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How far can your community go?

By ContinuousPark in Media
Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 05:22:28 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Today I came across Plastic, a new website by the company publishing Feed, Suck and others. It's being promoted like it's Slashdot for pop culture (previously discussed here from a business standpoint); you submit stories for sections like film, humor, sex, politics, music, television and things like that. Now, several questions came to mind and they have to do with the time one has available to be part of this sort of communities, the underlying technology and the place that collaborative/distributed sites have on the web.


First, I thought wow, I can now post a story when the new R.E.M album is released or to discuss the influence The Beatles had in pop culture. And I can also post tech stories and new jokes from The Onion or ramble about politics. But wait, if the site is about such diverse topics, it needs a huge audience so that the comments in every topic are as interesting as they can be in K5 or /., sites that are somewhat specialized in some topics, namely cybercultural ones (although K5 is clearly broader).

I think a parallel can be drawn with the conventional publishing world, where national newspapers cover many topics but with insufficient depth while magazines go deeper and involve a different kind of reporting. So I ask: is it possible for Plastic to be successful while having such a broad range of topics to discuss. Is there an inherent need for a site like this to be focused on a number of subjects so that a high percentage of the visitors can relate to what's being posted? I feel that Plastic could found itself on the inverse situation: so many topics that it's more likely that you will not be interested (a greater number of "I don't care votes" would show up, to put it in K5 terms).

Which leads to another question that concerns us too; how broad can your community be, what long-term process, for instance, could lead to new K5 categories? How should this be decided? Now, maybe the answer is that you need your community to remain focused but if that was the case, aren't we losing many learning and informational opportunities by dedicating most of our time to just one or a few of several available options? Maybe that's why weblogs are so popular, because they show you things you haven't considered. How do K5ers allocate the time they have available to discuss things online? How do people in general?


Second, on the technology used, it was somewhat dissapointing that they went for Slash instead of Scoop. I found that, without the huge audience /. has, the number of things you can do as a new user for a new Slash-based site is quite limited: only submit or post a story, they don't even have a visible poll! and you can't respond to comments as there are too few of them. In a Scoop-based site (I'm talking mostly about K5), you do more things: post stories, moderate submissions and comments or write a diary entry. And it's of course more "accountable" as you can see who voted for what and who rated your comments; I think that gives a greater sense of community and you feel like you are really participating because you are indeed doing so, you're not at some editor's mercy who can be in a bad mood that day or maybe you didn't get lucky enough to have your submission read by the editor that actually finds it interesting, as people who resubmit stories to /. can tell you.

Then I thought that maybe the decision to use Slash was because it's a code that has proved its ability to run sites with huge audiences. And now I ask (because I really don't know the answer not because I'm a flame war originator): is Scoop ready for the moment when K5's audience grows several orders of magnitude or are there some features that suffer when you add more users, that don't scale well?


Finally, what's the ultimate collaborative community website? It's obvious that we need other sites to provide for content but what happens if we extrapolate things. Now, imagine that Plastic (or a broader K5, for that matter) hugely succeeded and people got their news from this site and only from this site, confident that they are getting all the important news there is, after all it's being filtered by hundreds if not thousands of people. What would happen then? (Note: I'm using Plastic as an example because its a newcomer, a well funded one I suppose. And I'm not saying what will happen when Plastic becomes huge, I'm not even saying Plastic is cool, I'm saying what woud happen if one of these discussion community sites became immensely popular?) Would MSNBC dissappear, what about ancient and respectable sources as the NY Times on the web? In other words, how big a site like these can get before it starts damaging its very source of content. A side question: how much in-house content production should, for example, K5 do, if given enough resources?

What would happen if K5 or Plastic got so much advertising money they could start hiring the best tech (non-tech in the case of Plastic) reporters around? Wouldn't it become a media empire of some sort? This would start a process towards the very model these sites are differentiating themselves from; that would be pretty ironic. But this is an extrapolation. I wanted to ask you about how do you think people will inform themselves in the not so distant future. Will you use something like Plastic in the mornings and K5 (or /.) in the afternoons? Would you prefer a constellation of very specialized sites? Will you read just your favorite weblog? Or will you still prefer to read CNN and the NY Times? How will the general public inform themselves? Are new sites like these really that revolutionary?

