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One of the Big 7 Questions: How do we promote our site?

What is the best way to reach out to the community of experts (both professional and amateur) in the Earth Science community?

Share your thoughts in an answer!

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In less than two weeks starts the EGU General Assembly 2014, a meeting where more than 10,000 geoscientists gather, covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. This should be an excellent audience to reach out to.

A long time ago, usenet was actively used. I know a scientist who was a graduate student in the best days of usenet, and who was impressed that very senior scientists in the field would take the time to go on usenet and answer questions from graduate students. This time has long passed, the usenet forums have become too noisy, and the aforementioned scientist regrets that there is no good forum "like in the old days". We can recreate these old days! It will take time and effort, though, because such experts will not come automatically. They will come only if we create a good site with good questions and answers from actual experts in the field. But the potential is there!

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  • $\begingroup$ Inspiring! Could someone get away with putting up some flyers there? Who here is going and willing to push the cause? $\endgroup$ – foobarbecue Apr 17 '14 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ I won't be going there myself this year $\endgroup$ – gerrit Apr 17 '14 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ EGU -- and, come December, AGU -- would be great venues at which to advertise. If I have the time I'll try to run off some flyers and strew them around EGU when I'm there. $\endgroup$ – Pont Apr 17 '14 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ I'm also going. @Pont: what kind of "flyers" did you have in mind? $\endgroup$ – ladc Apr 22 '14 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @ladc I just created these very simple business-card-sized ads: megafileupload.com/en/file/521929/stackexchange-pdf.html . I'm going to run off a few of these, guillotine them into individual cards, and leave them around the place. Some A4-size adverts for noticeboards would be good too but I haven't made any of those yet. $\endgroup$ – Pont Apr 22 '14 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Pont: Any luck handing out flyers? In the future I'd suggest using a URL that's trackable (bitly.com) that reroutes to the main site - that way you know if the promote had any impact on getting people to the site. "Get your geoscientific questions answered and share your own expertise." might work, though you could do an A/B test, have one card that says "Get Answers" another that says "Give Answers" and offer people the option to do one or the other; people like options, and as a result, more people will load the site; all my opinion. Have fun at EGU, and thanks for promoting the site too! $\endgroup$ – blunders Apr 28 '14 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @blunders not yet, but I'll be starting today! Good suggestions, especially the A/B testing. I knocked those cards together in a huge rush so I went with the first and simplest thing I could think of -- I'm sure someone with more skill and time could do a more effective job. $\endgroup$ – Pont Apr 28 '14 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Academic mailing lists are a thing; might be worth flagging up the SE in posts to them? (Either as standalone messages - not wildly out-of-context given frequent conference ads - or as an aside in a proper response/new thread.) $\endgroup$ – kaberett Apr 29 '14 at 22:48
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A couple of things that may help upon launch, for my little corner of the subject area,

  • An announcement on the Coastal List.
  • Spreading the word through INORE. (Strictly that is a offshore renewable energy group rather than a geosciences one, but this site should be relevant to a substantial subset of INORE members, who tend to be early career researchers)

I think that we should also announce our presence to users of the following Stackexchanges (I'm not sure how this is done acceptably - maybe a post on their meta?):

Others may be able to suggest other appropriate Stackexchanges that have overlap with this site.

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  • $\begingroup$ graduated sites run community ads. Beta sites can submit community ads. So, Physics and Academia could each run community ads for Earth Science. Computational Science and Sustainability could not, at the time I'm writing this, because they're in beta themselves, and thus don't host community ads. $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers May 4 '14 at 12:03
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Try to build quality first. I think this is much more important than quantity. Everyone should feel responsible for creating / improving questions and answers to an expert level.

With a good quality level users will be comfortable in informing their own expert networks.

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This is kind of difficult. The Astronomy and Economics SEs were closed down due to lack of activity, and the geoscience community on the Internet seems smaller than the Astronomy and Economics communities on the Internet. I really really want this community to succeed, but it's going to have to gain a lot of traction to avoid the same fate.

One idea might be reddit. /r/climate, /r/geology, and /r/weather (or even the main science ones), for starters. reddit frowns upon advertising, but we can probably do it once.

Maybe try the geoscience forum at Grad Cafe too.

Also, try geoscience Facebook groups if they exist.

If there's a grad student who is very tightly linked to other geoscience grad students, they should definitely get out the word. Maybe even post a flyer on their school's bulletin (I know I did that for Physics Forums before). If there's an academic conference, find creative ways to increase awareness of it.

