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Our small community is naturally expected to have a longer "time-scale" for new activity appearing on the site than for example a typical medium-sized Stack Exchange community, because it is very specialized and high-level and the targetted audience consists of professionals of the site topic. This means among other things that creating new posts (questions and answers) can take a considerable amount of time (even several days), which leads to the expected long time-scale for new activity.

How can I in such a situation tell if the community is dying or if for example periodic "hiatus" states between active phases are natural due to the nature of the community?

This question can be seen as a narrowed down follow up of this discussion How long should I give a community to develop, before killing it?.

  • I was looking for a tag that characterizes topics revolving arount the status/state/health of a community but found none. I am not sure if "site-status" expresses this accurately enough, and would therefore appreciated any help in finding a better tag. – just_curious Dec 7 '14 at 14:38
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    Maybe site-health, if site-status alone doesn't capture what you're after? – Monica Cellio Dec 7 '14 at 19:53
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    A classic example of a community with a long time-scale, and significant hiatuses, is the Esperanto Movement. Because of impatience, or lack of vision, pundits from time to time declare it to have failed. However, Esperanto keeps outliving its obituary-writers. – Mike Jones Dec 13 '14 at 11:05
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If the normal state of affairs is low activity (days per post rather than posts per day) then it's going to be difficult to prove that the current hiatus is part of a downward spiral rather than a normal pause in activity. You need more data that doesn't rely on actual activity (posts/votes/likes/etc.)

Perhaps the only way you can do this is to log all visits to the site - no matter what page the user lands on or how long they stay on the page.

If the community is still "alive" you should see people visiting the site and reading a few pages even if they're not posting new content. If they're still interested they will be visiting to see if anyone else has posted something new. If people aren't even visiting then is the time to get more concerned.

Now, if even the visits are cyclical - e.g. it's an academic site and people only visit during term time, or it's a niche sports site where the season is short - then you're going to have to track visits over a long time scale - several terms or seasons - and correlate the visits to events. If something (relatively) big happens in your subject and no one even visits the site to see if it's being discussed then that's probably a clear sign the that the community is dying.

Another approach might be to track "shares" of links. If your site contains valuable information that lots of people are linking to from outside and those links are being created on a regular basis then that'a another signifier that your community is still alive.

So if you embed the user id (say) and (if possible) the date in links you produce for sharing you can track people using these links to visit your site. You can then see when the links were created. If they're all old links then perhaps the site isn't as active as you thought, but if at least some of them are new links then you can be sure that the community is still active (even if new posts aren't being created).

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