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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: 4, Insightful) by bradley13 on Wednesday April 02 2014, @02:41PM

    by bradley13 (3053) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @02:41PM (#24838) Homepage Journal

    ...is that it will all be different here at Soylent. As other commenters have already said, this likely won't be true in the long run.

    In the short run, you always get a high percentage of "enthusiasts". Many of these will stay, but - assuming the site is a success - over time you will get a more normal distribution of people. This includes lots of lurkers - it just does.

    What I find cool about the comments I've read is that some people mostly submit stories, some mostly comment and some mostly moderate. Make sure there is space for all of these, and perhaps other things, to maximize user contributions. Personally, I make a few comments, make a point of moderating, and rarely submit stories. Other people have other priorities.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Insightful=2, Total=2
    Extra 'Insightful' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 1) by creidiki on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:51PM

    by creidiki (3955) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:51PM (#24928)

    This, yes. It's the same for me here as it is in life, I feel no need to speak unless I have something genuinely new to add. So many people in life are so fixated on being heard that they seem to say the same things over and over, I could just care less. Here and on The Other Site, I do comment, but if I do, it'll either be conversational with someone I know or it will be something that hasn't already been expressed.

    So consider me part of the wave of lurkers arriving because in all honesty I probably won't comment frequently, but I'll be here, moderating up the people who already said what I would have said had I gotten to it first. :)

  • (Score: 2) by everdred on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:52PM

    by everdred (110) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:52PM (#24929) Journal

    > As other commenters have already said, this likely won't be true in the long run.

    You're probably right, but you're also assuming that SoylentNews will be successful in reaching the masses. What if it never manages to, but retains enough traction among the early users to keep those running it interested in continuing to do so, long-term?

  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Saturday April 05 2014, @11:49AM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Saturday April 05 2014, @11:49AM (#26633) Homepage Journal

    This is why I made a difference between those who lurk, but moderate/meta-mod and those who are completely passive. I realize the lurker/comment ratio will raise; its just the nature of the best, but I consider the other sites ratio to be so low that it was alarming. As we're basically a clone of their moderation system (which I feel plays a huge part in the degradation of the /. community), I wanted to understand it.

    --
    Still always moving