Once again, we have seen E2 have some signs of renewed interest and activity amongst the user base, and once again, we have seen that interest flatten out as November ends. It is unfortunate that it had to be the passing of one our best users, dannye, that triggered a lot of old users coming back, but there was a week or so where the renewed interest and connection was rather encouraging. It was nice to feel the energy, excitement and meaning on here again. This also coincided with another Iron Noder, which as always begin with a lot of output from a lot of quality writers.
But alas, it seems that things have cooled down a little. And looking at the site statistics on site trajectory and site trajectory 2, it looks like this Iron Noder will be quantitatively one of the least successful. Of course its not just numbers that make the writing here worthwhile, but they are a good metric for enthusiasm and participation.
But there is a number that I think is more symptomatic than the number of writers generated in a month: New Users and Contributing Users. According to Site Trajectory, there has been a little over 100 new users joining a month this year, which is even a step down from the numbers in the 200s and 300s in the past two years. I don't know how many of those accounts are "real people" as opposed to some sort of spam or bot accounts, but I imagine at least some of them are. The second statistic is from Site Trajectory 2, where we can see how many users contributed in a month. This number is disappointingly low. Although we've had an uptake, it bottomed out at 54 users who wrote something in September.
On my homenode, I have my mission here listed as writing things to attract more people. My thinking has been, for a while, that generating content on niche interests would gather the google hits from the esoterically minded, who would then see our great little community and want to join. But it seems like there still are people joining. And there are old users visiting. But for some reason, they don't seem to want to write.
Taking the time and effort to write is an equation with two factors: costs and rewards. Part of the problem on E2 is that the rewards take a little longer to come, compared to Facebook, where reports of a tasty lunch will net someone scads of approval. But another problem is the costs: it takes time and effort into making a writeup here, and especially for new or infrequent users, it can be intimidating to produce what the user base wants.
If people are following me so far, and agree that this is a problem, I do have a solution that could perhaps be implemented with technical tools at hand, and would maybe solve the problem (at least in part). I suggest that we have open nodes where people can write on an introductory or experimental basis. One of these would be a monthly "introduction node" where new users could write a little bit about themselves, how they found E2, and what they hope to write about. We could perhaps also have open nodes for creative writing. The point of this would be to encourage participation by new users, without the stress of having to wonder whether what they are writing is "good enough". I also imagine that these write-ups would be unvoteable.
I know that the decline in interest of E2 is a complicated subject, and I know there is not a magic wand for it. However, I do believe that there are a lot of people who are interested in writing, but find the process to be too steep of a learning curve, and are intimidated by the prospect of failure. I think we should do something to invite more of the new users, and many of the old users, to be more active.