Why is the SDMB membership declining, and what's the best way to add younger members?

Not going to disagree, my wife complains about it all the time (she’s about :crossed_fingers: to finish her PhD in Physics) - that if she posts in professional journals or online with her first name (traditionally female) she doesn’t get the same cognition she does if she posts as ‘S. M ParallelLines’.

remember the dildo threads - no pearl clutching when we discussed an 18 inch dildo as a weapon.

It is actually sort of like the SCA - back in the past, it was young and vibrant, occasionally people came to events with elf ears or vampire fangs, and carpet armor, and you could show up in Roman or Celtic made out of bedsheets because it was a decent attempt at garb. Now if it isn’t absolutely accurate, hand made, documented you get side-eyed.

[Hells bells, the politics internally alone are enough to make a saint swear - the politics crept in and screwed with the fun aspect.]

And yes, heated is fun - I can remember some of the pit arguments alone got fun.

It wasn’t often, I don’t think. I remember the worst of it being in the Pit. I think sometimes incels went there just to troll the Pit.

Yeah, this would become like Reddit. Eventually it would become an echo chamber where there’s no dissent left because the dissenters get tired of being downvoted into oblivion and think “why am I even staying around?” and then what’s left is merely people singing the same chorus of agreement and mutually upvoting each other for…well, I don’t know what.

You’re missing one, Cafe Society. Which honestly could probably stand being split into something like ‘Food Culture’ and ‘Popular Arts and Entertainment’ But otherwise, yeah, those would work, even if they weren’t ‘hip’.

I didn’t say it was your site, I said a reddit historian site. So on the site you talk about, if I found an old civil war uniform in grandpa’s attic, or a WWII medal that had French lettering on it, they wouldn’t be interested in that kind of stuff?

If it’s like you say, I don’t care about it. But on a board where you are supposed to be having conversations with other people, it seems like sitting off in the corner, nodding your head occasionally, but not getting involved in the conversation.

I wish it wasn’t so, but I fear you are right about this. People always split off into groups and the SDMB isn’t any different. The Dope has always had cliques. They may change over time as to shape and purpose, but they have always been there, and always will be. Since there is no downvoting and nothing really changes as far as the board runs, I don’t really care, but I’d rather not see them here. And I’d have to see how small we are talking about. People have already bitched about the icons on the OP of each thread, so if they are anything like that size I think you will get a lot of pushback.

www.reddit.com/r/askhistorians is a lot more “why” and “how” focused than “what”.

If the question is just, "what is this?’, then no. If it’s “what are the circumstances under which a soldier would be awarded this medal”, then sure.

Speaking as myself, a casual and largely insignificant contributor, I wouldn’t mind if the SDMB faded away naturally. New blood will trickle in, but we are the old guard and won’t last forever. I figure that’s the nature of things, and though I would miss it here, life goes on.


Inertia and habits are powerful things but if I just stumbled into this place I wouldn’t come again. And it would have no attraction to any of my adult children, all of whom are critical thinkers, always up for a back and forth discussion with respectful disagreement be it social or political (and we often have different takes from each other), for hearing and trying to understand alternative perspectives even as they reject them, and intellectually curious. They don’t mind “dad jokes”, one collect old LPs, the eldest came up from the basement when he was ten (and not doing too well in school) excited to tell me about a great movie he just saw on tv, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail, ever hear of it dad?” (thinking to myself, “son your grades right now might not be so great but you are going to be just fine!” - and he is) I think they each would have found value in what this MB once had been.

My post was the last one in before “Cecil” had enough with us, and included the same observation that you make:

At the risk of making a fogey allusion to Monty Python, they don’t want to argue, they don’t even want to contradict. They are looking to lecture, to have their “facts” validated, and to ignore or insult, anything but respectfully engage, with alternative takes even on extremely benign items. (It even poisons discussion of Disney movies and Marvel television shows in CS!)

Like some others who have been here a pretty long time I’ve just quit various fora either entirely or for long periods of time. Not quite up to quitting the habit but I’m down to only consistently finding value in Cafe Society where some knowledgeable about Marvel and SW lore help reduce my ignorance and sometimes fun (low stakes) debates are had. (But even there …)

I don’t think there is any fixing it. The attraction was the make-up of the community and the interest its members had in actually listening to each other and learning something from each other, if only what the opposition’s best arguments were and developing strong responses to them, even sometimes reconsidering your own position. Maybe the change in this community is a reflection of the changes of society as a whole, I don’t know, but it isn’t that place very much any more. Maybe no place is though.

That said it has been on the cusp of death for longer than Francisco Franco was still dead or many soap opera heros were terminally ill. I see no evidence that we cost much at all other than in volunteered moderator time and freely offered content by our members; pulling the plug on the board is not worth the effort.

