Genealogy and Family History needs more users. If we had 5 times the number of users, 2300 instead of 463, we'd have 15 questions per day instead of 3 per day. We'd have 1000 visits per day instead of 200 per day. And we'd be on pace for 300 users with 200+ rep instead of 60.

So how do we get more users?

Also of great concern to me is the participation of our users. If you take a look, we have 463 users but only 79 have more than 101 reputation and 67 have from 2 to 100 rep. The people with 1 and 101 rep have not asked or answered a single question. So only 146 of our 463 people are participating.

So how do we convince the other 317 people to participate? How can we even contact them, since most profiles show nothing?

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Folks have been pushing the numbers game early and hard all along. For my taste, too many posts like this. I think there was another post yesterday about the "stats." –  GeneJ Nov 18 '12 at 20:02
    
@GeneJ: The purpose of beta is to not only set the tone and topic of the site, which our initial questions have been doing very well, but to spread the word and grow the site. If the site does not reach a critical mass and become self-sustaining, it will not be successful. I want to see it successful. –  lkessler Nov 18 '12 at 22:09
    
Might want to consider using Survey Monkey with some questions about engagement; link it to a meta question. Could make this something that is done on a periodic basis. Feedback/hearing what folks want is a good thing. –  GeneJ Nov 19 '12 at 2:15
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Keep the faith, my friend... early days yet. –  Andrew Nov 20 '12 at 6:55

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'm not concerned with how the site is doing. We are in a saturated market and have faced opposition from it since the beginning. But that's okay. We all know that the SE approach is superior.

I also participated in the beta for Christianity.SE. That site experienced similar problems. It took over a year for them to reach critical mass. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ask quality questions. Provide quality answers. Vote. Keep doing what you're doing. Participate according to your own desires.

We are doing great.

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I know I'm new, not only to genealogy.se but the genealogy itself, but the answer seems fairly obvious to me.

You want more hits from google, thats how I found you today.

There are two ways to achieve this goal that I can see right off the cuff.

  1. As someone else has mentioned, you want to have the main questions on the board that the majority of people will be looking for. Now these should't be scripted and forced but genuine questions. Like mine earlier today which was answered quickly and well.

  2. Get links to the site from as many places as possible. There are loads of blogs on family trees and genealogy and what not. Get in touch with the writers, tell them about SE and this particular beta. They may not know of it and find it a useful tool and end up not only linking to it but writing an article. In addition to blogs I bet you all have an ancestry / findmypast / etc... account. Well in the profile pages there is usually a 'my website' or 'useful websites' section.

Don't forget that all those genealogy websites have forums on them, most of which are outdated and people are frustrated by them. Wouldn't hurt to mention genealogy.se on a couple of those either...

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+1 - Great suggestion. You might also add to your answer here to use the "share" link below each question/answer when sharing links in blogs/forums. You'll earn badges for sharing links, which tell you how your promotion efforts are going. ;) –  jmort253 Nov 23 '12 at 3:15
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Avie: That's wonderful that you found us from Google. It seems we are starting to get about 5 new users per day, and I presume most are finding the site like you. If that rate keeps up and starts to slowly grow, then we won't have anything to worry about at all. Also, your suggestions would be great to add on the Coordinating Publicity post: meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1210/… –  lkessler Nov 23 '12 at 20:16

Many sites have a lot of 1 or 101 rep users:

It's not abnormal to see a series of 101 rep users on a site. People will naturally become curious and check out the site, but they may not participate in the actual Q&A. They may actually just participate by reading the question and answers, voting, commenting, or suggesting edits, and this is fine. Most of a healthy site's traffic will come from search engines, and this means that a majority of the people reading the content here will not be registered users.

There are a few sites I participate on where I don't ask/answer, but I like reading the content. Not everyone is as involved as you guys and gals are, and we can't expect every single registered user to post.

Content is King:

With that said, GeneJ has the right idea. The secret to growth is sustained growth. As the content grows, as the number of good questions and answers grows, people doing searches on Google will find this site. But if the content isn't helpful, they won't stick around. Not saying that's happening here or that anyone is suggesting this. I'm just making a point for the benefit of all who happen upon this post.

