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

Hmm I would have said pretty much younger Boomer/Older Gen-X was about the median but maybe I’m wrong. Edited to add: though perhaps the Boomers have been remaining while the Gen-X’ers have been drifting away so maybe I’m not taking that into account sufficiently. Anyway it’s irrelevant to your overall point, with which I thoroughly agree.

Would it really? Can’t say I’ve tried, but would this be closed in IMHO or MPSIMS?

Maybe you have the Porn forum hidden in your profile. Just do the unhide thing and you’re all set.

Yes, I think it just isn’t going to happen. I think one of the last things that will bring in younger readers is to bring in another old man to write columns. If you even had a hope of drawing younger viewers to a message board from a column, you’re going to need a younger writer. No 20-30 year old wants to read a column, however informative, that is peppered with dad jokes.

I didn’t see it or where it was but there is a ATMB thread about it being closed

My view on broad strategy is this:

The SDMB existed to serve the Straight Dope column and it was the column that brought people here.

The options are (i) for the board to slowly dwindle away as the original reason for its existence disappears into history, or (ii) for Ed to do something to renew the Cecil Adams franchise that has sufficient profile to bring fresh people to the Boards, or (iii) for the Board to change direction completely, put Cecil Adams behind it except as a footnote and develop some new fresh and exciting raison d’être.

I don’t see any particular reason to believe that option (iii) would have any great success given the saturation of social media options available. So I think it’s one of the first two.

OK, but you’re going to have to help me out and let me know how I do this.

I can only help you so far, dude, then you are on your own. I’m a happily married man.

As for your option (iii) that’s what we’ve had the chance to be doing for the last 2-3 years, after the end of the column. But the board has it’s culture, and part of it is that it’s pretty standoffish to newbies. Hell, people complained when we went to Discourse and the notice would pop up welcoming new posters. We also have the problem, though nobody likes to admit it, of eating our own.

Ed says he has (ii) covered, but I guess we are not allowed the details.

I think (i) is what is going to happen, whether we like it or not. It just depends on if the end is fast or slow.

But this makes no sense. If we want a Reddit experience, why do we care if this board disappears? We can just go to Reddit.

If the SDMB is to have a future that’s worthwhile, I don’t think it derives from changing our culture to that of Reddit, I think we need to promote our own identity - perhaps with some tweaks, but fundamentally this is place to come for an adult well-informed conversation, and I don’t think we should be trying to change that. We need somehow to reach a larger audience marketing that identity.

That’s actually kinda why I greatly prefer this place over Reddit/YouTube/Facebook. I was put off by the high volume of low-quality, low-effort content emanating from those sites, and the in-depth, nuanced discussion I found here was much needed breath of fresh air.

At the same time, I am cognizant of the fact that, with societal trends being the way they are, and most young people being not like me, this site is a hidden gem in its death throes. In a way, my experience since joining the board last year is similar to the Star Trek: TNG episode “The Inner Light”, where Jean-Luc Picard is transported to a simulated Kataan civilization, becomes an accepted and valued member of their society, but along the way he discovers the upcoming calamity that will befall their world and, after some effort to warn his peers, eventually accepts this tragic and depressing fate.

I’d like to donate to stave off the end of the SDMB as much it can drag it out, but this place has had its time in the sun, and I’d rather see it go down fighting the good fight than becoming a cesspool like the other forms of social media.

Not sure I agree. I think we are pretty welcoming of anyone who turns up and says something vaguely intelligent and relevant. I think the fundamental issue is that for reasons discussed above, a large percentage of newbies are inevitably going to turn up, say something inane, get called on it, be unused to the idea that facts and logic matter, and so flounce off.


This Board has nothing to offer most younger people, and that’s not going to change.

I showed just CS to my teenage daughter last year (as art and visual entertainment are her primary fields of interest), and she found it overwhelmingly consists of old men talking about old man stuff. And she’s not wrong.

… that you agree with. The reason there is a friendly consensus is because anyone you don’t agree with leaves. Disagreement is often expressed in the most unfriendly terms.

Personally, I came here and remain here because of The Straight Dope and QQ. I don’t want GQ to be like other general interest forums, which are mostly full of unfounded opinion.

I think that it is possible that young people might not have the same interest in facts and knowledge that I do: they’ve grown up with Google, and perhaps facts and knowledge just don’t have the same importance as when I was young? If that’s true, then the SDMB is done.

On the other hand, if it’s not true, I’ve long thought that we could continue a front-page blog based on questions in GQ. There are still occasional odd questions that attract long and thoughtful responses:
How Can a Jet Engine Fly in the Rain? - General Questions - Straight Dope Message Board
Something like that is still odd and interesting, even though it’s not as odd and interesting as a typical SD column was.

Yeah, the thing I like about SDMB is that there are actually discussions on various topics. Not just a bunch of random driveby comments by dipshits.

I also like that it’s anonymous. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like posting that much on Facebook or LinkedIn.

I don’t think the SDMB is marketed that well. I don’t know that I would have found this had a coworker not suggested it to relieve work boredom 20 years ago.

