Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:55AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the a-submitter's-opinion dept.

[Editor's Comment: The following submission is printed as received. It was not solicited by SN, nor is Hugh Pickens receiving any form of favour or recompense for his submission. It is a very good suggestion from a prolific submitter and, although I do not agree with every word in it, it does make many valuable points.]

There has been a lot of discussion on the site recently about the quality of the stories, the number of stories, the number of comments stories receive, and whether Soylent should slow down the flow of stories. As a frequent submitter to Soylent and someone who has submitted stories to Slashdot for over ten years, here is my two cents a polemic if you will, designed to start some discussion on a topic that I think is critical for the long term success of Soylent News.

Quality of the Stories is the Most Important Single Factor Driving Readership

Everybody agrees that readers come to a site like Soylent for the discussion not for the stories. Now it is probably not politically correct for me to to say so, but in my opinion the quality of the stories is the single most important factor that drives readership on a site like soylent of slashdot. The quality of the stories drives the number of the comments which drives the quality of comments. It's chicken/egg. You have to have an interesting story to get the comments started before you have good comments and a good discussion.

Let's Define a Successful Submission

First let's define an objective standard of a successful submission. The purpose of a submission is always to get a critical number of comments going. To me, unless a story gets 10 comments it is a failure. A story on Soylent with twenty comments is a success. A story with thrity comments or above is a huge success. Once readers see that twenty or thirty people have posted they will see it is an interesting story and join in. It's a cummulative effect.

What Determines Story Quality?

[READ MORE WITHIN]

In my opinion there are three major factors that determine the quality of the story and increase the number of comments a submission receives: the inherent interest of the story, the headline, and the story itself.

Inherent Interest of the Story Itself

The first factor in a successful submission is the inherent interest of the story itself. Readers want to be challenged, they want the author to tell them something they didn't know already, or something that challenges their view on something and makes them think. That is why I always on the lookout for stories on the internet that challenge me I figure if a story is interesting to me, then it will be interesting to other people.The first step is the hardest selecting the story. The right story "writes" itself. The wrong story is impossible to write.

A lot of people think the difficulty of making a submission is in writing the story. NO. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difficulty in making a good submission is in selecting the right story to submit. Once you find the right story, the story practically writes itself. I speak from experience. I've had 19 successful submissions so far in June 2014 and my stories have garnered an average of 35.6 comments each. But for each story I submit, I usually spend 20 minutes finding the right story and then ten minutes writing the story itself.

I constantly see comments on slashdot/soylent on the difficulty of making a submission. Here's a good methodology on selecting the right story that works for me. I find most of my stories on the rss feed on "Hacker News". Go down Hacker News and look for interesting stories stories that you would be interested in reading yourself. Then go to the comments for the stories. If you see 30 or 40 comments on Hacker News then you know that it is a story that has general interest and will probably get 15 -30 comments on Soylent. If you see a story on Hacker News that only gets half a dozen comments, then it probably won't get more than 3 or 4 comments on Soylent and won't reach critical mass.

The Headline

The second factor in a successful submission is the headline. The first thing I do before I even start to write a story is write the headline. If I can't think of a good headline, then I won't proceed any further. If people don't read your headline and think "that sounds interesting" there is little chance they will read your story. I strive to present the story in the most challenging way possible and the best way to do that is with a great headline. A lot of times I will spend as much time writing and re-writing my headline as I do putting together a story. Before I even start to write a story, I have to have a good headline.

Writing the Story

The final factor in a successful submission is the story itself. Sometimes my final submission uses the same lead sentence as the original article but many times I will find the lead buried in the middle of the article. One problem is the need to condense a 1,500 words article down to 250 words submission and still have something that makes sense. My purpose is not to read a story, digest all the words in it, and then close the book, and rewrite the story in my own words. My purpose is to convey what the original author wanted to say and the best way to do that is to select the parts of the story that contain the essence of the story, put them into a cogent narrative, condense this down to a format suitable, and if possible add another link or two to the story to provide additional depth to the story to anyone who wants to follow the links. I have found that the best way to do that is to select the original author's own words but to re-order them and provide grammatical transitions to condense them down.

It goes without saying that I don't always submit stories that I agree with. My purpose is not to extol my personal philosophy, write about people I admire, or convince you to join my point of view. My purpose is to get you to comment. That means writing an interesting story, whether I agree with it or not. My only measure of success is in the number of comments a story receives which leads to higher quality comments and a more interesting discussion.

How Often Should Soylent Publish New Stories

I think Soylent is making a mistake if the editors slow stories down too much. I think a lot of the traffic that comes to slashdot/soylent during the day is looking for new stories and checking two or three times a day to see if there is anything new. If they see the same story at the top of the page when they come back three hours later, they will get tired of the site and abandon it.

