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The Stack Exchange folks tell us that we're doing well with quality - yay us! - and that we need to start thinking about getting more people here asking questions.

Make no mistake, sites that don't show steady progress for a long time will be closed. Six sites, including Literature, are being closed for this reason as of today. (See When a site grows quiet on the official Stack Exchange blog.)

To avoid this fate in the future, I believe we need two things:

  • More questions and answers here
  • More community participation here on meta (and more users voting on the main site)

What writing forums do you think would be good places to publicize this site? (Possibly using versions of this copy.) How do we bring in more professional writers? Non-fiction writers are underrepresented, how can we bring them in?

What other ideas do you have for publicity? Let's hear all your ideas!

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How about cross-posting on writers' blogs? I originally came to Stack Exchange via the (late and lamented) Atheist SE, which was promoted on Pharyngula in a comments thread. I wouldn't have known about the entire SE community if not for that blatant invitation.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/, where Pharyngula currently lives, has several writers blogging for them, so there's the potential to find members there.

  • You mean get writers with established blogs to link to us? That'd certainly be a huge help, but we'd need to get those writers to be intrigued enough to link to us. I'm worried that cold-calling 'em might be more irritating than intriguing to them, especially since SE is tough for newcomers to grok. – Standback Apr 29 '12 at 9:36
  • I'm not sure how many writers are keen to have their answers subjected to any amount of rigor or peer review. That said, if one wildly popular author used the site just often enough to have a small presence and he or she talked about it, that would be enough. – Nathan C. Tresch Apr 29 '12 at 13:33
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    The experience I had was a little different. Pharyngula and the other FTB have enormous reader bases. Someone came into an open thread and said "Hey, Atheist SE is starting up, and there are lots of atheists here. C'mon over and hang out!" So my suggestion is more like, "Find a thriving forum which belongs to a writer or readers etc. and mention, 'Hey, Writers SE is really cool. Come hang out!'" – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Apr 29 '12 at 14:15
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We should advertise on Critters - it's a very well-respected online critique workshop. They're mostly SF/F and Horror, but they've been expanding somewhat. There's a lot of amateurs there, but also many capable writers, insightful critiquers, and some serious pros (I had the honor of critiquing this little gem from Ken Liu, though I really had little to improve...). More to the point, it's a bunch of people who already dedicate lots of time to writing and to both giving and receiving feedback.

I'm not sure what their advertising process is like, but I know they've got one. This looks like a good place to start.

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I am someone who sends fan mail to authors. I know that most of the famous ones don't read most of their fan mail personally, but they do select some to read and to respond to. I'm going to email some authors that I admire and respect and tell them about this place, and suggest that it's worth supporting because there's no other site on the net which is both for writing, and also follows any kind of rigorous discussion guidelines or scientific methodology. I suspect that this will work for some of the non-fiction authors that I've corresponded with in the past, to be honest, and I'm wondering if there are more people here who would start a mail campaign with me.

One thing that I feel detracts from the sites attractiveness is that the most important thing we need as developing writers is peer review and feedback, and the guidelines are such that those sorts of posts would be frowned upon. I seriously consider this a giant hole in the functionality and service that this site provides, and if we can't address that we are going to be fighting an uphill battle. I have no idea how that can be made to work, but, I think we need it.

I have also been told by mods and users of other SE sites that I'm a part of that this sites moderators have been overly zealous about controlling what questions were asked (closing and migrating questions that some people considered on topic, etc), and that has alienated some of SE's other users. I have no idea if that was true, still is true, or if they were remembering the future and it will soon come to pass, but, we can't let our zealousness drive users away.

  • I completely agree about critiques: We do have a critique format here, but it can be difficult to understand, particularly for those who are new to Stack Exchange. Posting excerpts here may also introduce complications regarding rights and future publication, since all content here is subject to a Creative Commons license. (This is being looked into.) – Neil Fein Apr 29 '12 at 13:46
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    Regarding your edit: This meta post may clarify this. You're correct that the mods here are fairly quick to close questions, and this is a deliberate choice on our part, in an attempt to improve question quality. But if you think we're wrong when we close a question, let us know. We're not unreasonable, and will admit if we're wrong. – Neil Fein Apr 29 '12 at 13:48
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    One thing that I am not is shy or hesitant to start a debate when I think I;m right. I appreciate the encouragement, but with me you might be better served reminding me that being nice is also in the guidelines. ;) – Nathan C. Tresch Apr 29 '12 at 14:02
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I think each user here naming sites worth advertising ourselves to is semi-pointless.

