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How should Codidact "advertise" and gain community members?

9

This came up a bit in my post to try to get a TRPG site going, but I think it's really a broader issue, not just to starting new communities but also to the ones that are already launched.

Just how should we go about trying to gather people, and generally get the word out about the existence of these Codidact communities? There are a handful of people that have been keeping an eye on it from the kerfuffle of Stack Exchange last fall, but I'm not convinced we really have enough people to grow outside of maybe those couple communities that decided to abandon Stack Exchange entirely, and I think it'd be helpful to ensure we even cover communities that Stack Exchange doesn't.

If you want to look at some history (and there may be better examples out there, I'm no "business major" in the slightest so this is just what I'm familiar with), I'm thinking of the post where Joel Spolsky announced Stack Overflow, which has this paragraph that I think is relevant:

Pattern-matching rules fired in my brain. The hardest thing about making a new Q&A site is not the programming—it’s the community. You need a large audience of great developers so you have the critical mass it takes to get started. Without critical mass, questions go unanswered and the site becomes a ghost town. I thought the combination of my audience (#15 on Bloglines) and Jeff’s (#89) would bring enough great developers into the site to reach critical mass on day one. So Jeff and I decided to go in together on this.

I'm willing at this point to be optimistic enough that at some point we'll hit that "critical mass" once enough Q&A is posted here, and then people will find their way here regularly by search engines while looking to an answer to some specific question, but I think it'll take a while to get there. In the meantime, do we need some sort of "advertising" strategy, where I'm not sure "advertising" is the best term (though maybe actually buying search keywords and social media ads is an approach if somebody wants to figure out funding for it)?

There are communities elsewhere (on Stack Exchange, Reddit, and various forums of all stripes out there on the net), but I'm not sure how to go about letting people there know about Codidact without it coming across as "spammy" and trying to "steal" their users from their community. Do we have a Spolsky & Atwood equivalent (for each site?), where a couple prominent people could be convinced to let their readers know about this place?

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Definitely relevant, perhaps even a duplicate? Spread the word - SE meta information page? aCVn 22 days ago

@aCVn Thanks, that's definitely useful background. I don't think it's a duplicate though, as I read that as primarily asking about posting on SE and I'm trying to ask what we should be doing instead. Peter Cooper Jr. 22 days ago

This is a critically-important question. We need to find and attract the people and sites with reach, without being spammy. Promoting on SE where practical is good, but we need to go beyond that too. Also, when those people come to check us out, they need to find active communities -- chicken and egg. Monica Cellio 22 days ago

There were similar questions asked on CM.SE (unrelated to Codidact, nevertheless they could help out): 1, 2, 3. Zerotime 21 days ago

@Zerotime Thanks, there are definitely some good ideas there. I'm rather intrigued by the idea of trying to build a reader base through expert content (blogs or the like, maybe a weekly column of an "expert" answering mailed-in questions) for a topic before opening up full peer-to-peer Q&A. Peter Cooper Jr. 21 days ago

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A related question is whether advertising Codidact as a whole even makes sense, or if we should focus on advertising certain sites to their relevant communities. The latter is likely more effective - we're not wiki-how with a Q&A site for everything.

For example, with the TRPG community I know half-a-dozen relevant outlets to find the right people and advertise - game shops, podcasts / streamers (e.g. critical role, roll20, sponsor a module from content creators, never mind google adwords ("how do I" && ("5e" || "dnd")). That's a very different approach than a shotgun: "Codidact - build a Q&A community" virtual billboard.

I would suggest a new site "pitch" include a plan of how the initial sponsors intend to advertise and recruit users (and/or funds required). For some sites this will be much more important than others - a large community seeking a home will have lower needs on this front than a half dozen folks trying to start something from scratch.

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We have to build awareness through word of mouth. And that's not about Codidact in general, and isn't always even about specific Codidact communities (though it can be). Sometimes tweeting a link to a specific, interesting question will get people to take a look who wouldn't have come to the such-and-such site in general.