I think one story an hour is about the right flow and can slow down to one story every 1.5 hours on a slow news day. Of course, during the night, the stories can slow down to one story every two or three hours.

If you want more details on writing a submission for Slashdot/Soylent read an essay I wrote a few years ago on the subject.

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:09AM (#56168)

    i prefer to see stuff that isn't in cnet or nyt.

    things like personal stories (ask soylent, code projects, etc) and new cutting edge stuff (sort of stuff you see at TED or CES) and not just high profile big corporate developments. pi and arduino etc are in some cases more interesting because they are more accessible... i see it and i think "wow i might try that out"

    • (Score: 2) by RaffArundel on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:32PM

      by RaffArundel (3108) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:32PM (#56355) Homepage

      things like personal stories (ask soylent, code projects, etc)

      These were some of my favorites (especially because the really get good comments) on that other site but I don't recall seeing any of note here. Have we done an Ask Soylent, and I missed it? I bet we have some people with interesting jobs, so even if we couldn't pull a big name for Q&A, perhaps a "Ask the [some occupation]". Slightly different question - what happens to the articles that "don't make it" into the feed? Perhaps a "weekend wrap-up" of those links. Hopefully, I'm not the only one who primarily visits during... work... (shhh, don't tell the boss) so while my email allows me to skim - "Monday Highlights" to drive traffic back to posts that either deserve a second look or good discussions that should be bumped.

      But let's talk article quality - the previous was mostly about getting good comments on existing articles. I don't believe that Soylent needs click-bait so the recent rise in tin-foil-hattery ("Bible Code" NSA infiltration REVEALED, the PA Tumor Registry that still exists but doesn't make as good a story, are examples just from today) don't get me to comment, even to correct the misinformation.

      This is a good post and successful based on the comment count. I don't have a problem with covering stories from the other sites, I think we have a better community which should result in a better discussion. However, I don't think more posts is the answer, just better ones.

    • (Score: 2) by mendax on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:27PM

      by mendax (2840) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:27PM (#56574)

      What's wrong with the New York Times? The NYT has some great stuff that is not only well written but usually well researched that is of interest to most of us.

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:23AM

    by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:23AM (#56169) Journal

    Stories that change the world paradigm. 10x faster, 10x cheaper, 10x powerful, or something not possible until now, or just something you didn't know (snowden?) that changed your perspective.

    It could like the above poster say be simple things like RPi. Because it's actually powerful, smart and may change your ability to do things. Even if it in itself is just an ordinary microcontroller with some breakout pins. Perhaps we'll see a kickstarter for a free and open graphics that may kick NVidia-AMD-Intel butt? or some other project that breaks new ground.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:11AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:11AM (#56231) Journal

      or something not possible until now, or just something you didn't know (snowden?) that changed your perspective.

      This, my friend, qualifies in the "100x nastier than you could imagine". Is it OK to post challenging "stories" (or PoV-es) rather than informative ones?
      For me, it is (e.g. I'd rather prefer the "social perspective of a tech" than "the dry technical description of the tech"), but I can't pretend I'm representative for SN.

      Want an example, you say? How about a discussion on slow Web movement [smartbear.com]?

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:13AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:13AM (#56264)

        I think that link is only worth reading for the 1 snarky witty comment it created. :)

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:31AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:31AM (#56294) Journal
          Uh, I missed that one, thank for the tip.
          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:01AM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:01AM (#56277) Journal

        Interesting ;-)

        Otoh, I have never believed in the "As its name suggests the Fast Web is the Web of immediacy — the ‘click here, share now, like and retweet this’ Web that conditions you to keep up with the overbearing number of alerts and notifications". It's merely a sign that marketdroids and social interaction herds got more influence than due.

        If one needs to format messages with html but the same message can still be said with ASCII. There's someone in the loop more concerned with appearances than content. And thats usually a sign of when things go wrong. So whenever emails "need" html. But their content isn't anything special. That says a lot about the sender.. ;)

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:26AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @10:26AM (#56293) Journal

          If one needs to format messages with html but the same message can still be said with ASCII. There's someone in the loop more concerned with appearances than content. And thats usually a sign of when things go wrong. So whenever emails "need" html. But their content isn't anything special. That says a lot about the sender.. ;)

          I got your starting assumption, but I wouldn't put that much emphasize on the form as long as the substance is still sound. I'm rather more annoyed about the compulsion some feel to answer before even taking a moment to think (thus impacting on the profoundness of their reaction) and even more annoyed of the pressure they apply by asking for an immediate answer: this forces the entire exchange to remain on a shallow level.
          Yes, I do understand this is a matter of life and death for markedroids - if they can't convince me to buy their crap now (yesterday would have been even better... for them), it's clear they stand no chance when I take my time to think until tomorrow. This is not to say that understanding is the same as approval.

