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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 Marand on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:18PM

    by Marand (1081) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:18PM (#25137)

    I felt the folks on /. were less "friendly". You know, overly-pedantic (to the point of near-trolling), condescending, turd sandwiches. Here, that's far less of a problem.

    This was especially true if you posted as AC. The groupthink was that any post as AC was inferior and not worthy of discussion, simply for being AC. Any merit the post may have had was completely ignored by most. The only people generally willing to respond to an AC were trolls or after a fight, or would preface their comment with "I don't normally respond to AC..." or "Not wasting mod points on AC..." etc. Same thing for high-UIDs, if you didn't have a low enough UID you weren't worthy of acknowledgment.

    My story:

    Originally, I had a five-digit UID, but I didn't use it to post much, mostly lurk. Then I got busy with other things, stopped following Slashdot for a while, and when I came back I realised 1) I forgot my password, 2) my session had expired, and 3) I no longer had access to the email I registered from.

    At first, I tried daily to recall my password and log in; sure, I could have made a new account, but I figured I'd get mine back eventually. While I did this, a few stories came up that I felt like commenting on, so I did so as AC.

    It was little stuff, like answering questions or offering solutions to problems they mentioned having, usually regarding Linux or other open source software. I avoided trolling, tried to be polite even when disagreeing with someone, and always tried to provide something useful with the post. If I wrote the comment and then decided it wasn't providing something useful, I closed the tab and didn't bother. Better stuff than I ever posted while logged in, because back then I mostly lurked; I didn't have a lot of input on most topics, since I didn't know as much at the time.

    I got a few +5's out of it, which isn't exactly easy with the negative attitude against modding ACs on that site, but the entire process was fairly discouraging due to the general attitude against ACs and new accounts. I kept seeing "I don't normally respond to ACs" or "I don't waste mod points on ACs" or even "I don't normally read at 0", along with a lot of anti-anon trolling from registered users.

    Not necessarily to me, but to AC posters in general that tried to contribute meaningfully the same way I was, and just got lumped in with the assholes for their effort.

    As time went on, I quit trying to recover my account as often, until I eventually quit completely. I decided I didn't want to even have a new account; I lost my desire to contribute due to the "us vs. them" and groupthink problems and the hostility that grew from it.

    I went from commenting somewhat regularly to months in between, eventually quitting completely.

    TL;DR: Comments should be weighed by perceived merit, not arbitrary metrics like UIDs, anonymity, or groupthink. AC posters can be meaningful contributors, and how they're treated will determine whether they become community members or find somewhere else to spend their time.

    So far, this site has been much better about that, and I hope it stays that way.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2