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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: 1) by http on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:30PM

    by http (1920) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:30PM (#24969)

    If any site supported by advertising becomes more broadcast oriented instead of participation oriented, it MUST become a race to the bottom. Cf. "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television", J. Mander.

    --
    I browse at -1 when I have mod points. It's unsettling.
  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:08PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:08PM (#25022) Homepage Journal

    We will only run adversing on this site as an absolute last resort, after requests for donations and such have all failed, and there is no other way to keep us up. I still owe the community a manifesto. Please bear with me, I've got a million things to do, and a million obligations to fulfil.

    --
    Still always moving
    • (Score: 1) by LordFrito on Wednesday April 02 2014, @06:25PM

      by LordFrito (3821) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @06:25PM (#25068)

      Well as I said I'd be willing to pay a small fee for a subscription. I think it's the only real way to avoid the advertising model. That or find some "benevolent benefactors" -- which of course you are ultimately beholden to.

      • (Score: 2) by fliptop on Wednesday April 02 2014, @08:34PM

        by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @08:34PM (#25149) Journal

        Well as I said I'd be willing to pay a small fee for a subscription

        This thread got me thinking about voting and how politics has become a race to the bottom. Take property taxes, for example. All property owners pay them. In my county, most of the money goes to the school system.

        However, those that run for school board are elected by all voters, whether they're property owners or not. Those that vote but don't own property don't care if taxes go up because they don't pay them (well, they do, if their landlord raises their rent, but most don't make the connection). As a consequence my county's schools are well funded, in fact they practically have money to burn, but the education quality is poor. The kids are catered to in a way that doesn't encourage them to actually learn but instead teaches them to do the bare minimum to "get by."

        My point being that, maybe the subscription model would work if only subscribers were given mod points. Since they have skin in the game, and want a high quality SN website, it would be akin to just the property owners voting for school board members. Just my $0.02.

        --
        Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
        • (Score: 1) by LordFrito on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:48PM

          by LordFrito (3821) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @11:48PM (#25252)

          maybe the subscription model would work if only subscribers were given mod points. Since they have skin in the game...

          Exactly! Skin in the game is exactly what I'm talking about.

          Totally free discussion with no barrier to entry leads to lowest common denominator discussion - think writing on bar bathroom walls. The trolls ruin it for everyone. Unfortunately it's in our nature, check out this link http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/c limate_desk/2014/02/internet_troll_personality_stu dy_machiavellianism_narcissism_psychopathy.html [slate.com]

          Now if I owned (or was part owner of) those walls, I'd have a lot more motivation to make sure the walls stayed clean and useful. Not having skin in the game is one post-modern societies biggest problems.

          Like all things in life, going to far in the opposite direction doesn't help either. Hopefully we get it together before too long.