Most stats for the site seem OK (though there is a place for improvement). The exception is the number of site visits, i.e. traffic.

How can we increase the traffic?

Note that a considerable part of the traffic should eventually come from search engines. An important factor for traffic is the rank of the site on Google and other search engines.

What can we do to bring the site to Google front page when searching for relevant expressions?

  • $\begingroup$ Google search for: computer science q&a and this site doesn't show up in the first few pages of the results (at least not for me). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 25 '12 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ for comparison, here is the search result for: math q&a and Mathematics is the third result on the front page (for me). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 25 '12 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure about that search engine paradigm. It seems to assume easily googleable content (as works for SO) which can be problematic for some content (formulae!). $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 27 '12 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ Earlier discussion about the topic. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 27 '12 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ Wait for semester to start again. Students are now enjoying a well deserved holiday. When they come back, they'll flock here like sheep. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Aug 10 '12 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave, linking to Computer Science from course webpages would be nice. :) (And it will also help with Computer Science's Google rank.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 10 '12 at 9:23

Summer is about to end :( and a lot of you will be returning to universities and colleges. I think that's an excellent opportunity to promote CS.SE to your fellow students and professors.

We could create a "student how-to" introductory Meta question, something along the lines of "I'm a CS student, how can I make the most of this site" that you describe some of the basics of the site, link to the FAQ and explain why it's important, the site's homework policy, etc.

This is probably more relevant to the Ideas for promoting the site question, but I posted it here as I think September and October, the two months students return to universities can be very important to the site traffic wise.


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    $\begingroup$ Good idea! For what it's worth, other countries have different lecture periods. But NA is clearly our main market (unfortunately, one might say) so your point is valid. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 11 '12 at 11:04

If you are familiar with reddit, the Computer Science and algorithms subreddits are definitely worth checking out and can help bring some traffic our way. Few days ago I shared two questions there and the results were:

Pro tips:

  1. Do not flood /r/compsci with questions.

    If you start sharing anything and everything on reddit, the community there will get bored soon. Sharing our quality content with the world is a good thing, getting labelled as obnoxious spammers is not. Be careful not to flood the relatively low traffic subreddit with CS.SE questions, or you might end up ousted from their community.

    Reddit has helpful domain pages that track what content was posted posted from each domain, and it already has one for CS.SE. You can check it to see if the question you want to share has already been posted (in which case please don't post it), or to see when was the last CS.SE question shared. It would be smart to wait a day or two before posting another CS.SE question, other than not boring the crowd there, you really don't want massive traffic spikes every day.

  2. Only share quality content

    Please avoid sharing bikeshed, trivial and/or soft questions. When sharing content on a third party site you are acting as an ambassador of the CS.SE community, concentrate on sharing quality questions that show you are not yet another CS forum on the internet, but a high quality Q&A site.

  • $\begingroup$ The question I shared was voted away. :/ $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 11 '12 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, why is /r/compsci preferable over /r/algorithms? Does it depend on the question? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 11 '12 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael Because I had no idea /r/algorithms existed ;) Feel free to edit it in the answer if you want. $\endgroup$ – user773 Aug 11 '12 at 22:04

It is funny that we should be interested in increasing traffic, while closing interesting questions that might generate such traffic. For example, this one closed recently:

Is Category Theory useful for learning functional programming?

I thought I would edit to make it less controversial, but no such option exists.

Note added: The point I am making is that we need to be more open to open-ended and, perhaps, softer questions. This site is not for researchers, unlike cstheory.stackexchange. A question like the one above will be of general interest and will bring in readers. It will also give us an opportunity to show off the knowledge base that exists among our expert answerers.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the lock is an automatic "feature" (read: side effect) of migration. It hasn't been locked manually. You can flag the question for moderators' attention and they can unlock it and then you can edit the question. ps: you should have posted this as a separate question since it is not the topic of this question. :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 5 '12 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ You mix several things in your added note. That this site is not (only) for researchers is understood and evidenced by the multitude of basic questions we have (answered). It is unfortunate that you choose a badly posed question as the point of your argument. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 5 '12 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Uday, I don't see the relevence of research-level/not-research-level to the issue. Note that there are several reasons for closing a question. Closing a question doesn't necessarily mean it was out of scope and off-topic. Please check the reason for closing the question. It is not closed as off-topic, it is closed as not-constructive. When a question is not well-written it may get closed, when it is edited and improved to the point that it becomes a suitable question it can be reopened. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 6 '12 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ I've rewritten the question a little so that it is hopefully more constructive. I agree with Uday that this question has the makings of a good one, one that will help attract visitors. $\endgroup$ – Dave Clarke Aug 10 '12 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ The question has been reopened. It is still not a great question, imho, but worth answering and not too soft. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 11 '12 at 11:06

This is a very important topic. Let me note that some queries already place cs.SE content reasonably high, for instance "prove language not context-free" (duckduckgo, Google) and "why is quicksort fast" (duckduckgo). I assume the situation is similar (and improving) for other popular questions.

Another observation is that when we had a huge spike of visits due to a tweet and/or reddit, some of them stuck. Ever since that peek, our average number of visits has been higher (from around 300 to around 350). That suggests that we have something to offer and people come again once they know of us at all.

In general terms, we want

  • people to come here with their questions and
  • people to find our answers.

The two items are strongly intertwined: better questions mean better answers mean more exposure mean more people with questions. In order to achieve these, we have to

  • be known and respected among computer scientists (of all kinds) and people using computer science and
  • be searchable.

Again, these issues are not independent.

