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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: 1) by gidds on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:30AM

    by gidds (589) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:30AM (#24818)

    On The Other Site (which I've been reading since last century), I always logged in, and used to comment a lot, but I did so less and less over the last few years.

    This was mainly due to timing: I'm in Europe, and usually read the site over lunchtime, so by the time I saw a story, everyone had already said everything and moved on; even if I had something new worth saying, by that time no-one would see it. So I found myself effectively disenfranchised.

    I also never moderated. This was ultimately due to the sheer volume of stories and comments: I didn't have time to read every story, nor every comment on those I did read, and so I didn't feel I could do a fair job of moderating. (Moderating just the comments that were already highly-rated would merely have been joining in the groupthink.)

    Right now, things are better here; there aren't so many stories, and they seem to stay 'current' for longer, so folks with day jobs and/or non-US time-zones are at less of a disadvantage. And with fewer comments, good ones are less likely to get lost in the noise.

    So I have very mixed reactions to this story. While it's great that TPTB (The Powers That Be) here are listening to their community and clearly have good intentions, it seems that they aspire to the same level of traffic that turned me off The Other Site.

    Bigger is not always better.

    (Which, coincidentally, is also my feeling on the handling of April Fool's day... But that's another story :)

  • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:35AM

    by umafuckitt (20) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:35AM (#24828)

    I had a similar experience. I started reading /. back in 2005 or so but that was in Europe. Comments were always full by the time I read. Now I live in the US and I finally got an account there a year or two ago. I spend more time here than there, though.

    • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:16PM

      by Common Joe (33) <{common.joe.0101} {at} {}> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:16PM (#25135) Journal

      Perhaps a little off topic, but I had the opposite experience. After moving to Europe, I found I could get higher rated comments... by posting to new stories that my fellow Americans hadn't read yet because they were sleeping. The stories had to come out during their night time, though.

      • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:26PM

        by umafuckitt (20) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:26PM (#25141)

        Well, I have to admit I didn't even have an account when I was in Europe. Plus, it was 6 years ago that I was there so memory may be playing tricks on me now.

  • (Score: 2) by Popeidol on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:19AM

    by Popeidol (35) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:19AM (#24893) Homepage Journal

    Australia is in a similar boat. Most of the article were posted overnight, so the discussion was fairly well covered by the time I actually got to read it. I posted so rarely that I forgot my initial user account completely and just posted AC.

    While I've changed it up a bit on soylent, usually I only post when I have something to add to the discussion - a viewpoint that hasn't been covered yet, or a specific chunk of knowledge that nobody has mentioned.

    When I write a comment, I always strip out ahout half of the text. Often I delete the whole thing without posting.

    On the other site, conversations were 'complete' very quickly. I posted about every 3 months, when my specialist areas actually came up. The rest of the time it didn't feel like I had much to add.