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posted by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @08:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the understanding-the-community dept.
We've gotten some incredible feedback regards to the moderation system and the karma system, and trust me, its not going into /dev/null; I'll have a writeup done by the weekend. However, I've noticed something today that made me sit back, and think for awhile. Our community is healthy and vibrant, and we're far more cohesive as a group than we ever were on the other site. Furthermore, our users are significantly more active here than the other site. Almost all of us are from the other site, but there's a huge difference between us and them.

I can sum up the difference in four words: We ARE a community.

While many of us decried the other site calling us an audience, I'm not sure I can say I was a part of the Slashdot community. I read articles, and comments, but I hadn't moderated (or even logged in) on the other site for years. This wasn't always true; I'm UID 700139 on the other site (registered sometime in 2003), and I was fairly active until 2009. Then I stopped. I didn't even post on the Audience Responses post. I've talked to others on IRC, and it turns out I'm not alone; a LOT of people who are active here were permanent lurkers on the other site.

I need to understand why to keep us a community, and to prevent us from just becoming a passive audience. If you're going to post on any story, let it be this one, and tell me your story. We need to know.For this request to make sense, I need to make a distinction between not commenting, and lurking. Lurking is people who have user accounts, but don't sign in, never moderate and never post, even on topics that interest them. They are someone who is completely passive on the other site. Its fine that people comment on every single article; even at my most active on the other site, I posted at best one a month. A lot of people just like to read the comments, and perhaps moderate.

There is nothing wrong with that; those people are still part of the community even if they don't speak often. We've had two stories yesterday that broke 100 comments: Moderation: Discussing !(post^moderate) and OK Cupid Protests Against Mozilla CEO. Looking back at the history, nearly every single article we've run discussing the site broke the hundred comment mark. This is incredible because as of writing, we only have 4007 user accounts total, and slashcode reports seeing 54,620 unique IPIDs* for yesterday.

By chance, Slashdot ran the same article at roughly the same time as we did: OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights. This is what made me sit up and take notice. Slashdot does not post their stats publicly, but when DICE acquired Freenet, they posted some rough numbers in the official press release. From that article:

Slashdot, a user-generated news, analysis, peer question and professional insight community. Tech professionals moderate the site which averages more than 5,300 comments daily and 3.7 million unique visitors each month.

As I said before, we don't have a really good idea on the number of unique IPIDs visiting the site, but we do have solid numbers for our daily comment counts. Here's the graph as generated by slashcode for a biweekly period:

Biweekly Comment Count Graph

(due to a quirk in slashcode, the graphs don't update until 48 hours later; our comment count for 04/01 was 712 comments total).

Taking in account averages, we're roughly getting a little less than 10% of Slashdot's comment counts, with a considerably smaller user base. As I said, the OkCupid story made me take notice. Here's the comment counts at various scores between the two sites

         | SoylentNews | |
Score -1 |         130 |         1017 |
Score  0 |         130 |         1005 |
Score  1 |         109 |          696 |
Score  2 |          74 |          586 |
Score  3 |          12 |           96 |
Score  4 |           4 |           64 |
Score  5 |           1 |           46 |
Furthermore, I took a look at UIDs on the other site, the vast majority of comments came from 6/7 digit UID posters. Looking at CmdrTaco's Retirement Post as well as posts detailing the history of the other site most of the low UIDs are still around, and are simply in perma-lurk mode.

Here's the rub. If Slashdot is really getting 3.7 million unique visitors per month, and there most popular articles only get to 1000-2000 comments (Taco's retirement, and the Audience Responses post both reached 2k), then Slashdot's readership is passive. Like, insanely passive. Let's assume that the average poster posts 5 comments a month (which is an extremely conservative estimate in my opinion). then out of those 3.7M unique visitors, only one person out of a thousand (1060 to be specific) is posting a comment. That's a horrendous ratio, especially for a site that allows anonymous postings.

I don't think this is inherent to the site itself; if we are getting 100-250k unique users (and I don't think its anywhere close to that high), then our numbers are still drastically better than Slashdot's. I suspect for every 100 users, one is posting, and if not, they're at least moderating or using the site. On average, we float 200-300 logged in users at a time, spiking up to 800-1000 in the evenings. On April 1st, we saw 3842 unique users logged in every day (out of 4007!).