In order to be known, we have be visible for our target group. Search queries may be able to do that to some extent in the future, but right now we rely on word of mouth. We have to literally spread the word when talking with colleagues and friends, posting content on the web and attending meetings. Some people will do that casually because they had a good experience, others will put in honest effort because they care about the site as a whole.

In order to be searchable, we have to be linked (by important sites), plain and simple. Other than waiting for satisfied users to link to us, what can we as core community do? I think we can mainly inject links to our good content in other communities, for instance other Stack Exchange site, Wikipedia, newsgroups, social networks, etc. Other than that, we have to work on the first item and rely on the powers of the crowd: if it is good, they will link it.

One issue I personally have with advertising is a lack of brand. We have no logo, no pitch phrase, no nothing. I am considering to initiate an effort to develop prototypical elements we can put on (website) banners, posters, powerpoint slides, shirts, stickers, you name it. I think I could motivate more than one professor to plug our site, but for that we need a memorable presentation. What do you think about that?

One issue I have no solution for is language. I would expect native speakers of other major languages (Spanish, French, Mandarin, even German) -- especially pupils and undergrads, maybe also practitoners -- to search in their own language. They won't find us this way. So we have to put extra effort into advertisement to non-English folks. Maybe blog articles in several languages pointing here can help?

Furthermore, note that most of our questions fall into TCS. This is probably natural as students tend to struggle most in TCS, and we have more experts in TCS than in other subfields. However, relatively few people are deeply interested in theory so it stands to reason that we can expand our audience considerably by widening our practiced scope (in defined scope does include all CS).

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Another issue I see is that the site's name "CS"/"Computer Science" is a relatively common word so getting a high ranking for these words is quite difficult (even after adding Q&A). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 27 '12 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ The problem, in my view, is that good content and visibility on the internet (e.g. Google) don't correlate as strongly as we would like. Simply having good content is not enough. We need links to our content from high ranking sties. See this and this. ps: I think Google doesn't follow external links on Wikipedia and links from the same domain, similar issues apply to links from SE network. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 27 '12 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think putting the flair for the site on our own sites can be more helpful. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 27 '12 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding other languages, I think we should be able to get a good ranking and traffic even without dealing with other languages. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 27 '12 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: The flair does link to cs.SE, but not to actual content. I don't see many ways for us to create relevant incoming links but sharing them on social networks and blogging about stuff. I did not know that about Google and Wikipedia; too bad. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 27 '12 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: Sure we can close our eyes to the fact that most people in the world are not native English speakers, but is that wise? If I look at the most active people on the site, most are (afaik) not native tongues, so there is a target group. As far as I know, most (German) students don't regularly read science blogs, lest English ones, so how do we reach them? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 27 '12 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ Aside from that, we need experts. Should we submit presentation articles to CS magazines/journals? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 27 '12 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ one of the best things that can happen is to have a good article on a site like slashdot or hackernews mention us. I also think although list questions are frowned upon in the network some of them are very good for drawing traffic to the site. For example, this question on cstheory draw a lot of traffic to it. Similarly all famous questions on cstheory are of similar nature. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 28 '12 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ So I think maybe we should be more relaxed about good questions of similar type here. (I feel that the traffic issue is a major one because several other beta sites have similar problems regarding it and it seems that it is also the main issue between Computer Science and graduation.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 28 '12 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: All of those are list questions which are discussed elsewhere. It has been observed multiple times that what works on cstheory does not necessarily work here, due to a different audience. I don't know what keeps us from graduation specifically, we would have to ask the staff that. I know we have no significant growth in any statistic I can see. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 28 '12 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: You may raise a useful point, though: should we lower our standards in order to attract a wider audience? I am not sure if that is wise, and if we do it we have to be extremely careful. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 28 '12 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the audience is a problem. We are doing much better than other similar beta sites. The only serious problem is traffic. I asked people in on area51 and in the TL room about increasing traffic but have not got any answer. (Yes, I know the distinction about cstheory and cs audience, yet, even on SO and MSE the list questions are the most visited ones, and I think they are better than these.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 28 '12 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Even if this is controversial, I think that allowing softer question could give us interesting questions, which might be linked by blogs. This would surely increase our visibility. $\endgroup$ – A.Schulz Jul 28 '12 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ @A.Schulz: How do we keep soft questions from taking over? We see people jumping at softer questions with sub-par answers already. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Jul 28 '12 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: That would be the price we have to pay. I have no clear opinion if allowing softer question would be good or bad - I just think it would increase traffic. $\endgroup$ – A.Schulz Jul 28 '12 at 20:02

This is kind of a hokey suggestion, but it might be worth creating some questions which address the most common Computer Science questions for things that don't fall in SO. These could range a lot in difficulty, but the more of these common questions are here with quality answers, the more people will stumble across the site via google.

The trick here is that someone will likely be asking questions they already know the answer to. Heck, they might even get a better answer than what they knew before!

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    $\begingroup$ We have extensively done this "seeding" during private and early public beta. We also already have couple of reference questions, albeit only in TCS, e.g. this, this, this, this and this. I have at least one more on my note sheet, to come when I find the time. By now we should be able to run on "real" questions (which are better), but if you have an idea, go for it. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Mod Aug 16 '12 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ As it says in the FAQ, it's ok to ask and answer your own question. If you're going to do that, don't overgeneralize: this isn't Wikipedia. Ask the question the way someone would ask it, with a concrete example. The question should be one that someone really did ask — either you at some earlier point in your life, or a student of yours, or someone on some other Internet forum, ... $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Aug 16 '12 at 12:12

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