The downcycle is pretty clear.
It’s a classic engagement trap. To get more engagement, you dumb your content down and make it easier to participate. You make it sillier, more fun, more emotive, more controversial, more clickbaity, and wait for the clicks to roll in. Instead of asking for thoughtful comments you aim for likes, clicks, and immediate reactions. To keep engagement rising you need to dive deeper and deeper into the engagement trap.
The opposite is an upward cycle. You set high standards and consistently raise them. Towards Data Science is an impressive example. To be published, you need to undertake your own study (hours and hours of work) and submit your findings. You can either tackle new problems or tackle existing problems in a new way.
When you set high standards and enforce them, a successful submission becomes a badge of honour. Others want to be published too. As more contributions are submitted you gradually raise the bar (keep the total number of contributions you publish restrained).
Towards Data Science isn’t alone, ProjectManagement.com and others have proved if you want to build a really powerful community, don’t lower your standards – raise them.
It’s a lot harder to start an upward cycle than a downward cycle – but that’s what makes it a lot more valuable. When your competitors start lowering their standards, start raising yours and stand firm.