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http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/04/when-a-site-grows-quiet/

Next week, we’re shutting down six sites that fall into this category:

  • Astronomy
  • Economics
  • Literature
  • Firearms
  • Healthcare IT
  • Theoretical Physics

LEGO.SE which is very similar to Firearms in terms of age and statistics has been spared. I'm concerned that LEGO.SE may be at threat from any future site cull and is there anything we can and should be doing about it?

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I'm concerned that LEGO.SE may be at threat from any future site cull

Well, yes it is! In fact, as of last Friday morning, it was on my list to close. The activity has fallen off precipitously, to the point where the stats are worse than many of the sites that are being closed.

It's not closed right now because I wanted to try something, as sort of a precursor experiment to some changes we're planning for the site creation process. LEGO made a good candidate for this because it's a fairly accessible yet extremely niche topic, there's not much in the way of controversy here, and the community has shown themselves in the past to be fairly active in dealing with perceived issues - as evidenced by you posting this thread soon after the blog post went up (and long before I was ready with my planned post!)

So what's gonna happen?

Well, it'd be awesome if you somehow managed to bring in a bunch of new users and get this place hoppin'... But frankly, I don't really expect that given the trends. My current impression of the site is that we've simply tapped out the interest among the current SE audience.

So the experiment is simply: can you maintain what's already here? The one good stat on the Area 51 page right now is the 99% answered questions. I'm not seeing any spam, or obvious broken windows. If it stays that way - if there are a few of you willing to keep the lights on and the lawn mowed - then fine. We'll have a tiny little site for LEGOs tucked away.

If I come back in a month and the windows are smashed in and weeds are growing everywhere, then it gets closed, just like that.

Like I said, it's an experiment. It might go "boom".

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    I'm glad you've spared Lego for now. It's the sort of site that has a lot of potential, but just doesn't quite have the audience yet. I'll certainly do what I can to help keep the grass mowed. – nhinkle Apr 26 '12 at 1:47
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    (singing) There's a zombie on your lawn... I'm fairly confident we can keep the lawn clean for the foreseeable future, and if it begins to grow wild, maybe it'll be a sign that the activity has improved much. – Joubarc Apr 26 '12 at 7:37
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    Also, the blog post says But when a site struggles to maintain any semblance of steady progress, and I don't think we fall in that category yet. Our progress is slow, granted, but it IS there. Just look at the new users registrations, and you'll notice that, given time, we'll probably start faring better on the third criteria (# users), and then hopefully on the rest. – Joubarc Apr 26 '12 at 7:45
  • @Joubarc ...and that's Shog's main point. A valuable contribution to the Internet doesn't necessarily have to be one that's growing at breakneck speeds. Hypothetically, we could have a microscopically small site which only receives a question on the rarest of occasions. But if those questions get good answers, and the current content is well maintained, the site should be able to go on forever. I'm not ceding that LEGO SE will remain microscopically small, but even if that becomes the case, our thinking is these sites continue to provide a good contribution to the Internet; let 'em be. – Robert Cartaino May 4 '12 at 17:31
  • To which I fully agree, but then again, why not apply the same reasoning to the other sites? – Joubarc May 5 '12 at 4:45
5

While it's good to see Shog9's answer and that we were spared, I'd like to point out something I noticed, which I believe will be beneficial to the site in the long run.

Indeed, there are some users which are known AFOLs, such as Philippe Hurbain who still connects regularly (I wish he would answer the difficult NXT questions though) or Larry Pieniazek.

Now, maybe calling this a trend is overrated (although there are new users created regularly, even if not AFOLs - let's not forget that), but these are the kind of expert answerers we want. But I don't think our problem is on the answering side - as said, we've got a very high answered ratio.

So if the problem lies in the lack of questions, what can we do? One thing I wonder is if we aren't sometimes too harsh on some newcomers - sure, some questions maybe borderline, but we risk scaring off new users; if they feel their questions aren't welcome, they won't feel welcome either.

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    I know I've usually erred on the side of welcoming rather than shunning some of our borderline questions - usually by answering and then thinking "hmm, is that a bit off-topic, can we tweak it a bit?" Sadly I completely missed the news about AFOLCON here in the UK next week - would have been a good place to be to drum up some more interest :( – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Apr 26 '12 at 8:38
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    I've been wanting to go to AFOLCON since they started that, but so far it hasn't been possible. If the site is still live next year, let's have a booth there together :-). – Joubarc Apr 26 '12 at 8:50
  • Definitely up for that :) – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Apr 26 '12 at 8:59
  • I've heard from several AFOLs in the past about why to use SE if the info is going away. If the experiment is actually happening, then that could be a good message to send out. – Nathan May 2 '12 at 22:17

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