Edit notification

This question has been merged with an old one "Bad Statistics, what can we do?" since they refer to the same topic, although the other one was old. Instead of closing as a duplicate (I closed that one as too localized for a bit though), I decided to merge them so we have everything in the same place. Now we can discuss about the measures.

The stats some comments refer to can be found in the other question I linked above.

/edit notification

I just discovered that the 3D Graphics proposal got closed after 33 days of Beta.

After the bad tendency on our site, also signalled by the meta question "3 days without questions", I've decided to take some action and write this meta post, hoping that it will catch your attention.

Below I'll list the things we, everybody as a community, will do in order to gain some users and build up this critical mass the Area51 talks about.

Proposals made until now:

  1. Publish regularly the link to Linguistics SE on the major Social networks: Facebook, Twitter, G+, Myspace, anything you have. You can use these buttons available on the main site for example:

    enter image description here

  2. Invite professors, students and other linguists you know. If one of their works has been cited in a question or answer, it's worth mentioning that.

  3. Posting the link to the Linguistics SE site on your personal profile.

Return to FAQ index

  • These aren't terrible stats. We're only at day 30. More questions (come up with questions yourself, be inspired by other questions/answers), more visitors (visit everyday), and more voting (those who are here already can vote more often.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 18:38
  • 4
    Really? I mean you think they aren't terrible? I don't know... I mean, we are at approximately 1/5 of the questions per day, and slightly more than 1/10 of the visits per day... I hope it gets better with time! :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 18:44
  • 1
    Well, I'd certainly prefer that the stats be much better. And I think your question is good to have (in order to encourage activity anyhow. But other sites with worse stats (at 30 days) had similar meta posts (philosophy.SE) and ..OK here's the link and another
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 18:55
  • 1
    that said, I've noticed (only anecdotally) a sharp downtick in questions in the past week. Before this week, lots of questions per day; this week, not so much.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 19:01
  • I added another proposal to your post. Hope you don't mind :-) Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 12:47
  • @OtavioMacedo Sure not! I guess that posting an answer or editing is the same thing. Unless you wanna elaborate, then an answer is better ahah :D
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 12:48
  • No-one else? In any case... I'll start doing this soon, maybe by next week. I hope that everybody who read this will try to do at least the first one, which is just 2 or 3 clicks away... :D
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 12:01
  • Perhaps we could also ask questions that, when linked to elsewhere, might catch people's attention? E.g. if you happen to hang out with a lot of linguists in a certain field, maybe it would be possible to ask a question that would be somewhat provocative to those linguists, and encourage them to come and post their two cents. Other more general questions could work similarly to attract attention, e.g. 'Does prescriptivism have a place in linguistics?' I know that seems open-ended, but there is a reasonable consensus on something like that, and it would be possible to have a good answer for it Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 11:31
  • (and some interesting comments and discussion in the process of arriving at such an answer) Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 11:31
  • What about Linguist List's 'Ask a Linguist' service - has there been a thought or discussion to see if they'd want to merge (part of) that with Ling.SE? It would make a lot of sense from a technical point of view - they could never match the user experience that SE offers. Also the panel of linguists would get a lot more feedback and visibility for their answers. And the content here is all CC-licensed, so it's not like you're going to lose it (as a community of linguists).
    – user444
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 15:04
  • @arjan What is this service? I don't know about it...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 15:08
  • linguistlist.org/ask-ling. At first sight I thought there are frequent questions over there (looking at the last days), but it seems the total is actually quite small.
    – user444
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 15:13
  • 1
    I tweeted the site; let's see what the overlap is between my followers and potential linguistics.SE users :) Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 20:52
  • Good now on the Area51 card for the site. Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 13:07

8 Answers 8


My sense is that a lot of the traffic to, say, English.SE or the original Stack Overflow site is coming from people with urgent practical questions. You know: "Which of these words should I use right now in this sentence I'm currently writing?" or "Which of these algorithms should I use in this specific program that I need to finish by tomorrow?" as opposed to "So, I was just sort of wondering, out of pure intellectual curiosity...." — which seems to be mostly what we get here.

