How to quantify the success of your community?

Following a discussion about books on community building I saw this tip and read part of the book.

This book seems to put a strong emphasis on data and its analyses as a means of quantifying the success of your community.

Quote from the book:

The number of unseen problems is HUGE! When the number of new visitors to the platform dips, that’s an unseen problem. When a number of regulars vanish, that’s an unseen problem. When the volunteers begin slipping away, that’s an unseen problem. When the number of responses to a typical discussion drops, that’s an unseen problem. When a smaller and smaller number of members are contributing to an evergreater percentage of discussions, that’s an unseen problem. Every one of these problems can potentially kill a community. Without an intervention, the community will slip into a decline, which is very difficult to reverse.

This left me wondering what options or tools does Discourse has to measure any of these? Or will I need somehting like Google analytics or Piwik to measure any of these?

How do others do this?


I’m just starting to try to understand how best to go about this too.

The admin dashboard in Discourse does offer some decent data, with indicators that show whether certain metrics are going up or down compared to previous daily, weekly or monthly periods.

One of the motivations for a question I asked earlier this week about the last_seen_date was that I was starting to try to get a better sense of how to define and measure how many active users there really are.

There seem to be a number of discussions on the Feverbee forum that are starting to dive deeper into this question as well:


I would take a slightly different view. Metrics are less useful than most people think, because they focus on what’s happening now. Remember that the internet is forever. If your community is information based, ie people find it while looking for an answer, then the current activity rate is NOT the be-all end-all of your community.

I run a community like this that very much ebbs and flows based on national interest (renewable energy). During the slow times, it’s just the regulars. During peak interest, we get a lot of “newbie” traffic.

The discussion that happens in the dry times is just as good and probably better than the “flood season”. This content will continue to draw in new users for years to come. So why should I chase after statistics? They would tell me that something is “wrong”.

The real metric to worry about is member happiness. No analytic software can tell you this. If people feel engaged and the discussion is worth monitoring, the community will thrive, at any size. Spend your time pruning the off-topic discussion, and cultivating intelligent conversations. This is a ton of work at first! But eventually it will self-sustain.


The one thing that I find to be super important is a regular influx of new users who stick around. Without new blood, your site is going to die eventually. That’s an absolute truth.

This is why we have a todo item to send automatic encouragement emails to new users who sign up, post, get likes, and otherwise show good rookie potential.


Can you point the discussion out? If there is one.
Sounds a really interesting feature!

Bas analytics are based literally on Rich’s ideas and suggestions. I’m using them daily and they are very very useful!

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