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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 tomtomtom on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:59PM

    by tomtomtom (340) on Wednesday April 02 2014, @04:59PM (#25011)

    I started reading the other site back in 1998 or so although I didn't register my current account until maybe 2001 or 2002 (I had an older uid before but lost it). I wouldn't class myself as a lurker as such; however I don't post to many stories.

    One thing which hasn't been mentioned is that over the past 4-5 years the weight of stories on the other site became less and less things I felt interested me - so it wasn't just that I didn't feel I had anything to add or that it had already all been said. These days I still read both sites but I gloss over the headlines on the other sites and don't even read most of the summaries.

    Over time the level of OSS/Linux/Internet/Computing related stories seems to have dropped with an increase in "general" politics stories, science stories, broader tech stories and tech business-type stories. We used to get stories about quite interesting random hardware hacks someone had produced, new release news of the more important OSS projects, etc. Stories you wouldn't see discussed on other sites at all. I'd love to get some of that feel back. It's quite interesting to look back at the headlines from 10 years ago (say) - the subject matter is somehow more something that interests me.

    Hacker News has this feel to some extent in its headlines but the commenter crowd there feels rather too "Silicon Valley" to me - a lot of people who are in startups and care more about "doing it now" than "doing it right" is about the best way I can put it I suppose although that's not quite how I feel. I'd love for this site to become what the old site used to be 10 years ago. That really felt like something I enjoyed reading.

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

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Wednesday April 02 2014, @05:02PM (#25016) Homepage Journal

    The biggest issue we have right now is that if we run too many stories, they drop off the main page and into the slash equivelent of the ether. This got hilighted by the editoral team, so nexus's (topic.soylentnews.org) are coming back, which will allow us to run stories like this 24/7 without having information overload.

    --
    Still always moving
  • (Score: 1) by canopic jug on Friday April 04 2014, @11:58AM

    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 04 2014, @11:58AM (#26136) Journal

    This matches my profile, too. Though I had no older uid.

    However, one particular problem that arose at that other site is the MS spam. We're getting it here too the last few days. The thing that made the other site useful, and less useful when it was lost, was the focus on real technology not MS marketeering and press releases. If I never have to see a story about MS products or services again, I would be very happy. The commercial 'news' services are overflowing with that stuff and it's not necessary here. If the day is a slow news day, let it be.

    Look at the types of stories and how they were covered at that other site back 2000 - 2002, they really had the right topics covered and in a useful style. OSS/Linux/Internet/Computing were all there. I guess you can only interview the old-timers like David Korn so many times, though there are all kinds of new stars. Bunny Huang comes to mind, as he was in the news again recently. But there are many more hardware and software hackers out there who would provide fascinating interview material. Then there are non-technical people who know a lot relevant to FOSS. The oh-so-reclusive PJ is one, Andy Updegrove is another. Then there are sites that have overcome and achieved victory to successfully deploy FOSS and open standards in school districts and municipalities. Their people have good stories to tell. So this paragraph is a long winded way of saying there are interesting people to interview.

    As to the non-interview stories, please stick to the FOSS, open standards, DIY focus.

    --
    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.