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Is there anything to do besides wait? A peek at Area51 indicates the questions per days is too low, anything besides that?

  • I changed my answer: I think contests are much more likely to draw in people than blogs. Blogs might make people stay but free tools would cast a hugely wide net. – Bob Cross May 31 '12 at 14:08
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I was talking to my friend about the blog idea today and explaining how our culture is different from that of Gaming, for instance. We're very focused on procedures, pictures and annotations. For example, it's important for us to know ahead of time that you really do need an offset wrench to hold the top nut of a shock absorber while you turn the inner allen wrench fitting. In that way, a blog can be very useful as a semi-separate resource: if there's a question about the installation of a shock, point the reader at the blog article on it. On Gaming, though, the blog is dying off.

However, Gaming has been doing something really smart that would grab serious attention over here: they're giving away free stuff. They have drawings for free games (if you have sufficient rep and enter the contest) and they give prizes for asking and answering questions in particular categories (check out the on-going Diablo Acts contest). These prizes currently range from free games and tee-shirts up to new monitors and graphics cards.

yx was originally suggesting that we should sponsor track days. That seemed logistically tricky (track days where? We're not all on the same continent). Then we talked about free car parts. A similar problem arises: would there be a specific part? A budget?

But then I had the genius flash: tools. I don't think there's a single one of us that would turn down a free set of tools (or better yet, a gift certificate or budget). Check out the current contests over at Gaming: the goals are to post a certain number of higher rep questions and answers and you'll definitely win prize X.

Do any of us have too many tools?

Original answer follows:

Actually, if you look at the data over time, the site has been the quintessential slow burn. The users and visits have been pretty steadily climbing and we're seeing a steady influx of new visitors, askers and answerers (those last two are new words as of today... ;-).

I don't think this site will ever see the spike that stackoverflow did. That said, I don't think our subject can support that kind of crazy geek feeding frenzy. A slow accretion of people who really like their cars, like to talk about them and are happy to help each other is more our speed.

EDIT after talking with @jmort253 for a while:

The back and forth comments with @jmort253 reminded me of one thing that we could do to build community / attract readers: start a blog. If you look at the Gaming blog, you can see an example of a community blog where people are basically just telling gaming stories or posting reviews. I think our take on it could be much more like the GRM project cars section of their site. In our case, we could range anywhere from a particularly problematic part (my wife's fuel filter was an excellent illustration of "follow your nose") to multi-part narrations of on-going efforts.

How about this: if we start a blog, I'll write up how I once almost managed to drive a ratchet wrench through my skull using an exhaust manifold as a hammer.

  • User Experience is starting the blog process as well, you can check out our meta questions about it if you want some inspiration – Ben Brocka May 21 '12 at 2:44
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    I would love to read that story... – Shog9 May 25 '12 at 2:36
  • @Shog9, well, maybe you'd like my new idea as well. – Bob Cross May 31 '12 at 15:03
  • I think free tools are a great idea! But who pays for them, does Stack Exchange give moderators some kind of budget? – purpleACR May 31 '12 at 17:48
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    @BobCross - The free tools idea sounds like it could be a winner. I'd suggest maybe tying it to a contest of some sort. Could be a reward for the first person to get the Announcer or Booster badge or the winner of a question contest like they do on Programmers SE. – jmort253 Jun 1 '12 at 3:52
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    @BobCross - Would Adwords be something you'd consider approaching the SE team about? Would a mechanic or mechanic enthusiast be attracted to "Free Tools to the Winner of Q&A Contest" in Google's sidebar? – jmort253 Jun 1 '12 at 3:55
  • @jmort253, I don't know about which words or hooks to use. Maybe you should ask a new meta question and we could all think about it - I think this has left the realm of my confused answer to the original question. – Bob Cross Jun 1 '12 at 18:57
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    @BobCross - Okay, I'll do that this weekend. – jmort253 Jun 1 '12 at 19:09
  • @jmort253, great - I'll vote for it as soon as I see it ;-). – Bob Cross Jun 2 '12 at 0:21
  • I can imagine very few mechanics / enthusiasts that would turn down tools, especially specialty ones (which don't have to be expensive - see harbor freight). – Mark Johnson Sep 11 '12 at 22:22
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I think the main challenge is that there aren't enough niche experts on this site yet. If I post a question about a certain model and year car then I'd hope to get an answer from somebody with the same car. Right now there are not enough people and chances are slim that somebody else with the same car will answer or even see your question so it limits the site to primarily general questions.

There is clearly demand for Q&A and howtos on many different makes and models, just Google any model and you'll probably find a forum for it with active discussion on maintenance and repair.

