dark theme": the bowers add-on "Darkreader" works really well on codidact (1 comment)

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