          The older I am, the grumpier, but... it does looks to me like the percentage of ADHD-like sufferers is on the raise.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday June 18 2014, @12:44AM

            by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @12:44AM (#56705) Journal

            The problem is that message form tend to be indicative of message substance.. ;)

            I think it's rather ADHD alike people (A-type) that is given more opportunities to spam other people with their stuff.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by clone141166 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:34AM

    by clone141166 (59) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:34AM (#56170)

    Thank you for all your effort and submissions!

    Some great suggestions/pointers/ideas too - I like that you pointed out the need to remain as impartial as possible in story selection. I think it is important to maintain a balance in stories. A lot of news sites are tending more and more towards primarily publishing stories on controversial topics because antagonising people is the easiest way to get people reading/involved. While controversial stories can lead to some great debates/comments, it can be exhausting and tedious if the same controversies are addressed over and over again (I don't think we have this problem on SN at the moment though, which I think speaks to the integrity of the community).

    Story quality rests both on the submitters and the editors (both of which seem to be improving with time and experience, which is great).

    I wonder if maybe it would be an idea to think about some kind of reward system for good submissions in future? Additional mod points or something like that? (Might have to be up to the discretion of the editors though, as judging based on #comments could be open to abuse.)

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by clone141166 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:42AM

      by clone141166 (59) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:42AM (#56173)

      Addendum: The Soylent News Annual Best Submissions Awards - The Soylies? Best Overall Story, Most Informative, Most Controversial, Most Bacony awards? Award trophy is a small gold statue of NCommander holding a keyboard :D

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:44AM

      by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:44AM (#56197) Journal

      Most popular submitter admits he feels popular ;)

      No it gives the wrong incentives..

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by frojack on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:35AM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:35AM (#56171) Journal

    I don't think we have the volume of readers that requires one story per hour, not to say anything about an adequate number of submitter. That green site, yeah, maybe.

    A story needs time to garner a good discussion thread. Having 20 unread stories each time you visit does not suggest a lot of thought goes into any particular post.

    At our stage of growth, it would seem that a new story once every other hour would be adequate.

    But other than that, I agree with the advice.

    I also like those stories where the original publisher buried the the lead, and our submitter found fresh ground to plow in.

    Then there is the story which suggest questions that the original journalism major totally missed, or which went right over their heads.

    Lets not all rush to Hacker News. I'm content to let Mr Pickens mine that for us, and each of us look for our own sources. I don't like stories appearing here looking like they sourced that green site, but I realize that is going to happen sometimes.

    Personally I surf a lot of unusual sites, and read a lot of RSS from diverse sources. I find things hidden in some of these sources.

    Oh, and I've been guilt of watching the queue, and only getting serious about stories when it gets low. Gotta stop that, and submit stories when I see them.

    Also, some stories are time-less, and the editors can slip them in at any time, so having a few of those in the queue helps. Others pretty much have to be posted quickly or, they spoil like yesterday's fish.

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:16AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:16AM (#56185) Homepage

      I agree with this. Things started well here, but in the last couple months there are a lot of stories where ALL the comments are smartassed remarks (and when that's what I see, I don't come back to that story later; nothing to see here, move along). Now I'm wondering if it's because our brainpool, not yet large, is too diluted by too much stuff to see and not enough brain cells to comment sensibly on it... as well as that some stories are written in a way that kinda lends themselves to that (nothing really open-ended about 'em, or feed into the groupthink, so the immediate group impulse is to make fun of them, like yeah let's help jeer at whatever the story jeered at).

      But I don't mind stories coming from NYT and wherever else someone complained about, because otherwise I won't see 'em at all. The red, green, and blue sites ARE my news sources.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:55AM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:55AM (#56204) Journal

        Which site is the blue one?

        • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:15AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:15AM (#56210) Homepage

          http://pipedot.org/ [pipedot.org]
          tho lacking a daily mailer, I usually don't remember to visit there :(

          • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:24AM

            by Common Joe (33) <{common.joe.0101} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:24AM (#56769) Journal

            I use Thunderbird to get my RSS and Atom feeds. Pipedot uses atom: https://pipedot.org/atom [pipedot.org]

            For those interested in Soylent News' feed: http://www.soylentnews.org/index.rss [soylentnews.org]

            • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Wednesday June 18 2014, @05:25AM

              by Reziac (2489) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @05:25AM (#56778) Homepage

              Oho, thanks! I didn't realise you could do that. Works the same in SeaMonkey's mail client. (Now if I can remember it's there...!!)

              • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Wednesday June 18 2014, @01:48PM

                by Common Joe (33) <{common.joe.0101} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 18 2014, @01:48PM (#56928) Journal

                I actually wrote to the admins at both sites and suggested posting this information somewhere obvious. One of them wrote back and politely said "It was already there at both sites." Then they told me where to find them.

                In Soylent News on the main page at the very bottom, there is an RSS orange icon which indicates the RSS feed. On Pipedot on the main page at the bottom, there is an orange icon next to the word "Feed". Apparently, this information escaped both of us, but now we both know.

                • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:56PM

                  by Reziac (2489) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:56PM (#56998) Homepage

                  Whenever I'd clicked an RSS link in the past, I'd get presented with a page of very ugly and not-useful XML. So what had escaped me was that now the mail client handles it. And "Blogs and Newsfeeds" didn't show up in SM until the day I was having trouble with my sub for English Russia, and the site owner recommended their RSS link... THEN it showed up in SM mail but didn't work right so I thought no more about it!!

                  "Post somewhere obvious" and "already there" goes to show how obvious isn't universal, eh? :)

    • (Score: 2) by tathra on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:29AM

      by tathra (3367) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:29AM (#56189)

      I don't like stories appearing here looking like they sourced that green site, but I realize that is going to happen sometimes.

      some people dont seem to realize (or care?) that some of the people here also submit stories to slashdot, the submitter of this story being one of them. why should anybody be required to rewrite their submission just because they're submitting it both places, or worse yet, only be 'allowed' to submit it to one? some people gave up on the other place entirely, so they'd miss out on a lot if the editors stopped posting stories because "/. already covered it".

      since we're still basically just a fork of /. at this point, its expected that we'll have a bunch of similar, or even identical, stories. get over it. once we have a large enough community and enough quality submitters, maybe then the people who submit to both places will only submit to here, but that'll never happen if people are always crying "/. dupe!" and "i already read this over at /.", etc, every time they see a similar or shared story; that'll only give motivation for them to give up on this place and go back to the parent.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:51AM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:51AM (#56201) Journal

        Agreed. This also-covered-dupe over at that other site is just one thing one ought to get over.

      • (Score: 1) by My Silly Name on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:05PM

        by My Silly Name (1528) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:05PM (#56345)
        Your point is well made. The main difference right now is that with that other site, 90% of the discussion is from trolls. Sooner or later, SN may be similarly overtaken, but let us enjoy the clean place while we can.

        I have frequented /. since the very beginning (when it looked quite a lot like what we see here), and the reason why I do so less now is not so much because of the new interface, but because the signal-to-noise level got too uncomfortable to live with.

        This aside, TFS does raise an important point: a submission has to be well crafted to stimulate interest, generating an interesting discussion.

        "To me, unless a story gets 10 comments it is a failure. A story on Soylent with twenty comments is a success. A story with thrity[sic] comments or above is a huge success."

        From this point of view, I think we can say this one is a success. :)
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by broken on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:44AM

    by broken (4018) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:44AM (#56174) Journal

    I don't think that number of comments is the best way to measure a successful submission.

    The stories that get the most comments on this site (and Slashdot) tend to be on political topics. The comments usually just rehash the same old political arguments. This sort of discussion can be found all over the Internet, and there is nothing that makes Soylent a better forum for these sorts of discussions, even if you're into them.

    On the other hand, some highly technical submissions get very few comments because most people don't have the appropriate background to add anything of interest. And the comments you do get are often just dumb jokes. I vastly prefer these stories despite the low comment level because I get to learn something new.

    What we really need is greater incentive for users to provide comments that add real useful content to submitted stories. Since it's a lot more work to provide a genuinely informative post than it is to just make a dumb joke or espouse a popular opinion, it happens too infrequently. When stories scroll off the page in a few hours, by the time one of these comments is crafted, most people are already done looking at the story. This creates the incentive to post quickly and move on.

    The question we (i.e. Soylent News) need to ask ourselves is whether we want a site primarily for the exchange of opinions, or a site that aims to share knowledge. I vote for the latter.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:59AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:59AM (#56181) Journal

      I don't think that number of comments is the best way to measure a successful submission.
      The stories that get the most comments on this site (and Slashdot) tend to be on political topics. The comments usually just rehash the same old political arguments.

      I was going to post the same thing, it is spot on.

      Its gotten so bad around here that any political story is a lightening rod and can garner 100 posts in no time flat.

      Being informed by a story doesn't always require expressing an opinion on that same story, or being knowledgeable enough to do so constructively.

      There are many stories I just won't touch. How do you rate an entire story as flame bate? And why do our editors post them?

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by Ethanol-fueled on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:31PM

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:31PM (#56398) Homepage

        This is a complaint that comes up a lot, and to paraphrase another commenter here in another discussion, sometimes it's good to have stories on topics in which everybody can participate.