Evangelization on car forums is the best way to help grow this site in my opinion and I think eventually with specific questions SEO will start to kick in. I think people will always prefer forums / club websites for the community / fellowship aspect but at least for mechanical questions this site will be useful.

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    That's the problem I've seen with this site. On the Benzworld forums, even though I hate forums, I'll get an answer from someone who has the same exact car. Even if they're not an expert they at least know the ins and outs of the car as a user. I don't see that sort of expertise here yet...especially not for Mercedes unfortunately. – Ben Brocka Jun 1 '12 at 1:29
  • @BenBrocka, the brutal reality is that, for the short term, you might be our Benz expert. That isn't a terrible thing: you can bring a lot of practical or second hand knowledge to the site via your connections. For example, you can distill Benzworld for the rest of us so we don't have to go there.... ;-) – Bob Cross Jun 2 '12 at 0:34
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There is a StackExchange Blog post with some tips on evangelizing new sites and helping them grow. I just posed a question in the PMSE Community to see if there are any conferences or ideas that could help us grow. For Motor Vehicle Repair, I wonder if there are similar events that StackExchange could sponsor?

Here are some of the tips from the blog post:

Here are some example ideas we have been throwing around for sites to consider:

  • Sponsor the right kind of conferences. For many sites, we should be able to identify the top 2-3 conferences.

  • Reach the right kind of publications and bloggers. Make sure that the key experts in every field know about the site; not just the “Martha Stewart” big names; we want to talk to the people who go to these conferences.

  • Sponsor fun things for each community… especially the kinds of things that are likely to get talked about. This may mean photo contests for the photography site, cooking classes for the food and cooking site, etc.

  • Make sure evangelists from each community have the opportunity to speak before groups of experts in their fields. We may want to organize a speaker’s bureau that arranges to get our top users bookings at conferences, user groups, etc., to talk about each site.

  • Encourage and participate in grassroots conversations in existing discussion groups, where appropriate.

  • We can provide access to professional designers and design give-aways like t-shirts or bumper stickers for interesting contests and events.

Are there any events that relate to Motor Vehicle Repair that could perhaps be a venue for promoting this site? If there are, then that could be a way to try to boost the site closer towards graduation status.

  • A couple of other important quotes from that post: "We Will Match Effort With Funds" and "don’t try to take on the world." They also remind us that we could easily share links to our favorite questions and answers on facebook, twitter, etc. That's very low effort with at least some payoff for us. Sadly, when I'm at work, my access to such things is ... inconvenient. – Bob Cross May 16 '12 at 14:33
  • Agreed, I think that's what's tough about this industry is the fact that you're not as close to a computer. However, mobile is more and more accessible, and it's becoming so much easier to tweet from anywhere :) So, Bob do you think sponsoring a Car show or some similar event would be outside the scope of mechanics? Would that draw the wrong crowd or would that draw in like-minded people who would have motor vehicle repair questions? – jmort253 May 17 '12 at 0:10
  • A sponsored car show might be a little much. On the other hand, sponsoring an entry into the 2012 Grassroots Challenge might be entirely different: grassrootsmotorsports.com/events/2012challenge Maybe if there were a college or engineering department looking for a sponsor: $2012 isn't a lot of funds for Stackexchange to kick in.... – Bob Cross May 17 '12 at 2:22
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    We could also try the easy thing that I just did: post a link to your personal best question or answer on your wall/google+/twitter and ask for feedback from the larger community. I tried it with my effective compression answer and had an immediate comment. Admittedly, that's ONE new view but still: a few moments with my phone and a new reader materialized. – Bob Cross May 17 '12 at 2:31
  • Another challenge is - who are the experts? Yes there are a lot of mechanics out there but in a lot of cases the expert is just somebody who has owned the car for a while and learned things the hard way. So how do you find those people and get them to participate? – purpleACR May 25 '12 at 0:27
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    @andrewtweber, check my answer. I may have had the key brainstorm: free tools. – Bob Cross May 31 '12 at 16:46
  • Somebody should be out at the enthusiast events handing out trinkets (stickers/decals, tire pressure gauges, mouse pads, whatever). – Mark Johnson Sep 11 '12 at 22:26
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What about Automotive students? Age wise, they are into auto, and can't avoid computers.

These students are mechanics.se and our future 'Professionals'. They could be introduced to an information exchange network that they may have never found on their own since professionals use more paid or proprietary resources to find, ask and answer questions.

It could take them anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple years to become the people we need on these sites, but they will, at some point, become those people. 150 +/- people a year per auto program per school.

How many schools near all of you have auto? Just think of what you could do with a well worded email to your local high school or college auto shop teacher.

Just a thought.

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