I've been studying TJP off and on for the last few years trying to figure out why it declined so far from a thriving community to almost totally dead and I think I have finally come upon the answer.
#1 Problem : TJP diversified too much.
People go where people are. I is a cycle that is true even in the face of absurdity. If people see a crowd forming or a line, people go and stand in the line even if they don't know what the line is for. If people do know, they will often wait patiently in line, because other people are patiently waiting in line, so whatever the people are waiting for must be better (they think).
I saw this at a steak cookoff one year. The favorite for the prize that year had a 3 hour long line! Meanwhile, the team that won the cookoff the previous year had no line at all! I watched my family and friends all get in the long line, I went and got in line for the previous year's #1. I figure that I'd rather eat 2 hours before everyone else and I'm still eating an award winning steak, but the huge line for the current favorite shows that more people disagree with me than not.
So TJP used to have a good community and the admins started diversifying, creating new forums, articles, wiki, etc.. And as a result TJP declined. WTF?
#2 problem : lack of tolerance for standard questions. If people come on and ask a cliche question, "What is the difference between わ and が?" people shouldn't be averse to answering it. But historically, many reply with, "Have you tried using google first?" or "look at the wiki." Or otherwise treating it as a stupid question. But stupid or not, this newcomer is creating new traffic that might inspire another to ask a question with an expectation of getting an answer.
I understand there is an ongoing site improvement, but I think what TJP needs isn't a makeover, it needs a server merge. We have plenty of topics now with two year old posts or older on the first page, that is very bad for drawing new members. Most people that come and see no new comments for days, or months will go looking for another forum. Getting people to stay here should be the priority.
These are my suggestions for streamlining TJP to encourage more participation and help grow the community again by increasing traffic. If it is successful we can diversify again, but not so enthusiastically, keeping in mind what happened to TJP as a result of the previous diversification.
1. Remove comments from all articles. We want people to post on the forums where the entire community can respond, and maximize the chance of a timely response. Instead make a button to "Ask about this article," which will create a new topic in the appropriate forum. Yes this might get repetitive, BUT, if we find a question getting asked repeatedly about an article, that would indicate a good update for the article. More importantly, it will increase forum traffic, and push old posts off the page.
2. Consolidate the forums. We simply are not getting the traffic anymore to justify the subdivisions we have. So we need to merge the topics. Some possibilities:
a. Merge everything into one topic ala. reddit. This might get the fastest results, hopefully when traffic improves we can divide into more topics. The most important thing now is to create an impression that TJP is NOT dead, and that any question posted here will be get a timely response.
b. Merge all sub-topics into their main topic. E.g. Merge the "grammar" thru "Genki" subforums into "Study Center" So seven Subtopics get merged into one. I feel this is a bit too conservative considering TJP can still go days between new posts. In general, it looks like it is a bad idea to split a topic that generates less than a full page of activity in a 24 hour period.
3. Lock all these huge game threads: "Let's Play," "Shiritori," etc.. Big threads naturally intimidate new members because standard forum etiquette is to read the entire thread before posting. No one wants to read 180 pages of posts. Current members who already know the games won't feel this intimidation, but the goal is to encourage new member participation. Maybe a new thread type, "Game" can be created. It will have the word [Game] In the title, and it will auto-lock 30 days (or 7 days) after starting. Then a new game can be started by anyone that wants to continue playing. That would be less intimidating and more welcoming to new members. It will also make the thread list look fresher and less stale by helping to push older threads down.
Ok, so to summarize. I believe the problem is that TJP created too much content, and stretched the member activity too thin which, may not have caused the decline but is certainly inhibiting TJP from renewing its previous status as one of the most well known Japanese sites. So I propose that instead of creating new content, instead an attempt be made to consolidate member activity.
Do you have any suggestions to the page's content and such?
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