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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 mathematics is large. Math is the foundation of many sciences, and it's an endeavor of its own. 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 "universities". 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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1 comment thread

"What draws newcomers in?" Many good contributors suffer from (a lot of) their valuable highly upvote... (4 comments)

3 answers

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Certainly low quality content is an issue. Being brutally honest, if I understood the rôle of moderator as being a ruthless dictator who pursues quality above all else I would delete 95% of the questions. But to put that in context, it's also true for most maths fora. I recently saw someone mention a combinatorics subreddit, so I had a look to see whether there was anything interesting, and it appeared to be entirely people asking for someone else to do their (trivial) homework. I didn't see a single interesting question.

The two maths sites I participate in which avoid this problem are MathOverflow (which does so by virtue of having a specific scope of "research-level questions only" and closing questions which fall outside that scope) and projecteuler.chat, which (aside from requests for clarification on the puzzles) gets a new question every several months. (Again, for context, that's mainly because most of the discussion in Project Euler is in the puzzle-specific threads which are only unlocked by solving the puzzle).

The root cause is fairly easy to see: because mathematics is so fundamental, it's compulsory in most (all?) education systems across the world, so there are many people who are taught it badly and seek sources other than their teachers either to do their homework so that they can get past what they see as a pointless hurdle, or (in the best case) to clarify the things they don't understand and their teacher is unable to communicate in a way which works for them.

I think that getting interesting questions is more important than clobbering uninteresting ones, but it's also harder. I've deliberately brought my questions here rather than to the fora where they originated (my self-answered question comes from something I sketched on projecteuler.chat, and the question about triangle centre lines was provoked by a question on MathOverflow), but I don't have many questions which I could post without spoiling Project Euler puzzles.

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2 comment threads

Regarding dictators, moderators and homework (1 comment)
Really?! Huh? (2 comments)
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I'm new to math.codidact, and I'm relatively new (1 month) to MSE. I discovered this site after I found about how SE lacks respect to the community. Let me share my experience with this site.


Cons

  1. This is kind of a cosmetic detail, but the very thing that stroked me when I visited the site for the first time was the numbers about both up and down votes in HUGE fonts in addition to the graphical visualisations of the counts. This is a complete overkill in my opinion. Usually, the difference between the up and down votes is most informative, at least in math where things get less opinionated than what I can imagine that could be the case on other sites. I find redundant having both up and down votes in big font besides having the graphical illustration. I understand that informing about up and down votes is more fair than only promoting the opinion of the majority, but having the two counts in tiny font next to the difference, or only in the graphical representation of them, would be more than enough IMHO. I feel that the way it is now the counts distract too much attention away from the questions themselves.

  2. Until now (several days of lightly using the site), I have not come across a page explaining how the reputation works here. I only figured it out after asking / answering questions. I did chase the information on how reputation works here, all I'm saying is that the information did not chase me. In contrast, how reputation work was the very first thing I learned on MSE, and it was how I got addicted to that site despite I only needed an answer to one question. I suppose that the philosophy of codidact might be not to put so much emphasis on such a childish aspect of the site: "gaining points in the Q&A game". My perspective is that the reputation is a good method of encouraging contributions to the site until one (hopefully) learns that the value of the community goes beyond that and going reputation points fast is not always aligned with being a good team player.

  3. Things are slower here as the community is small. I edited a question and it has not been approved yet after 3 days (may my badly written edit was rejected and the system was polite enough to stay silent, I don't know). So I did not expect fast response after asking a question, but I would at least like to know if anyone read it. That is why I think that view counts is crucial, especially because the community is so small. I don't think that no budget concerns can justify this. If recording usernames and IP addresses of visitors was too much memory demanding, than at least some primitive count is better than nothing. I suppose that math.codidact is not at the stage as MSE that people would actually try to write bots to increase their visitors counts :-).

  4. One has to use [ctrl]-B instead of [cmd]-B one mac ... I have to get used to it.

  5. I really miss the list of linked and related posts in the right panel. I think that seeing related questions really helps in learning a specific topic.

  6. I think that I would eventually miss the option of offering a bounty on this site. In a small community like this one bounties are not as important as on MSE where one hardly gets noticed without putting some reputation on the table. Anyways, I find it to be a fun feature, I think it is a way of challenging each other. Is it missing here because it is regarded as a corrupting feature, or it just has not been implemented yet?


Pros

  1. Despite the dynamics is slow here, I'm impressed about the high answer rate that questions get here. Even some relatively hard questions get answered. In particular, I think that @PeterTaylor, besides others, deserves a lot of credit for it.

  2. Having choice over the copy-rights (although I have not understood what the difference is in practical terms), especially the transparency about it seems like a nice thing. I think that a post explaining the copy-right from a practical perspective with a number of examples could be useful. I would find it useful if there was a link to it instead of the text site default: CC BY-SA 4.0 · category default: CC BY-SA 4.0 · your default: CC BY-SA 4.0. Keep in mind that having a difficult, although irrelevant, choice makes many people frustrated and in an extreme case could make them never submit.

  3. Apparently many issues of SE, even those reported 10 year ago, have never got resolved. In contrast, my impression is that this site is really well programmed despite it limited resources, and I feel that the general attitude is more caring about its users.

  4. I like the option of displaying a random question on the Q&A site and it is something that I thought already before that MSE was missing.

  5. No feature to accept answers. I find this quite meaningful. When I join MSE I answered dozens of low lever questions and despite for writing careful answers, almost non of them were accepted, perhaps because the OP have not logged in the system any more or just did not bother to give any kind of thank for the answer. I think that the feature to accept an answer makes sense only when the OP is responsible, and yet, in the long-term the question is meant to serve the community, not the OP, so the acceptance of each answer by the community is more relevant.


Promotion

  1. I'd be in favor of word of mouth. My plan is to ask a fraction of my questions here whilst asking the rest on MSE, and whenever there are interconnections, I would link to posts across the sites. I hope that this could eventually attract more of people with shared interests to join codidact for ideological reasons as I did. (Please tell me in comments if you think it was a bad idea.)

  2. I really like the idea of advertisement containing random post. However, I'm discourage from putting on my website as the chances are that it will display some really poorly formed question. Could it be set to display only unanswered questions with at least one up vote and no down vote, for example? (Ideally, make the choice of minimal up votes variable and the limit on down votes be 20% of up votes for example. That way I could choose to display only challenging question, for example.) Also, I wish the advertisement templates were a bit more aesthetic (it is a box with sharp corners with no margins on the sides and huge margin in the bottom). I think that an investment into a nice design of the advertisement templates would be worthwhile.

  3. I imagine that implementing dark-mode before SE finally, if ever, does so, could attract a lot of users.

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10 comment threads

Edit approval (3 comments)
No question filters, no ``unanswered`` tab. (2 comments)
Linked, related, and bounties (5 comments)
Upvote count, downvote count, and Wilson score (6 comments)
Numbered list not displayed. (2 comments)
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+1
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I think you can moderate the negative impression of not having recent questions, by displaying the number of views that a question gets when you post it. That way when someone posts a questions and sees the views update, they at least know that the post is generating some amount of activity.

Things that are good: The look, the design. I think the spirit of helpfulness is more or less coming across in most of the answers.

My frank assessment, though, is that the number one reason why people would look at this and then not use it, is the belief that their question won't get an answer. And I suspect that most of the time they'll believe it if it's true. Because it takes no effort to just throw up a post and see if it gets an answer, so I would think anyone would try it. But as soon as they don't get an answer, they're taking their question over to SE and possibly never coming back.

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1 comment thread

root causes? (3 comments)

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