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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 bucc5062 on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:01AM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:01AM (#24869)

    I had to go back to /. to check my uid for it's been a while since I last logged in to do anything there. I joined /. around the same time (856482), 2002ish and had lurked a couple of years before.

    At the time I was drawn into /. for the nature of the site. I had never really seen something like it before, a place not only to read/learn about technology but also read commentary that added to the learning and entertainment process (for let's face it, it is a form of entertainment as well). I still remember one of my favorite articles, it was about a guy who built a DIY raised train track in his yard. In between all these "serious" articles were these gems of human creativeness and at times whimsy.

    Then /. changed.

    I don't know when, maybe around 2009, but at some point it got more political, more derogatory, more snobbish. Had that DIY article been even accepted to the front page the commentary would have been more of the snarkish, "why bother", "That is dumb", "I can do it better", then just a general, "cool job man, let's expand that idea". Though I commented a little I found it less interesting to comment for in one sense it seemed like I just was a small voice in a large crowd; a crowd that was becoming less a place to be. /. beta rearing its ugly head was the last straw for me as well. I had already found Ars Technica and other poor substitutes, but when folks began to post about this revolution called SoylentNews I didn't waste any time grabbing my torch and joining the rebels. So far y'all have not disappointed both in overall content, presentation, and most importantly (for me), openness and leadership. Here, when I post I know I may be read and as such, work to be more thoughtful in my presentation. I've submitted at least one article that got accepted (felt cool) and other then the damn red color, like the overall site presentation.

    I hope SN does not become a /. of today and I applaud your attempts to try and build into the model now, ways to avoid or avert such an act. One thought is dump the display of UIDs in posts. it really does not present value to the conversation and can be seen as mainly bragging rights, not because a low number has any better an opinion then a high. I like that I'm 699, but it only means 698 people beat me to a good idea, not that I'm "better" then 3140 or those dirty 4000s (kidding).

    To the editors, as a geek/nerd I love articles about technical stuff, but those DIY articles that may not be so computer oriented, but still geeky are just as cool. Keep it fresh. I even like the humorous one's for the same reason. At times it is easier to comment on those then a intensely technical article that is typically way over my head(unless it becomes a discussion about the impacts. talking tech about a nuclear bomb is one thing, but talking about is there a time to use one which can really get a conversation going).

    TL;DR - Doing a good job so far, keep it open, keep it real, keep it light and when Facebook comes along and offers you a billion dollars, calculate how much every member would get, accept the offer, pay us off, walk away and start baconnews. I'll try for a lower next time.

    The more things change, the more they look the same
    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:06AM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:06AM (#24878)

    Posting after to toss in two more thoughts, IRC scares me for having been burned in times past by the anonymity and vitriol that can occur in such places, I prefer "letter writing" to "phone conversations". So my second thought, which might be better stated in IRC will come here...

    there were a couple of good things about /., the site. Some java script was not bad in areas like moderating and posting of comments. I know some here do not like JS, but like a goto statement, it can do good or harm just on how it is implemented. I'd hope SN can find that balance and allow no scripters to still have the original feel and folks like me can find a slighter easier functionality without going over to the dark side of Beta.

    The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 2) by xlefay on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:58AM

      by xlefay (65) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:58AM (#24938) Journal

      I'm sorry to hear that. I'm the team leader of the IRC staff, and I'd love to see you around.

      We try and keep our IRC free and open for all and keep it a nice place for everyone. If you stick around in official channels, you'll find there's generally a nice and clean environment, occasionally there are some bad apples but we generally weed them out quite quickly. We're also planning a karma based system on IRC, where people with negative karma are automatically muted for a specific amount of time (depending on their karma); we're still working that all out.


      In case, anyone ever gets into such a situation in an official channel (e.g. #soylent, #editorial, etc) you can always ping a member of the IRC staff (just /join #help) and we'll see if we can help you.


      Hope this relieves some of your worries!

  • (Score: 1) by len_harms on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:01PM

    by len_harms (1904) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:01PM (#24940) Journal

    I think you nailed it on a lot of the reasons we got bored with the other site.

    Other than the id thing. Its not that big of a deal. I usually used the number on the other site to gauge how 'young/old' the person was. Probably way off. :)

    To the editors stay away from the political/religious stuff and you will find the audience naturally follows you. I have seen it on a couple of other boards where they minimized it and the community came back to life. Instead of arguing over boring topics that no one is going to change their mind over. One board I post on just simple banishes the topics to a 'dmz zone' and lets them argue it out, out of the main boards view.

    • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:23PM

      by Common Joe (33) <{common.joe.0101} {at} {}> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:23PM (#25138) Journal

      I usually used the number on the other site to gauge how 'young/old' the person was. Probably way off.

      You never know. I'm a 7-digit on Slashdot (2807741), saw a guy post with a 3-digit and happened to piece together he lived in the same city I did. I contacted him and we had lunch together. He's about my age. (He's a nice guy.)

  • (Score: 1) by aiwarrior on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:31PM

    by aiwarrior (1812) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:31PM (#24971)

    I did read your comment and I agree that extremely technical talk can go way out of my head. I also would like the DIY articles to be more common.