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Dear fellow music fans,

Our site has been in Beta for close to 2000 days now, but, rather than moving forward with great enthusiasm, we instead find ourselves mostly... just drifting along.

Well, it's time to change that. Read on to find out how!

Summary

There are four aspects that we need to address to revive our site activity:

  • Q&A: How do we create a steady flow of good quality questions and answers?
  • Curation: How can we better organize our content, to help people find interesting questions and submit new interesting answers?
  • Policies: How do we delineate what our site norms currently are, and how do we establish site norms where none are currently present?
  • Users: How do we retain users who come to our site with their questions?

I believe we can readily address three of these four aspects: Q&A, content curation and policy-making are entirely in our hands. User retention will happen as a consequence of improving these three aspects.

Q&A: Back to the basics

The quality of our answers depends not only on the knowledge of our users, but also on the quality of the questions. There's only so much that one can do with questions that just do not excite.

In a community of music fans, one simple thing to stimulate interest is the exchange of new music. Currently, this is happening passively. As new questions come up, people may find references to new artists, genres and music that they might choose to listen to. Furthermore, the expertise of our users is only brought to the fore when a question happens to turn up that they can answer.

Let's flip this model around. Instead of consuming new music passively, let us actively share music between ourselves through a monthly Topic Challenge:

  1. A new Meta question titled "Music Fans SE Topic Challenge Suggestions Thread" will be opened.
  2. Users can suggest one artist/band/composer/album that they recommend listening to. No genres. One suggestion per answer.
  3. Detail in the answer a little background about the musician, or history behind the album, etc., why you enjoy their music, and why you recommend it.
  4. Voting on the answers will indicate the popularity of the suggestion, and the top 5 suggestions will be used to run the Topic Challenges for the next 5 months.
  5. The Topic Challenge will consist of listening to the music that your fellow music fans recommend to you and then asking questions about them.
  6. We will have good questions and good answers.
  7. Go to step 1.

More details can be given in the dedicated Suggestions thread itself, but I will just note two points. One, a good question can also be a simple question — after all, none of us are experts in all areas of music, nor can we be. Two, the motivation for participating in the Topic Challenge will be — I believe — something that is inherent to music fans: a longing to share music that has touched you in some way, and to spread the experience of that music to more people. I think this can be a great way to leverage the collective expertise of our users.

A shoutout to the good folks over at Literature SE — this idea is entirely based on their Topic Challenges. I had the pleasure of participating in one of them recently, and I think it was fantastic. You can take a look at some of their Meta posts to get an idea of what this might look like.

Curation: Where are my tags?

Tags are an under-appreciated resource. They simultaneously serve two purposes:

  1. they organize the content on the site, allowing people to quickly find questions of their interest, and
  2. they provide a valuable picture of what our site is all about.

My focus is on the second point, which is especially important for our site because of where it stands today. There is a severe lack of tag organization on both Main and Meta: nearly 2/3 tags on main lack a wiki, and nearly 1/2 lack an excerpt. On Meta, over 9/10 tags lack a wiki and excerpt!

This needs to be fixed. Because our tags lack organization, not only do we not know what questions we have, we also don't know what questions we don't have. In other words, we do not even know what areas our site covers, and which new areas our site can expand into.

To fix the situation, we need a two-pronged approach:

  1. The passive approach: Add excerpts and wikis to all our tags on Main and Meta.
  2. The active approach: Discuss on Meta about the scope and usage of existing tags, and about the creation of new tags and deletion of obsolete ones.

What can you do to help contribute?

For approach 1:

  • If you have the reputation to run through the Suggested Edits review queues, then please check in regularly on both Main and Meta for suggested tag wiki and tag excerpt edits.

For approach 2:

  • Go through recent Meta discussions on creation/deletion of tags, retagging requests, synonymization and merging requests, etc. and vote! Your votes are highly valuable — only if there is sufficient community support can the mods take any action. So vote on proposals, vote on requests, and go through Meta regularly.

If you have the time, energy and inclination to participate more deeply in content curation, that's great! There's plenty of curation work to go around, from writing excerpts and wikis all the way to extensive retagging efforts on Main.

One final word on tag usage. The Stack Overflow policy is to create only those tags that can be applied to a "large" number of questions. This does not work for our site. Instead, we should maintain our lesser-used tags just as carefully as we do our popular ones. We are closer to Literature SE in this aspect, because just as they have a countless number of authors and literary works, we have a countless number of artists, albums, bands and composers.

For example, check out the list of tags on Literature SE — for a site with a similar number of questions, they have 44 well-organized pages of tags, 6-7 times our number, and all of them lovingly curated.

