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.