We've been trying a bunch of different initiatives to grow the community and content base, including the Ingathering Contest, the weekly topic challenge, and Parashat Hashavu'a Chat. Right now, the only means we have for advertising them to the community are those listed here, none of which are particularly effective for reaching out to site users who don't already know about them.

Stack Exchange has a mechanism, called Community Promotion Ads, for allowing the community to advertise its own events to itself via the ads in the sidebar. Currently, the feature is only set up for launched sites, but there's been some indication that it could be made available on request to beta sites.

Could Stack Exchange please enable this feature here? It seems to me that beta sites that are still working to build a community up to a self-perpetuating size and activity level need these sorts of events, and the promotion thereof to the site's user base, at least as much as launched sites do.

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Possible to move and ask on main meta? –  Naftali Dec 16 '11 at 17:22
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@Naftali, I may make a parallel post there about the general case of beta sites. Posting here states our case in particular and gives the community here a chance to express its opinion. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '11 at 17:40
    
Inspired by meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/555/… , by the way. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '11 at 20:11
    
@Naftali, here's my MSO contribution. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '11 at 20:20
    
@IsaacMoses Yeah definitely keep it here. –  yydl Dec 17 '11 at 23:41
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As you mentioned in your post, the Community Promotion Ads are a perk for graduated sites. A site that has graduated has demonstrated that it has both the community engagement and the traffic to make these ads have real impact and reach. Up until this meta post, we had not seriously considered giving this perk to beta sites; generally speaking, beta sites often lack the necessary meta engagement that makes the Community Promotion Ads work.

We know that this request is, in part, due to us talking to you about the use of system messages on the main site to promote weekly events, discussions, and important meta posts. We understand that you want these engagement events and opportunities to get the attention they deserve, but we generally reserve system messages for dire, important messages from the admins and developers to the users -- messages such as, "The site will be down from XX:XX to YY:YY UTC." and other similar situations. Believe me, no one understands more than I do just how difficult it is to promote and engender community when it feels like your hands are so tied.

But the thing is, you're using the wrong tools for the job. What you really need is some sort of community calendar which lets you make meta posts and announcements visible without detracting from the power of something like a system message. But that tool doesn't exist yet, even as you need a channel for making announcements.

So, we're going to let you have Community Promotion Ads on a provisional basis. You'll have them for two months: January and February of 2012. In that time, we're going to observe how you use these tools, how well/poorly they work out for what you want to do, and how your users respond to them. Basically, we're choosing you guys, who have been doing a lot of internal promotion and community engagement, as something of a test case.

I must emphasize: you're still using a system that wasn't built to do what you need. We're doing this to see how your short term needs can be met when using a feature for a purpose it was not intended. The Community Promotion ads are not well suited to, for example, news that needs to get out fast; you need six upvotes for the ad to even go into the rotation, and even then it only shows up on 20% of the page views. Expect a click through of 0.14%, which is roughly the industry average. Furthermore, these ads are designed for long-term, recurring promotions -- the ads do not expire and are not deleted until our twice-annual reset.

We recgonize (and applaud!) how hard you've all been working on getting your community mobilized and active. That's awesome! We also recognize how powerless you must feel; it's a chicken-egg problem in a lot of ways, and we recognize that. We want your community to succeed as much as you do, even if it may not feel like it at times. We don't want to stand in your way, but we also don't want you mis-using tools that are ill-suited for the job. Which is why we're going to try this and see what happens.

I'll let you know when we "turn on the lights" with respect to letting Judaism.SE into the Community Promotion Ads system. And thank you for your patience while we try to find a real solution that adequately addresses your real needs.

Update: This has been effected.

Update #2: A better solution has been implemented, based in part on our observations of how these ads (failed to) worked for this purpose

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I had already gathered, through various interactions, that you guys in the SE Community and CHAOS teams are taking this issue of how to bootstrap a community using appropriate tools very seriously, but this post really makes that point loud and clear. I'm quite convinced that we're all not only working toward the same goal (strong, productive, Internet-enhancing Q&A communities), but also that our ideas about how to reach that goal are evolving in very complementary directions. –  Isaac Moses Dec 22 '11 at 3:17
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Thank you very much for a) strategically moving toward an even more appropriate tool for advertising community events (community calendars, along Shog9's lines), and b) giving us a chance in the interim to have another tool in our toolbox that, while perhaps not perfect for the tasks at hand, will be helpful nonetheless. We will make sure to use it as responsibly and effectively as possible. –  Isaac Moses Dec 22 '11 at 3:21
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Technical question from a guy who makes software tools do stuff their designers didn't think of for part of his living: If we create an ad and get it the requisite votes so that it enters the ad rotation, and then change the graphic in that meta post, will the graphic used in the ad for the rest of the half-year change? (I realize that the answer's probably no, but it can't hurt to ask.) –  Isaac Moses Dec 22 '11 at 3:23
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@Isaac I don't know the answer to your technical question, but changing the "promotion ad" after it has been vetted/approved by the community would be highly inappropriate. I really can appreciate what you are trying to do, but that only illustrates why the Community Promotions Ad is likely just the wrong tool for the job. Thank you for your well-thought out response and your patience while we work our way through these issues. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 22 '11 at 3:35
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@RobertCartaino, I realize that such a use would be torturing the tool, but I think the valid moral issue you point out could be ameliorated by only making such a switch if it's ratified by the community by the same standard (six upvotes) in a separate meta post. In case you haven't guessed, the use I have in mind would be to have an ad promoting a single week's topic challenge and then to change only the part of the image that says what this week's topic is. That concept could be vetted by the community along with the initial image. –  Isaac Moses Dec 22 '11 at 3:41
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Thank you very much for your efforts to work with this community as we all try to solve a common problem in a way that makes sense for Everybody.SE. –  Monica Cellio Dec 22 '11 at 15:05
    
@msh210 This has been implemented not effected.... –  Naftali Jan 4 '12 at 22:09
    
@Naftali, what's wrong with effected? –  msh210 Jan 4 '12 at 22:46
    
@msh210 implemented is correct grammar i believe. –  Naftali Jan 4 '12 at 22:49
    
@Naftali - "effected" is unfortunately correct, just as "hopefully" is now considered proper usage. Ugh. –  neilfein Apr 20 '12 at 17:29
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I think this is a great idea.

It will allow the community here to know about events and happening much faster.

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