I’d try this one for those sort of questions:
Militaria: I swear, honey. I really needed that helmet!

Yet, they permit a safe space to gun enthusiasts to applaud successfully shooting people, where never a discouraging word may be heard.


I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as never come again.

But I found a LOT to like in wise @kenobi_65’s whole post when it came out and also in your insightful whole post just now. Our national culture is much more coarse and angry and stressed than 15 years ago. Our board culture is too. Fixing 350M Americans is a tall order. “Fixing” ~2000 Dopers, of which ~50 set the tone, might be much more doable.

When I started I did GQ & IMHO only. And occasionally entered the silliness of MPSIMS but didn’t much care about the mundane tales of coffee pots and doggies and folks who all knew each other’s nickname that was different from their userID. At that time I thought of GD and the Pit as lots of angry people tilting at their neighbors’ windmills that I wanted nothing to do with. P&E didn’t exist yet, and that content lived in GD. I came here to avoid vexatious people IRL, not to meet more of them.

@oldoaktree said upthread that this thread has all the movers and shakers, elder statemen if you will, posting to it. I can’t help but mostly agree. It’s not exclusively the big beasts by any stretch (nor should it be exclusively them), but most of them are here.

And what we’re saying to a (wo)man, is that something vital and convivial has been lost along the way, but that the community is valuable as a community, if not as an argument shouting at each other clinic.

Speaking just for me, I am interested in trying the idea of my simply bailing out of P&E, GD, and the Pit and seeing how my perception of the flavor of SDMB changes over the next 4-6 weeks. I bet it’ll taste better. Smaller, but better.

If so, that will be a powerful bit of learning for me. And perhaps for many of us. I deliberately don’t watch TV news at home because I don’t want that social garbage setting my mental agenda. Maybe I don’t want to ‘watch’ GD either for the same reason.

I was having much the same thought (though I don’t venture into the Pit particularly often). It might help. :slight_smile:

I’m definitely rethinking things too.

Interesting. I almost never read P&E or GD. And I rarely read the pit.

A few thoughts from someone who’s been away for a while:

  • I’m really surprised the “Like” functionality hasn’t been enabled. So many threads I’ve been reading where I want to show my support of the person’s views or way they’ve expressed themselves, but an entire “What they said!” or “Yass Kween!” or “All Glory To The Hypnotoad!” response seems excessive or not really adding to the discussion.

  • Some of the forum layouts still don’t make any sense. Why on Earth are video games lumped in with sportsball? The Venn Diagram of people who want to be hyped about E3 and the people who want to get hyped about the MLB World Series isn’t going to have significant crossover, surely? Wouldn’t it make sense to have separate “Video Games” and a “Physical Sports” forum?

  • I’ve been an SDMB member for something like 15 years and the Cecil “brand” means nothing to me. I’ve never seen a column anywhere except the website, no-one I know IRL has ever heard of the character, and even the “Straight Dope” name just doesn’t really work anymore.
    I mean, in the 50-odd years since the column and books started, “Dope” has changed meaning in popular culture at least four times. There’s the use as intended for the column name of “The truth”, a slang for recreational drugs, particularly marijuana (a use which pre-dates the column), then a term for an idiot, and now it’s a slang term for performance-enhancing drugs in sport OR it can mean something that’s really cool in the “That musician’s beats are dope” sense.
    TLDR: It’s not really a good brand name for the forum anymore (and hasn’t been for quite a while, IMO).

  • Reddit exists, and with one login you can talk/read about pretty much any subject in existence - whether it’s the academic-level answers from r/AskAnHistorian or commenting on news stories or fanpersoning over a video game or TV show, or even looking at naked people. There’s also so many people posting there that you don’t necessarily have to worry about “Well, if I post this, then Poster X is going to show up and shit all over it” the way you do in a smaller forum.

  • Messageboards in general, as places for actual conversation, are on the decline. Reddit is the major exception, but even if you look at somewhere like the Steam discussion forums (for video games) it’s mostly people complaining the game they like hasn’t been translated into Esperanto yet, or wanting help with bug fixes etc, or offering unsolicitied and impractical advice to the developers on how they can make their video game gooder or something.

IMO, If we want more people here, we need to be engaging with social media and positioning ourselves as a sort of metaphorical well-regarded cafe/upmarket bar where you can count on interesting discussion and people, in a fairly chill but not anarchic environment.

I have the Politics and Great Debates forums muted so I don’t even have to see any thread titles when scrolling through the forums. I have zero interest in reading blowhards yelling at each other. The mute feature was a huge improvement in the move to Discourse.

Just when you thought you was out…

I’m of the opinion the SDMB shouldn’t have a Pit at all.