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I have now been active on MiYodeya for 60 days, asked/answered ca. 90 questions and thought I would share some newbie perspectives in the hope of being helpful to the more established users out there who might have forgotten what it was to start. Before you think this is off-topic, I also have a number of suggestions to broaden the appeal of the site which I hope are relevant to meta.

I find MY to be an incredibly valuable site in many ways

  • as a way to learn more about what I am interested about
  • as a way to learn about what I should be interested about but don’t know exists
  • as a way to share some of my knowledge
  • as a forcing device to clarify things I think I know until I need to write them up clearly
  • as a place where other “Jewish halakhic nerds” (said in a positive way) like me meet - they are harder to find in the real world

Now here are the top three things that surprised me most about MY

First I have to admit I still don’t know how someone who has been on the “Jewish Internet” for 25 years (starting with soc.culture.jewish if someone remembers!) and reads many many “Jewish RSS feeds” didn’t know about Mi Yodeya until 60 days ago. And I found it in a very oblique way (through a professional interest in Stack Exchange as a company). It raises a question of how to raise the site awareness amonst its target audience?

If one agrees that the quality/interest of a site like MY is a function of how many interesting and knowledgeable people contribute then one would have an interest to increase that number. I assume there has been a push at MY’s graduation to increase its reach but wonder if there are ongoing efforts to do so. I was thinking for instance of better linkages with great Jewish blogs that might attract similar audiences (e.g., TorahMusings, Seforim, RationalistJudaism, Beyond BT). Bloggers are always hungry for great content to republish, maybe we could send them our best questions on a regular/semi regular basis as a way to raise MY awareness amongst their readership.

Second I found it a bit unwelcoming at first. Many of the first (I’m sure well-meaning) comments to make me sharpen answers felt like criticisms, both in terms of tone and content. Where as an advanced user or moderator thinks he helps by asking sharp followup questions or by pointing out issues in the question, the newbie sees rejection and fears being inadequatly prepared to handle the complexity. I think it reiterates the importance of welcoming new users and being more pedagogic with well-intended but sometimes clumsy beginners.

Third, MY is clearly different from other places on the Internet (e.g., discussion forums, even other StackExchange forums) with e.g., a heavy emphasis on sources and a use of comments to sharpen questions and not for discussion. There is a FAQ of course but maybe we need a beginner’s guide to MY that we point people to and that formally articulates “what is different about this site from all other sites”?

I don’t know if moderators measure the “conversion rates of new users” (e.g., new users per month / users passing 100 points 30 days later) and benchmark it vs. other sites but a casual look at the new user list shows lots of users staying very low weeks later. If it is lower than other sites, it might strengthen the last two points.

Not sure if you find any of this valuable. If there is even moderate interest, I could break down the suggestions in three separate meta posts to see if we can converge on solutions.

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    I found this valuable and interesting, FWIW. Thanks for sharing! And welcome aboard :) – Double AA Jan 27 '16 at 15:43
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    Re your "Third" point: there's the tour. Some people link to it when posting comments welcoming newbies. – msh210 Jan 27 '16 at 15:50
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    In case you haven't seen it, here is our 'policy' about welcoming users meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/190/759 and here's about how to ask for clarification in comments meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/3433/759. See too posts that link to those. – Double AA Jan 27 '16 at 15:52
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    Thank you very much for this valuable, thoughtful, and constructive post. – Monica Cellio Jan 28 '16 at 15:56
  • Hi mbloch, what a lovely and important post! Many of us at The Great Outdoors are very passionate about welcoming new users, and this was brought to our attention in The Base Camp chat room. I one-boxed and quoted from it in that room, without asking you! If I plagiarized or otherwise overstepped, please accept my sincere apology! I can ask a mod to take it down right away! Thanks again for your perspective and dedication to the site! – Sue Aug 28 '18 at 21:12
  • @Sue you are welcome to share, copy, modify etc as useful. See also my newbie welcome message which I and others regularly point new users to: judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3887/11501 – mbloch Aug 28 '18 at 21:26
  • Thank you so much for allowing me to use your post, and for pointing me to that excellent newbie welcome post! We've been looking for something like that! That was a really ambitious project you took on, especially since you were so new here! I'm sure it has served your community well. Sadly, much of what we want to convey can't be done in the generic Tour and Help Center, but our hands are tied in terms of changing it. You've probably checked out our meta, and seen both the frustration and the desire to fix things! I'm going to spend more time reading your meta posts! Thanks again! – Sue Aug 28 '18 at 21:43
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Thanks very much for all of your participation and for all of these great insights!

Promotion

We have tried various measures to spread the word about MY in likely communities. Most of these can be found under . I believe that these initiatives to date have tended to succeed in bringing in a few users each, including power users, but that none have "gone viral." New ideas for promotion and, more importantly, new implementation-energy, would be great to have.

We have an ongoing relationship with R' Gil Student of TorahMusings, including a bunch of times that he's linked to us on the blog. Most notably, Mi Yodeya's progenitor, mi.yodeya launched into public beta via a paid TorahMusings announcement, and, when Mi Yodeya launched out of Beta, R' Student was the special guest at our audio launch party.

If you know any active J-bloggers (or don't know them but want to make a cold call) and want to try to pitch a syndication arrangement to them, go for it!

Beginner's Guide

I'm sure there are things that it would be especially important for new users to know that are not already covered in the official tour. The tour has the advantage of being short and snappily-designed. Anything else, if it's to get lots of new users to actually read it when directed to, will need to be concise, well-written, and well-formatted. I suggest starting with a new Meta post soliciting ideas for specific points of information that ought to be in such a document.

User Retention Stats

I once made a Stack Exchange Data Explorer query for counting based on a lower bar for retention than the one you specified, and presented some results in a comment here on Meta:

I whipped up a "user retention" query: Percent of people who have posted on one day that have come back to post on another day. Results: MY 33%; Christianity 26%; BH 27%; Skeptics 32%; English 28%; Physics 35%; Travel 23%; Money 29%. This is anecdotal, but not cherry-picked. I have run only these so far, picking sites that are our peers in some way off the top of my head. Of these, we're on the higher end in terms of retention.

It may be possible to measure what you've specified, too, on the same platform. I'm sure there are queries out there that measure various notions of user retention.

  • How often has he linked to us? Providing him with, say, biweekly suggestions for posts to link to is not a bad idea. Does he follow us on Twitter? – Double AA Jan 27 '16 at 18:02
  • @DoubleAA a handful of times, when I've asked him to. I think more or less each time we've put out a publication. I don't think he actively follows Mi Yodeya. He doesn't follow mi_yodeya on Twitter. – Isaac Moses Jan 27 '16 at 19:19

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