The progress of this site ain't too fantastic. Basically, there isn't enough users or visitors. What can we do about that? I've tweeted about the site, but that's all I can do, pretty much...

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Excellent question! A few stats:

(bear in mind it's only been 35 of 90 days, and we often let betas go on indefinitely if they are producing great content. Quality is, as they say, Job One.)

Also refer to Robert's post here:


But if that's TL;DR, in general help us grow your site!

  1. Share great questions and answers

  2. Vote, vote, vote

  3. Love and reward your new users for being awesome!

  4. Try to attract experts to the site by helping them get answers, too:

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I'm not concerned about the users stat -- it is on track relative to our traffic and number of questions. That is, we do need to build more traffic and get more questions in, and once those issues are fixed, the user stat will fix itself.

So, the question remains: how do we get more traffic and get more people to ask good questions?

I think the problem is twofold: we aren't getting enough new eyes on the site, and not enough people are sticking around asking questions. We don't have any metric to tell us why these things are true, but I have some educated guesses:

  • Incoming traffic can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario: the more questions we have, the more often we will turn up in search results. We need to turn up in search results more in order to attract new questioners. In the mean time, we can try to prop the site up by inviting people that we know and mentioning specific questions on our blogs/tweets/facebook/whatever. In my experience, referring people to specific content on the site seems to make more of an impression than just referring them to the site.

  • New visitors aren't staying, in my opinion, largely due to the quality of our content. We have a lot of questions and answers full of misspellings (which confuse not just people, but search engines, too) and poor grammar. We have more than a couple of questions that asked "how do I X?" and got, instead of actual answers, admonitions not to do X. Neither of these make for a welcoming community. The former is easily fixed by editing questions and answers to improve spelling and grammar whenever you see a problem. The latter is a bigger problem, which I plan to post about when I have time to write up my thoughts in some complete form.

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    +1 for suggesting to fix the "Don't do X" problem. That annoys me immensly, and if I hadn't already been hardened by 20+ years of online political debate, I would have left too. :-) – Lennart Regebro May 4 '11 at 8:34
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    you should open a meta topic here, with examples, of the "how do I do X?" problem. I would be interested to read more about that. – Jeff Atwood May 4 '11 at 9:02
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    @Jeff I know from a chat discussion that HedgeMage is already planning a meta post about this, but it requires preparing some background information. I am equally looking forward to that. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 4 '11 at 13:25
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    I would not worry about the "How do I do X" question answered by "Don't do X" response. Poor answers should get voted down .. good answers voted up. "Don't do X" answers that are judgmental vs. informational should get edited or removed. but "Don't do X" is often the best response to "How do I do X", even if it is somewhat non-responsive. – tomjedrz Mar 11 '12 at 20:49
  • I disagree with "not worrying" about it. It may be true that over time weak answers will sink. But that's no way to "make the site more popular". Long before the cream rises to the top, the new user who isn't inured to this phenomenon, will have tired of returning to the site every day, defending their question and trying to explain themselves repeatedly. They'll lose patience and quickly give up on the site as having "mostly useless" responses. Users really do need to be trained and reminded of how to behave if we want a community that attracts people rather than tries their patience. – Kilo Apr 25 '12 at 7:17
  • The basic guidelines of what are "good answers" need to kept in front of new users and repeat offenders constantly. Perhaps we should be able to tag users with specific FAQ violations, and if they get 2 or more tags, that section of the FAQ will be displayed every time they start to post, until they earn X more reputation points. – Kilo Apr 25 '12 at 7:18
  • Parenting.SE is different from many other successful SE sites. Here, the community and moderators often consider that the answer to "How do I do X?" should not be "Don't do X". What is wrong with "Don't do X, do Y instead"? By contrast, see highly upvoted, easily Google-able answers from a very popular SE site: stackoverflow.com/questions/1549685, stackoverflow.com/questions/19490351. The comment field is too small for me to provide dozens of more examples, and I encourage to open a [separate] meta topic just on this, similarly to the suggestion from @Jeff Atwood. – Timur Shtatland Aug 5 '19 at 15:35

Here's what I strive to do:

Ensure the highest possible quality of the content that we have. Ask, answer, vote, comment, edit!

Distribute: Talk about questions and answers that you feel is interesting - online and in the real world.
Collect: Ask parents (and other guardians) what references they use, and suggest Parenting.SE as an option.

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I have a slightly different take .. surprise, surprise.

This site is dominated by a few users who seem to quickly and rapidly answer most questions. This may be great for the information content, but it isn't great for the participation and consequently for the traffic.

This question is a perfect example. The question was asked at 7:01. TorbenGB answered it at 8:06, the answer got a bunch of upvotes, and was accepted at 12:20. Here is another ... asked at 17:39, answered at 19:39, lot of upvotes, accepted a couple of days later.