How about everyone who reads this, all of us active users who care about the future of writers SE, just take it upon ourselves to go try and persuade whoever we can to link to us, to mention us, to join us. Go on an hour-long evangelizing trip on the internet, and that should do it. Maybe do it twice if you're really feeling motivated. And then in person (because we do exist beyond our computers and internet connection, right?) mention the site to other writers. Maybe even put up a pretty poster somewhere if you live near a humanities-oriented university!

If even ten of us did that, it might make a serious difference. And of course we'll notice immediately if our efforts pay off.

Because let's face it, we've got 1.3 questions/day right now and that's a death stamp, and I'd miss this site. So let's all make an effort!

On an unrelated note, I have a slightly morbid question which a mod might fork off into a new question: does this site have the potential to work in the first place? Writing isn't like programming. There are not one hundred million facets and details with specific, correct answers, nor is it a field where new techniques, devices, and systems are introduced on a daily basis. Writing is writing, and it's been largely the same for thousands of years. Sooner or later, we will truly have answered all possible questions. Almost everything will become a very close duplicate of a previous question, or an immediate variant. I feel I'm going to get some strongly disagreeing comments, and I understand because I know it sounds like I'm putting down the art of writing, but I'm not -- I'm just saying the field has very little potential for questions to be any different in 5, 10, 20 years than they are today, unlike the technical fields. Our field is very, very slow to change and grow. This can't go on forever.

I do realize the industry changes quickly, particularly in the last 10 years, and probably more so in the future. But that isn't enough. So maybe we'll have new questions of the form "How can I get myself into household-hologram characterization?", but that only provides ground for a limited number of new questions before we've talked it through in its entirety, and can just point someone to a pre-existing question. Industry changes are not sufficient, in my opinion.

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    Disagree. Non-organized word-of-mouth as a strategy, even if we actively pursue it, is... difficult. I'm sure enthusiasts have done this already (I know I have), to the best of their ability. Getting beyond that is tough, because we're not promoters or advertisers, and the concept is a tough sell (with the definition still be knitted together). What we're looking for here is something more than "tell people you know." Designing a promotional poster might be cool; then we'd need to figure out where good places to post 'em are. – Standback Apr 29 '12 at 11:45
  • As for your unrelated note - that'd work better as its own meta question (though, yeah, this is actually one aspect of writing I've got zero worries about...). See also: meta.writers.stackexchange.com/questions/148/… – Standback Apr 29 '12 at 11:47
  • I also disagree. I've never heard of a site that got popular by accident or by random mob action. – Nathan C. Tresch Apr 29 '12 at 13:31
  • I also disagree. Linking to this site on writers' forums certainly can't hurt. – Neil Fein Apr 29 '12 at 13:42
  • ...but that other point you brought up would make a good separate meta question. I'd love to discuss it. Or we could schedule a chat about it? @Aerovistae, if you're interested, let us know when's a good time? – Neil Fein Apr 29 '12 at 13:43
  • Non organized word-of-mouth/random mob action is really all we've got though, isn't it? What are we going to do together besides decide on a common poster design? If everyone here mentions sites like Critters, like freethoughtblogs, what does it matter? That individual person will be the one working with them; it isn't like they're posting the links as suggestions to the rest of us. Isn't it just up to each of us to follow through on the ideas we have here? I don't understand the purpose in sharing links. By all means explain what I'm missing. – temporary_user_name Apr 29 '12 at 19:33
  • @Standback Yeah that's almost the same question. I don't know. Seems like the answers were mostly in disagreement, as I expected. I just don't see how we can "continue to generate new material" long-term, as per the SE requirements. – temporary_user_name Apr 29 '12 at 19:35

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