I dropped by Area 51 and noticed that there were some stats added to show how sites in beta are doing.

WP does fine on mosts stats but completely drops the ball at number of active users. Twice bellow worrying threshold. Every earlier site has at least double that in active users, even those sites that are less energetic with questions and have less users total.

Is WP crowd too busy with other stuff (official forums, theme/plugin support forums, blogs, whatever) to participate here?

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@Rarst - I changed the title because I kept seeing "Are we tanking in user appeal?" showing up in the sidebar on the parent site and think it was sending exactly the opposite message we want to send. Seeing that might discourage rather than encourage more active users. Hopefully this title still matches the question but gives a much better impressions to those who do nothing more than glance at it. –  MikeSchinkel Oct 23 '10 at 9:50
    
@MikeSchinkel Ok with me. –  Rarst Oct 23 '10 at 11:22
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5 Answers

I think the lower traffic is a blessing in disguise. We currently have questions that don't get answered; if we had 5x as many questions people would get a bad experience here.

As a former founder and CEO of a company that grew ~1750% over 5 years I learned that fast growth creates an entire set of problems that can be summed up metaphorically with the phrase "Like taking a sip from a fire hydrant." Better to let it grow slowly so we can manage it. At first I encouraged every newbie I met to come here but honestly now I'm become more selective about recommending it so as not to get us overwhelmed.

Let's not be so concerned about getting traffic up quickly; chances are we won't be able to handle it. Instead we can focus on doing our best to answer each question we answer in as thorough a manner as possible so that when people see answers they say "OMG this site rocks!" With 5x more questions we'd be doing our best to provide simple answers or leaving too many without answers, at least right now.

BTW, I participated in the moderator chat yesterday and asked the question "Should we be concerned?" and the answer was a definitive "No!" Robert said "Just keep creating great content and it will work out." Most specifically he said that they plan for ALL current sites to make it.

So it sounds like the worst thing we could do is to create short, curt one line answers that require the person asking the question to do 90% of the work in formulating the answer. I think SE would be much more likely to close the site if most of our questions get trivial answers vs. not having enough users on the site. Remember, SE is search engine optimized so the best they we can do is create great content. Time spent in meta worrying about it is just time we could have used answering more questions.

JMTCW, anyway.

UPDATE

After re-reading some of the blog posts and Area 51 and one thing we could each do is review the answers given by users who have less than 200 points and see if they have asked any good questions or left any good answers that have been unrewarded with up-votes. If so let's leave them a positive comment and upvote them in hopes to encourage them to be more active? (I don't mean to suggest we upvote things that don't have merit just to make sure we recognize those that do.) This will at least help us with getting more active users on from those who have already started to participate.

UPDATE 2

Just thought I'd mention that one way we could help would be to monitor the feed for the WordPress Tag on StackOverflow with something like Feed My Inbox and to start answering questions nobody else is answering like I did here:

Note how at the end I did a P.S. that said to consider asking the questions here because we are more active answering questions on the topic of WordPress. The more single-answer questions we get on StackOverflow that mention posting here the more I think we'll get people to realize that coming here to the specialists to ask WordPress has benefits over asking their question on the generalist site because I'm sure many more people will see those besides the original poster.

-Mike

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Indeed, having enough people to handle the incoming traffic is the most important thing. Partly for answering, partly for moderating. That's why we need to recognize and encourage good answers by new people, and that's why looking at "the newbies" (who might be big names in the general WordPress community) and upvoting their good content is important. I have done so by looking at the people in the 190-200 rep range, but there is no reason to stop there: a good answer deserves an upvote, and takes almost no effort from you! –  Jan Fabry Oct 21 '10 at 10:04
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@Jan Fabry - Completely agree. I'll take that as a "to-do" to spend some of my time each day reviewing answers to make sure I use the votes I can use to acknowledge other's efforts here. –  MikeSchinkel Oct 21 '10 at 22:55
    
Re: Monitoring [wordpress] on SO: It could be even more effective if you focus on questions that are a few days old and still unanswered. Three reasons: 1) Less chance of a Link-and-Run answer, 2) It looks less like "stealing" people, 3) People learn that they can get quicker answers on WPA. –  Jan Fabry Nov 2 '10 at 9:10
    
@Jan Fabry - Yeah, exactly. That's what I was really trying to say although I didn't spell it out explicitly. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 2 '10 at 9:56
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When I emailed Matt Mullenweg, he responded:

We haven't thrown any official support behind that proposal because it was started by a slightly controversial member of our community and the volunteers feel like it will fragment support. I think elements of the StackExchange interface are going to inspire the next revision of our support forums, though.

I don't know why Arlen is considered controversial; does anyone else know? It is NOT our goal to be a source of controversy, so that's a bummer. :(

Mostly it sounds like they view this as fragmentation; I certainly don't see it that way. Here was part of my response to that

http://wordpress.stackexchange.com , like all our sites, was created out of joy and love for the topic.. no other reason even exists as far as I am concerned. We are not trying to replace anything, we're just another site that makes WordPress great across the entire internet.

It is true that we need to make the greater WordPress community more aware of this site, so please do share links to great questions and answers as appropriate!