        There's a reason why some stories have 50 comments and others have 3 -- It's because it's a lot easier for people to give a shit about what's directly happening in front of them rather than the stick-hunting habits of the Indonesian Macaque or the latest experimental technique in X-ray crystallography or some other super-niche submission subject.

        That's why we need them both. If we go too far one way, we turn into Slashdot, and that would suck. If we go too far the other way, we turn into Pipedot. And that's not saying anything bad about Pipedot's subject matter, but the small size of their discussions.

        Most importantly, controversial discussion topics remind us that we're not all a homogenous circle-jerk of a population, that we have differences, and that we not get bent all out of shape at those differences. That actually bothers some people, who prefer comfort and familiarity over all else.

        What makes a positive difference in the cases of controversial/political discussions is that people post either experience or information previously unknown to the audience-at-large, or at least a really good argument, rather than what happened in the Apple discussion that another commenter in this discussion referred to. And I'll be the first to slam Apple, everytime I see some asshole in public with an iPad, I have an overwhelming urge to karate-chop it in half like a pine plank.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by clone141166 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:12AM

      by clone141166 (59) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:12AM (#56184)

      Very good points, I agree - controversial stories aren't always the way to go and good comments with a depth of understanding take time and are often lost to story-scroll far too quickly (unfortunately apart from slower story rate I don't know how we would prevent this - but slower story rate has a downside too though).

      I think a balance needs to be maintained though. If the stories become too in-depth technical they become inaccessible to significant portions of the community. However, it's fantastic when a deep technical article comes along and you do actually have the knowledge to understand and discuss it. By keeping a balance between highly technical stories, less technical stories and general interest stories there's something for everyone on any particular day of reading (by "everyone" I mean people within the scope of the current SoylentNews community; an article on How to Care for Your Pony is obviously inappropriate here, except maybe on April 1st).

      So I think a clear understanding of who constitutes the SN community is most important, as it is necessary to maintain the "correct" balance of stories. While there will always be a certain level of assumed abilities and understanding that readers must have (at the most absolutely basic level - the ability to read English - setting the bar too high can potentially be just as bad as setting it too low in my opinion).

      But overall I agree, I would rather have a site that shares knowledge than exchanges opinions, however often the two are intertwined and difficult to separate.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:48AM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:48AM (#56198) Journal

        I think the assumption here is that the readership is both intelligent and technically advanced. So submission may be in depth. But no should use more complexity than absolutely needed to show what's going on

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by martyb on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:38AM

      by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:38AM (#56194) Journal

      First off, I found the article to be interesting and informative. Much there that I agree with and I appreciate the time and effort that went into writing it. Thank you!

      I'd like to comment on what broken [soylentnews.org] wrote in the parent comment:

      I don't think that number of comments is the best way to measure a successful submission.

      The stories that get the most comments on this site (and Slashdot) tend to be on political topics. The comments usually just rehash the same old political arguments. This sort of discussion can be found all over the Internet, and there is nothing that makes Soylent a better forum for these sorts of discussions, even if you're into them.

      On the other hand, some highly technical submissions get very few comments because most people don't have the appropriate background to add anything of interest. And the comments you do get are often just dumb jokes. I vastly prefer these stories despite the low comment level because I get to learn something new.

      I'm in agreement on this. Though quantity is a simple and understandable indicator, I've seen stories with few comments that I found tremendously enriching. For example, the story: Dwarf Galaxies' Distribution Calls Dark Matter into Question [soylentnews.org] has, at the time of this writing, only 14 comments. By the proposed measure, this story was pretty much a dud. Yet, this comment [soylentnews.org] started off a nice little thread.

      As I continued reading that thread, I came upon this comment [soylentnews.org] (by boristhespider).

      If that story had just that one comment, I'd consider it a successful article. Though the comment's material is well past my level of study, I could follow the gist of it and learned a considerable amount in the process. It opened my mind to concepts that are at the leading edge of research.

      I also I like to see questions posed in comments. I can see they are curious but don't understand, so they post a genuine question. I see the community jump in and try to help; questions and answers go back and forth. And then it happens; that light bulb goes off and I see they had that "ah ha!" moment. Priceless.

      And, for completeness' sake, I like funny comments, too. Especially word play and non-sequitur jokes -- there's just nothing else like a nerd's sense of humor. As I've heard it said: "Witt is intellect, dancing."

      --
      Wit is intellect, dancing.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Appalbarry on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:20AM

        by Appalbarry (66) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:20AM (#56213) Journal

        Though quantity is a simple and understandable indicator, I've seen stories with few comments that I found tremendously enriching.

        Second that - although the number of comments will sometimes indicate a subject worth exploring, it can also mean the Usual Suspects are having the same old hackneyed arguments that we've all come to know and despise.

