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Italian is not an international language like English or Spanish for instance, but still it’s the language of many cultural activities which are renowned worldwide, such as opera and figurative arts. Apart from that it strikes me that students don’t come to a site like this for doubts they may have about grammar, etc. (as a student I’d have used a site like this). So why do we attract so few users? Should the site be somehow more visible to new potential users? Could anything be done in that respect?

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    Because people (moderators in the first place) are rude and frustrated, they only care about gaining reputation, it’s like they lived for Italian SE. Plus, if you’re new and you’d like to help they’ll treat you like garbage discarding your job here. There are a lot of other reasons but I think those are the most important ones. – Marybnq Jul 20 at 21:26
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    I myself stopped using this website for these reasons. I used to check it everyday, now I just open it sometimes by mistake when I’m on SO. – Marybnq Jul 20 at 21:32
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    @Marybnq - I have never had the impression that Mods misbehaved here, especially with new users. – Gio Jul 23 at 5:56
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    @Marybnq I'm sorry you had such a bad experience on ItalianSE, but I agree with Gio. Every active user on this site tries to help newcomers, especially moderators which give their guidance about site policies. Last but not least: remember that everybody here give its own time for free... – abarisone Jul 23 at 7:15
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    That’s because you’re not a new user, and I’m happy for you. If you notice, every question is answered just by a few people (always the same, and always somebody that has been here for years) and if you’re not one of them and you try to answer, no matter how good your answer was, but you’ll get downvoted or even deleted (FYI they deleted my mom’s account after she gave perfect exhaustive answers -and they say that’s because I sometimes upvoted her). Plus, those answers they give sometimes are wrong/incomplete but, hey, who cares! You’re not a high rep user so ding dong your opinion is wrong! – Marybnq Jul 23 at 9:40
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    @Marybnq (and others) If you're interested we can move on this discussion to chat. Anyway, downvoting an answer not indicating any source but just saying I know it or a 'friend of my cousin once tell me', it is reasonably correct. Try, for instance, to do the same on Stackoverflow, I mean the one for programmers and look how harsh you'll be treated... I've been a newbie too of this site and participating I increased my rep. – abarisone Jul 23 at 11:15
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    @Marybnq Side note: perhaps your mother's account was deleted because the SO system noticed a serial voting issue and a moderator reported it. – abarisone Jul 23 at 11:20
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    The only comment I'll add is that there was a little more going on in that situation. I don't feel too comfortable being more explicit than that. Have you tried to contact the community team? They do have access to the whole story and can redress your complaint if we - the moderators - acted unfairly or wrongly. – Denis Nardin Jul 23 at 14:16
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    @abarisone I'm not interested in anything. On SO you don't say where you found something, even because there, if you post some code, that's something you created, so it's not the same. – Marybnq Jul 23 at 15:56
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    @Marybnq - I don’t think that your unluckily negative personal experience has anything to do with the general low participation of users to this site, anyway thanks for giving your view. – Gio Jul 23 at 16:59
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    I’m not here to give advices or anything else and I already wasted too much time and effort on here. If you can’t see them by yourself it’s right this website stays like it is with just a few active users. This said, I gave my opinion and again I’m being attacked for no reason. – Marybnq Jul 23 at 17:13
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    @Marybnq, would you please contemplate the idea that disagreeing with you is not the same as attacking you? – DaG Jul 23 at 23:27
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    @DaG nah, you are as you always did. But that's ok, you want the site to be visited, not me, I don't live for Italian stack exchange. I was, again, just trying to help telling you that you could be less rude in order to lure more people. It's you all that want the site to die (do I have to explain again that I'm not wishing for you to die or you got it?) it's not about the low number of Italian students or anything. This said, I don't think this discussion is bringing any good to me, since I'm wasting my time, nor you since you don't (or don't want to) understand. It can end like this. – Marybnq Jul 24 at 8:32
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    I can also share my opinion (I left the site years ago, I just came back for a visit after receiving the notification of a golden badge). The frustrating thing here, is that is required too much effort in order to participate. I am a mother tongue, and I could just answer some question by knowing the answer. By the way, it's always required to cite some sources, to motivate the answer in an excessive way. I just want to help others, not doing constant researches to stay here. Now you have my opinion too, I hope it's welcome. – Andrea Jul 25 at 14:14
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    @Andrea All opinions are welcome, we're glad you left yours (although you should feel free to use the answer box!). Just a small clarification: references are required for non "obvious" matters. If no native speaker could reasonably disagree, there's no need to hunt down some grammar or vocabulary to give it more authority. Unfortunately, often matters of language breed disagreement and in those cases some sources can really improve an answer. I hope you'll decide to stay with us anyway! – Denis Nardin Jul 25 at 14:24
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This is a problem I have grappled with in the past, and I have to say I am somewhat depressed by the current state of affairs. In this answer I will just randomly post my thoughts on the matter (so this is just my personal opinion and no kind of official statement as a moderator)


Who is the audience for this site? I think I can distinguish pretty much three groups:

  1. People that are not native speaker of Italian, but that want to learn Italian. These people are few. It hurts to say it, as a person who deeply loves my language, but Italian just does not have the cultural cachet other languages have: it's spoken at best in one country and a third of another (if we want to consider Italian Switzerland as a third of the country, which it isn't by population) and there is precious little culture of international relevance that is produced in Italian. We have, this is true, an immense artistic patrimony, starting from the twelfth century, which has been incredibly influential in the past centuries, but apparently it is little read outside of Italy. Certainly not enough to substantially push people to learn the language. Just for comparison look at literature.SE: they have 58 questions on French literature, 45 on German literature, 35 on Spanish literature, 81 on Russian literature but only 14 on Italian literature. I'll refrain to comment on the state of current Italian "pop cultural" production, let's just say I don't think that as a whole it's very attractive for foreigners. Regardless, we do have some users in this group (and I cannot fail to mention Charo :)), but the truth is that this group is a lot shallower than we'd like.

