A Growing Forum (Status Update)


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Here are are the stats over the last year on the forum. You can see it materializing in just the last few months.

Our group is on a steady path of growth. If we continue down this path, it might be twice as many people in a couple months. A couple months after, it could be many more. Remember @AndyWalsh’s book club begins in September.

At this point, it is critical that we do what we can to include more people. Invite others to join us, and also treat them well when they come. I have to hold back more on the ID advocates that come this way, for example. I will reach out to them after the initial arguments die down, letting them know they are welcome even though I might disagree. We have to build common ground with people.

Right now, we have about 15 active users per day. I am hoping that we get up to about 100 active users per day within the next year or two. That is a good milestone for us. At that point, I’ll start to believe we have a real sustainable community. Till then, it all could evaporate quickly.

The more people that participate and the more welcoming we are, and easier it will be to grow. So let’s work together on this.

Also, keep in mind the lessons from: Woman Leaves the Westboro Baptist Church. Be kind to people, especially if they are rude and aggressive.

We are a group of strangers on the internet. Most of us have never met in person. Still what happens here matters. Treat people kindly. It can do good in the world.


Soliciting Advice on Forum Setup
(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #2

12 posts were split to a new topic: Side Comments on Forum Status


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

In the last two weeks, we have doubled in size. Today we hit 30 active users. See the stats here (which averages):

Right now, we are getting around 25-30 active users per day. That is a lot of growth for just two weeks. I think we can expect it to continue. This also will with growing pains.

Especially if you are new, please understand we work differently that other sites you may have joined This site is not a debate club. It is a place where we are trying to do something better than run in circles on the same arguments as always. You may not agree with common descent. Fine. At some point, we just have to accept that I disagree and drop it. Let us find some places of common ground to work from instead.

As I wrote here recently…

This is going to take everyone’s help.

For the moment, I’m glad about your recent burst in users, but I am also sympathetic to the disruptions it has caused. Especially if you are one of the people injured over the last couple days, please accept my apologies. Please do not give up on us. I want to assure you that our goal is to remain the same place of dialogue we have been. I expect that there will be some disruptive people who join us, but we are going to be more proactive in managing this in the future.

I hope that is understandable and agreeable to everyone. Thank you again for being part of this community.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

Here is the monthly graph:

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

We officially launched merely 3 months ago, on May 5th 2018; see the announcement here Official Launch of the Forum.

Right now, we have more than 30 daily active users per day. Our processes are getting better, and our rate of growth might even be accelerating. Our goal of 100 daily active users might be achieved within the next nine months. For now, keep inviting quality contributors, and keep improving our ability to “self-regulate” to keep our conversations interesting and non-contentious as possible. Remember there is none one paid to work on this forum, so I depend on you to keep this a quality place of conversation. Remember a fundamental rule: Be Kind.

I will continually asking us to remember how a Woman Leaves the Westboro Baptist Church

Be kind. Let us continue to grow. Seek peace.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

So here we are another month later, just 4 months after launching early May 2017. Where do we stand now? At about 30 daily engaged visitors.

In fact, today we hit 35 people. This is after a month of growing pains too, where more than one person was banned. We did have a dip middle of the month, but we seem to have rebounded strongly. If we continue growing at this pace, we should expect to hit 100 daily visitors by 12 months in, quite an accomplishment if you ask me.

In particular, one of the best parts of the forum lately has been Office Hours. You can read about them here: What are Office Hours?. Please nominate scholars for our next run, volunteer to host them, and feel free to self-nominate if you are a scholar too.

Remember we are still keeping a growth mindset here. Be kind to visitors. Disagree, but be kind.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

One bad thing is that we still do not have a good moderator system up other than my benevolent dictatorship. Please police yourselves so I do not go crazy. Especially if new people get ornery, please remind them the situation here:

No staff. No budget. No organization. Chill out and be kind to your neighbor, even if you despise what he thinks. We still share the same society. Let’s figure out how live with one another.

Also, we may have an influx of people for the Book Club soon: Book Club: Faith Across the Multiverse. This should be fun. Be sure to grab a copy and join in the conversation. Be kind and gentle to any students that join, and look to @TWReynolds and @Philosurfer for guidance on them.

Do not prothlesize students (this goes for both religious and anti-religious adults). Answer direct student-led questions about your personal beliefs, but press them to agree with you. Ask them questions them about what they are thinking, but give them space to explore and learn about new views in their own way.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

And the entertaining paradox of it all:


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

We are now one day shy of the 5 month anniversary of our forum launch, just this May 5th, 2018.

