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In terms of growth, user participation, positiveness and general consensus, do you feel this is a healthy community?

We all have a general idea of what 'healthy community' means.

But to help clarify it, here is one relevant definition

a community evidencing growth, interdependence, and cooperation in a variety of areas. (Common usage)

Source: http://www.moricelakes-ifpa.com/glossary/index.html

The issue of growth deserves special mention.

Our site has had more or less 1,080 postings per month (Questions + Answers). With some variation this has been the posting rate since inception. In other words, on a monthly basis, we are showing no growth.

Now, DPReview had 359,000 postings in the last month, which completely and utterly dwarfs our anemic 1,080 postings per month.

Given our lack of organic growth, does this mean we are doomed to be a tiny niche site, largely irrelevant?

How should we deal with this problem?
And related to that, what should our mission be?

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  • Just a quick nitpick — the chart says up to 4/28, but since the data.stackexchange.com site hasn't yet been updated through april, doesn't it really only go to ~ 3/21? – Please Read My Profile Apr 29 '11 at 2:44
  • To quote Mark Twain: "There's lies, damned lies... and statistics." :-) – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 3:02
  • @mattdm, I did that analysis by hand for precisely that reason. As the graph says, it is accurate to 2011-04-28 09h00 GMT (that is if you ignore the typo in the year) – labnut Apr 29 '11 at 4:54
  • @Jay: I provide the FACTS, each reader can put on them his own spin. – labnut Apr 29 '11 at 6:30
  • -1: I don't get it -- you ask a four-word question, then spend most of the space of the question answering your question. Let's try separating the question and the answer, and while we're at it, maybe try to understand what we mean by "healthy". – D. Lambert Apr 29 '11 at 13:10
  • @D. Lambert, happy to fix it. – labnut Apr 29 '11 at 13:26
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    +1 - Ok, looks like our questions crossed in passing, but as you can see, I did think it was important to understand what "healthy" means, because it's pretty hard to answer whether we are or not until we know what it is. My $0.02, anyway. – D. Lambert Apr 29 '11 at 13:27
  • @D. Lambert, thanks for the catch. You are right, I should not have made such an elementary mistake! – labnut Apr 29 '11 at 13:33
  • Hmmm... Perhaps this would be more accurate: "In other words, on a monthly basis, we are showing no growth in the single metric I have chosen to highlight and emphasize." Confirmation bias much? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:39
  • "DPReview had 359,000 postings in the last month, which completely and utterly dwarfs our anemic 1,080 postings per month." Surely you're not really claiming that you're making an apples-to-apples comparison here? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:40
  • Let's try this instead: "Given our lack of organic growth in the one metric I've chosen to highlight and emphasize..." Better, no? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:41
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    "does this mean we are doomed to be a tiny niche site, largely irrelevant?" That's a pretty bold assumptive leap to make for a site that is less than one-year old. Isn't it equally possible that simple patience and 'don't fix what ain't broken' is the solution? At this point and in the absence of additional real data 'doing nothing' is equally likely to be the 'solution' to your perceived problem... – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:44
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    "And related to that, what should our mission be?" Really? Do we need a 'mission,' or is trying to make a mission statement simply placing another layer of unnecessary artifice and busywork upon an already well-defined system and a 'mission' (if you choose to call it that) that has already been pretty clearly defined from day one: "photo-SE is a site about asking and answering questions related to photography." – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 23:04
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    Again, totally agree with @Jay's sentiments here. I'm not sure where all the concern for our community is coming from...but we are quite literally "fresh off the block" in relative terms. Were a tiny infant in relation to the greater photographic communities that have been well-established on the internet, some for near a decade. Given the highly technical nature that SEN is attributed, I think we have done rather well given our artistic bent and strong disparity with normal SEN sites. – jrista Apr 30 '11 at 5:48
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    Rather than building up a lot of concern over things...I think we need to sit back, provide QUALITY answers to our questions, and let our community continue to establish itself as a reliable, reputable source for Photography Q&A. That is something that most certainly will not happen overnight...and probably not within the first year. Not given the simple fact that sites like DPReview are indeed monsters in relation to us...we have to be compelling enough to bring the quality members from such sites here...and we are not yet at (nor yet should be at) that point. – jrista Apr 30 '11 at 5:50
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I like jrista's comment on the question so much I am stealing it to post as an answer.

Again, totally agree with @Jay's sentiments here. I'm not sure where all the concern for our community is coming from...but we are quite literally "fresh off the block" in relative terms. Were a tiny infant in relation to the greater photographic communities that have been well-established on the internet, some for near a decade. Given the highly technical nature that SEN is attributed, I think we have done rather well given our artistic bent and strong disparity with normal SEN sites.

Rather than building up a lot of concern over things... I think we need to sit back, provide QUALITY answers to our questions, and let our community continue to establish itself as a reliable, reputable source for Photography Q&A. That is something that most certainly will not happen overnight, and probably not within the first year. Not given the simple fact that sites like DPReview are indeed monsters in relation to us. We have to be compelling enough to bring the quality members from such sites here, and we are not yet at (nor yet should be at) that point.

