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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 threedigits on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:21PM

    by threedigits (607) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:21PM (#24744)

    It should be obvious that most comments in /. come from 6/7 digit IDs. There are 10 times more 6-digit (and 100 times more 7 digit) IDs than 5 or less ones.

    That said, and to be bluntly honest, I think some of the people commenting in Soylent do so because they want to keep it up, not because they feel they have something to say. That's a sign of the site young age, and a bit a consequence of too much focus on comment numbers. For me it's not the number of comments what matters, but the quality.

    The reason I kept reading /. comments was the little gems you could find from from time to time. I have a couple of them saved on my hard drive as word processor documents, and I have learnt about quite a bit of things from "experts" posting directly in reaction to a news item. That's what I would like to see happening to Soylent (or Bacon, Muffin, or whatever).

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +4  
       Insightful=4, Total=4
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  

    Total Score:   5  
  • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:27PM

    by WizardFusion (498) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:27PM (#24751) Journal

    This is it for me too.
    I was hardly ever active "over there", but here I actually want to help build this community.
    I comment, I moderate a bit, never posted a story though

    I have noticed that forums have died though, no posts for quite a while (none that I can see anyway)

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:20PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:20PM (#25031) Homepage Journal

      My fault. When I took over, we needed a huge internal org (I won't call it a reorg because we weren't organized before); we didn't have a staff mailing list. I didn't check the forums, and the vast majority of the staff didn't either, so they've been left to atrophey. I rather discuss on slash then in some often unknown forums; we do have this lovely discussion system here ...

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by zocalo on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:52PM

    by zocalo (302) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @01:52PM (#24766)
    Someone scraped the Slashdot DB at some point and plotted the frequency of posts from the 2/3/4 digit UIDs and there was a definite downward trend there; accounts are clearly going dormant for one reason or another.

    I agree it's mostly all about the quality of the posts more than the quantity, but the same applies to the stories too. There was a lot of frustration about the "Slashvertisements" and other content that seemed to exist just to benefit the site visit counter and thus search ranking and ad revenue. If our new SoylentBaconMuffin overlords can keep posting stories that match what current zeitgeist of what the readers want to see, they'll probably have a winner.

    Another factor is possibly the size of the community. There seems to be a honeymoon period on new forums where everyone is keen and (mostly) friendly, with any disputes all water under the bridge pretty quickly. As the userbase grows, things seem to be become less personal and you start seeing more trolls, flamebait, disputes and the other detritus that plagues large forums. (Perhaps the number of people assigning other posters the "Foe" status might be some kind of bell weather/metric for this, NCommander et al. might want to monitor?) I'd be inclined to let the community grow at a slower rate, rather than trying to spread the word and push on to 5/6/7 digit UIDs and millions of pageviews per day ASAP.
    --
    UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Saturday April 05 2014, @11:56AM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Saturday April 05 2014, @11:56AM (#26636) Homepage Journal

      Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, we will not be running ads on this site (though you might see a post asking for donations to keep it that way; depends if that counts as a Soylentadverisment or not). Our editors are a dedicated team, and they're not on an ivory column here; we all post at +1 (or +2 if their karma is high enough), which helps to keep us down to earth so to speak.

      As for the community size, we'll grow, we're still growing, even if we're not doing anything specifically to encourage it at the moment.

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday April 02 2014, @02:32PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @02:32PM (#24820)

    "That's a sign of the site young age"

    Another is lack of history. I'm told this observation is incorrect and no such procedure existed but the feeling on the old site was every tuesday afternoon for MONTH we had to suffer thru yet another astroturf staffed "e-ink is wonderful and taking over the world and LCDs suck" story. And other topics of course.

    This article has gotten a lot of traction. Today. For the first time. We'll see what happens next year if every wednesday morning we have a variation on "why do you lurk?" or if its the impression provided, even if the impression doesn't match reality.

    This is also a symptom of minor evolutionary news. Article #2523 on the general topic of "Apple releases new iDevice; expensive and shiny; takes a PHD to figure out the small incremental changes" well, you can't expect article #2523 to have as many posts as article #2522, so you get a downward trend, no conspiracy theory needec

  • (Score: 1) by SecurityGuy on Wednesday April 02 2014, @08:01PM

    by SecurityGuy (1453) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @08:01PM (#25126)

    Darn it, you beat me to it. Most comments come from 6 or 7 digit UIDs because, well, that's how numbers work. :-)

    I agree, though, I partly come here to comment because I think it'd be a pity to see this place fold just because /. ditched a UI everyone hated. Or at least hasn't switched yet. Whatever.

    That said, I do get something coming here. I haven't cared enough to deliberately compare whether the articles and commentary are better here than there. I still go there sometimes, and still some of the articles are worth reading, and some are not. Here, some are worth reading, and some are not. As long as I get something out of it, I'll probably keep coming back.

    Just don't go all kuro5hin, though. I used to read that ages ago and then it just went wacky.