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On Stack Exchange Networks, sites are called "communities". I have observed that many users (let's say N) come to join the site, several of them (S=N-100) stick with site for a while, very few of them (F=N-500) spend more time to learn and get engaged and even less of them (L=N-1000) make very useful contributions to the site and also help guiding new users.

One of the important thing to be noted is that after joining the site, little numbers (L) start learning more and more and the knowledge gets saturated at some point (that doesn't mean there is no more thing to know but that means at one stage one won't find enough interest which s/he used to enjoy while learning the things). So, after reaching the state, users may gradually start losing the intensity of interest and may become less and less active. That may lead users to become inactive on the site.

Now, the point is that the number L should be balanced in order to keep the site productive.

How do you balance it to avoid the chance of getting the total number of imp users (L1) becoming inactive more than that of new becoming imp (L2)? I.e. how to keep experienced users active on site or encouraging new users to learn and grow?

If you understand the moral of the question, this image may help in parsing/framing the question in a better way, (lol) or can post your suggestion in comment or upvote and answer :)

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  • ...Is "imp" an abbreviation for something (e.g. "important")?
    – V2Blast
    Dec 21, 2021 at 19:56
  • @V2Blast Yes. 'Important"
    – Pandya
    Dec 22, 2021 at 13:44

1 Answer 1

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Balancing implies compromising between competing interests, and I don't think that's an accurate model of the process. There is a life cycle to participation, and dropouts along the way for various reasons. New members join and existing members leave. The distribution of members is affected by the relative rates of both. To have a healthy mix, the community needs to address the various factors they can control that affect the whole participation life cycle.

Why do people join?

  • Somehow, visitors discover the community. How do they find it? (The first step in attracting new members is spreading awareness of the community's existence and value.) At least for the Stack Exchange, the vast majority of visitors find their way to a community through an online search relating to some question or need.

    • Keep the community relevant (a community focused solely on buggy whips will have a hard time attracting visitors once automobiles become popular).
    • Maintain a balance in the defined site scope (too narrow a focus limits the audience; too broad a focus is like no focus).
    • Maintain high quality information that is easy to find in a search. That's the value that attracts people to the community. It requires quality standards for posts and either a process whereby the community actively curates the content or it gets active moderation. The content needs good structure and tools like good tags that make searching effective. It also needs a high "signal to noise ratio" -- good focus and minimal extraneous content that people need to wade through to get to the nuggets of value (unless the community is just a general chat site for people with a shared interest).
    • Maintain an inviting, comfortable, friendly atmosphere that encourages participation, and doesn't turn off visitors.
    • Until the community becomes widely known as the preeminent resource, spread the word.
    • Build the library of content that will attract visitors. Initially, that probably means encouraging the member base to post content.
  • People join the community because participation offers something of value to them. Create and maintain that value.

    • Fun or distraction (SE's gamification is addicting). That's part of the community design.
    • Sharing or communing with like-minded people or peole who share a similar interest.
    • Desire/willingness to share knowlege or experience to help others.
    • A platform to get recognition of their expertise, and appreciation for their help.
    • Regular access to content of interest. That can be content that is interesting / thought provoking, or subjects the person can and wants to contribute to or help with. A steady stream of good, new content is critical to attracting and retaining members.
    • Make the rules as uncomplicated and common sense as possible so it doesn't seem like there is a barrier or extensive learning curve for participation.

Why do people leave?

  • People remain active in the community until the community no longer meets their needs. Some factors are personal to them and there's nothing you can influence, and some are related to the community, which you can influence.

    • People lose interest in general in the community's subject matter, or develop interests in something else.
    • Things change in people's lives and they no longer have the time to participate.
    • People find another community that better meets their needs.
    • Lack of interesting new content minimizes the attraction of participation.
    • The quality of the content degrades.
    • People burn out, become bored, or participation becomes less rewarding (particularly people whose motivation is to help others and/or are active in content curation). If contributors are motivated by helping others, they can quickly burn out if their contributions don't appear to be appreciated.
    • The work of operating the site and curating content falls predominantly on a few volunteers; there isn't enough active participation by the community at large.
    • The community environment becomes unfriendly or unsupportive and the person either doesn't feel welcome any more or loses the desire to participate. This can be caused by just a few obnoxious or overbearing members.
    • The community rules and guidelines change too much, too often, or become objectionable.
    • There is a perception that site management, administrators or moderators are acting in a way that seems objectionable, unfair, corrupt, or with an objectionable agenda.

It's a system, with everything interconnected. The content and environment attract and retain people, and people create the content and environment. For the community to become self-sustaining and then stay that way, it needs to get most of these factors right, and very few of them wrong. For each factor, you can look at what can be done to influence that.

A good community design will be somewhat self-selecting for attracting compatible members. It requires active moderation of content and users to keep it that way long term. It's also a big help to have some mechanism for analytics and feedback to become aware of issues and not operate in a bubble, or at least have some dedicated focus on being sensitive to issues.

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