Here are the last few weeks of the "visitor" metric per Google Analytics, on each Trilogy site:









They are ordered in terms of least visitors to most visitors. Stack Overflow is the blockbuster here. Which makes sense, as it's the oldest, and the site that is most in tune with the Joel on Software and Coding Horror audiences we originally started with.

Meta is only included for completeness; we don't actually need any particular traffic level there (aka, "here") due to the nature of the content.

I am not showing the larger trend graphs here, but the deeper concern is that Super User and Server Fault are not growing much (if at all) over time. Google traffic levels are one sign of a site's maturity:

  • SO has 90% google traffic
  • SF has 77% google traffic
  • SU has 67% google traffic

So we're not quite "mature" yet, but we're getting close.

I am not sure we've done a good job of reaching out to the power user (superuser.com) and sysadmin/it pro (serverfault.com) communities to make sure they're at least aware of these sites.

Why this matters: I worry that if we don't attract a critical mass of users there, questions and answers will languish. They don't need to be enormous, I just want them to be useful. And that implies some growth, at least!

So, this is my question to you: what should we be doing to reach out to the power user and sysadmin communities? How can we attract more of the kinds of power users, sysadmins, and IT pros that we'd like to see asking and answering questions on superuser.com and serverfault.com?

Suggestions welcome.

  • 26
    Interesting that meta has the same mon-fri peak as so/sf. Suggesting that people are wasting time at work on meta. – Martin Beckett Oct 21 '09 at 19:59
  • 2
    A to-scale combined graph of all the sites would be very nice and useful to have. You should be able to export the data as CSV and graph it in excel. Also, a graph showing the general trend (and perhaps comparing the growth from the initial start) would be very interesting to demonstrate your no-growth point. – Pollyanna Oct 28 '09 at 20:45
  • Edited my answer below to hopefully get some more visibility on the format of Server Fault - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26689/… – dlux Nov 15 '09 at 3:38
  • I think the podcast crossovers with the admin community have been a good move. I think however you'll need more. Aim for high value admin communities (MS Exchange, Red Hat, etc). – C. Ross Dec 2 '09 at 23:23
  • @Jeff could we have an update on these graphs? – Ivo Flipse Mar 31 '10 at 17:58
  • I agree that this is a problem to be solved. While I don't have an answer, I have an anecdote. I had been using StackOverflow for nearly a year and had amassed several thousand rep points before I even knew serverfault existed. That's something that needs fixing. – Ben Lee Apr 25 '13 at 6:58
  • Why not just merge SuperUser and ServerFault? sysadmin vs power user -- does anyone really care about this difference? Is there even much of a difference there at all? StackOverflow for specific programming questions, the merger of SuperUser/ServerFault for general computing, hardware, system administration, networking, etc... – John Peter Thompson Garcés Mar 27 '14 at 21:23
  • Those links are either dead, or require a login. – Wai Ha Lee Mar 5 '19 at 8:23

36 Answers 36


I hope I'm not flogging a head horse here.

I've become concerned about the level of activity (and the merits of what activity there IS) on Server Fault lately, and have read every answer on this question. And most of them I feel are valid. But for me it keeps coming down to the sense of community ownership of the site (or lack thereof).

I raised concerns about this a long time ago here and it was shot down. But since then I've seen the same feelings arise here (check the comments, users jsut ASSUMED that MSO was not suitable for SF because it has SO in the title), and in a few other places around on MSO (mainly comments on answers to other questions, I can't locate them at the moment).

I often feel like a 2nd class citizen in the shadow that is Stack Overflow. Now, obviously new users are never going to know about this, especially not hit-and-run users (which is perfectly OK), but if you're going to get the kind of 'expert' retention required, and not end up with more jaded people like this guy, then people really need to feel involved in their own community, not feel as though they're just operating in a side-show alley in the Stack Overflow circus.

As to how to achieve this? No idea. I'm not a marketing or community expert!