I don't want this site to become a passive audience, I want people to be involved, and active in the site. This doesn't mean posting, but moderating, or at the very least, browsing while logged in. I suspect the vast majority of us were in the perma-lurk mode on the other site before coming here, and I want to know why. Tell me your stories so we can be a community, and not just a website with an audience. Let me hear them loud and clear, and tell me if I'm wrong; let me know if you were one of the most active posters on the other site, and if so, what sense of community did you feel over there.

* - due to the way we use varnish for ACs, the number of unqiue IPID per day is likely far higher it is in actuality. Due to our setup, the backend only sees one AC every five minutes + all logged in users.

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  • (Score: 2) by randmcnatt on Wednesday April 02 2014, @09:07AM

    by randmcnatt (671) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @09:07AM (#24730) Homepage
    I gave up on /. mainly due to the number of articles and sheer quantity (and quality) of comments. By the time I could get to a story I was interested in there would be 100s of comments, and I just didn't have time to read through a fraction of them (I generally enjoy the 1s and 0s as well as any others). The politicization of even the techie-ist of subjects was off-putting. And I was usually unwilling to put out the effort to make a comment knowing it would probably be duplicative or get lost in the morass of comments.

    So far, SN gives me a chance to contribute (one of the topic icons is my design) and allows me to actually read all the comments.
    The Wright brothers were not the first to fly: they were the first to land.
    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kebes on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:35AM

    by kebes (1505) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:35AM (#24826)
    This is true for me also. On /. my contributions decreased over time simply because I became more busy in the rest of my life. It takes quite a bit of effort to compose a meaningful comment on a technical article. I try to make my comments 'count', which usually means I'm doing some web-searches to add links and make sure that my understanding is supported by the facts. The comment becomes a miniature research paper, which takes time and effort to generate. Obviously a purely opinion-based reply is much faster to compose. But even so, I try to proof-read and refine my argument before posting it. In fact, I would say that I only post about 50% of the comments that I compose: frequently I write something but I can tell I'm not being clear enough (and worry that I will be misunderstood), so I just delete the poorly-worded comment and move on to something else.

    Maybe I take commenting too seriously, but I'm sure I'm not the only one (based on the high quality of other comments I see). If I'm busy on a given day, I simply don't have the time to post intelligent replies, so I post nothing at all. SN has reinvigorated me, so I've been trying to make time to engage... but admittedly not as often as I'd like.

    It's obviously impossible for SN to make people less busy in the rest of their lives. But I will say that having a very slick and responsive UI on the site (for reading comments, composing comments, etc.) can help make commenting faster and easier. (E.g. when you preview, it could check links for you and warn you if one of them is malformed, leads to a 404, etc.) Also having feedback that your comment was appreciated of course helps make it feel worthwhile (moderation is one such feedback, of course).
  • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:45AM

    by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:45AM (#24920) Journal
    I've seen this from a few people and I don't understand it at all. I still frequently comment on the other place because there are enough comments that I'm participating in a discussion. Here, most of the time there are no comments so there's nothing to respond to. Posting just in response to the article is far less interesting than joining in a debate about the article.
    sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:28PM

      by NCommander (2) <> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:28PM (#25037) Homepage Journal

      I think a lot of it is they never see the discussions in the various branches on the other site. I've been involved in a few, but more and more, they just stopped happening, and are IMHO, a rarity. This is further compounded you need to be reading at 1/2, and due to moderation being fucked, its hard to read due to the high S/N.

      Still always moving ...
  • (Score: 1) by Maddog on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:39PM

    by Maddog (690) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:39PM (#24984)

    I've only commented briefly here, but that's because life is too busy. Like others I too want to form a well rounded thought before submitting. I'm usually just browsing the site during brief mind breaks at work, so I cannot commit to lengthy stays. So a site that I can peruse quickly, get a thought out, and then go back to something else works well for my schedule.

    Since the S/N ratio here is much better, it allows me to spend less time parsing through the comments to get to some decent meat.

    Over at Slashdot my only hope was to view at high thresholds, which only provided those comments that passed the group-think filters. The good bits that were at 1-2 never came to the surface and I don't have the time to click "load more, load more, load more, load more" then scroll through the hundreds of comments to get to something good.

    Sometimes smaller is better! I'm curious to see how this site grows.