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In another meta discussion asking who are the parenting evangelists and how do we attract them?, one of the answers brought up an excellent point:

To attract additional experts/evangelists, we have to clearly offer something that people can't get elsewhere. We are competing with other parenting forums, with popular blogs, with ehow and ask.com, with a plethora of parenting magazines and books, and with experts in people's physical communities (doctors' offices, libraries, schools, fellow parents, families, etc). If we can identify ways that we are better than those resources, we might attract people to the cause.

What are the ways that we are better than the competition?

What can we offer that we don't already, that might help us further distinguish ourselves from the competition?

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  • This is a great discussion to have, if not essential when talking about promotion. – Tim Post Jun 18 '13 at 15:25
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Two very obvious points are voting and civility.

When you read something in a magazine or book, it stands alone. Is it just one person's opinion, is it a scientific fact, is it generally agreed-with? You can't tell. Online, everything can be rated and commented and vetted. Stack sites implement this in the form of voting. When you see several answers on a question, you know the one with the most votes is probably the most helpful.

The downside of the commenting thing is the whole "[x] is child abuse" meme - I remember a diaper flame war on misc.kids where disposable diapers were asserted to be child abuse and a poster said she would report anyone she saw using them to Family Services. Because we only allow answers in the answer section, and moderators can remove offensive content, flame wars just can't happen here.

So this is a community that is safe, supportive, and provides a little objectivity in a highly subjective part of our lives.

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  • Books are very well-reviewed these days on a multitude of sites, so while I think user reputation is helpful, I am not sure we compare to books in either content (books are more thorough) or reputation (books are better reviewed). I do agree that moderation makes the site safe - very good point. – MJ6 Jun 20 '13 at 12:33
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I'll have a go at this:

  • We are worldwide, open 24 hours a day. With a multitude of users, there is no vacation break. Someone is always checking in.
  • We are moderated, offering content focus and quality.
  • We're cross-disciplinary, offering support in the areas of health, cognitive development, physical development, emotional development, psychological development, social development, behavior modification, education, care and feeding, adoption, blended families, special needs, and safety.
  • We are a place to get facts as well as advice from other parents who have faced the same issues.
  • Questioners are treated with respect - people don't have to be afraid to ask whatever is worrying them.
  • Questions can be asked anonymously. People going through a tough time can connect honestly and safely with other people. Sometimes there are little comments offering very appreciated encouragement or a genuine thank you.
  • Questions and answers are tagged and searchable by keyword so other people can learn from them in the future. Even answers to questions that seem fairly specific to the original asker can have gems of information for others.
  • People upvote questions and answers - it makes people feel good to know others found their question or answer useful.
  • Questions may have more than one answer, allowing readers to choose what makes most sense for them. An uptick lets readers know which answer the asker thought was most helpful.
  • Questions can be fairly specific and answers are personalized to the questioner's specific circumstance. (This is one way we are better than books.)
  • Answers may represent multiple view points, allowing the asker and future readers to assess according to his/her own situation.

We know we need to attract more experts so that the balance between supported factual information and advice based on experience is shifted a bit more toward the former. I was attracted to SE because it is building libraries, and I think this is a saleable concept when talking to experts. We are trying to build a one-stop shop, so people don't have to go to eight different places to get their question answered. They will either find the answer in our archive, or we will find it for them - just like the public library, but focused on parenting and open 24/7. Experts are researchers, and researchers have a healthy respect for libraries. It's a word they hold in esteem. We should use it more.

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