  • yes, but I emailed "that guy" directly and got no response. It takes two to tango. I am open to the idea of there being a blog.serverfault.com, if there were someone to actively maintain it.. – Jeff Atwood Jan 4 '10 at 22:15
  • That guy was extreme to the maxx. What sort of content would you be thinking for blog.serverfault.com? Similar to blog.stackoverflow? If that's the case it would need the involvement of someone internal to the SOFU team, which would be difficult as you're all SO focussed (this isn't a critisism, just thinking out loud). Otherwise it would be more of an 'articles' site, which is outside of SOFU's focus and has been (I believe rightly) rejected previously... hmm... – Mark Henderson Jan 4 '10 at 22:49
  • Been having the exact same thoughts recently ... – Zypher Jan 5 '10 at 14:31
  • well, if you have specific ideas, email us via the mail alias or post them here. I am always open to suggestions, and I do everything I can to keep Server Fault on topic and relevant. – Jeff Atwood Jan 6 '10 at 12:24

I wonder if you would reach your target audience with Trade Publication advertisements. SQL Server Magazine and InfoWorld. Or if that would hit more of the 'policy' guys and less of the 'trenches' guys.

  • 5
    that seems .. unlikely, as the magazines are all dying due to online pressure. – Jeff Atwood Oct 21 '09 at 4:47
  • it would hit more "policy" folks - and InfoWorld isn't even available in print anymore (afaik). – warren Oct 23 '09 at 2:57
  • Where's the online pressure coming from, then? that's where you need to go. – Joel Coehoorn Oct 23 '09 at 18:36

This is when I feel like pointing and laughing and say "ha, these verticals should have just been part of Stack Overflow like I said all along!" But I think the trilogy helped usher in the development of Stack Exchange, which is awesome.

I don't really think there is a way to grow these things without putting a lot of money behind it, ie advertising. Good programmers read programming blogs and as such, Stack Overflow hit the ground running with a huge audience because two of the best programming bloggers were behind it. And that initial momentum naturally carries over into Google indexing which enables Stack Overflow to continue to grow.

But what about good IT guys? Are there IT blogs out there with huge followings that are written by thought-leaders in IT? I don't think so. So unless you're sponsoring conferences and setting up a booth and what not I have no idea how you can capture the minds of people in the IT profession.

It's even harder for super user, because the target audience there is everybody that has a computer. I've told friends about it but they just don't get it. Probably because they don't feel like dealing with OpenID or having to author a question.

Maybe it's too late now, but it's not like when Digg.com decided to branch out from technology news they really had much of a problem with "one size fits all." Just sayin.


As I mentioned here I am thinking serverfault could use a couple more moderators to close or move off-topic posts.

On the Ask a question page (https://serverfault.com/questions/ask) you have a good description of what is appropriate for the site you asking questions at. I am thinking that you may want to consider making it more obvious (feature-request) that the other two sites exist so people won't be tempted to ask off=topic questions on the wrong site.

  • I don't know; I think the moderator-to-user ratio is higher on SF than any other site except meta (and meta doesn't count). – Jeff Atwood Nov 4 '09 at 11:00
  • The ratio may be higher, but is there enough people with enough rep to close/move a question so that SPAM or obviously off-topic stuff gets closed or moved quickly? – Zoredache Nov 4 '09 at 19:41
  • I don't think there are enough, the obviously SU questions seem to linger for a while. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '09 at 20:14

One thing is that sysadmin and user questions are harder to express in text. Perhaps it should be easier to post screenshots.

P.S. I myself help some users with CoPilot, and that's actually from Fog Creek? Maybe you can setup CoPilot sessions for people trying to help each other on Superuser.


Here's a thought:

What if people were able to ask superuser questions via Twitter?

It's an idea that would need a lot of refinement but twitter is often used as a question-asking service. Maybe something like @superuser with a 140 character description of your computer problem, and it becomes a question on the site. That page is thus indexed by Google and people will find it when searching.

  • 1
    "please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved" – bpapa Oct 28 '09 at 20:51
  • On meta, downvotes usually mean people think it's a bad idea. I think it's a bad idea. – C. Ross Dec 2 '09 at 23:25
  • Why? Defend your downvote. – bpapa Dec 3 '09 at 16:47
  • 140 characters Isn't long enough to get a good description of most computer problems. Also, how would they edit their question (which happens with most), or accept answers? Also I don't think the fire and forget nature of twitter would lead to good questions, in fact just a slew of bad ones. My opinion. – C. Ross Dec 4 '09 at 0:51

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