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

So, after a bit of reading, my big-picture take on SDMB growth and vitality is:

  • :1st_place_medal: modernize and simplify the rules and the pinned topics, with an emphasis on “simplify”

  • :2nd_place_medal: make a habit of sharing interesting conversations from SMDB to your other online haunts, wherever they may be, to attract new victims users

  • :3rd_place_medal: regularly create new topics of the SDMB flavor (e.g. artisanally curated topics that are quirky and interesting and fit with the SDMB brand, versus “here’s what happened in the news today”)

  • seriously reconsider the BBQ pit as toxic in today’s world – negativity is a bummer, but skepticism is cool!

Leave the pit, get rid of personal insults and Pitting posters. Pit life, a car, bad karma, a bad business, politicians, etc.

Otherwise, I like your ideas!

I won’t be sharing information on any other accounts because of posts like this and other off-board experiences when I have shared other accounts.

I know of a few other people who also don’t care to share their other personal accounts with others in public for a number of reasons.

That’s nowhere near the devastating takedown I’m sure you imagined it would be as you typed it out. I’m sure everyone really appreciates your overweening concern though.

Frankly, this site would be a lot better if people would just actually use the ignore functions and the like, instead of constantly looking for how to attack someone it’s clear they will never agree with.

One reason I wouldn’t invite anyone I know to the Dope is because if they joined, then they’d ask me, “What’s your username?” and if they found out I’m Velocity, then they’d read all the things Velocity writes. Not that I’ve written anything bad here in particular, but I prefer to be anonymous and to write here freely without concern about what people I’d know in real life would think of me.

Then don’t tell them. Just say something like “I found this interesting message board”, and leave it at that.

If they know you in real life, they are likely to figure out what name you post under.

Start a Homework Help section to help out the young folk, particularly those who can’t lawfully be taught certain subjects. Be subversive. Though that may attract younger members than you necessarily want.

Best I can tell, there’s really only one rule–Don’t be a jerk–with the rest merely defining what a jerk is.

Wow, that thread’s a trainwreck, and the mods jumping in too! Just confirms my view that we should get rid of the ‘insulting other posters’ aspect of the pit if we ever want to attract new members.

Moderator Note

If all you want to do is be snippy, take it to the Pit. Don’t post things like this in ATMB.

So building on the concept of inviting others with similar interest to join us here - what about leveraging the Doper postcard exchange? Perhaps someone could cross-post that on the reddit santa discussions to bring in new blood to our board. Wouldn’t solve the entire problem but might bring a few new folks. Particularly since the reddit gifts system is likely to close at the end of the year.

One thing that was lost with the end of the Sun Times column was an audience of people outside of this message board. Considering that newspapers have been in decline, that trend may have started before the column ended, but it seems like there’s just less traffic now (my perception may not be fact).

If you look at Reddit, they have content and a message board that often engages with it. Another model, Snopes, has content, but I don’t think they have a message board and maybe they made the determination that they don’t want forum wars to become a distraction that takes focus away from their content. I think there needs to be more editor or even user-driven original articles besides posts that gets the attention of people away from this board, attracting new energy here.

One problem with the Pit is that it creates a kind of ‘club’ feel to it. Successful websites are less like your neighborhood watering hole and more like the big time bar-and-grill.

Clearly the way forward is for the SDMB to stop doing all the things I personally don’t like about it, to do more of the things I do like about it, and to ignore the suggestions of anyone who disagrees with me. It’s obvious!

Seriously though, I agree that the loss of the column has lowered visibility and made it harder for people - particularly intelligent and knowledgeable people interested in learning the “Straight Dope” about stuff - to stumble across the site. I don’t know where that demographic hangs out these days - maybe they’re all reading the Economist these days - but absent some kind of targeted brand relaunch as “Snopes with more arguing” I haven’t a clue how to find and bring in the sort of people who can contribute constructively to discussions.

Smart people tend to attract other smart people, so sharing a few choice SMDB quotes or discussions with your wider internet circle wouldn’t hurt!

I think that, along with some rule simplification, would go a long way…

I’m late to the game on this post, but I’m on board with all of these suggestions from @codinghorror.

Judging from the thread I started, most people are reluctant to recommend the board to their friends either from anonymity concerns, or because they don’t think they’d be interested.

So I’ve got a different suggestion. Try and advertise the board to members of similar forums. Eg the Snopes forum, JREF, Subreddits that deal with subjects popular here. Former members of the IMDB forums might be interested in Cafe Society, though I don’t know how you’d find them.

It’s a nice idea to advertise, but the difficult part is finding the right place to advertise. IIRC, Snopes closed its forum. A quick search only turned up a forum that hasn’t been posted to since 2013. JREF only has 749 active members and with the death of James Randi last year, they’re probably having issues with declining membership too. I’m not sure how advertising on individual subreddits works, but I haven’t seen it done. Generally the ads are across the entire platform.

Then there’s the problem of where to get the money to advertise. I think that’s the original problem to begin with.

Agreed with this post. Now granted, the reason I’m here is because I was invited by @JohnT while we were both posting at another specific interest message board (speaking of which, have you been back to Apolyton anytime lately… I think it’s been years for me, anyways…). Though that was a different time, IMO. When traditonal message boards were more in vogue. I tend to post far more on reddit than I do here, for instance (though interestingly enough I had to unjoin /r/politics for how toxic it was - and I remember Great Debates when I first joined was fairly aggressive and IMO toxic).

I think we are very limited without a column/gateway. The Straight Dope column’s niche has been completely taken over by Snopes, so even if something in the vein was to be relaunch it’d be an uphill battle. We have interesting discussions on things, but people would rather go to reddit for that.

So… saying that, I think the whole making it nicer for new people or lurkers may be the best option. Word of mouth can help, but I think it will have minor effects (doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful).

Since it keeps getting mentioned, maybe the answer is some kind of linkup with Snopes? Our goals are ostensibly aligned, and their forum was a mess. They get a better forum they don’t have to moderate, and we get a heavily-trafficked site pointing smart people (and the occasional dipstick) our way.