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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 | |
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: 1) by NullPtr on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:03PM

    by NullPtr (3786) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:03PM (#24873) Journal

    Based on Slashdot, and other high-traffic sites, if you don't get one of the first comments, it's very unlikely you'll get a reply. Does anyone even read stories more than a day or two old? They're just not very good places for ongoing conversations. And apart from Slashdot and now this site, I've completely stopped reading/participating in discussions, because the quality is so low (user - rather than developer - comments, memes, trolling) it's just a waste of my time.

  • (Score: 1) by datapharmer on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:27PM

    by datapharmer (2702) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @03:27PM (#24904)

    I concur. I am also not surprised that the ratio is so low. I know I ready slashdot for years before even bothering to get a user id and would only rarely comment because either someone else already said it, it was too stale of a story for anyone to even see my comment (especially as anonymous coward), or the conversation had digressed into a crazy rant that had nothing to do with the original topic.

    I'm not sure how you fix any of these problems, but I think making an effort at getting anonymous users more involved is well worth taking a stab at. No one wants to put any work into a comment that will never be seen because it is buried at 0 mod points but the long time users don't want to deal with a bunch of spam, hate, or other trolling. I'm not going to suggest how you can handle it, but I can say that slashdot did not handle dealing with troll/spam comments well at all and I can't imagine it would be difficult to do better for your readers/contributors/brethren/audience/cash cows/whatever-you-want-to-call-us.

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:21PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:21PM (#25032) Homepage Journal

      On the TODO list. I've got a couple of ideas that may allow AC posts to autofloat up to 1, and be "on par" with regular posts. Keep a look out for the next story on this.

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

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:05PM (#25018) Homepage Journal

    Comment counts and hit counts suggest that while some users do go after stories once they go off the index, its *not* great. Another place where we're going to have to improve or rethink ...

    Still always moving
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02 2014, @10:58PM (#25230)

      Maybe even just a written policy encouraging people to keep commenting & moderating for a stated amount of time (like 2 days)? e.g.:

      FAQ #42 - Q: How long do stories remain open for comment? A: It's 6 months until they're made read-only. We recognize that realistically no sizeable threads of conversation will carry on for anything like that much time. But we do encourage our commenters and moderators to try to keep things going for at least 2 days, wherever possible.

      At the moment people don't really know how long conversations tend to go on for, unless they pay attention to the comment counts at different times - which I've never done.

      Also, possible features to help:

      * an actual list of the stories that we're trying to promote activity in. Generally the last 2 days worth, but some could be kicked out of the list early (e.g. if a follow-up story comes along), and some important ones could stay in for longer. Maybe a little 'active' icon (animated gif !) next to the headlines of active stories, wherever headlines appear on the website. They all appear on the front page, even if some at the bottom are only the headlines.

      * "remind me about this story in 2 days" tickbox, visible in various places, such as on the comment creation page

      * "remind me about this story if it gets this many more comments: " dropdown (1,5,10,20,30). Visible in various places, such as on the comment creation page