IMHO, both of these questions should have generated lots of interesting answers, but didn't. I wonder how many of those who upvoted would have taken a shot at answering these questions if TorbenGB hadn't done so quickly? I have been discouraged from answering, and I tend to speak my mind. A quick, great answer from a 10k user shuts everyone else down. An upvote and a +1 comment from a 10k user encourages more participation.

My advice ..

1/ The superstars should allow other users to answer before charging in. I suggest an informal 48-hour waiting period before a moderator or top-ten member answers a question.

2/ Have the moderators focus on driving traffic, publicizing the site on other sites, and editing and improving the answers of others rather than on answering questions.

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  • Some statistics: Torben has 226 answers. I have 86. Cabbey has 33. Hedgemage (who is no longer a moderator) has 92. MarieHendrix, who has only been with the site 7 months, has 100. Morah Hochman, who has only been with us for 3 months, has 90. You have 70. Essentially, you are blaming our active users (which includes yourself) for "discouraging" other people from participating by answering within the first two days. Now look at the non-beta sites, where most questions are pushed off the question list within an hour or two. – user420 Mar 12 '12 at 18:50
  • You know, I think you have a point. There probably is some truth in your point that early answers affect the number and nature of later answers, and I have been very fast to answer many questions. But ... I'm not saying my answers are particularly good! Many of my answers have been overruled by much more popular answers, so I think the system basically works as it should. And I'm not sure there would be more good answers if I didn't answer, or if I answered 48 hours later. Also, let it be known that I vote a lot and also very often add a reason. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 12 '12 at 19:59
  • Aside: your point 2/ is partly wrong: publicizing and driving traffic is not our job. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 12 '12 at 20:06
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    By your logic, gaming.stackexchange.com would be a colossal failure. Almost half the questions have only one answer by a powergamer who's finished the game earlier than most people have bought it, and WHO ANSWERED THE USER'S QUESTION. If the mods are laying down their point of view, and it's not helping the questioner, that's one thing, and we've got stuff in play to deal with that. – deworde Mar 13 '12 at 10:48
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun fair enough, but you guys care the most .. if anyone will be willing to do the work it will be you. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 13:49
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    @Beofett I "blame" no one .. I look forward not back. I stand by my position that a quick, thorough answer from someone of high rep shuts down additional answers. Consequently I stand by my suggestion that the mods slow down. Heck, it is easy enough to test, right? – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 13:56
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    @tomjedrz: Willing: yes. Able: no, unfortunately. Moderating is a voluntary activity on top of the voluntary time I spend here as a normal user. Anything more on top cuts time away from other (real life) activities. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 13 '12 at 13:59
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    @deworde Gaming.se is a different kind of audience and a different kind of topic. There are discrete, correct, factual answers most of the time. Most of the time at parenting.se, there are nuances and opinions, so multiple answers can be helpful. There also was no need to DRIVE an audience, which there is here. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:01
  • I'm not sure that I'm nearly as "quick on the trigger" as you are alluding to. Most of my recent answers have been 12 or more hours after the question was posted. If that's too quick, I suppose I could wait even longer, but I just don't agree that this is a significant problem. Your comments about gaming.se being more factual is accurate, but we see the same behavior in just about every non-beta site, including scifi.se, which is probably one of the closest to parenting.se in terms of subjective, nuanced answers. – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 14:07
  • I should also point out that my top 5 answers have between 6 and 16 other answers competing with me. #6 only has 3 answers competing with mine, but two of them were posted before mine. – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 14:17
  • @Beofett Fine .. I give up .. there is no basis to my suggestions .. consider yourself vindicated. Congratulations! – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:40
  • You made a claim. I disagree with the premise, and pointed out some supporting arguments, but I've also indicated that I'm willing to go along with your suggestion as an experiment. I see no need for the type of response you just gave. Am I honestly not allowed to disagree with you? – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 14:48
  • Sure, and I am allowed to say "Fine, think what you want." Which I did. Apologies if my bit of snark bothered you. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:56
  • My apologies. I must have mistaken "snark" for "snit". – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 19:18
  • I need a dictionary to keep up with you guys... Tom, don't let a difference in opinion bother you. I sincerely appreciate your input, and it's true that a few top-rep users are also the most active, but that makes sense to me. You've raised a concern and we'll try to figure out a way to work with this. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 13 '12 at 22:04

Besides publicity, I think polishing the front face of the page, finishing the artwork, and moving out of Beta would be a great step.

