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

My one worry with that strategy is the we might become the comments section for Snopes and attract an army of pissed off conspiracy theorists.

It’s not like we don’t attract them now. Besides, we’ve already got a “comments on columns” forum. Yes, it will keep the mods busier but then any increase in traffic to the SDMB will do that.

No, Cecil wasn’t into debunking news items & recent rumors that much. He was into giving snarky, funny answers to questions of the ages- or at least the decade.

I don’t think it’s primarily a gateway issue. I think it’s a board that has been defined primarily by a relatively small group of users, and has increasingly tailored itself to that specific group’s needs. That group’s needs, it seems to me, have included this place being a place that is very narrow in scope.

I don’t think the “SDMB,” as in the collective sentiment that has motivated the place becoming what it is, wants to add a lot of new members, practically speaking, unless it’s a question of survival, which clearly now it is. The list of things that are disqualifying for SDMB membership, in the figurative sense, over the last 20 years, has done nothing but grow.

So it seems to me that the way for the SDMB to grow is, necessarily, to put it bluntly, to become hostile to its most active users, and become a place that isn’t what they wanted it to be. I doubt that it will do that.

This is true. Like I said in one of these other threads, if I was a conservative - not a pro trump/stolen election/ Q fanatic/religious nutjob - just a conservative, I would not even mention it on this board.

This also. Just look at the recent ATMB thread where it was suggested that people do all their research on a subject before they post on it here. No, that’s not how this board has ever worked. People come here with all kinds of questions they don’t know the answer to, that’s what makes this place fun. Some posters also need to realize that not everybody has, or should have, the same level of knowledge about a subject as you may have.

I think it just has to be less hostile to new users. We could start by closing the omnibus troll thread in the Pit, so every new member doesn’t get tagged as a troll on their first post. The one time I looked at that thread, someone called a new poster a troll because he had started a couple threads on physics questions. I looked at the threads and it may as well have been in Martian for all I could understand. The guy may have turned out to be a troll, but if posting a question that 99.44 of Dopers couldn’t even understand is trolling, I say let them in.

I split the board into two parts when I read, except for ATMB, which I read every day. Part 1 is General Questions, Great Debates and The Pit. GQ has less traffic simply because of Google. Great Debates really isn’t since generally one side of the debate overwhelms the other. The same people, the same thing, over and over. The Pit is just a fucking mess for people to start crap over petty dislikes and to pile on unpopular posters. I participated in one of pile on threads once and I felt like such a dick I apologized to the poster. The only threads I read in the Pit are cops shooting people, stupid motherfuckers in the news, and bad gun news of the day. I can read thru those three forums in two days if I read a couple hours a day.

Part 2 is Cafe Society, MPSIMS and IMHO. These three forums seem to be as busy as ever. Except for an occasional IMHO thread, there is no left/right divide in these forums. Most everyone seems to get along and have a good time. And, although they should, nobody will Pit you for liking Star Trek or thinking Heinlein was a better writer than Clarke. It often takes me the better part of a week to read these forums if I read two hours a day.

What we need is to make certain forums more welcoming, I just don’t see how it’s possible with the right/left divide on the board.

That is a misrepresentation of that thread. What was asked was that people who want to engage in meaningful discussion about trans topics do a minimum of familiarization with the topic snd respectful terminology before engaging, to avoid being offensive.

What will more likely drive younger posters from this board or prevent them from sticking around are out dated and offensive uses of gender identity terminology.

When have we ever had a rule that threads require a minimum amount of knowledge to participate? That’s kind of the point of some forums, you don’t know, so you ask.

As for younger posters, nothing is going to drive them away because there is nothing to bring them here in the first place. Message boards are dying because younger people just aren’t interested. There is nobody waiting in line to replace older members. It’s not like all the young people are comparing message boards to see which is more trans friendly before committing to posting there.

Just because the posters here have a lot of exposure to trans discussions, doesn’t mean everyone else has that same level of exposure. The guy posted his question, a mod stepped in to correct him on terminology. Unless the guy kept it up in the thread, repeating his stuff or worse, that should have been the end of it. Someone may have learned something, score one for the good guys.

Is the board still being indexed by Google? Curious what demographic is using those search results, likely mostly trivia buffs :slight_smile:

I read a book once where the author invented a vocabulary and a grammar such that only approved thoughts were possible. When the rules of a debate preclude taking an opposite point of view it does tend to make the debate ungood. Worse, it causes the advocates for a particular point of view to feel doubleplusrighteous as they can dismiss their critics’ arguments as outside of the rules. No need to engage with them at all. Doubleplusungood, it radicalises the critics if they are unable to have their thoughts heard.

This strategy is especially galling in a topic where 90%+ of the population had a different opinion just a few years ago. It’s exemplified by the judge in the Forstater case.

