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Some of you may have seen the recent blog post announcing the closure of 6 sites on Stack Exchange:

when a site struggles to maintain any semblance of steady progress — when it’s struggling to garner an audience, a healthy core of experts, and a steady stream of questions — it becomes increasingly unlikely that the site will find a core audience to sustain it.

We periodically review sites for traffic, activity, and quality. The decision to close a site is not made quickly or lightly, but all too often we're remiss in communicating our concerns with the individual communities prior to that point. This is an attempt to address that...

For the record: Biblical Hermeneutics isn't closing. Not in the near future at least. Yes, the site is small, and the core community even smaller. This is very much a niche topic, and the stats reflect that.

But quality appears high, and - for the moment - participation by the tiny few of you who make up the core of this site is strong. If it were possible to guarantee that that wouldn't change, I would have no worries about the long-term viability of this site.

Of course, that's a risky bet. The few of you who've made this site work thus far have my deepest respect, but presumably you also have lives and families and jobs and such. And the truth is, it wouldn't take too many of you dropping off to put this site in an unmaintainable position.

So again, this is just a heads-up: anything you can do at this point to draw in additional expertise should be done - tell your friends, colleagues, those you respect and have learned from or taught in the past... Encourage them to poke around a bit, ask a question or contribute an answer, and offer some assistance in learning how SE operates. You're doing great - the biggest thing this site needs right now is more of you doing great.

And thanks again for the time and effort you've all put in thus far. I always enjoy visiting BH, and hope to see it around for a good long while.

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BH is an interesting case [...] they were on the list at one point.

We are an interesting case - I've argued from the beginning that growth here is going to be measured in years because our key potential contributors often have very low overlap with SEs programming roots.

It's great news that we have made the cut - thank you Shog9 and SE for the faith you have shown in this community. Thanks also to all of you who have contributed so far - I have personally been very impressed with the quality of the answers on the site.

However it is clear from what's been said that we cannot presume we will continue forever unless we attract more regular contributors to the site. As mentioned by Shog9, please do...

... anything you can do at this point to draw in additional expertise [...] - tell your friends, colleagues ...

To that I'd like to add the obvious - if you are already providing great content (and many of you are), please keep doing so (unless you really should be spending more time with your family instead - in which case please do that!). Good content is the ultimate key to attracting more experts to the site in my opinion.

I've been challenged by this to start asking more questions and providing more answers myself - I'm aware there is more I could be doing aside from the very small amount of moderation the site needs from us at the moment :-)


update January 2013:

All the reasons Shog9 listed for keeping bh.se going are still true, and indeed more true than before (please correct me if I'm wrong Shog9!)

Traffic data from quantcast (also embedded below) shows that we are still growing slowly but steadily: consistent growth is more important than having high traffic as it indicates a living and healthy site.

However, we now face an interesting challenge, as Jon tells us in his post:

I don't plan on going anywhere, but we are expecting twins around January, 2013 which might mean I'll have less time and energy for this endeavour.

I understand the twins were due on the 14th and seeing as Jon has gone a little quiet I'm left thinking the happy day has arrived for the Ericson family. On behalf of everyone in this community I'd like to wish Jon, his wife and all their children every blessing—it is our hope that the birth was uncomplicated and you can now concentrate on the exhausting challenge of bringing up two more healthy children :)

Our challenge though, is to keep our momentum without Jon's feet pushing the pedals round quite as fast as before. My personal plan is to try a bit harder now to encourage people more expert than myself (not hard to find :) to join the site and the community. We have grown up to a degree that we aren't now asking folk to make quite such a 'leap of faith' that any effort they put in here will be enduring.

Other ideas are welcome: lets hear them in The Library or here on meta!


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    Thank you very much for the kind words and good wishes. All is well with our (suddenly bigger) family and I hope to get into a routine soon. It's encouraging to see that the site continues on with or without me. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jan 26 '13 at 0:30
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I would like to thank StackExchange for hanging in there with us. I'd also like to take a moment to do a State of the Site from my perspective as a moderator pro tempore.

Exhibit A:

Hermeneutics vs. Christianity vs. Judaism vs. Islam

This graph from Quantcast compares number of visitors to BH.SE with C.SE, J.SE, and I.SE. I'm amazed about how closely this graph matches my intuition of how active the site has been. Our sister sites have seen substantial growth and we have had slow and steady growth. It's my opinion that as the related sites grow, we will have more opportunities to grow as well.

Exhibit B:

The Area 51 stats are less encouraging. The good news is that we are improving in non-treadmill stats. The bad news is that we have a very top-heavy user base. As Shog9 points out, if too many of us stop participating, we're in trouble. If you look at the list of top beta users, I'm sure you'll notice that some of them haven't been seen around here lately. That's also troubling for our community. On a personal note, I miss them.

Exhibit C:

Whenever I get discouraged about the site, I look at our front page and Greatest Hits. We really have some excellent questions and answers. We all ought to be proud of our content: it's our best advertisement. Please take a moment to look at our self-evaluation to see if we can improve our product.

Summary

I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of our site. But we do need to attract more users so that we won't go quiet when several of us happen to take a step away from the site for a while at the same time.*


* I don't plan on going anywhere, but we are expecting twins around January, 2013 which might mean I'll have less time and energy for this endeavour.

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Word of mouth works great in large, highly-connected groups. Biblical scholars...don't fit that category in my head.

So we need to market.

Send a flyer, or better yet, make a phone call, to every Hebrew and Greek professor at the top 1000 Christian colleges in the U.S. and you won't have to worry about the future of the site for a while.

Show the top 20 questions and answers to the Society of Biblical Literature and see if they'd be willing to partner with pair-advertising.

Take out an ad in a Biblical research journal or two.

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