  2. People who are interested in the history, evolution or special features of the Italian language. I consider myself part of this group (and I suspect, a large part of the regulars of the site are too). These people are also few. To begin with, they are mostly native Italian speakers, who are not exactly a huge percentage of world population (even of Western world population). Moreover, this kind of scholarly pursue is not very attractive to the majority of people. Despite that, we are doing fairly well with this limited pool. This is the kind of users that keep the site afloat.

  3. Italian speakers that have grammatical doubts. Who are these people? There are a few adults (but not that many: most "professionists of the word" that are required to write professionally are more than able to open a grammar, and tend anyway to fall in the second group too), but mostly as I see this would be composed by students. I doubt grammar is taught in school after middle school. I certainly did the grand total of one hour of grammar in high school (on the correct usage of capital letters). This was more than twelve years ago, but I doubt the situation has improved (if anything, the rumors I hear suggest the emphasis on grammar has decreased). Even ignoring that it is against the ToS for an EU citizen of less than 16 years to have a SE account (the policy here is rather of the "don't ask, don't tell" variety), my recollection of grammar as was taught in middle school consisted in a long litany of complements to memorize, not the actually interesting kind of grammar (e.g.: how do you choose tenses in indirect speech, when do you use the subjunctive in the subordinates, etc.). Moreover, my impression is that few teenagers use the internet for anything but Facebook or Instagram these days, or possibly doing "let's play" on Youtube (but it might well be flawed). Of course someone could argue that you can have grammatical doubts when writing essays, even if you do not study grammar formally in school. This is certainly true, but I don't recall that being a common occurrence when I was in high school. In the few cases I remember, the solution was raising your hand and ask the professor for the correct form (remember: in Italian schools most essays are written in a classroom setting, without access to the internet!)

So on the whole the audience for this site is small. This is the core problem that we are grappling against.


What to do then? I'll confess I don't know. I toyed for a bit with the idea of doing a poem of the week, to be posted somewhere related to this site (probably the Bar Sport or some kind of meta post), maybe in collaboration with Literature.SE, to raise the profile of Italian literature. I doubt it would have a lot of effect, though, and I found hard to find the motivation to do so. Another idea I had was to organize small competitions of the kind they have in different stacks (e.g. I'll gift 200 points to the best question on the topic XXX this week). But I doubt we have the sufficient critical mass of users to really make it work.

So, this is it. I don't know where do we go from here. Sorry if I close on a somewhat depressing note.

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    While I do appreciate the upvotes, further answers and comments with ideas would be great – Denis Nardin Jul 19 at 21:04
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    The Italian sections in WordReference forums are quite alive. Possibly, the Q/A principle is somewhat contrary to the nature of language, or is perceived to be so. Myself, I also have posted in the language forums there when I might expect a discussion rather than a direct answer. Naturally, sometimes I am mistaken and there is no discussion when I expect one, or a discussion turns out to be pertinent when I didn't expect it. – Evgeniy Jul 31 at 9:50
  • @Evgeniy Do you have any ideas on what we could do to entice some users to come here? Did you also have problems as a new user? – Denis Nardin Aug 1 at 18:27
  • No, I didn't have any problems, thank you. – Evgeniy Aug 2 at 19:11
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I would also like to see how this site increases its activity: I love to read interesting questions and answers from different people.

I sometimes fear we have fallen into some kind of vicious circle in relation to voting. Voting is essential to keep users contributing to the site with both questions and answers. Since we have few users really active, we have few votes (have a look here and here) and, since we have few votes, this doesn't help to attract new regular contributors (on the contrary, my impression is that lately we have lost some contributors). We have already discussed this problem here, but I would like to encourage users of this site trying to vote more often.

Despite the small amount of votes, I believe we are producing good contents. For sure it's contents considered of interest since we are having more than 3000 visits per day. If you have a look here you will see that the Notable Question badge has been awarded at present 223 times, which means that there are 223 questions that have received more than 2500 visits. I would like to encourage users who have made that possible to keep doing so.

To say something more positive, since Gio has mentioned Spanish in his question, I've realized over years of learning Italian as an autodidact that Italian has a great amount of excellent online reference works and resources, as you can see here, some of them better than the ones you can find for Spanish. For instance, there are lots of excellent online Italian dictionaries and I can assure you that they are impressively better than Spanish ones. I believe that this has also something to do with the small amount of questions on this site.

In addition to all this, I've just found this Meta anwser that shows how our site is growing: comparing 2018 to 2017, ordering Stack Exchange sites created before 2017 by percentage change of posts, Italian.SE is at position 14 and it has been an increase of 26.05% of questions and of 11.92% of anwsers with respect to 2017. So, I would like to encourage all users of this site to keep allowing such a growing.

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    Absolutely! There are countless subtle points that I personally resolved through Treccani, and there are other places on the Internet that are not so subtle but that provide necessary reference. The Italians did a great job at studying their own language and making it available even for foreigners. – Evgeniy Jul 31 at 10:03

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