Let's not spam SE Users:

I also don't support directly contacting everyone who has registered. If they like what is posted, and feel like they would fit into the community, then they'll post. But spamming people just isn't what Stack Exchange is about. This would only decrease the signal to noise ratio and make me less likely to register on new sites and check out the community.

I do think lkessler (I'm assuming you're the elusive Louis GeneJ refers to) has the right idea, blogging, tweeting, and getting the word out, via sharing interesting questions with people who are interested in the subject, is the right idea, but spamming existing Stack Exchange users doesn't seem right.

As final thoughts, if any of you do change your mind about becoming moderators, and are appointed, you'll have access to people's contact information. Here is the moderator agreement which all moderators must agree to. This includes abiding by the Privacy Policy, which states the following information:

If you are a registered user of the network and have supplied your email address, we may occasionally send you an email to tell you about new features, solicit your feedback, or just keep you up to date with what’s going on with the network. We generally use the network to communicate this type of information, so we expect to keep this type of communication to a minimum. If we do send you information that you did not expressly request, we will provide you with a way to request that you don’t get any similar notices (opt-out).

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Well that is true. I have 101 rep at 11 of the 21 Stack Exchange sites I'm signed up for. And that's mainly because it's so easy: a single click to sign up and associate my Stack Exchange account. Then what you're saying is we really have only about 146 interested people in the GFH site. That is despite having 263 committers at Area 51 who promised they'd participate and ask at least 10 Q/A's during the beta. ... Not encouraging. –  lkessler Nov 18 '12 at 23:01
    
Don't get discouraged. I think this site has potential, but it definitely takes time. I will say that having people like you on board who have access to a network, and who have the ability to get the word out and get people involved, is really key. I posted a link to one of my questions on Facebook, as I have family who is doing research on our lineage. If more people share interesting questions with people who are actively interested in the subject, I think it would help a lot. :) –  jmort253 Nov 18 '12 at 23:07

I'd rather see us focus on continuing to improve the question quality. When really good questions are posted, we are all encouraged/better able to use blogs and social media to bring awareness to the site.

I blogged one of my answers the other day, challenging others to post even better answers.

Along the lines of improving question quality ... Quite often, even though the question hasn't been voted up, answers are posted. The job to help improve the question seems secondary.

To the person who down voted this ... if the questions are so good, then explain to me WHY folks don't up vote them. You just down voted the wrong person's input. I DO up vote the questions.

Update: lkessler commented below, "I down voted."

Good QUESTIONS are the life blood of this site. They aren't easy to write. So, if users believe mostly good questions are being posted, then let's encourage those users to mostly voting them up?

No one would question, lkessler, that you are a super engaged user in this site, but even you have only up voted 52 of the 276 questions that have been asked. Even with fuzzy math, if that is what it is, then ask yourself how many experts does it take to support/answer 52 questions? (Sometime back, there was a thread in chat about how hard it was to gain cred from questions.)

At least I suspect that if we all start reading each question from the standpoint of an up-vote, we are that much more likely to take an interest in that question--its content and its quality. Is that question really good? Can that question be improved, and how?

We have this sort-of-consensus during the beta that we won't down voting (although it apparently doesn't hold for meta discussions), including that we won't down vote questions. None of us (including me) can know how many down-votes are masquerading as"non-votes."

Update 2: Not every question will be interesting to every user, but being "interesting" is one aspect of a good question. (I'm working to improve that aspect about one of my own right now.)

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We now have 275 questions and I would have to say the quality of them is quite good. I don't see why this needs to be improved any more. New users will see what is being asked and the good examples are there. I wouldn't want to see the "quality" required of questions be at such a level that only top experts would be capable of asking them. –  lkessler Nov 18 '12 at 17:56
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GeneJ - I downvoted. Downvoting in Meta does not mean your answer is bad. It means it is disagreed with. Downvotes in meta (or anywhere else) should not be taken as a personal affront. –  lkessler Nov 18 '12 at 18:21
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@GeneJ I believe although the quality here is good, it can always be better. However, Louis' two issues, users and participation (closely related), are more of a priority now than quality. Although quality can always be improved, getting more users is a higher priority right now. –  American Luke Nov 18 '12 at 19:40
    
@Luke How can you separate user participation from voting (which, as Louis knows separately, was the point of my comment to begin with). Unless folks think the job of reviewing questions is supposed to fall to moderators. –  GeneJ Nov 18 '12 at 19:53
    