That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society" and that “people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others’ dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for them.”

Maya Forstater: Woman loses tribunal over transgender tweets - BBC News

One year on, I still find those words shocking.

I agree with @mordecaiB that this set of rules is new and different and it feels like a line has been crossed. I have no particular dog in this particular fight, but I do care when the arbiters of speech put their thumb on the scales of free discussion. I agree with about 97% of the pro-trans arguments but I find their advocates’ tactics appalling and their manipulation of the language sinister.

The trans debate is particularly egregious but this approach of debate-by-rule-making is bleeding over into other topics where reasonable people might disagree making it harder to encounter differing opinions. I’m especially offended by it when it’s my side doing it.

I’m not a free-speech absolutist but I do, in the main, agree with the idea that the remedy for bad speech is good speech, especially in a forum that is supposedly in place to encourage discussion.

I’m not going to relitigate that thread here. However, if you’re going to make a vague and hyperbolic reference to a thread that you argue supports your point, especially without linking to it, you have a burden to be accurate in your description.

Whether or not you think the ideas in that thread have merit, it was not saying that everyone has to research everything about a topic before debating it. Argue the facts and not some distorted version of them.

I know I used to get results from the SD forums regularly when googling some obscure question. It probably drove a fair amount of traffic. But that doesn’t happen any more, probably because there are so many more sources available online now?

Maybe we can rebrand the place NextDope and start threads about all the scary people we see in our neighborhood.

Yes. Other search engines are indexing us as well. Roughly a third of our traffic here comes from web crawlers (bots for search engines that index the site).

Google’s mysterious “algorithm” is to blame. The Straight Dope used to be profitable due to advertising, but then Google changed their algorithm and that profitability went away overnight. Google doesn’t publish the details about how their algorithm works, because it’s a trade secret and because they don’t want spammers and such to game the system. They do give some hints. One big hint was that they would drop you significantly in the page rankings if your site was not what their algorithm determined to be mobile friendly. Changing the default theme to the much-hated Sultanstheme on vBulletin was done specifically to address that, and while Sultans-hated-theme did satisfy Google’s algorithm at least for the mobile-friendly bit, other changes to the algorithm have left us so far down in the page rankings that we’re no longer profitable. I’m not involved in the financial side of things here so I don’t know what other things were tried to improve our rankings. All I know is that they were all ultimately unsuccessful, which forced the end of the Straight Dope columns. To this day, we still rank very poorly in Google’s algorithm. Why? Who knows. It’s not because other sources exist now, because we used to compete very well against those other sources. Just one day we’re ranking fine, the next day we’re not. Thanks, Google.

Does anyone know if any consultations were had with Search Engine Optimization experts about improving the ranking? I know there are companies that can help provide advice to improve rankings. I’ve never used them and don’t know how well they work, however.

We should totally get in on that class action lawsuit against Google. :smirk:

The subject of the thread didn’t make any difference to my argument. If it did I would have linked to it. My point was that a sure way to lose actual new posters, not hypothetical ones, is to jump on their first post and tell them to go away and study up on the subject so they have what some posters think is the required knowledge to talk about a subject.

This is one area that makes me think that the Sun-Times wants to keep itself at arms length from the board. Surely they have SEO experts working for them, why not have them look at the board? Also, just a few tweets a year from their account could point all kinds of people here. It always sticks in the back of my mind that they don’t want something with dope in it’s name associated with their newspaper.

Can we please get some solid statistics about membership numbers?

I think this discussion is meaningless otherwise.

If you click on the hamburger menu ( ☰) and then About, and go to the table at the bottom of the page, it currently shows 107 new users in the last 30 days – which makes me wonder if we really have a problem with membership in the first place.

How has the number of active users posting changed over time? Those stats should be available to the mods.

Here’s some information on active users from 2019.

There were roughly 3,500 active users in 2019. There are roughly 1,200 active users now.

You can take a look at the Wayback Machine. That gives a snapshop of the front page of the forum. I haven’t looked at it since the change to Discourse. Looking at the trend, you can sort of tell when Google’s algorithm changed.

Based on what I’ve seen on other message boards, 107 new users in a month is super low. It depends if it’s true new users or if it contains spammers and return users past the 30 day mark, but even without that, it’s still very low.

I’m going to amend this (outside the edit limit). The 3,500 active member number was a 30-60 day average, so it’s more comparable to 2,000 active users now for 30 days.

The question is what criteria vBulletin uses for ‘active users’ vs. Discourse. They may not be the same.

It would be interesting to see the Discourse statistics after the changeover. How has activity changed according to Discourse over the past year?

I found this post by @engineer_comp_geek from Sep last year, where he shows stats from Alexa:

That doesn’t seem to show much change after we switched to Discourse.