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Proposal: Moderators Proposal: Building Social Networks

"Building Social Networks" has been struggling to gain critical mass since summer 2011, with 28 example questions in something like 20 months. I guess its difficulty is primarily based in narrow scope: social networks are only one of many forms of online communities, and building them is only a relatively small part of the job of maintaining them once they've been built. So, instead of closing "Moderators" what about broadening the scope of "Building Social Networks" and a merger?

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Understanding Scope

The scope of Moderators and Building Social Networks does not end at the implications of the titles, but also includes the Proposal Descriptions. Let's take a look at both:

Moderators:

Proposed Q&A site for people building and managing digital communities: moderators, user-relations admins, channel operators, helpdesk, portal creators and consumer advisors —  building, maintaining communities and resolving PEBKAC problems professionally.

Building Social Networks:

Proposed Q&A site for social networking experts to ask and answer questions about how to build social networks. It's also about how to train others on using social networks to build a community, spread a message, or market a product, using Social Networking tools.

Expected Userbase

Since proposal descriptions exist, we don't need to guess about what sort of users will be using our Q&A site -- we can explicitly outline them, and have done so. I am pulling all of the roles listed below from keywords in the proposal description.

Moderators:

  • Internet Community Moderators
  • User-Relations Admins
  • Channel Operators
  • Helpdesk Staff
  • Portal Creators
  • Consumer Advisors

Therefore, the expected userbase of Moderators -- the common thread between these roles -- is that they are representatives of organizations that communicate with their users via the internet. Questions on the Moderators Q&A site would address issues of communication, relations, and platform-dependent support tools.

A concern was raised in another answer that the "target audience is rather small." Upon closer examination of who exactly falls in the target audience, I hope that it is clear that this assertion doesn't really hold water. Any business owner with a website could have a question that is on topic at Moderators, and that set alone should clearly demonstrate that there is certainly a viable target audience for this Q&A site.

Building Social Networks:

  • Developers of a Social Network
  • Social Media Community Managers
  • Social Media Marketers
  • Social Media Power Users
  • Early Adopters of a Social Network

Therefore, the expected userbase of Building Social Networks is the total set of users in any given social network during its early life. Questions on the Building Social Networks Q&A site would address issues of platform development, userbase development, platform-dependent support tools, and community management. There may also be the benefit of peripheral users, such as Social Media Managers that aren't affiliated with any single network, in this Q&A site.

While the word "Building" betrays the intentions of the proposal as perhaps a site geared more towards developers, it is clear from the description that this site intends to be much more than a Stack Overflow duplicate.

Proposal Overlap

While it is true that there is overlap in both proposals, I don't believe that it is total. From the analysis above, we can draw the following overlap:

  • Questions: platform-dependent support tools
  • Questions: Community Management & Userbase Development
  • Users: Community Managers
  • Users: Social Media Managers

That says nothing of the potential overlap that both sites share with Stack Overflow and Webapps, but there has already been extended discussion about that elsewhere (here, and here) and as such, I won't address it here any further.

Discussion

Where does that leave us? It doesn't seem appropriate to me that one proposal should absorb the other entirely, because upon analysis they do in-fact have distinct interests that don't entirely overlap.

That does not, however, mean that a merger would not be worthwhile. The overlap that does exist is the type that I think is very beneficial for a Stack Exchange site. Community Management and Platform-dependent support for a specific set of users (moderators) has a very broad scope, which could be specialized on a new Q&A site via tagging. That has the potential to create a healthy Q&A site regarding the creation, operation, and maintenance of Internet Communities both proposals could potentially fall under. There is an argument to be made that not all Moderators moderate an "Internet Community," so that may not be the best phrase to use -- I am merely throwing it out there.

That also doesn't reject that both sites could be independent and successful. From the analysis above, it is clear that there is a sizable potential of users out on the internet for both sites. It is quite possible that another factor is in play regarding the slow traffic to these proposals. People aren't actively looking for Area 51... we're going to have to work hard to get the word out about these proposals. With that in mind, I think that a push for awareness of these proposals online may be in order before a merger.

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I don’t see a strong relation between both proposals. A moderator should help keeping a network running, but she has not to know how to build such a network. You need empathy, patience; there is rarely room for big experiments because you cannot treat people like things …

Someone who builds a network on the other hand needs programming skills or at least she should manage people with these skills. And you have to be open for experiments, for throwing away large parts of existing code or rules.

I am a moderator in several communities (including one SE site), and I’m a programmer too. Both activities need different qualities. I’m just afraid the moderator proposal will not find enough interest because the target audience is rather small.

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    I wouldn't say the target audience is so small. Think of your every average (already running) website: how many developers does it employ? How many moderators? Usually moderators outnumber the developers 3:1 or more. Of course there's matter of outreach and will - I know quite a few moderators who consider "moderator" something like a title of nobility, a position of power, and not a duty and a service. These wouldn't consider this proposal worthwhile. – SF. Mar 7 '13 at 8:23
  • The titles of both the "Moderators" and "Building Social Network" proposals seem to betray their true intentions, which lie in the Proposal Description. The analysis @toscho puts forward seems to be contextual to the titles. For example, the "Building Social Network" description suggests that "builders of social networks" includes marketers and front-end power users. Those people don't need to know much about programming, and some of them (ex: social media managers) would probably even overlap with our set of potential users in "Moderators." – Anthony Neace Mar 10 '13 at 20:19
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The challenge that both of these proposals face in terms of finding an audience is awareness. Neither proposal appears to be meeting the requirements to move into the commitment phase, which could indicate that the pool of experts is simply too small.

While the two proposals operate on different ends of the spectrum, as Hyper Anthony points out, they're not so different to where the experts from both communities couldn't come together and share their expertise.

There's not a hard-line between building a network and maintaining it. While the skills are different, there are times in the lifecycle of a site where both skills are important. Therefore, there is a strong likelihood that some questions about a problem someone is facing may blur the lines between building, sustaining, and moderating a network.

The askers of these questions would benefit from answers given by those who specialize in the building of networks while other answers may come from the perspective of those who maintain them. Considering the proposals aren't hitting critical mass by themselves, it may not be a bad idea to attempt eventually restarting these two proposals as one, especially considering their similarities.

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