@GeneJ - So I've answered 36 questions and voted on 52 questions and you say that's bad? I don't personally care about questions that ask about why the census record in Boston in 1840 has a discrepancy. I, like any genealogist have my own interests. I vote on questions and answers that are particularly appealing to me, that I have an interest in. I don't know how you can expect to impose anything more than that on anyone. –  lkessler Nov 18 '12 at 21:58
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Who is Louis? Can we stick to usernames so that it's less confusing? Meta is a public Q&A, and if you want more people to participate, maybe the answer is to remember these discussions aren't just 1 on 1. ;) Just saying... –  jmort253 Nov 18 '12 at 22:10
    
Thanks @GeneJ ;) –  jmort253 Nov 18 '12 at 22:28
    
Uh, sorry if that comment about sticking to usernames seemed a bit curt! ;) Didn't mean it to come out like that. –  jmort253 Nov 18 '12 at 22:50
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It was fine. Actually, I'm glad I looked at it again, because in one place I had used the word "you" in "us" in general, but it might have been misunderstood. The second look gave me a chance to fix that wording. –  GeneJ Nov 18 '12 at 23:23
    
With respect to the comment "How can you separate user participation from voting": on the rest of se, it appears to me there is a pyramid of participation. The wide base is 'hits' which are users that neither ask nor answer questions and never vote. Next is people who ask questions and maybe vote a little. Next is people who ask questions, answer a very few questions and maybe vote. Next are avid users who ask questions, answer questions and vote. At the pinnacle are the moderators. 'Participation' is at all levels and we need more base to grow the upper layers. –  Duncan Nov 20 '12 at 12:49
    
@lkessler, I believe in upvoting questions that are well-constructed and show that the questioner has put some thought into what they hope to learn and/or are likely to get answers that other people could also learn from. Whether or not I care about the answer isn't a factor. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 13:07
    
@ColeValleyGirl - Right now there isn't much traffic here, and you are able to look at every question and decide whether or not to vote for it or answer it or vote on the other answers for it. But once we get 100 questions a day, even you won't have enough hours in the day to look at each question. You'll end up picking and choose the ones interesting or useful to you often based on the title (good titles are critical). Those are what you'll spend your time on. I'm doing this already (picking and choosing), because I've got other Stack Exchange sites that also take my time. –  lkessler Nov 20 '12 at 15:21
    
@lkessler, you're probably right, but the effort put in now to setting the tone of the site and encouraging the right quality questions is vital. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 15:46

Keep cool everyone... it is far too early to be getting bogged down in stats, and I certainly do not want to see threads embarking on willy waving of "I've voted more than you" and "You haven't voted enough".

That is not constructive.

Different people will use the site in differing ways... lately I've looked in, but that's about it, because I haven't been able to constructively contribute beyond some comments, votes and flags (oh, wait, so I am still contributing...)

And shock horror - I haven't yet asked a question. But so what - I haven't had a question worth asking, because at the moment, my priority is focused on my own additions to the bottom of my tree.

Rome was not built in a day... there is a place and a need for a Genealogy.SE site - lets keep working together to develop it.

Stats are meaningless at this stage.

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The question has an implicit implication that we should be 'looking at our stats' and mentions the criteria for reaching launch. This has produced (correctly in my opinion) that it is too early to be looking at launch statistics. Many beta sites take 1-2 years to reach launch. However I think the launch pushback misses the point that we should be looking at statistics and trends. At 90 days, and various times after that, the business side of stackexchange will evaluate whether genealogy.se is worth keeping. They will do that based on how this site is trending. They have killed sites at 90 days before. Should we obsess over it - NO. Should we ignore it completely - NO. We are currently near the halfway point so it is appropriate to begin to start watching the trends and do as as @lkessler suggests to try and increase users and participation.

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How do we get more users and more participation? Ask more questions! The way to get more users is for them to find this site. They find this site by googling and our existing questions hit. That means we need more questions so we will get more hits.

If we got more questions out there, we'd attract more hits, which would attract more users, which would attract more questions, etc. Looking at other successful se sites, that is how they appeared to have done it.