        It's worth noting that I can read Solylent at -1. I could never do that at Slashdot because I would have been buried alive in utter dreck.

        At the end of the day I actually believe that if the quality can remain reasonably high (and yes, that does mean things like grammar and spelling in headlines and submissions) you'll build a smart and loyal user base.

        5. Profit!

        • (Score: 2) by martyb on Tuesday June 17 2014, @11:20AM

          by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @11:20AM (#56301) Journal

          Appalbarry [soylentnews.org] wrote:

          It's worth noting that I can read Solylent at -1. I could never do that at Slashdot because I would have been buried alive in utter dreck.

          Thanks for that observation! At Slashdot, I'd browse at +2 to filter out the trolls and get the comment volume down to something I could keep up with. Here at SoylentNews, I browse at -1, and am able to keep up with all the comments. Not only that, but the number of trolls and the like that I see are actually quite negligible by comparison.

          SoylentCommunity++

          --
          Wit is intellect, dancing.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:41PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:41PM (#56358)

            ++SoylentCommunity, please. No need to get sloppy.

            • (Score: 1) by martyb on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:12PM

              by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:12PM (#56440) Journal

              ++SoylentCommunity, please. No need to get sloppy.

              No offense intended! On our IRC channels, it is conventional to use "foo++" to "complement" someone/thing and to use "foo--" to "frown" upon it. Unfortunately, in that venue, it is strictly a *post* auto-increment operation; ++foo does nothing.

              See also: C++

              Or did I just get whoooshed? =)

              --
              Wit is intellect, dancing.
              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:47PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:47PM (#56468)

                Only partially :) Just meant that ++SoylentCommunity will always be at worst as efficient as SoylentCommunity++ and may be significantly more so.

            • (Score: 1) by meisterister on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:39PM

              by meisterister (949) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:39PM (#56509) Journal

              Psh! You and your C-like languages.

              inc SoylentCommunity

              --
              (May or may not have been) Posted from my K6-2, Athlon XP, or Pentium I/II/III.
      • (Score: 2) by lhsi on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:53PM

        by lhsi (711) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:53PM (#56423) Journal

        I've had similar experiences with some of the stories I have submitted. I remember there was a story about someone about to run Mozilla who had contributed to something unpopular that had a huge amount of comments while a day or so later a story I had with a link to a full scientific paper (i.e. no journalistic spin, just direct, unfiltered information) got less than 10 comments.

        I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from that, possibly a lot of the commenters aren't as intelligent as they might like to think so don't feel as though they can comment on high-information stories, whereas it is easier to comment on a story with no science and just offer an opinion (like what I am doing now). Alternatively, it could also be that people who spout rubbish on some politically based stories are just "louder" than everyone else.

        I still plan on submitting the science based stories, as some of them have generated comments that are all worth reading - those ones make up for the political stories that get submitted that I tend to just straight up not bother reading at all any more.

        As an aside, I think I am the opposite type of submitter to Hugh - I tend to go for high quantity (although still all something that is either interesting in general, or of interest to the community) but don't often have the time to write a long summary. Luckily, the editors here are pretty decent and have improved many of my submissions before they go live.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:27PM (#56354)
      I strongly agree with this.

      I think Hugh makes many good points in his post. And I really appreciate the thought and effort he evidently puts into posting new stories. I agree with the majority of what he says; and yet, some of what he writes treads dangerously close to the 'gaming the system' style of journalism most of us hate. What I mean is that if the main metric-of-success is "discussion" (as opposed to "informed discussion", or "productive discussion"), then you invariably tend towards click-bait headlines, sensationalist topics, etc. I, personally, in fact look for more 'mundane' headlines on topics that I'm legitimately interested in.

      I strongly agree that what's needed is incentives for interesting comments to be posted. I think more mod-points might help. I think technical articles should have more people asking questions for the experts to then answer (my impression is that experts are eager to engage in more detailed discussions, but tend to lack for opportunities/openings to do so...).

      In some sense, maybe the SN editors should instead be thought of as "discussion facilitators" (or you could create a new class of volunteer, I suppose): i.e. half the job is to get good stories posted, but the other half is to follow the thread and help make the conversation productive. This might mean asking questions: both 'naive' questions to generate discussion between nonexperts and experts, as well as detailed technical questions. Another aspect could be to simply provide supportive comments, when justified. In real-life discussion panels, you typically have a moderator who keeps the discussion flowing, and will jump-in with a question/comment/topic if there is a lull in the discussion.