Yesterday we hit 50 daily engaged users for the first time, and we are averaging about 40 daily engaged users everyday now, and are well on track to hit our goal of 100 daily users within two years. One major factor in recent growth, in my view, is improved moderation:

  1. Much thanks is given to our two new moderators @Michael_Callen (old earther) and @Dan_Eastwood (agnostic).

  2. It seems that more firm approaches to bad behavior are well received and producing an environment that everyone appreciates more. Most of our stagnant growth intervals followed some blowout on the forum or the temporary addition of an aggressive/repetitive/circular polemicist. My approach has always been to hope for the best with a light touch, but setting clear rules is creating a better environment for everyone.

  3. As we are growing, self-moderating is getting better too, where we all as group help bring new members into a more kind discourse. This is going to be important for us to double in size again.

Of note, it seems like we have been able o maintain the best of this forum as it grows.

We see steady progress upwards, which is good because we are still in a growth phase. Be kind to visitors. Disagree, but be kind. Keep asking people to join us, so this will continue to be a place where the most thoughtful voices will come and reason with us.

Continue to invite scholars and thoughtful people here to join us. Let the conversation grow.


Our Front Porch
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #15

Six months in we are doing pretty well. There is some leveling off. I think this reflects several things, including a growing pains as we grow. We might need to restructure some for growth. This is an ongoing challenge we will face.


(Retired Professor & Minister.) #18

I would be curious as to the number of women posting on Peaceful Science. I’ve noticed several women who post daily on Biologos. Here I can think of Dr. Gauger but not many others. Perhaps I’ve not been fully observant.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

Yes, I’ve been concerned about this. There is also @AJRoberts,. @SueD, and @Alice_Linsley.

There is an active homeschool group at BioLogos, and they have two women moderators (including @Elle). This might account for some of the difference. Though, at the same time, they do not have many (any?) woman scholars participating there.

Regardless, I want to do better here. Hopefully we can and will. Any ideas are appreciated.


(Jon Garvey) #21

For whatever reason, male-predominance is a feature not only of origins discussion boards, but apparently of most sites where “issues” are discussed. It’s something I’ve noticed over all the years The Hump has been running, even though the nature of that beast is far less “cut and thrust” and the content, overall, has been more inclusive of “humanities based” subjects rather than science.

Overall, even BioLogos has relatively few regularly-active female participants, Uncommon Descent fewer, and the same applies if you look in different disciplines such as Ed Feser’s blog on AT philosophy, or Mike Gene’s on New Atheism. I note, on reflection, that even on Lydia McGrew’s What’s wrong with the world?, most of the comments on her pieces come from males. I hear that YouTube too is also predominantly a male domain.

None of these would appear to be other than open and welcoming, nor even that confrontational - though debate is inherently “issue orientated,” and there are gender-biases in that regard.

Your best solution would seem to be to follow the army and universties in setting a quota for female participants and blocking comments from blokes until it is achieved… that should improve the quality of discussion no end :grinning:

Congrats on the stats, by the way. I see that over the same time period, the Hump hit rate has stayed stable, though comments have dropped of, maybe partly because the comments get made here in some cases.


(Dan Eastwood) #22

Visible female participation helps encourage more women to participate. Adding female moderator(s) should be a priority.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #26

Seven months in, and we have continued to grow. Implementing a new structure and set of rules seems to have been very effective (Requesting Comment: Proposed Structure and Rules). We have not yet even fully implemented these rules. This is a good lesson for us too. In order to sustain growth to require improvements to our structure. I’m keeping in mind how we can adapt as things continue to change.

Also, of note, both @jongarvey and I had our 1 year anniversaries on the forum a day or two ago. My how time flies.

Continuing to compare with BioLogos, which, for now, is a reasonable benchmark. BioLogos uses the same forum software as us, works in the same space, and is far more well known than us. We continue to see a steady increase in page views per month. It looks like we are now about 5x their forum traffic.

BioLogos Forum Peaceful Science Forum
June 37K 20K
July 24K 35K
August 28K 69K
September 18K 76K
October 20K 84K
November 16K 110K

Yes, that is right. We are now getting about 110K of page views per month. Lest you think this is all waisted page views of some of the regulars chasing their tails, a whopping 41% of traffic derives from web searches, and 26% is from referral or social traffic. That means most our traffic (67%) is new people visiting us. As you can imagine. Most of them are lurkers, or one time visitors. Be sure to invite them into the conversation. As we are hospitable, we will only grow. We will continue to implement systems to encourage kindness, and discourage unkindness.

An entertaining easter egg is that one of the top search queries for BioLogos is “peaceful science swamidass”, which directs people here: So what is BioLogos' problem with Dr. Swamidass? - Open Forum - The BioLogos Forum. This is currently their third highest keyword, but must only be about 1% of their traffic. With the years they have had to build up content, it makes sense that they have a long tail of landing pages, hitting much of their old content. This might only be a short term blip, but still an entertaining detail to share.

With all this, everyone should be proud. The conversation is growing. Let it continue. I’m curious where we will be 12 months. I wonder.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) pinned globally #27

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #28

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#29

You have to admit, that must give you at least a little bit of satisfaction. :grin:


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