Ask more questions! The only beta (that I could find) that was killed at 90 days was killed because it questions/day was low (2.2) and trending down. Our 'fulfilled commitment' statistic is only at 10%. That is probably due to the 'other 317 people'. But is also true that many of the '67 very active' participants have not yet asked many questions. Sorting by reputation and looking at 'top 10', only the two Gene's (congrats to both of you) have asked 10 or more questions. I agree answering questions counts towards fulfillment but I think we need more questions so I'd recommend the 'actives' ask more. If all 67 active members asked 10 questions, then we'd have 670 questions instead of 282. Do your part! That might entice the next tier of members to ask questions of their own.

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I disagree: improving (or sustaining) question quality does not have to be at the expense of participation. Improving question quality should increase the participation of expert answerers, which will then make the site a more useful resource for questioners. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 13:08
    
I also really don't want to get into willy-waving, but you might want to check the definition of "fulfillment"; I believe it depends on questions answered as well as asked. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 13:11
    
@ColeValleyGirl: Commitment was: "I commit to participate actively in Genealogy & Family History for at least three months, especially during the private beta, and to ask or answer at least ten questions." Well, we haven't been 3 months yet, so technically nobody has fulfilled their committment, so they obviously evaluate "fulfillment" differently. –  lkessler Nov 20 '12 at 14:48
    
@lkessler, be a bit [more] discouraging if we stayed at 0% fulfilled commitment for the full three months, don't you think? –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 15:02
    
Since my comment on quality vs participation invoked controversy, I removed it. The main point was we need more questions to increase participation. –  Duncan Nov 20 '12 at 17:08
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@Duncan: I think you'll find those who are advanced/expert genealogists will tend to answer questions more than ask. And intermediate genealogists will ask more questions than they will answer. GeneJ is going out of her way to think up challenging questions to ask as examples, and I give her full credit for that. –  lkessler Nov 20 '12 at 18:44
    
I agree we need more experts. But I also think we need questions to be asked by non-experts like me. I'm egocentric like everyone else and consider myself to the 'target audience'. If you have to be an expert to ask a question, and experts don't ask questions, then you have a tautology of 'no questions'. Is this a site only for expert/professional genealogists or is this a site for people with genealogy questions? I'm not saying ignore the experts - I agree they are most important. I'm just saying don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. –  Duncan Nov 21 '12 at 12:51
    
Duncan, I agree: we need to attract BOTH answerers (to get answers -- hopefully expert ones -- that make it worthwhile for questioners to keep coming back) AND a sufficient stream of good questions asked by people at all levels of expertise (to attract other questioners and answerers). We will not survive if we only get one or the other. But I don't think the answer is for us all to "Ask more questions" if the questions that are asked are not real and good. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 25 '12 at 13:54
    
@ColeValleyGirl - So ask more good questions. My point is asking more questions is that is what attracts the new people to the site. We are still bootstrapping up the content. All I am saying is everyone should ask more if they want the site to succeed. –  Duncan Dec 3 '12 at 4:21

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/12/no-artificial-intelligence-in-area-51/ might be useful reading, about a site that was killed after 12 days because its questions were low quality as well as low volume. We can stay in Beta as long as it takes, but we won't survive letting poor quality questions accumulate just to drive up our volume (although I don't think that was what you were suggesting).

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My reading of the reasons for closing AI.se was the people asking the questions were not actually in the field of artificial intelligence and had 'curiosity' questions. Genealogy.se already passed the private-beta test that AI.se failed. I'm not saying we allow any question - but that we should have more questions. My knowledge of AI and genealogy is approximately equal (I have some interaction with our AI researchers in my day job so my AI expertise may actually be higher) and I think your quality bar for genealogy is set much higher than the bar used to kill AI.se. –  Duncan Nov 20 '12 at 17:34
    
@Duncan "It wasn’t so much the lack of questions that was of concern — a site can stay in beta as long as it takes — but the conspicuous lack of expert-level questions." And we haven't discussed where my quality bar is. So far I've voted to close 9 questions, 3 because they were duplicates, 1 because it was off-topic, 3 as not constructive (i.e. too likely to generate discussion not answers) and 2 as not real questions (unanswerable in its current form). That is: only 2 questions so far have failed my quality bar, and one of those I proposed re-opening when it had been very slightly improved. –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 20 '12 at 18:24

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