Update: I had another exchange with Matt -- who to be clear I have met in person, like, and is a very smart guy:

I've been keeping an eye on it since it launched, and like you said it's nice to have another great WP-focused site, but for our official user-facing resources we're still sticking to a policy (like Wikipedia) of having the whole stack be in-house and open source.

my response:

Sure -- that makes sense. It'd be like, totally awesome, if you could mention our WordPress community even as a "hey, this site has some good ideas we'd like to fold into our own in-house solution" sort of deal. Or not, either way. Our goal is the same as yours: to celebrate how kickass WordPress is across the whole of the internet. So however we get there is fine by me.

that resulted in

Sure, I'll tweet it out.

and the twitter message:

http://twitter.com/#!/photomatt/status/14388729011507201

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sigh you can't spit in WP community without hitting someone controversial. Mostly thanks to endless GPL holywar. –  Rarst Oct 16 '10 at 22:04
    
@Rarst: I thought spitting in public has always been controversial? :-) Anyway, Arlen says he has been banned for IRC problems, while Dougal's blog post and the followup comments give a good overview of the whole discussion. –  Jan Fabry Oct 19 '10 at 15:55
    
@jan interesting; our only goal is to promote WordPress as a solution we ourselves use and love. There's certainly no desire to "splinter" anything, and even if that was our insane evil genius goal -- it would be impossible IMHO. We're puny compared to WordPress on the overall internet. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 19 '10 at 16:12
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@Jeff: I think it is a combination of 1) fear of splintering, 2) NHI syndrome and, as Ken Newman said 3) the plans for a redesign of the own site and documentation. Of course, if we could convince WordPress.org/Automattic to take the Ubuntu route and "outsource" the work to create a platform to Stack Exchange, that would be great. But I think that would require extraordinary effort by trusted names in the community to convince the others, and I don't know whether we currently have any of them on "our" side. –  Jan Fabry Oct 19 '10 at 16:25
    
Disclaimer: I'm not really part of the WP 'community'. I'm pretty new to working with WP in a professional capacity, so I'm not familiar with the community's history. That being said, seeing stuff like this ("It'll splinter the community! Controversial member! Drama!") is absolutely sickening, disappointing, and makes me want to spit fire. WHY DO PEOPLE CARE WHO PROPOSED THIS SITE? THEY DON'T OWN IT. GET OVER IT - THIS IS A USEFUL PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO LEARN ABOUT WORDPRESS. Please note that I've omitted many unpleasant words from this comment. Seriously, people - we're all too old for drama. –  tnorthcutt Dec 2 '10 at 16:32
    
twitter.com/#!/photomatt/status/14388729011507201 - looks interesting. –  Thomas McDonald Dec 13 '10 at 18:52
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A lot of people still don't know about the site. I see more questions created on SO with the [wordpress] tag in a day than I see questions created here. A lot of that stems from low brand recognition (SO is well-known, we aren't), a shorter URL (if you're typing domain names into Google rather than the address bar, stackoverflow.com comes up faster and types more quickly than wordpress.stackexchange.com), and general laziness (if you're already on SO it's easier to just ask there than to get involved in a different site).

Honestly, I prefer this site to the "official" forums. But that's just my opinion.

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There was separate meta question about SO tag, I think in more general picture. There is bunch of people in global WP community, why is user dynamic so relatively slow here?.. Brand alone? I've seen WP blogs explode from zero to pretty known in weeks. And I think here leaves many such blogs in the dust as for quality/value of information. –  Rarst Oct 16 '10 at 9:05
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Having a small userbase doesn't have to be a problem, if questions get good answers. And this still seems to be the case, our answer percentage has gone up recently. But indeed, it would be nice if we get more users above that 200 rep threshold and more active in answering questions. So upvote good questions and good answers, especially for the new people who could use some encouragement!

I have seen some new users that I recognize as WordPress contributers, so that is a very good thing. Maybe we can create a list of "top contributers" that we can invite individually to participate in the site? Lure them in with interesting (hard) questions? :-)

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It might not be a problem for beta (I think we rock in quality/usability balance), but clearly rate of acquiring users is slow comparing to size of global WP community. –  Rarst Oct 19 '10 at 18:33
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I defiantly think the system needs a better way of encouraging users to contribute answers. Sure there will always be those users that just come here to find answers but the more they read the more they are likely to answer questions.

One key solution which I feel would be VERY effective in encouraging answers is either one/or more of the following.

  1. Give them points (maybe just 2) whenever an answer is posted.
  2. To avoid spam (if point 1 is implemented) deduct point if a given %age of all their answers dont receive up votes or gets flagged.
  3. Give users double the number of points if they answered a question 30 days after it was asked and that question was accepted.
  4. Continue increasing this number every 30 days (or day) until the question is answered/accepted (based off the date the answer was submitted compared to the original date the question was asked).
  5. Give users additional points for any answer they submit if the question is aged and no answer was given within a given period of time.

I feel that through these steps or some combination of the above we will be able to better engage the community to solve the problems you mentioned.

The only other thing I could see a true value in is users being able to "purchase" bounty points and such points having some type of marketing value to individual users who spend the time to answer them.

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I think it's not worth making this about the points. At the moment of posting this for discussion I was worried about acquiring users, rather than retaining. Since then I think dynamic is slowly but steadily improving with new users (both active and questions-only) appearing every day. btw there are special badges to reward solving old question - Revival and Necromancer. –  Rarst Nov 30 '10 at 13:06
    
I agree with @Rarst, especially because changing the points would require @Jeff Atwood to agree and he has very set ideas about how things should work. Best to figure out ways we can control. OTOH, your suggestion would need to be put here meta.stackexchange.com if it had any hopes of getting recognized since it's more about how StackExchange works than about specifics of WordPress Answers. –  MikeSchinkel Dec 2 '10 at 5:47
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