      Obviously this means more work for the editors. And there is a danger that it degenerates into mindless backslapping/cheer-leading, or overly-contrived Q&A. But overall my impression is that the SN community is not quite over the threshold where we have enough active commenters to make even the interesting stories have a fleshed-out comment section. So, we need to incentivize participation in the discussion.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @05:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @05:52PM (#56554)

      So then the if the problem is that at the time most readers read the story there are few informative comments, especially for frequenters of the site because they tend to check more frequently and are more likely to have read it first.
      A possible solution may be to allow commentors who frequently receive high (+4 or 5) informative mod scores to get the benefit of being allowed to comment on stories early while they're still in the submissions folder to preseed the stories with good informative comments and essentially direct the discussion from the beginning, before the most frequent readers/most likely commentors have already read the story which may lead to less dumb jokes and more informative replies.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:32AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:32AM (#56192)

    I'm sorry, but I can't spend 30 minutes 20 times per month looking for content to post on SN. If I come across something while reading the news that I feel is worth submitting I submit it (if it's current and hasn't already been submitted). I'm not sure where Mr Pickens finds the time (he's submitted 70 stories to SN that have been accepted in the last four months), but I would like to thank him for his efforts.

    If every regular visitor submitted one story per month we'd have plenty of submissions, though quantity is not quality. What is interesting to some won't interest others. The lower comment counts do affect participation due to the 'conversational style' of this site, but at least we avoid derailing threads for the most part.

    What we need are a few flame wars over platforms or distros or something else of great importance. Creating alliances and enemies will increase the number of comments, though quantity is not quality.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by martyb on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:11AM

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:11AM (#56208) Journal

    This is a great opportunity to mention one of our volunteers crafted an IRC bot to gather RSS feeds from around the net and feed them into a continuously updated channel. Fire up your IRC client, or just use this web-based access [soylentnews.org], and go to the SoylentNews server, and then do:

    /join #rss-bot

    One of our members, juggs, has written a bot that scrapes a number of RSS feeds and dumps them into this channel. To get a list of feeds, type: "!rss" (without the quotes). I just tried it and here are the current feeds:

    Available feeds: !arstechnica !bbc-tech !bugtraq !cnet !computerworld !darpa !forbes-tech !itworld !krebs !nasa !nature !nist-bioscience !nist-buildfire !nist-chemistry !nist-electronics !nist-energy !nist-forensics !nist-it !nist-manufacturing !nist-math !nist-nano !nist-physics !nist-standards !physorg !sciencedaily_all !sciencemag !securityweek !taosecurity !theregister !wired-enterprise !wired-science.

    Any of these names can be entered to see a list of the most recent items on that feed. So, for example, "!theregister" will show you the most recent stories that appeared at "The Register".

    See Juggs' journal article: IRC RSS Regurgitator Bot - Suggestions & Feed Additions [soylentnews.org] for more details or to make a feed suggestion.

    --
    Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 1) by idetuxs on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:00PM

      by idetuxs (2990) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:00PM (#56370)

      Thanks for the information

  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:38AM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:38AM (#56216) Homepage Journal

    Thanks for Hugh for writing up and submitting this, I think he's got a lot of good valid points, and the next time I touch the submission page, a link to this might be in order, though I do think its kinda strange seeing someone who's not me write an essay on the front page :-)

    Now I know what the community feels like when they see "X words in article"!

    --
    Still always moving
  • (Score: 1) by kwerle on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:40AM

    by kwerle (746) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:40AM (#56219) Homepage

    Fewer stories. Pick a focus.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Pav on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:45AM

    by Pav (114) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:45AM (#56223)

    There was a widely published story some time ago : the approval of dredging near Australias Great Barrier Reef, and I was toying with the idea of going to my local University as a citizen journalist. James Cook Uni is an Australian and world leader in the study of tropical marine ecosystems, and this is precisely because it's adjacent to the reef. The academics were sure to have well informed views... perhaps even inside knowledge of the particular dredging issue under discussion.

    Being close to ground-zero of an existing story is probably a very rare thing, as is having the motivation and ability to find/generate an original story, but the community generating Soylent-exclusive content (if ever possible) would be GOLD. If we want to grow we need to attract readership, and having others link to original content here seems a good way. Indeed it seems to be a part of how Slashdot grew its readership back in the day - it was an aggregator, but also where news seemed to "happen". Perhaps valuing the generation of quality original content should be part of the Soylent community ethos - another way for non-coders to contribute significantly.

  • (Score: 1) by ibennetch on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:15AM

    by ibennetch (1859) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:15AM (#56234)

    I take a different approach than the poster. I'd rather see a few good articles that produce quality, thoughtful discussion than too many articles at once. In fact, I'd rather spend time reading the comments (I can get the headlines anywhere, ultimately), so having more articles than I have time to read through just means I'm ignoring some good discussion. Of course, what a good article pace is for me may not be a good pace for someone else. I think the past few weeks have been pretty good overall -- in that time I have no thought that there are too few articles.

