Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere. I think that a significant amount of our community is North of the Equator. How are we going to maintain interest when lots of people are putting away their bikes (not me)?
This was partially addressed earlier in a thread about the site's numbers; see this answer in particular. In the month since I posted that question, our numbers have improved, but we're still a low-volume site, in fact we're the second-lowest in terms of traffic.
I think we have a lot of good questions with good answers, and the most important thing we can do is to keep up that level of quality, or even improve it.
When the site was in private beta, we seeded the site with questions, often things that were fairly basic, so that there was example content when we went public. The best thing I can think of that will attract new members and keep current ones is to keep asking good questions. But what topics will attract people in the winter? Some ideas:
- What types of exercise can I do when cycling isn't an option? (Exercise that would keep you in reasonable shape for cycling when the "season" returns.)
- I'd like to ride my road bike in the snow occasionally. Studded snow tires and fenders are overkill, but I'd like to ride my road bike in the freezing cold once in a while.
- Can I use multiple layers of spring/fall lycra to cycle in the cold?
- Questions about trainers and rollers are great, we can keep asking those.
Above all, let's just keep asking good questions. When people return to cycling in March and take their bikes out of mothballs (carbon-fiber mothballs, of course), they'll come looking for answers to questions and see a community that's been keeping the flame going and is ready to answer further questions.
I really like what @neilfein said, especially "the most important thing we can do is to keep up that level of quality, or even improve it"; but I'll add a few things:
- We should accept that traffic's likely to be lower until March. The majority of cyclists are fair-weather cyclists who probably don't even think about their bike through winter.
- We seem to have a core of people that visit the site every day or two and answer questions when they come in. We're doing well. I hope that this core of people continues to visit regularly through winter.
- We're doing well at answering questions. There is a single solitary unanswered question on our site right now, our answer numbers round to 100% answered. Questions are getting answered.
- There will be questions from winter cyclists, questions about related activities (winter training, winter storage, etc), questions from people that find winter a good time to rebuild their bicycles, and questions from the southern hemisphere (Australia especially). Fewer overall, but still some.
- The 90 day beta evaluation time period is in 2 days. Don't worry about it: I think we're doing well on providing solid timely answers to questions, and I think the SE team can understand that a site about cycling will have some seasonality to it and give us a few more months. (I'd suggest we ask for pushing the final evaluation off until mid-April if the question comes up)
I think what we should concentrate on is making the site work well, and prepare ourselves for increased traffic come spring:
- Vote. Vote good answers and good questions up. For bad ones maybe comment to give the poster a chance to improve, but vote them down when they're bad (you can always change your vote if the post changes). The site works on an economy of reputation points that are earned through votes on good questions and answers. The more people writing good answers get reputation points, the more there's people that can help run the site, which will be important when there's more traffic come spring, and especially important when we get out of beta.
- If a question can be improved, suggest or edit. (but make sure the spirit of the question is kept intact; be very careful with edits on questions)
- Continue answering the questions that do come in. The better quality the answers the better off we are.
- If you can answer a question better, do it. If there's several answers that could be combined into one perfect answer, give credit (with a link) to the quoted bits and write your own better answer. If the answers are decent but you can do some research and improve on them: do it.
- If you have a question related to cycling, ask it on bicycles.SE. There's some questions that make me think the questioner isn't genuinely interested in getting an answer, and in my opinion those don't tend to be as useful, since they're less likely to match up with the words in a google search for somebody with a question.
Some attempts at promotion to Australia, winter cycling sites, etc wouldn't hurt, though.
The traffic may be a little lower over the winter, but I think this has potential to be an excellent year-round forum nevertheless. Winter, as others have said, brings its own bicycle-specific problems. The question about "The winter footwear options" from a few weeks ago comes to mind.
I've been cycling as a primary means of transport for about six years now and I'm still working out my winter clothing... what are the best tires (tyres)... etc.
Many cyclists are fair-weather... some of us are not. Perhaps some of those fair-weather folks will be looking to their brethren for advice on how to cycle in poorer conditions. Technology makes winter less and less troublesome for cyclists each year. This is an excellent place to get ideas as regard the most effective raingear, winter cycling shoes, and chain lube for wet conditions!
If you ask a question, I will too!
And if you are in Australia... ask your question! We are all sitting here in the rain waiting to pounce on it and answer!
What is the general feeling/policy on bicycles.se users 'cold emailing' relevant local businesses and groups as a means of promoting the site?
Users in the southern hemisphere (like me here in Australia) could send all the local bike shops and cycling groups the standard 'Help us grow this site' email. However this could be perceived as quite spammy if not done correctly.
Update: On @freiheit suggestion, I have posted this as a stand-alone question.