The turn out for the self evaluation could have been better, but I'm not really that alarmed by it, I'll explain. When you see a number that indicates a lack of community self interest it should cause you to take a look, but doesn't always indicate that it's actually happened. I think folks are just used to browsing the site once or twice a week because question volume is low - and people just missed it. The fact that we're having this discussion is a clear indicator that there's still a thriving community here.
As you've probably noticed, a substantial number of questions come from brand new inexperienced parents finding their way with babies and toddlers. After you reach beyond that point and have grown your bond with your children, parenting becomes more instinctive and intuitive. You become less likely to ask for help and more inclined to simply figure it out along with your child.
At that point, you're probably going to be more inclined to answer than ask. Specific parenting questions require context that's very personal to people's children, I think many are rather selfish when it comes to sharing parts of their child's life, and of course wary. Beyond babies, questions surrounding parenting, but not really describing a specific scenario are probably going to be our on ramps - but there's a limited quantity of them that would fit.
With that being said, let's take stock of what's good here, which is quite a bit:
- The quality is excellent
- This community is very friendly and welcoming, and has a lot of combined experience to offer anyone who cares to ask a question.
- Unscientific (doing averages in my head) measurements on random questions indicate that folks get answers relatively soon after asking - that's critical for sustainability and success
- The appointed moderation team is doing an amazing job - their focus is precisely where it needs to be, despite many efforts not bearing much fruit
The site is strong when it comes to answering the types of questions that it gets, but needs users that have significant reach and influence evangelizing it after seeing those strengths in action. I think the question we should be asking is, how do we attract the sort of users that can send thousands of like minds here with a tweet?
I'm quite convinced that this site would finally reach a huge success if it just had a few well respected evangelists promoting it. I'm not talking Oprah caliber, just parents that have a substantial following. Who are these people, and how do we get them to notice us? If we come up with those answers, then we've come up with half a plan. The other half is discussing the idea of what people could ask here, if they're not really comfortable asking about the real world problems that they face.