I stole this graph from this paper. It’s a good data set.
Let’s figure out what’s happening here:
Looking at the data above, what do you think has happened/is happening to the community?
I’d take a guess at the following. There is no context and it’s open to interpretation. Feel free to add your own ideas.
The community was launched and rapidly picked up a following. Within two years they had a huge number of highly active members and hit the maturity phase.
Then they became a victim of their own success. The conversion rate from newcomers to regulars was either low (i.e. newcomers never feel like part of the group), or the turnover was high (existing members didn’t stick around for long). It became impossible for members to feel like part of the group and retain the sense of community spirit they had when they were smaller. Based upon the information below, I’d guess the latter.
Gradually, a smaller number of members became responsible for an increasing amount of activity. This resulted in a very static membership with fewer and fewer new topics to talk about (declining # of new topics).
When you see the data laid out before you, you can spot potential problems far in advance and take steps to resolve them. These were unseen problems. This community had numerous opportunities to resolve the key issues before 2004. Yet they didn’t. They kept doing what made them successful - and it led to their demise.
1) COLLECT AND MEASURE YOUR DATA!
2) You have to understand the lifecycle. This is a textbook maturity phase problem. Very common, but not unavoidable.
p.s. It’s worth reading the paper for this conclusions.