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posted by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:35PM   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 | Slashdot.org |
---------------------------------------
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: 5, Insightful) by cmn32480 on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:57PM

    by cmn32480 (443) <cmn32480NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @12:57PM (#24728) Journal

    I too was fairly active at one point on the other site, but became a logged in perma-lurker. I have commented more here since launch then I commented on the other site in the last 5+ years.

    The biggest issue I had on the other site was that it, frankly, got too big. The SNR became so bad that it wasn't worth it. I still read some articles and browsed the comments at -1, but it became a chore to filter the handful of good stuff from the trash.

    Since I came here, I have found a VERY nice SNR. The vast majority of the postings here are quality. The signal degradation will happen as the site grows in popularity, it is inevitable. The process is accelerated buy allowing the AC to post, but this is an important thing in this community, and I think it should stay that way, but the SNR will increase as teh site gains in popularity.

    I know I'm not as invested as some in this site, but it has very quickly become a part of my day, most every day. I'm not exactly sure why, but I actually care that the site does well. Maybe it is because right now it is the one place I have that I don't have to filter the crap (at home I still change diapers, that counts as filtering crap, right?). The commenters haven't gotten really snarky yet, and it is actually a place that the discussion is fostered, instead of becoming a flame war over everything (Even the Apple vs. Samsung discussions haven't been too awful).

    God knows many of the folks on staff have put their entire lives virtually on hold for the last several months. And you all deserve a huge amount of credit for what you have done.

    Short version: The SNR is currently really good, and it seems like the staff and the community want the site to succeed.

    --
    "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +3  
       Insightful=3, Total=3
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   5  
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:20PM (#24743)

    Another thing is that Slashdot publish a lot of articles every day so if you haven't logged on in a few days you're quickly 100+ articles behind.

  • (Score: 1) by inyoutees on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:53PM

    by inyoutees (1320) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:53PM (#24768)

    I'm going to reply here because I think I agree that the signal to noise ratio is something nearer the top of the list of answers to your questions than the bottom. I'm not entirely sure how, though.

    My story: 313173 on the other site. No idea when that was, but probably early 00's or late 90's when I first got into open source & computing. I apparently had a comment modded up in 2009 (yay achievements!) but honestly don't really remember if I've posted more than 2-3 times ever on the other site. I think I subscribed at some point, just from a monetary support standpoint, but never really got involved in commenting. I hadn't logged in in years until people started posting about altslashdot, just to find out my UID and how long I'd actually been around. Lurking has a way of making time fly and suddenly you feel old.

    My browsing (historically): I tend to either be busy and not come by at all, or show up 2-4 times throughout the day to make a quick read of whatever has been posted. I'll typically not spend more than 15-30 minutes engaged at a time, which usually means finding one story that piques my interest, reading TFA, and then browsing comments. On high-comment stories I'd limit myself to +4s and +5s, otherwise maybe +3s. Historically I've avoided moderating. I think I've enjoyed comments mostly as a way of learning more about the story/subject, and expanding my perspective. I've been getting out of IT for years now, so I don't often have a dog in the fight, but I still love the subjects. The best parts of the ./ comment system were learning/following some of the posters that I enjoyed, and seeing the best comments bubble to the top in a way that worked. Reddit/etc simply has never really worked for me in that way. Too much time to find the good comments/information, I think.

    My Soylent activity: I'm still not big on the name and probably one of the few still using the altslashdot redirect because I find it easier. But that's beside the point. It's honestly about the same here. Brief visits, where I enjoy reading comments (learning) and the actual story without having to put in a ton of work (remember, this is my "mental break" from real work) trying to find the good information. I am always logged in here, and I moderate every time I have points, which is new(er) for me, but have enjoyed as it feels that it makes more of a difference than on the other site. I typically don't spend more than 3-4 of my points, then go on about my day until my next visit.

    The first few weeks here, I was disappointed when a story only had 10 comments, but I've come around to thinking I don't really miss much on a 10-comment Soylent story compared to a 200-comment story on the other site. (I haven't visited the other site outside of your links in this story, and don't really miss it) I find I browse on lower comment thresholds here (0 or +1 sometimes) which makes me think the signal to noise ratio is a much more important factor than I would have thought if you had randomly asked me on the street. I don't post usually, but want to contribute to the site's success. That said, it's rare for me to 1) have a particularly new/insightful comment that someone else here hasn't already mentioned or is a better expert, and 2) my visits are usually fairly time-limited. This is one of the few sites I gather any news from (no FB, avoid the 24hr news networks like the plague, etc), and I figure if something in the world is important enough, it'll figure out a way to find me. Soylent is a great way for me to be an armchair IT/geek/nerd/whatever without having to work in the field any longer.

    Hope that helps.

  • (Score: 2) by tibman on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:05PM

    by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:05PM (#24877)

    The commenters haven't gotten really snarky yet, and it is actually a place that the discussion is fostered, instead of becoming a flame war over everything..
    I second this. Sometimes i am reluctant to post because my knowledge in the article area isn't enough to defend myself with. You needed some really thick skin on slashdot. Which is probably why so many people posted AC.

    --
    SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.