It would be worth asking ourselves what the linguistic equivalent of that sort of urgent practical question would be — or if one exists at all. (Power user questions about linguistic documentation software like FLEX or ELAN? Fact-checking journalist-type questions about language names or numbers of speakers or whatever? Recommend-me-a-phrasebook questions from people about to travel to Borneo? All of these strike me as sort of edge cases the way the mission of the site is currently defined, but I'm wondering if we'd be providing a useful service by admitting them.)

  • So what if we don't have "urgent practical" questions? The traffic is lower and we stay in beta longer. There is no problem about that. Imagine that every child would learn linguistics in school and this site would be swamped with homework questions. Would this make the site better?
    – Phira
    Commented Oct 16, 2011 at 19:29
  • 4
    Well, no -- I wouldn't expect those students to be good participants, if they're just being forced to study linguistics and they don't actually care about it. But if we got working linguists popping in here with practical questions that come up in their work (the way Stack Overflow gets working programmers) then I think that would be a real benefit to the community. Commented Oct 16, 2011 at 23:26
  • +1 @Dan Velleman: Believe the best comparison I'm able to think of is a bioinformatics Q&A site that covers both the science and application of the field.
    – blunders
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 16:54

I put the link to the Linguistics SE in my profile, so that people that might visit it from other SE sites and are interested in the subject, might join the community.


To add to @Dan Velleman's comments, I think that we would have far more traffic if we welcomed and addressed the sorts of 'urgent practical questions' that I come across every day on other linguistics forums, mailing lists, or amongst colleagues (and, therefore, the sorts of questions that people are frequently googling!)

These don't tend to be'theoretical' questions - if a theoretical question arises, a linguist usually either knows the answer already, or someone in their immediate vicinity does, or they know exactly where they might find the answer in a scholarly publication.

The 'urgent, practical questions' that I hear most often do tend to be related to the tools and methodological approaches that linguists use to do their daily work.

Some examples that I hear frequently in various online/on-campus haunts:

  • What sampling rate should I record at if I want to do phonetic analysis?
  • Which glossing conventions should I be following?
  • What software is available to make an online dictionary from the lexicon in my database?
  • What's the best way of entering IPA characters? what's the best font for IPA characters?
  • What's the best technique for eliciting X type of data? Or, how can I test to see if language X has feature Y?
  • Is FLEx better than Toolbox?
  • What do I need to put in the metadata for my corpus?
  • How do I do statistical analysis on X type of language data?

Obviously these sorts of questions come from people with certain types of interests, but my point is that I very rarely hear anyone ask questions like 'Is there much evidence for the poverty-of-the-stimulus hypothesis?'.

A further point, also mentioned by others, is that the 'experts' lurking on the site may have questions that are either too specific/advanced to have any chance of being answered on a site like this. I have not yet thought of any questions that I legitimately have no answer of my own for, or that I couldn't find an answer for in a few minutes under my own steam. If this site is intended for people who are professionals but also those who may be in the earlier stages of their careers (i.e. undergrads) or hobbyists (with certain standards), then it is probably worthwhile asking some questions that we already know the answers to, to be able to add to the quality content. If we ask questions that are considered to be common (and valid) questions in linguistics, and provide well-formed answers to these, people will come across them in their searches.

Taking an approach that a) incorporates more practical questions and b) addresses common linguistics questions will help to make this a go-to site for useful answers.

One question is, would people still be keen to work on quality answers if they suspected the person asking the question already had a pretty good idea?


How about getting a plug on Language Log? They are devoted to making linguistics better known / more popular so this might fit in. It would get exposure to thousands of readers interested in linguistics.

Edit: example email message, please edit to improve, or comment:

Dear Language Loggers,

This site may be of interest to your readers (and you), maybe it's worth a mention on the Log?