When a community here has a community-building or "fun" activity, like a photo contest or a writing challenge, share those too! It's too early to say, but perhaps the photo challenges on Outdoors will draw in some people who didn't initially come for the Q&A (but who will look around once here for the contest). Back on SE, Mi Yodeya got a spike of interest every year during the season of Purim Torah, when a certain type of humor was temporarily welcome.

For reaching people on Stack Exchange specifically, people can submit community-promotion ads on relevant sites. For example, the Codidact Writing site advertises on the SE Writing site and the SE Worldbuilding site, and has submitted ads (with insufficient votes so far) on other sites. Just today someone from Scientific Speculation submitted ads on Writing and Worldbuilding. Be sensitive to the moods of the SE communities; these two sites are known to have many users interested in our efforts, so advertising there makes sense. Let's not be spammers, but it's fine to take advantage of the tools that are available.

I've been talking about advertising because that's what the question asked about, but even more important is keeping people once we get them to come take a look. If visitors see a site that's well-maintained, active, and full of interesting content, they're more likely to stick around than if they see the inverse. So yes, advertise our sites, by word of mouth or tweets or blog posts of SE ads, but invest even more energy in building the sites you want people to visit.

Even if we do all of that right, it's a slow, uphill process. Communities are built one person at a time, so lend a helping hand, welcome people who are trying to engage, and keep an eye out for activity that's counter-productive. Then, roll the dice...

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Hello, I came from here from Ad on World-building Stack. Well, perhaps you could advertise on being more friendly here, because 75% of answers on Stack (at least on WB and Writing) are reeking of elitism and condescension. I have my own field of expertise, on which one I have even master degree, and I simply do not have time to research everything and I am tired of being low-key called idiot for not understanding Delta-V or some SquareCube law of giant flying arachnid in high O2 atmosphere.

I tried many other sites - from Quora, where the answer is not often backed enough or Reddit, which is either toxic or highly unprofessional.

To summarize it... I am often tired of Stack and I feel like a lot of newbies there getting questions locked with mockery instead of teaching new community members and welcome them.. no! Sticker New contributor does not help.

I have high hopes from Codadict because so far I have good feelings here (UX could be little better, but it is new here so I understand)

Hope we will have great time here

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Welcome to Codidact! We're glad to have you. ArtOfCode 1 day ago

Hi Prahara, if you have suggestions for how the UX could be improved or if you find something problematic, feel free to open a new question here on Meta. luap42 about 23 hours ago

Alright, I will make some UX suggestions. Maybe some will catch with others - it's just personal preference tho Prahara about 19 hours ago

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I think this is going to be site specific. It may take a while, but in the end, users will go to where questions get good answers. It's like the Build it and they will come philosophy. I like to call it Answer and they will ask.

This process is slow, because it relies on word of mouth. That's exponential in the early stages. One advantage of Codidact is that there isn't a profit to be made, so there is no need to hurry. Of course the occasional mention in various places of expert answers available over on Codidact will greatly accelerate this process.

As Joel Spolsky pointed out in the paragraph you quoted, this all hinges on having a core group of experts that are willing to provide quality answers. At least that's necessary for technical subjects. There may be a very different dynamic for more social sites. Those are not what I'm talking about.

It's interesting that this very observation is what SE forgot as time went on. Perhaps they were blinded by the need to make a profit, where clicks are revenue, and masses provide clicks, so volume matters and quality doesn't. The flaw in this logic is that the masses are only there because of quality, despite how much they may bitch and moan at attempts to keep the quality high. Once the experts get disillusioned and leave, and quality falls, the masses also leave because they no longer get the good answer they came for.

Fortunately, the experts in a particular field are usually well known. To start a new site, you invite them personally. To keep them, you keep the place clean, and give the experts the power to help keep it clean, and have some system for giving them recognition in return for the high quality free answers. The few good answers initially will attract more questions, and you're up and running along the exponential curve.

Answer and they will ask.

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