Arts & Crafts is one of the smallest sites on the SE network, and a few meta discussions here have focused on how to increase our traffic and participation, most recently How can we increase participation in community moderation?
Joachim just mentioned something in chat that struck a chord:
what is obviously missing from our arts and crafts website in comparison to others, is a way to display and discuss projects themselves. This is likely the largest setback of having a moderated crafts-related website in trying to attract and retain users.
Judging from my experience in some other sites on the network, an important feature for building a community is chat. People posting high-quality Q&A is enough to kickstart a repository of knowledge, and we have some of those already. Promoting the site elsewhere, e.g. by community ads, may be enough to make people come and look at what we've got. But a community isn't built just by people coming to look: how do we convert casual visitors into contributors and contributors into committed community members? My answer is, by having an active chatroom: that's how people actually get to know each other, as opposed to the more strictly content-centred approach of the main site and even meta. Roping people into chat makes them feel like part of a community, makes them want to stay, rather than just dropping a post and disappearing.
A&C actually had a fairly active chatroom years ago, but with some of the early active members and pro-tem mods drifting away, deleting their accounts, or getting hired at SE, it's become more of a tumbleweed zone in recent years. How do we revive it? Obviously we need people who actually care enough to lurk in the chatroom and start conversations, but there's also a feature we can use for wider promotion: scheduled chat events.
- Via this page, any room owner or chat moderator can schedule timed events in our main chatroom The Studio.
- Chatroom events get promoted across the entire network chat, see this page. This will help to attract people who use chat but aren't A&C regulars.
- If an A&C diamond mod does the scheduling, it will automatically appear as an "Upcoming Event" in the top right sidebar box on the main site. This will help to attract people who use A&C but aren't chat regulars.
- It doesn't have to be a one-off: any scheduled event can be set to recur every N days, and then it'll keep appearing in the chat events tab and site sidebar every time without any further effort required.
- People can register to attend by a simple press of a button in chat, and SE will then automatically send them a notification when the event is due to start, every time if it's a repeat event.
There's an existing meta post What sort of chat events should we hold? but I suggest keeping the scope very broad to attract as many people as possible. We're a small site, and an event (for example) just about origami might turn away people who aren't interested in origami. To start with, it could be something as simple as "Chat about Arts and Crafts", with a scope including:
- Showing off pictures of your own creations.
- Discussing, comparing, and critiquing (nicely!) said pictures.
- Asking for advice on how to make stuff (could also give rise to main-site questions).
- Comparing and discussing techniques.
I suggest that, after the election is over, the new moderators can schedule a regular chat event and try to be present in chat for it each time. Even if it starts off with just two or three people attending, a bit of chatter will make the chatroom more active and thus more visible, and that'll help to attract more participants. It gives people a chance to "display and discuss projects" as Joachim said, in a more relaxed environment than the main site with its scope and rules, and (crucially) it's a way to start building a community. Casual site browsers can feel more like part of the site and get the confidence to start posting; network chat users can discover A&C and become contributors here; it's a win-win.