My $0.02’s worth. I gave up participating on this forum a few months ago. And was never particularly active (as can be seen from my post count). But I still lurk occasionally and noticed this thread. A little background. I first stated lurking on the board in early 2006, brought here by a search for information on sous vide. That was in the halcyon days when eG was very nearly the only resource available on the subject in English. Other topics I recall fondly include Thai larb and no-knead bread, where the discussions here were the most insightful I could find on the web.
In January 2010, I bought a Sous Vide Supreme and decided to join. That after having twice almost joined, but hadn’t because of two issues which have been mentioned in this thread. One was the omnibus thread approach, which is quite daunting. The implication is that you have to digest hundreds (sometimes thousands) of posts on a topic before posting, the upshot of which is that one isn’t inclined to try. The other issue was the essay, which Chris Hennes has defended as weeding out bots, but also weeds out those of us who find it awkward and a bit insulting. Before you can join, you have to prove you’re worthy. Seriously?
Anyhoo, I finally bit the bullet and joined. And what I found was a bit disappointing. Even then, only a few years ago, the board was much slower than when I was a lurker. In large part, I think Sam was right when he said this is mostly because the internet has changed. I participate in several message boards and all of them have less traffic these days. Partly it’s because of movement to blogs and Facebook. And partly it’s topic fatigue. The cooking shows and magazines have the same problem. There’s only so much to be said about how to cook the perfect steak - an example mentioned earlier in the thread - and the opportunities for deep further contributions aren’t great. These, I think, are the fundamental reasons for eG’s decline and there’s nothing I can think of which will change this.
That said, there are two problems with the board I will mention. First, there’s an unfortunate tendency among posters to play “gotcha” games. I’ve run into this lots of times and have seen it many more (directed at others). Frankly, it’s the main reason I gave up. To be clear, I don’t think the answer is for the mods to delete those posts. Like others, I think deletion should be used very sparingly. But what they could do, quite easily, is step in and make supportive posts. “Actually, X, I think Y makes a good point.” Or, “actually X, I think you misunderstand Y’s point.” Which is to say, moderate the discussion (in the ordinary sense of the word) rather try to control it. Second, housekeeping and consolidating threads are all very fine, but the mods should understand that the purpose of the enterprise is discussion, not accumulating a database. On the contrary, as a database, the eG is a major fail. Let that go.
Of which speaking, if I were factotum and could make one change to eG, it would be to develop a sticky thread which collects links to all the omnibus threads is one place. Importantly, this should be a resource, not a barrier to new threads. Telling a new poster to read all the threads on sous vide before asking a question should be right out. (And, yes, I’ve seen this done.) On the other hand, saying “we’ve done this before and here’s a post answering your question” would be fine. Notice the difference. The former places all the burden on the newbie; the latter actually answers the question.