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

There are things I love about the Pit. The mini rants thread is great. I’m enjoying Stupid MFers in the News (comedy gold.)

But I think it’s time to back out of some threads there, particularly those that concern other posters.

How about making the Pit visible to members only?

Please let us know how it goes. You’ve started a hopeful movement here. I’m interested to see your thoughts of how it works out for you. Maybe others will join in.

I haven’t posted in GD in a long time and that P&E thread I started about the riots, I’ve abandoned. I could probably use less of the Pit. I had it muted but got pulled back in from another thread. Maybe it’s time to mute it again.

I’m shocked that a mod is posting this, in a good way. If that could change the way things are going, that could be a good thing.

Back in the day, I argued that those threads should be in MPSIMS. That way, people who like lighthearted stuff can go to one place and people who like angry, flamey stuff can go in another.

Hey, good to see you here, even if it’s only temporary. I’m not much of a poster, but I read a lot and enjoyed having you post.

Considering what it’s used for has changed so much over the years, I don’t think I’d mind it. It’s become a petty place used to pile on people for petty things instead of genuine outrage.

I agree, those could easily fit in another forum. No reason they need to be in the Pit other than inertia. I read them with laughter, not anger, and I think most of them are posted for humor value.

Thanks! I’m genuinely surprised so many people missed me but it’s nice to know my posts were (are?) enjoyed :slight_smile:

The most obvious and easy way to attract and keep members is to have a shake up of the fora. I’ve always advocated a Breaking News forum, but we could have a New Music forum or an Exam Help forum (only half-joking about that last one). I haven’t in fact got a list of new fora we might create, but if there’s ever a shakeup we should bear in mind the existing user base and the one we’d quite like to (realistically) attract.

I think it’d also help to have a quick one-sentence explanation of what this place is near the top of the homepage. Not sure how it works but if you’re not a signed up user you might get a welcome message for instance. You know, make the place seem all friendly like.

Well sure. Your posts about guns were well-received (by me anyway), and I seem to recall that you and I had a good discussion about instant vs. drip coffee. Or our discussion about CanCon, the Canadian content rules on Canadian radio that we had–gosh, was it over ten years ago?

Okay, maybe that coffee discussion was fluff, and we agreed to disagree on radio. But the point is, Martini, that you contributed to a lot of discussions here. Sometimes seriously, sometimes humorously, but always with substance. To put it plainly, I have missed your viewpoints on, well, everything. I may not have agreed with you, but dammit, you brought a lot to the Straight Dope, you made me think, and I miss it.

I’m always happy to talk about guns, coffee, video games, popular culture, and history :slight_smile:

I really appreciate the kind words though - I’d forgotten how good the discussions could be here! :smiley:

How about a section devoted to answering knotty homework problems?

It’s almost a no-win situation because some women have stated that they don’t/didn’t feel welcome due to all the sexism, and not letting sexist positions or statements remain unchallenged is about the only thing the average poster can do to improve that.

My point was simply the circularity of the math.

Any thread on any topic where the number of women is declining over time will turn into one “dominated” by men. When the last woman leaves, only men will be left. It’s merely a consequence of the fact that

TotalPostersInThread = NumberOfMalePostersInThread +  

And of course in any contentious thread where one POV’s defenders start leaving in disgust, the smaller the minority fraction gets, the less mutual support the remaining minority members feel from one another and the “lonelier” it feels to hold out defending the minority POV. So there’s an exponential (or at least ever-increasing) force for the minority members to bail ever more rapidly as their numbers dwindle. It might take a long time for the first 10% to depart, but the last 20% will happen a lot more quickly.

Obviously @Spice_Weasel’s real point was in the why the women were leaving threads with one specific but pervasive problem: sexism. Not the what of them doing so. And I have no dispute with her complaint about that problem. It was and is real, and it was and is a problem that harms us all and reduces our community in both numbers and in congeniality.

I don’t think Discourse has a feature for “subscriber only” content where only people who have paid can access the forum. An admin can grant certain members certain security permissions to access certain forums, but I think that’s a manual step. But Discourse is open source and someone may have written a plugin to automate the link between subscription and certain forums.

One thing Discourse can do have certain forums muted by default. It won’t affect any existing users, but new users would not see the Pit unless they manually unmuted it themselves. To change this, an admin can go into the settings screen for a forum and set whether the forum is muted by default or not.

The Powers That Be have indicated in the past that they frown on fixes like that, I do believe.

Renaming forums or making the Pit available to subscribers only feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. You’re not going to get an huge influx of new people because GQ is now called “Factual Answers.”

So you don’t think that hiding The Pit and showing newbies our (somewhat) better side will encourage newbies to stay a bit longer?

I think Eyebrows is saying that we need to think of a viable way to get new posters here before we start worrying about the cosmetic stuff. It’s like blaming a restaurant’s decor for why people aren’t coming in, instead of the bad location and lousy food and rude staff.

I think that we need to decide what demographic we want to attract before we decide what approach to take. Attracting 19-25 year olds takes a different approach than attracting 25 to 40 year olds, and the 40 to 60 year old market takes yet another approach. We don’t have the time or resources to go after all of them.

I’ve noticed the same thing. I’m probably guilty of it myself, to be completely honest.

That said, I’m reading this thread and thinking that it’s a good example of what a quality Dope thread can be: people with lots of different ideas engaging respectfully around a topic they are invested in. Will this thread result in any change in the board? Maybe not. But it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the other threads on this topic, that’s for sure.

I don’t think we should be targeting a young demographic. There’s no point in changing the SDMB to appeal to young interests since there are so many places on the web which are much, much, much better suited to them. I don’t doubt that the SDMB membership can be expanded by tailoring it to appeal to young people, but that focus would likely change what this board is about. It would be like the transformation the History Channel went through. They used to have real history documentaries, but now it’s all shows about Bigfoot, Ghosts, and Aliens. No doubt their ratings are higher, but the channel is unrecognizable from what it was before.

The magic sauce of the SDMB is that it’s a place for people who like to delve deeply into topics and have passionate, serious debates. There’s not really another place on the web like it. I feel we should stay true to that purpose even if it means the website ‘boards.straightdope.com’ dies a slow death. We should try to appeal to the people who would fit in here rather than try to appeal to a certain age group.

The Pit used to be where some of the most entertaining and notorious threads appeared, the ones that were good enough to make new people interested in the SDMB. I’m thinking of things like “Prehensile rectum” and “The horror of blimps.”