    However, I also feel there's already a lack of quality in the comments, which is disappointing. I'm here for positive discussion on many topics, sure there's room to joke around, but for instance the recent article about Apple's walled garden working to prevent malware[1] was disappointing. 42 comments and basically only one that I thought was worth my time to read. There could have been discussion about how this affects different platforms, which Linux distributions have similar approaches to package management, whether it's worth the tradeoff to prevent malware amongst the less computer literate, and much more. Instead, there were a bunch of insulting comments towards Apple and Apple users, a couple of jokes, and a lot of condescension. There have been a couple of instances of this negative void of comments lately, but that's the most recent and easiest for me to find. Sure, we all like to joke around, but if this turns in to 4chan_tech then it won't be worth my time. Sadly, I don't know how to fix that problem, and time will tell whether it's going to be consistently like that, so I'm certainly not ready to jump ship yet.

    Here's hoping for a bright future for this site! I know I've got big expectations and can't wait to see how it grows.

    1 - http://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=14/06/14/008259 [soylentnews.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @05:32AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17 2014, @05:32AM (#56246)

    Lurker here...

    And long time reader at the evil side as well - I've been snickering when yet another ./ article posted was submitted by Hugh. I always wondered why he didn't just run hughpickens.com, since that seems like all that slashdot is sometimes (especially after filtering out crap) (Especially especially if you filter out that guy that uses ./ as his personal blog (somehow forgot his name) resulting in incoherent 45 page rants by some random person that thinks people care about his bewildering opinion) Ouch...

    Anyways, as a lurker trying to give you all some constructive feedback; Slashdot still has many "can't miss" stories (much) earlier than SN. I know y'all don't want to copy the /. story list, but as a reader we're pretty far away from just having SN as our main tech news site and that puts it at risk; SN has to provide some benefit to continue to visit. I'm not overwhelmed by volume on SN, and it is important that new stuff hits SN ASAP, so I think you can let a little more stuff go through.

    Having said that, thanks for all your effort, and for the time being I'll continue to read both :-)

    • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Wednesday June 18 2014, @02:17PM

      by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 18 2014, @02:17PM (#56943) Journal

      > Slashdot still has many "can't miss" stories (much) earlier than SN.

      I think the reverse is also true. (examples [soylentnews.org])

      But I do agree that there is an element of a race between sites to be the first to publish. My theory is that the SN editors should consider getting extra field(s) added to the SN submission page to manage the 'urgency' aspect of a story. Even just a free text field called "Any thoughts on priority/urgency (optional)", perhaps [soylentnews.org]. This might help in two ways: 1 - breaking news submissions might get to the front page more quickly, 2 - therefore potential submitters are more motivated to submit breaking news quickly.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Valkor on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:56AM

    by Valkor (4253) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:56AM (#56260)

    I recognize your name from the other site, and your submissions are good stuff. They're a solid step up from the usual stuff on there. I'm glad you've came over here, you are a great asset to the community. This article is, as well. I've never once submitted a story. Perhaps now I might, and perhaps I should have been doing so all along. Thanks for the article.

  • (Score: 1) by boltronics on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:23AM

    by boltronics (580) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @09:23AM (#56280) Homepage

    Of course, during the night, the stories can slow down to one story every two or three hours.

    Who's night is that?

    --
    It's GNU/Linux dammit!
    • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:43PM

      by WizardFusion (498) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:43PM (#56328) Journal

      This.
      Night for you, may not be night for me.
      What if it is, but I work the night shift.

  • (Score: 1) by mattwrock on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:52PM

    by mattwrock (3835) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:52PM (#56338)

    I am a refugee from the green site too. My biggest pet peeve was that green site had become a CNN news feed. Poorly written articles by non techies for general consumption. I have been lucky enough to have posted a couple of articles about things I thought were interesting. That's really what makes a great forum, is people with passion posting stories of interest. I do learn from the stories and the discussions.

    --
    Ones and zeros everywhere... I even saw a 2 - Bender
  • (Score: 2) by buswolley on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:33PM

    by buswolley (848) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:33PM (#56403)

    9 accepted. Average # comments: 46.4
    wELL i GUESS iM cOOL

    --
    subicular junctures
  • (Score: 2) by mendax on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:24PM

    by mendax (2840) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @06:24PM (#56573)

    ... although it is a completely egotistical and narcissistic one: Stop rejecting my submissions! Granted that most I submitted were accepted but I've posted interesting stuff that has been rejected for reasons that I can't fathom. I, of course, am never wrong. Therefore, if the editors would only do what I say everything would be just fine! God, now I'm beginning to sound like my mother.

    --
    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.