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    Perhaps you've got the sequence wrong. The site must prove its worth while in beta status. We will move out of beta and graduate to a full site roughly when the metrics are all green. So the question Lennart is asking is actually, how do we achieve that while remaining a beta site? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 16 '12 at 7:26
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun If the stats must go to green, then it battle is lost. Getting questions per day to 15 looks impossible if it is cumulative. If is is something like last 30 days, then it is doable. – tomjedrz Mar 11 '12 at 21:00
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    @tomjedrz: I believe the metric looks at the past 14 days, so it is definitely possible to achieve. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 12 '12 at 7:50
  • I still think this is important. The site looks unfinished. Why would new users sign up to a site that's in perpetual beta? – bobobobo Nov 19 '12 at 16:40

Captain Obvious here ... the primary statistical problem is the dearth of new questions. I have noticed the "staleness" on the front page that comes from low question turnover.

I could be wrong, but if that metric could be driven up to 10/day, the site would flourish. Google search hits would increase, so Google traffic would increase, so potential member exposure would increase.

So, how to get more questions?

1/ Each "committed user" should be asked to contribute 1 per week. This won't matter statistically, but I think it will prompt the second level users to ask more questions. Seeing TorbenGB or HedgeMage ask a question that they think they can answer will drive activity. Seeing TorbenGB or HedgeMage ask a question that get closed or criticized will have a similar impact.
--> I could commit for two months.

2/ The mods needs to get out on the other big parenting sites and spread the word. As I understand it, that is at least peripherally their job. As I alluded to in another answer, I think great benefit could accrue from TorbenGB, HedgeMage and Beofett worrying more about driving traffic and less about providing the best answer to every question and monitoring for every minor infraction of the FAQ.

3/ Rumor has it there is some advertising budget available for Beta sites. If so, it should be used.

4/ Is it OK to directly cross-post good questions (with or without attribution) from other parenting sites? Perhaps an intern (or a robot) could grab 5 per day for a month to seed the pool? I don't see any ethical issue doing so .. the value of the site is not the questions but the answers.

Just a few thoughts.

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    Perhaps this might be of interest to you. – user420 Mar 12 '12 at 18:56
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    Some quick replies from my POV. 1: It's hard to come up with good questions on a schedule. Aren't we all trying to do that anyway? 2: Marketing is not our job. Everybody is encouraged to "spread the word." Also, please do open a new meta question if you feel the mods are too nitpicky. We love feedback! 3: The rumor is true, to an extent. Any suggestions you might have are very welcome! 4: Automated harvesting sounds like trouble, but manually seeding hand-picked good questions (with source attribution) sounds like a great idea and you're welcome to take the first step. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 12 '12 at 21:14
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    'Each "committed user" should be asked to contribute 1 per week' Seems like a good way to generate near-worthless and spurious questions that help nobody. I ask a question when I have a question (and as my child grows, I'll be asking and probably answering many more), but I don't want to be asked as a committed user who answers any question that I feel capable of, to spend my time thinking of a question to ask. – deworde Mar 13 '12 at 10:39
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    "As I alluded to in another answer, I think great benefit could accrue from TorbenGB, HedgeMage and Beofett worrying more about driving traffic and less about providing the best answer to every question and monitoring for every minor infraction of the FAQ." While I agree we could be doing more to get the word out, the idea that we should focus on driving traffic and not producing quality answers is the OPPOSITE of the stackexchange model. – deworde Mar 13 '12 at 10:44
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    The problem with asking people to commit to x number of questions is two-fold: it presses people to look for questions to ask (which I admit I have done repeatedly in the past, for various reasons), which encourages lower-quality questions, and it limits the age range of the questions. I have a toddler, so questions I ask will mostly be relevant to toddler-age children. We already have a disproportionate number of infant and toddler questions. We would greatly benefit from a wider age range. – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 12:30
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    @deworde ...perhaps, but I don't think that the quality of the answers is the biggest problem facing the site. The dearth of new questions and the lack of traffic are the problems. And clearly, the mods care the most, and they asked for suggestions. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 13:43
  • @Beofett; I get the first objection but not the second. In fact I think the opposite. If you are asking questions as they come to you, they will follow your demographic. If you are actively looking for questions, you can look for questions in areas under-covered. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 13:46
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    My point with the second concern ("objection" is a bit strong) is that we have a hole in our demographics, and that placing the burden on the existing major participants seems likely to exacerbate that hole. I do try to ask questions in under-covered areas, but my perception is that my questions out of my demographic (i.e. the ones I ask about older children) don't seem as high quality as my other questions (at least going by vote count). The main exception appears to be the smoking question I asked. – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 13:54
  • '...perhaps, but I don't think that the quality of the answers is the biggest problem facing the site.' - Yes, but that's because we've got moderators. Now I'm up to edit priv's, and as I live in the UK, I tend to see a lot of weaker questions pre-cleanup, and TRUST ME, there's some junk even at our level of traffic. Remember, it's not like most stacks, where a basic level of English is needed to even have issues we can help with. By the time you come online in Cali, most of the moderation's been done. – deworde Mar 13 '12 at 14:14
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    @Beofett If the primary driver of traffic is google, then in order to get parents of teens there need to be questions relevant to them indexed by Google. The site needs to be seeded. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:26
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    Folks .. shoot my ideas down all you like .. at least I am making suggestions ... – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:28
  • @deworde The moderation that the mods are doing is excellent. My point is that the mods should not answer quite so quickly, so as to allow others the space to answer, and then actually moderate those answers. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:30
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    @deworde Your point about California is well taken, although it also makes my point about the moderators ANSWERING. If Torben or Hedge has already answered and has a dozen upvotes, only an arrogant opinionated blowhard like me is going to bother contributing. So there is a good answer, but there is also a bunch of users less likely to contribute. And right now, the site needs users and questions more than incrementally better answers. I am not saying don't answer, I am saying wait and let others answer first. – tomjedrz Mar 13 '12 at 14:33
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    I agree the site has to be seeded for more demographics. I just think its best if that is done by... people in those demographics. It is exceptionally difficult for me to come up with good teenage questions, since I don't have, or interact with, teens. Regarding top users waiting to answer, I see evidence that this is not the problem you perceive it as, but as I already said, I'm willing to wait longer as an experiment (not that I've been answering many questions lately). – user420 Mar 13 '12 at 14:46