Key point: if we have quality content, plus the distinction of being an innovative, high signal to noise Q&A system -- not Yet Another PhpBB Forum -- everything else comes over time!

That said, if you want to go above and beyond, and actively help photo.se grow:

  1. Share great questions and answers
    http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/announcer-booster-and-publicist-badges/

  2. Vote, vote, vote
    http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/10/vote-early-vote-often/
    https://photo.stackexchange.com/users?tab=voters

  3. Love and reward your new users for being awesome!
    https://photo.stackexchange.com/review
    https://photo.stackexchange.com/users

  4. Try to attract experts to the site by helping them get answers, too:
    http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/04/helping-the-experts-get-answers/

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  • Great answer (even if it was a quote ;) +1 – Alan May 3 '11 at 5:57
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I like the way your graph goes to eleven.

It should be noted that the weekly picture voting threads skew your chart a bit. I think it doesn't make the community unhealthy (or healthy) if a photo candidate gets downvoted — I even remember reading something about this from the chat transcript about a fortnight ago.

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    I was trying to say that our community is in broad agreement and that is healthy. Thanks for that reference. We had a discussion about drive-by shootings (my name for down-votes without comments), see this thread: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/813/…. Feelings about the subject are mixed. I generally prefer to leave a comment with a down-vote, others feel differently and I respect that. As Jeff Atwood said, the goal is to learn from it. I feel a down-vote should be used judiciously but others are more profligate . – labnut Apr 28 '11 at 19:59
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Yes, for the most part I would say it is very healthy. The number of questions and answers is growing. Participation seems to be good. And we are getting some high quality answers.

Mattdm plumbed aspects of this with his voter participation analysis where he showed that certain high reputation users could participate more in the voting process.

Instead, I took a look at voting in Meta. This is where the more concerned and involved members participate and contribute to the workings of the system.

Voting here reveals that this is a supportive community that welcomes positive contributions. This shows a good level of consensus and a positive attitude.

This is shown in the graph below of people with a reputation > 4000. The bottom axis shows the positivity-negativity index as a percentage where 0 means that the person cast an equal number of up votes and down votes. Data: 2011-04-28

enter image description here

Another indication of the health of the community is the time and effort that members put into improving questions and answers. See this query Top 50 Most Prolific Editors.

Here are our top five curators. Kudos to them for their stellar work on maintaining the high standard of this site. Data: 2011-03-21

enter image description here

Another way of looking at the health of the community is the Contribution Index. This is the ratio of Answers to Questions. On this measure our value of 3.6 answers per question places us second in the Stack Exchange family. This graph is from 2011-03-21

enter image description here

The graph below show the cumulative number of Questions + Answers since the inception of photo.SE. Though the cumulative number of Questions + Answers is growing the monthly volumes remain flat.

This is cause for major concern. For the first year at least, I would expect the site to show healthy growth and it is disturbing to see the site flat-line so early.

I suspect that this is because the exiting photo forums, such as DPReview are extremely popular and their members see little need to move to another forum.

In one month DPReview had 359,000 posts while our site has only 1,080 posts per month. DPReview completely and utterly dwarfs this site.

The huge number of members and posts gives DPReview a nearly unassailable advantage.

Data until 2011-03-21

enter image description here

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    "This is cause for major concern." It is? Why? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:30
  • "For the first year at least, I would expect the site to show healthy growth..." What is your definition of 'healthy growth'? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:31
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    "For the first year at least, I would expect the site to show healthy growth..." Why would you expect to see this? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:32
  • "I suspect that this is because the exiting photo forums, such as DPReview are extremely popular and their members see little need to move to another forum." Really? Are you making an apples-to-apples comparison here? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:33
  • "The huge number of members and posts gives DPReview a nearly unassailable advantage." An advantage in what way? – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:34
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    "for the most part I would say it is very healthy." Based on your personal definition of the word 'healthy.' – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:49
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    "Voting here reveals that this is a supportive community that welcomes positive contributions." Does it? Isn't it equally likely that the metric you've chosen to evaluate shows that the 'community' is conformist and unwilling to engage in vigorous debate for the betterment of the community? Or maybe it shows that the 'contributions' being made are benign enough that the community simply doesn't care. Or maybe it simply demonstrates that we have a community that upvotes a lot. – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:54
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    At best your data "potentially reveals" your chosen conclusion, but the statement itself is rife with correlation without causation. – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:55
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    "This shows a good level of consensus and a positive attitude." Does it? It sure seems like you might be affirming the consequent... – Jay Lance Photography Apr 29 '11 at 22:56
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    I really agree with @Jay here...seems like a fair amount of confirmation bias in what your reading in these charts and data. StackExchange is pretty well known as a very technical place, with the exceptions being Photography and Cooking. I think, overall, given the nature of the StackExchange Network and our disparity with it, I think we have done remarkably well so far. As you stated, we are fresh off the block while many HUGE photography sites are very well established...we need to give our community time to grow large enough to attract the masses...not expect that up front. – jrista Apr 30 '11 at 5:42

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