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How can we revitalize our community?

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We've had low activity on our community for a while. Low activity means people visit less often, which means lower activity because they're not here asking and answering... iterate. We have ads active Somewhere Else, but without activity, people who follow them are unlikely to stick around.

We set up this community in a hurry early on, making the best decisions we could at the time. We've learned things since then. If we were starting today, I would argue against bulk data import and instead focus on new work and selective import of high-quality posts we're attached to from over there. I don't know if our large amount of imported content is part of the problem or orthogonal.

We had a great community elsewhere, and then the corporate shenanigans broke it and many people left, but we didn't succeed in picking up here where we left off.

What can we do to increase participation here and make our community more attractive to visitors? Should we reset -- delete most of the imported content (if it hasn't been edited), do some targeted recruiting, and try to start fresh? Or does our community, once broken, not recover?

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5 answers

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This suggestion grew out of a comment discussion on another answer. I'm posting it separately so it can be voted on.

As discussed in other answers, straight copies of content from Somewhere Else are almost certainly hurting SEO and, in volume, can give a negative impression -- we look like a copy of another site, and the new content here gets lost in that. On the other hand, some people have improved imported content, and we wouldn't want to throw that out.

I propose that we delete imported content that hasn't been touched here. Specifically:

  • Posts that were imported, not claimed, and not edited: delete. For a question, these properties need to apply to the answers too.

  • Posts that were imported, claimed, and not edited: compile a list, give authors time to improve if they want, and otherwise delete. (We can ask authors to go ahead and delete things they don't think are valuable enough to keep here.)

  • Posts that were imported, claimed, not edited, but have at least 5 upvotes (I don't know if we have any of these): the votes indicate that the community found value in them, so compile a list for public review.

This review should leave us with a higher concentration of local, valuable content, and many fewer backlinks. After the dust settles, we can evaluate what remains in a second pass. And remember, anybody is welcome to re-ask and self-answer questions here -- just make sure you don't cut corners in the question. Alternatively, we could add articles in some form to our community if people prefer that approach -- resources, wiki, blog, or something else. These are all ideas that are being explored on some other Codidact communities.

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I think this is basically a good plan. It removes most duplicate content, forks the rest, and gives users an opportunity to speak up and salvage anything they like. Neil‭ 13 days ago

The more I think about it, the more this feels like the way to go, as long as we can carefully apply the criteria also to answers to unclaimed/unimproved questions. Also, let's not forget that we can selectively import specific questions and their answers if desired. (This applies also to more recent content posted Somewhere Else.) Depending on exactly how the deletion is done, we can of course also undelete later, if something turns out to have been desirable to keep here after all. Canina‭ 10 days ago

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The imported content may be a problem in that Google will see it as duplicate content, and Google does not like duplicate content. I'm not sure if the whole site gets actively penalized for the duplicate content, but I'm pretty sure that searches that match that content don't go here but to the other place. Someone with more knowledge of SEO that I possess should weigh in on that, but conceivably removing the duplicate content might make Google look more kindly on this site.

And after that, I think we have to face the fact that most traffic to any site comes through search and that the other place is likely to rank above this place for a long time to come. So, making sure that the place is doing all the SEO right has to be a large part of the answer, if not the whole of it.

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I wonder if segregating content that was imported and not further improved would help. Create a new category, maybe called "Archive", and move there any post that hasn't had any modifications post-import. This means those of us who want to preserve our bodies of work can, but people visiting the Q&A category (the default) will see locally-active content only.

Posts in the archive can be improved; they wouldn't be locked. I'm proposing this as a way to separate content, not lock anything down. We could then move improved posts back to Q&A. The idea is that Q&A would represent "stuff that happened here", and imported posts would remain available. Longer-term we can then discuss whether we should do any pruning of the imports.

Would this help?

Followup: alternative suggestion, based on comments here.

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10 comments

It won't help with Google seeing it as duplicate content, which won't help with our SEO. Also, it isn't really an archive of this site. It was not created here, but elsewhere. Its an archive of that other site, and says so on every item. And its not an up to date archive of that other site. So what is its function, really? It's never going to outrank the other place in search results, so its not going to generate traffic here. Mark Baker‭ 23 days ago

Really, what it represents is a body of work for the people who created it. Which is bully for us, but beyond that, I don't see the value. I have my archive of my post on the other place and will rework some of them into blogpost maybe someday. To thrive, this place needs to be a better place to ask new questions. And we know that the same basic questions get asked over and over again anyway, so its not like we will be desperately short of coverage for long, if we can spark interest again. Mark Baker‭ 23 days ago

A new place, without all the stale old answers of a decade past might actually be a more attractive proposition than a branch of the old thing. Everyone love the next great app, right? If we can find a way to make it new. Mark Baker‭ 23 days ago

@MarkBaker, are you suggesting we delete the imports (if we haven't improved them; I know some have been edited)? Not opposed, just asking for clarification. Monica Cellio‭ 22 days ago

I think so. It's a mausoleum here. And the old imported content is getting few votes (I just checked mine). But its the SEO issue with copied content that concerns me most. https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/duplicate-content-problems/ "Do NOT expect to rank high in Google with content found on other, more trusted sites." Mark Baker‭ 21 days ago

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Unless people here want to reask and reanswer questions previously ask on the Other Site (I wouldn't), I would say the data import is orthogonal.

Something else is there really is no way other than manually checking or following the feeds in the Discord site to see when a site has new activity. I know on the old smaller sites the HNQ drove a lot of the activity I don't understand why people would strive to get more viewers from Google than sister sites.

I feel like lots of people are only going to show up for contests or other highly interesting questions and to get this site going something like the HNQ should be considered.

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Just a bystander here, but imported content is very off-putting. It basically says to visitors:

  • There is so little traffic that they have to copy stuff from elsewhere so you don't notice there're only crickets chirping here.
  • You're in the wrong place. The real content is Over There.
  • Answering an imported question is a waste of time since the asker isn't here and they'll never see it.
  • If you happened to bump into this place, you should definitely check out Over There, since that's where the content you're seeing came from in the first place.

Look around and see that the three sites that imported content are doing very poorly (Scientific Speculation, Writing, and Outdoors). They are in the bottom four ranked by recent activity.

the ability to import the content was one of the inducements for people (like me) who had created a lot of content at the other place

I faced the same issue moving to here from elsewhere. To get the new Electrical Engineering site going, I started with a few of my more popular answers at the other place. However, instead of just copying them, I used the opportunity to clean them up a bit, make the question more to the point, fix awkward wording, etc.

I also only did that to my own content. That way I didn't need to include any attribution. Attributions add clutter here, and invite people to go elsewhere.

When I started with one of my answers to someone else's question, I rewrote the question in my own words from the concept. That's useful anyway. Unlike the original questioner, I know what the answer is, and can ask the question better to be more generic, but also to target it better to the answer I want to write.

Here are some examples:

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3 comments

Technically speaking, answering a question that the original asker won't see is still of value, since the point is (supposed to be) to create a permanent collection of answers that answer questions of value to many people. Whether that model actually works, or inspires people to write, is, of course open to question. But other than that, I agree with everything you say and it may be the clinching argument for getting rid of the imported content. Mark Baker‭ 28 days ago

All that said, though, the ability to import the content was one of the inducements for people (like me) who had created a lot of content at the other place to come over here. Catch-22? Mark Baker‭ 28 days ago

I was a mod on the other site, and I agree the imported content has a distinct feel of the sunk cost fallacy. Yeah, we put a lot of work into those questions and answers, but that was another time. Neil‭ 13 days ago

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