Since Pinterest is the biggest thing since sliced bread these days (at least with many of the women and mothers I know), I wondered if it might help traffic if there was a way for people to pin the site when they found a useful question they wanted to share on their pinterest boards. That goes for facebook and twitter I suppose too.

In order to pin though, there needs to be a "pinnable image"

Is there a way to make this possible on Parenting SE to help drive up traffic? I get a lot of traffic on my blog because of things people have pinned to their boards or shared to facebook.

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I think part of the issue is that unlike the other sites, take stackoverflow for instance, only experienced programmers answer questions or are upvoted at least. Plus, there's a pretty clear right or wrong answer when it comes to things like programming.

With parenting, however, simply having children doesn't exactly make you an expert, unfortunately. People are answering questions here with a lot of reputation earned from other fields, but this doesn't make them particularly knowledgeable in child development, even if they do have children. And, there's a lot of opinion and beliefs when it comes to parenting, but you wouldn't find such opinion-driven answers in other fields (like programming).

For example, lots of people are answering with suggestions of consequences, incentives, punishments etc (in a variety of forms) and yet all the research into child development, human motivation, and social-emotional learning says that this is counter-productive and often damaging. Carol Dweck is starting to become known in wider circles for her work, for example, that shows the damaging long-term effects of praise. In a topic like this, I don't think that upvoting is necessarily the best way to ensure accuracy, helpfulness, etc. A parent may find an answer 'helpful' but that doesn't mean that answer was in the best interest of the affected child.

I'm not sure there's a solution to this as I think it is sort of inherent to the topic, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this issue.

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  • I think "all the research into child development, human motivation, and social-emotional learning" may be a bit of exaggeration. The problem is that accepted schools of thought have changed so radically over time. Researchers from 20, or even 10 years ago are likely to have radically different perspectives from many researchers today. If we push the timeline back even further, I am quite certain that there are plenty of resources that support consequences, incentives, punishments, etc. that were quite reputable in their time. – user420 Oct 26 '12 at 12:43
  • It is problematic to establish a criteria for research, and have that criteria also define what research is considered "current" or "acceptable", and what is not. The best we have come up with (so far; we're always open to suggestions!) is to vote based off of overall quality of the answer. Yes, some people are going to vote for what seems intuitively correct, but our hope is that more people will vote for answers with quality citations and references. – user420 Oct 26 '12 at 12:45
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    Well yes, which is why I think there is inherent difficulties using this StackExchange method for this kind of topic. Especially as the site becomes more popular. But, I don't necessarily think that things change radically over time always. Often popular 'research' isn't always 'good' research. – Christine Gordon Oct 26 '12 at 16:08
  • While I agree with the gist of your message. Upvotes etc. often seem to be made based more on popularity and "normalness" of the answer rather than wisdom, I thought you should know that reputation builds separately on each section of stack exchange. My reputation level is very different on the writing SE and on area 51 than it is here. Reputation scores you see were earned on the parenting SE, not from other locations (even if reputation still does not denote actual expertise) – balanced mama Nov 2 '12 at 1:31
  • i know that, but i meant that there's more clarity on what it means to be an 'experienced' programmer than child-rearer... – Christine Gordon Nov 2 '12 at 1:44

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