Kinda but disagreement is often expressed bluntly here to everyone, including people who have been here forever. That’s part of this place’s… err… charm.

And there is far less of a hive mind here than most forums in which I participate. Try saying something absolutely correct but unpopular on Reddit – you will get downloaded into oblivion. IME here if you say something basically factual and rationally justifiable - even if it’s not something most agree with - you will get a moderately fair run.

On Reddit my most downvoted comments are where I have stated a legal fact that is unpopular but unquestionably true. People don’t even argue or suggest you are wrong - they just downvote because they don’t want to hear what you have said.

If you allow a deluded type from Europe who seems to be unable to read social clues to ask a couple of questions, I would like to know:
What is the membership of the SDMB, the one that is declining? Who is a member? Am I, for instance? Or am I just a user? A guest? If I am not a member (IANAM?), could I become one? Why would I want to?
What is the SDMB for? Why would it be bad if it disappeared? (For me: it is interesting, informative, and it shows me a lot about the USA, a country I had a lot of misconceptions about).
Why are you so fixated with categories, for instance, why is it so relevant if a post is in MPSIWLTS or ATMB? The Pit, OTOH, I understand and enjoy. I wonder if I ever will manage to get pitted without being banned.
Who is this Ed everybody suddenly seems to be talking about?
If this site was to disappear: Could I buy the archive, including all the data? How much would it cost?

Ha ha, good luck getting an answer on that one.

Maybe we should poll active members as to whether they’ve considered leaving, or are participating less – and why?

The product (SDMB) and the desired demographic will not be getting together. That’s not doom-saying pessimism, it’s just how it goes. One could rack their brain for hours trying to come up with some can’t miss, genius marketing angle to sell steaks to vegetarians. One could even ask his friends and acquaintances to help him brainstorm. It would not be a good use of anyone’s time.

Meditate on the name of this place for a just a moment… The Straight Dope. Might as well call it 23 Skidoo. No one even knows the term “the straight dope” anymore.

“Say, bub, I want the straight dope outta you and I want it now, see? The scuttlebutt is you think you’re the cat’s pajamas. eh?”

It’s over before it even re-begins. Barn spotting (or whatever it was/is) has a far brighter future.

Old farts, as a general rule, do not have their fingers on the pulse of younger adults. As it has ever been.

Or, we could all work together to create a click-bait operation! I’m 5/9 joking.

Collectively we could come up with all kinds of good click-bait. (E.g. - how can jet engines run in the rain?) There’s enough photo and graphics knowledge here to fill out the copy. Sell it all to whatever evil inanities barf that stuff up, and… Profit! Hell, I’m sure the Sun-Times has some click-bait operation as one of their many media holdings.

Then we could have IM and forums in-house to disseminate click-bait work memos but we could use other forums to do our old SD things in our free time.

Oh, and Cecil could be the click-master-bait-master. And Beck could be his Smithers.

What madsircool said. Just that this is not blatantly obvious highlights the problem. The diminishing readership lines up with the increase in speech policing on the board.

As I see it, what distinguishes a mainly-text platform like Reddit from this one, is that the Reddit platform is built to grow and self-moderate, and readily process feedback. This platform is frozen at a single-digit forum count that’s barely changed in 20 years. To be a bit more specific:

  1. Reddit allows basically any user to create their own forum and moderate it.
  2. Reddit mods are helped by the user community by way of highly efficient feedback (upvotes, downvotes).

By contrast, SDMB has a sort of star-chamber mod system where folks must spend months or years honing their bona-fides as centrist-friendly referees, and the content quality depends on (a) them processing user feedback, and (b) caring enough to do something about it. And lately there’s the dismaying trend of the new crop of mods taking it upon themselves to police tone, which is pretty gross.

The result is a platform unintentionally serving as a sea-lion sanctuary, where it can take a half decade or more to collectively recognize “okay, this person shouldn’t be here” in regards to people who were obviously operating in bad faith from day 1. That wouldn’t happen on Reddit, where such assholes simply sink to the bottom of the cornfield.

And nobody wrings their hands about “fair and balanced”, nobody carps about “things would be different if I were in charge; the unfair moderation is silencing my opinions which are very popular with people who are also afraid to speak.” Because that proposition is readily tested by the reality that if, say Team Green feels persecuted and oppressed by Team Gold, they can simply fork off their own forum where Team Green dominates and Team Gold gets to be the punching bag.

IMO this approach is really efficient at exposing and segregating bad-faith actors. There’s nothing quite like seeing a person state “I’m sick and tired of being labeled a Nazi, I’m starting my own forum”, and then a month later that new forum is a Nazi sanctuary.

Freedom clarifies. Civility obfuscates.

I think a lot of people nowadays just do not read anything anymore. If the are no pics, no video, and no social aspects, they won’t hang around. IMHO three Reddit-style features could make this place more attractive: sorting comments, likes/votes, and being able to post pictures directly in line with comments. It needs to be both visual and interactive and not just reading words.

Also, any dipstick can start and run a podcast, likely with less than it takes to run this page on the web. I suggest this may bring in new members, especially younger people, and if the topics discussed are both edgy and informative.