I’ve long been convinced that online communities and social networks have short life cycles. Some much shorter than others. I’m sure someone can run a pretty crude regression to see what all the important factors are but that’s probably a less valuable use of time than trying to solve the problem. In this post, Alex Payne discusses the waning of Hacker News and what he sees are the ways to police the community to maintain quality.
Notice his prescription is akin to stalling the progression of the product life cycle. In essence, the only way you can stop the progression/growth of these communities is to treat it as if it weren’t a product. That’s a moot point if monetization isn’t a concern but there’s something about pushing against online inertia that doesn’t sit well with me. In my years doing business online, it’s much easier to be on the side going with that force than going against it.