Policies: Creating FAQs

  • What ID questions are allowed on this site?
  • What does a good answer to an ID question look like?
  • When is it appropriate to upvote an answer to an ID question?
  • What do we do with questions that have become obsolete due to link rot?

These are just some of the questions that have been discussed in the past — some of them several times over — in order to determine site policy. There has been a large turnover of users over the our site's history, so our policies have also changed a few times. It is important to have a proper repository of answers to such questions — an FAQ of sorts.

The FAQ need not only be about controversial questions. Some broadly applicable questions are:

  • What sorts of context should I provide in my ID question?
  • Is it necessary to link to Wikipedia articles about artists mentioned in my question?
  • I want to link to a song in my question. Which websites or streaming services am I allowed to link to?

It's easy to think that we know our policies thoroughly when we have less than 200 questions on Meta in total. But, what if our Meta experts leave our site? What happens when we find that our site has grown a lot and our policies need a refresh? There's no doubt that having an FAQ to refer to would be invaluable.

To this end, I have recently created the Meta tag and added it to the highly-linked question: What should I do to improve my identification question?. I haven't created this tag out of the blue: it is commonly used on larger sites, so I have only introduced it to our Meta. Posts tagged should be refined by the community until they reach a mature stage, after which a moderator can add the to it, making it an easily accessible, official site-policy.

What can you do to help?

  1. Add the to questions that you think should be part of our FAQ, if they already contain a well-established material.
  2. If you do not find any posts that address the issue you have in mind, then create such a question and add the tag to it.
  3. Curate the content of posts tagged to clearly explain the site-policies as they stand.

Important note: use the tag only for creating FAQs about current site-policy. Do not use it for questions that are about crafting site policies or about clarifications regarding current site policies.

Users: retaining our content creators

Music Fans SE should be the place on the Internet for questions related to music history and critiques from a fan's perspective. We can make it such a place only when our user base includes active users from all across the musical world. And, users will actively visit Music Fans SE, coming back for seconds and thirds, only when we have content worth retaining them.

This can be done. It is entirely within our reach. Let's make it happen, together!

A Carnatic fan,

Brahadeesh


Wow, you actually made it this far! As a thank you, here's a scintillating piece in Raga Ābhēri by the maestro L. Shankar for your listening pleasure:

Raga Aberi - Track 02

L. Shankar - Aberi (album cover)

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    I disagree with several policies updates in this post especially the saying general tag polities of waiting until there are large number of questions doesn't make sense here. It really does and it keeps the site from getting cluttered up with tags that are one off. We need a community to make a lot of these decisions, not just one active user. – Dom May 18 at 18:22
  • I don't see how single use tags help literature SE. Tags are meant to show groups of questions on similar topics. Having only one question not only shows this is not the case, but his other tags when trying to add a tag by typing in the tag bar. Most of the features of a tag are also not utilized properly on single use tags like answer and question scores. – Dom May 19 at 6:23
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    I've also stated my opinions on what the site needs to do next many times and we've never moved forward on it which is improve our question and answer quality. Tags are nice and so may be challenges, but we need to take things one step a time and get the community involved. It's great you are ambitious with all this tag editing and proposals, but these are things we need to do together as a site. – Dom May 19 at 6:28
  • We still have search functionality for this reason. What's next having a tag for each song? Having the tag is not adding anything if it's only one question is not the point having tags that show the core topics is essential or else we just have scattered content. – Dom May 20 at 13:59
  • "The point having tags that show the core topics is essential" – Dom May 20 at 14:02
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    Either way, this is just me and you debating a subpoint in your meta discussion which gets back to this meta post. There's a lot to discuss and you need community buy in. Getting back to "But to my eyes it seems the current mod team is content to remain "exception handlers" rather than being "community builders". I find this frustrating." The mods were the community builders then the site wanted to change what was allowed and the mods agreed because the community wanted it and any encofrement with quality was met with resistance. Now when we need the community help more we here nothing. – Dom May 20 at 14:12
  • Again having a 1 question tags does not allow any of the tagging features to work and is no better than searching for a topic. Tag badges don't kick in until there are 100 questions. Following the tag will not do much unless someone uses it, but there's not a good chance of that. You can find the question fast, but you can also with a bookmark the question. Adding tags of bands with common names like the band will cause confusion with new uses due to it being similar to other tags. I honestly think any benefit are negligible and carving out the space too early will be more work than benefit. – Dom May 20 at 14:16
  • I'd also like to make sure we have the right general tags and topics as we can't build the site for fans of just one artis alone. – Dom May 20 at 14:18
  • Those are concrete plans that we're still struggling to do. I've shared this a lot in the past, but came up with resistance when trying to delete low quality content and close questions that were low quality. I can go back to that, but without the input of the community I'd be acting solely on my own wants for the site and not the others. – Dom May 20 at 15:55

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