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What's the best strategy to get users to move from an online forum to a Stack Exchange site? I'm asking this because there's a huge forum about RC model helicopters (www.helifreak.com has 155k members) and the Stack Exchange proposal Radio Controlled (RC) Modeling only has 33 followers.

I don't want to replace the whole forum, I just want a better place for Q&A. The forum is great for endless discussions, posting pictures and videos, etc.

Update: after reading some answers, I think I should rephrase the question to: "How can I get more users to commit a StackExchange beta site?"

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That would then be a duplicate: What do you do to promote your Area51 proposal? –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 9:08
The site is currently in the commitment state, so we can't "just ask real questions and let Google take care of the rest". –  compie Feb 8 '12 at 9:45
I think the real need this question addresses is that of a well-worded comparison of forums and SE sites. ie. why "we" think the SE model is better for Q&A use cases. –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 10:17
@Pekka'sOrganicRepFarm: I'm not sure we would need such a comparison, I mean, Forum is a place where you ask something and get some answers, SE is a place where you ask a question and get an answer. I'm not really fond of the idea, especially because a Forum is not necessary a Forum, that does depend on the management. Same goes for the SE sites (I disagree f.e. with the way mods run new SE sites and what questions they accept), so we already have differences within SE. –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 10:46
@Bobby still. The SE model and a forum are fundamentally different. Where is that difference explained in a concise, easy to understand way? The "about" page doesn't really cut it IMO. –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 10:47
@Pekka'sOrganicRepFarm: That's true. Maybe a [feature-request]? –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 10:51
@Bobby done. :) What is a good information resource on the SE model? –  Pëkka Feb 8 '12 at 10:53
The fundamental question to me is "How can you show people that a SE site solves their problems better than a forum?". If you can't show them that then maybe the reason is that a SE site doesn't solve their problems better than a forum. As for the forum banning you for spamming for promoting the SE site, I can't say I'm surprised. Rightly or wrongly, anyone running a forum is going to hate posts suggesting a move (even a partial one) to elsewhere, as they'll see it as signing the death warrant for a site they worked hard to create. That's never going to be an easy sale to make, is it? –  RobM Feb 8 '12 at 12:00

4 Answers 4

You don't.

That's like telling people to switch to Linux, or from Apples to Cherries, or from Mazda to Volvo...you just don't. Don't waste your breath, post a link in the Forum with a short explanation, and let people find it on their own.

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I posted a link to the stackexchange beta site and I got banned for spamming... –  compie Feb 8 '12 at 8:45
@compie: So? You're now trying to do something in rage? I say it again, don't. If the moderators/admins don't want such advertising, then let it be. –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 8:47
I'm looking for a clear explanation about the problems of a forum, that will help forum users to see the problems of their forum. –  compie Feb 8 '12 at 8:47
@compie: Your first wrong assumption is that SE is superior to a Forum...it isn't. It's like comparing Lemons with Chimps. Sure, the Chimp is smarter, but the Lemon tastes better in your Lemon Ice-Tea. Two completely different pairs of shoes. –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 8:50
As I said in my answer above, forums and StackExchange sites are very different. One is for discussion, the other for Q&A. You can't bill the SE site as "the new forum" when it's completely different. –  tombull89 Feb 8 '12 at 8:50
@compie Maybe they like it there. Maybe they like the topics that are just an endless stream of users posting photos of their RC models. Maybe they like discussing what they like better about a particular choice. The Stack Exchange model doesn't work for these kinds of topics. –  Daniel Beck Feb 8 '12 at 8:52
@compie "I posted a link to the stackexchange beta site and I got banned for spamming..." And rightfully so. What do you think would happen on SO or MSO if someone advertised the hyphen site? Couple that with the fact that despite the content being all user generated, Stack Exchange is a company with employees aiming to make a profit and it's easy to see why they consider your behavior rude and banned you for it. –  Daniel Beck Feb 8 '12 at 8:56
The chimp vs lemon comparison seems perfectly apt to me. I have no use for forums, and I don't participate on them. Similarly, I have no use for a chimp and therefore do not own one. I often have lemons in my fruit bowl, however. I see nothing wrong with evangelizing the superior model of Q&A that we offer, especially to those who may not be familiar with it. Obviously if people don't like it, then you can't force it on them, but that doesn't seem to be what this question is about. –  Cody Gray Jul 24 '13 at 4:53

Well, you cant "force" people to move to a site. Remember a forum is more suited to discussion while a StackExchange site is more for Questions and Answers.

The Area51 proposal can create a share link for you to add to forum signatures, or if you're a member create a new thread on what StackExchange is and advertise the site.

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Bobby is right, not many people like being told things like this. Imagine the 10zillion posts "super-user" status you would have to abandon and become a newbie on some other site...ego at stake.

What would be great though is to have the site filled with useful questions and answers and be able to show them how useful it is (I understand that you're trying to get the backing of users to help support the initial site)...nothing beats seeing how useful it is. When someone on the forum has a problem, ask it on SE and hopefully users will provide responses which can show the forum users that it is a useful site. Even if no one replaces going to the forum, having a concrete "Question X" to refer to on SE that can be discussed on the forum is equally useful. I imagine there are countless forums or private mailing lists with the same questions asked over and over and being able to just provide that SE link to a definite resource (that others can improve) will eventually win people (On a few private mailing lists for programming I am on, the shift over the last year or so has been to provide a StackOverflow question when someone is having trouble and then the mailing list also discusses it (Which wouldn't be appropriate for SO).

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+1 for agreeing with me. –  Time Traveling Bobby Feb 8 '12 at 8:52

I don't want users to move from forums to SE sites. I want lots of good questions and lots of good answers. People with answers eventually find the site. I think search engines are making people with questions aware of the site. Maybe more is needed.

If somebody wants to ask a question or answer one in here, and also participate in a forum, I'm OK with that.

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I think I see what you are saying, and I agree; we should not just drag people from forums here, as they will tend to want to treat this like a forum, too. A more natural movement here would make things more manageable, as it does take a little getting used to things! –  Andrew Barber Jul 24 '13 at 3:17

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