The Linguistics Stack Exchange site is a place for linguists, language enthusiasts and people who have some interest in how languages work. It's an online Question & Answer site for anything linguistic. The goal is to create a large body of excellent answers to questions relevant to the discipline, as well as to build a community that caters for continued expert knowledge exchange. Participating is easy, informative and fun! Currently the site is in beta, and it could use more visitors, questions+answers and active members. Also note: Stack Exchange sites are open in nature: anyone can improve posts, and all content is CC-licensed. Before asking a question, just make sure to check the FAQ to see what's considered on-topic.

  • Do you mean putting our name there? I'd be ok with it, but will they?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 17:13
  • Occasionally one of the bloggers there just makes a short announcement about an upcoming talk, conference or summer school. Perhaps one of them could be convinced to write such a notice about linguistics.stackexchange.com. And if enough LL-readers take note, perhaps off-topic questions that are raised in the comments will also be referred here ;)
    – user444
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 17:32
  • Do you have contacts or can contact them?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 9:41
  • I don't know any of them, but they keep a general inbox at mail2languagelog at Gmail.com. I think we'd need to send a ready-to-use message for them to copy-paste, explaining what this site is about etc.
    – user444
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 18:47
  • @Alenanno: I added an example email. What do you think? Someone may want to rewrite this (e.g. what the goal of the site is) since I'm new here. Maybe add links to example questions?
    – user444
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 21:40

All those people on english.SE asking closed questions could be re-informed by seeing a comment of a suggestion to retry at the then future ling.SE, and then resending a similar comment. The following google link will help find such 'retry' comments:

linguistics site:english.stackexchange.com

That is,

  • find an ELU question that was closed as off-topic but still good for ling.SE (via the above search).
  • resubmit a comment with a link to ling.SE. This will notify the original poster
  • I don't understand your question about the "notify someone", as in advertising Linguistics SE?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 18:45
  • @Alenanno: added explanation.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 19:06
  • Ah ok thanks. Well no, apparently the @nickname works only with someone who has been in chat (try to @ someone who is new to the site, you won't be able to ping that person). Similarly, it only works in the comments with similar requirements.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 19:27
  • 1
    @Alenanno: I checked at Meta.SO and they confirmed that there is no way (except as a super moderator or something). But there is a more logical way to do it, by commenting directly where the original comment was made. I'll modify my suggestion.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 21:34

Not familiar with SE protocol: are SE betas supposed to be incubated from within SE?

Three of the answers so far have been about advertising within SE, which seems a little myopic. I personally came here because of a plug by one of my professors on Facebook. So I would cast my net wider, e.g. by contacting academic departments or undergraduate linguistics student groups to see if they're willing to send out a short ad to their undergrad/grad students or something. I know it was advertised to Linguist List shortly before beta, but as I understand it asking/answering questions was disabled at that time. Not to mention that Linguist List isn't necessarily well read by undergraduate students.


One idea would be to do relevant cross-posts/comments to other SE sites to increase awareness in site.

Here's an example of a question were Mitch did this with a comment:

Differences between Case Frames and Semantic role labeling

And it work, Sara now has an account with Linguistics.SE if you look at their list of accounts page.

Here's one Google to help find existing post that might relate to

linguist site:stackexchange.com -site:linguistics.stackexchange.com

and another

phonetics site:stackexchange.com -site:linguistics.stackexchange.com

  • Yeah that's a good way. I think I'll re-put the link to this site in my profile. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:11
  • @Alenanno: You should post that as another answer, since sounds like a good idea to me - in fact, I'll add "Ask a question on the new Linguistics site on Stack Exchange." to my profile.
    – blunders
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:19
  • Well... done! :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 17:05

This may sound silly but I think we should advertise the fact that we're a beta and need advertising. When I first came here I thought it would be a huge site almost like stackoverflow and that I could help with answers. It's only when I got involved and started reading meta, that I realised this is not the case. Now I know and will try to help with questions as well, but I suppose anyone less involved will simply not think of it. Is it possible to pin posts at the top or make and additional banner or something of the sort?

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