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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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You are accessing this answer with a direct link, so it's being shown above all other answers regardless of its score. You can return to the normal view.

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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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Regarding dictators, moderators and homework (1 comment)
Really?! Huh? (2 comments)
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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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root causes? (3 comments)

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