In general, I think the best way to get traction is through Google. We have to find ways to liberally link to this SE so that items on this site get ranked highly on Google. There isn't much geoscience on the Internet at all, so it might not be too hard to get lots of rare search terms (like, say, pole-to-equator temperature gradient) to get to the top of Google search results.

I'm personally inclined towards asking good questions aggressively, since my experiences on Quora are such that it's easier to get someone to answer a question than it is for them to ask lots of questions. My experience on Quora is such that the simple questions are the ones that get the most followers and pageviews (and I know that Quora has an ambition to be at the level of Wikipedia). Even Wikipedia isn't very good for Geoscience, and I think that if we aggressively go after the simple questions, we can even beat Wikipedia in our geoscience coverage.

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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, Astronomy SE got restarted and while it is still low participation it is relatively successful. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Apr 15 '14 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ To be honest, I'm not optimistic if it can pull it off again. :( It's facing the same exact problems as the last one did. $\endgroup$ – InquilineKea Apr 15 '14 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ There definitely are some issues to be overcome. I know you haven't exactly participated in the new Astronomy site, but if you would at least drop into the meta site from time to time it might help make a difference. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Apr 15 '14 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with simple questions is that they have a poor track record of maintaining SE sites. See Let's ask more meaty questions!. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Apr 15 '14 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ The thing with answers that can be best answered with citing another site like Wikipedia is this: we can even do better than Wikipedia. That's basically Quora's philosophy. Quora encourages all the questions people have because it literally wants people to go to Quora first if they want to find out something, rather than for them to go for Google or Wikipedia first. I'd definitely prefer more "meaty" questions, but it is extraordinarily difficult to get researchers onto Stack Exchange, and it's much easier to start with the small stuff that can help us get noticed. $\endgroup$ – InquilineKea Apr 15 '14 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ E.g. researchers are now paying more attention to reddit, at the very least. Reddit has loads and loads of content, although much of it consists of simple questions, and it doesn't have a very high signal to noise ratio. Nonetheless, it at least manages to get itself noticed, which is what matters. I do think, at the very least, that we can definitely do a better job than reddit. Even if we ask lots of simple questions, they'll most likely have much higher signal-to-noise ratio than reddit. $\endgroup$ – InquilineKea Apr 15 '14 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ That's not what Stack Exchange is really supposed to be. Stack Exchange should have the more expert-level questions, and not something easily Googled. There's a reason why people on SE make fun of Yahoo Answers & Quora. :P $\endgroup$ – hichris123 Apr 15 '14 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ That's what we hope it goes towards, at least. Anyways I'm just really scared of the Earth Science stack exchange dying in the way that the Astronomy one did. But I think in Earth Science, at least, there is more room for discussion over the simple questions than there is in most other fields. E.g. "Why do high pressure systems form?" Or "Why do clouds form?" Even today, those are valid research-level questions. $\endgroup$ – InquilineKea Apr 15 '14 at 22:03
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Main issue is that SE does not have a platform built in for marketing the site - and more importantly, tracking the performance of a give campaign; by campaign, I mean a given measurable approach to marketing the site. Personally, I am all for letting people pitch ideas, but they better be ideas they're personally willing to confirm work and more importantly, if they do work, that the concepts scale beyond their efforts.

Taking a step back, in the context of promoting the site, we're really only focused on pushing these stats:

enter image description here

And honestly, think the best approach would be to divide the status into different questions, and find users willing to own the success of each stat. Beyond that, I would recommend starting with the end in mind, not how to get there - then just make sure your plan has a buffer. For example, for the questions per a day, the buffer would be a list of questions ready to post half-way through the day each by a different user (looks odd to everyone if the same person posts it) to post; better yet have two answers ready to post.

SEO long-term will be what drives traffic, so mapping Earth Science terms to traffic likely would make sense.

As for finder experts, just find papers, speakers, etc - find a relevant/personalized reason to contact them, and email them; then follow-up a month later. Ask them if they'd be interested in doing a "guest post" and invite them to suggest a question to post that they'd answer. (All okay per SE based on my understanding.)

Any rate, promotion is hard work, a numbers game, and requires you learn from what works, and what does not as quickly as possible.

Lastly, goes without saying, but the fastest way to grow any community is to pull members an existing community that is at least 100x larger than the one you're attempting to grow via some low-cost method per user. Say 100x larger, since to start, it's likely that you're only going to be able to convert 3-12% of the members after reaching 80-90% of them; or at least that's my experience.

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