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Poll
I want my news to come from
o Print 2%
o Electronic presence from traditional media 9%
o Radio and/or TV 1%
o My friend- with- too- much- free- time- in- its- hands's weblog 0%
o A huge merger of sites like K5, Slashdot and Plastic 6%
o Kuro5hin and Kuro5hin only 4%
o My personally chosen collection of small and medium websites 61%
o Inoshiro's hotline 12%

Votes: 111
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Scoop
o Plastic
o here
o Also by ContinuousPark


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How far can your community go? | 13 comments (5 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ultimate collaborative communication network (4.62 / 8) (#6)
by mdavids on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:36:49 AM EST

what's the ultimate collaborative community website?

It's not a website. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as a result of planning a couple of websites for which I thought might use a backend along the lines of Slash/Scoop.

I've come to the conclusion that the ultimate answer is a distributed network of nodes that point to online (or even offline) content that are weighted according to (among other things) relevance to that node's "mission". Basically, each node consists of a database that, when queried, returns data something like an RSS file (aka a Slashbox), only richer.

The user can browse one node at a time, which would be like reading Slashdot or K5, or construct their own node, which pulls content from other nodes according to a set of criteria. (Say, you want to read all the content from "Ted's Amazing Lego Node", but you're not as fond of Mechano, so you only want stuff ranked at over 90% inportance from "Big Jim's Mechano News Node").

Now the cool thing is, once you've got your own "client node", which is basically what you read every day, you can then make this publically accessible. So if you know someone who shares a lot of your interests, you can pull stuff off their nodes. And if you know a dozen people who have similar interests, your node can be getting stuff from all of their nodes, and ranking it for you according to the reaction it got from all of them.

Much as I dislike or the hype about "neural nets" and so on, that's sort of the big idea; that you get an organic content transmission and filtering system. You can think of it as "Intelligent Link Propagation".

I haven't explained it very well, and this isn't the place to go into it fully, but since this article is concerned with this subject I'd like to hear if anyone is interested in working on this with me. The actual implementation of a node engine and front-end is not hard. I'm not a real programmer, but I could do it myself in Perl. The tricky part is working out what goes into the data exchange interface, which determines what a node can do to sort and filter information for you. I'm assuming here that XML is the way to do this, in which case there's a doozie of a DTD to be written.



poll lacks importance choice (4.40 / 5) (#7)
by kei on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 02:37:38 AM EST

How about, "I want my news to come from... LOTS of different sources"? I'm reminded of the threads from the Matt Drudge discussion, and of whether Drudge deserves to be on the Internet. If there's anything I gained from that discussion, it was the idea that one news source is never enough. A heterogenous network of information might be less convenient, as it isn't a one-stop shop for all your interests and needs, but it's healthier, less likely to be co-opted by malicious intent, and keeps some semblance of freedom of information in a world where most information is closely guarded by a powerful few.

I'm glad to say that none of the choices available in the poll work for me, and I hope they don't work for you either. :^)
--
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle

Needs Met? (4.00 / 5) (#9)
by Devil Ducky on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 09:31:22 AM EST

Isn't this already the place to talk about anything you want?

I was watching VH1's "100 Best aLbulms of All Time" and, frankly, I am upset. I think they should not let people like Kid Rock vote on such things, how can he tell what the greatest albulm of all time should be when he can't even sing a song wihtout yelling out his own name?

The list they got was good, I didn't notice too many missing albulms, however the order is just all wrong. They had Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" higher than Sgt. Pepper! This is the albulm that the boys from the beach released about one month before pepper, thus making the band say, and I quote, "Damn."

And Nirvana's "Nevermind"? Sure, it was a great albulm, and I even own it, but #2? Where would you get an idea like that? It never changed my life or anything, most of today's musicians don't even know who Nirvana was, not that I think much of today's musicians...

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
wrong approach (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by dabadab on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 11:39:34 AM EST

I think Plastic has a wrong approach.

There's a HUGE discussion board on Hunagry's leading portal (tasztal.index.hu), that is said to get 30.000 new comments every day and it has an insane number of "stories" (they are called "topic") - yet it works (although they have some technical difficulties during busy hours with database updates due to the high number of write/read requests, but that's not the point)

Here's how it works: there are "Areas" (very broad: general discussion/politics/sex/cars/...), and there are topics in it. Registrated users can create new topics and write comments (but you can read without registration). You can get a list of the most recently written topics of the areas, or of the topics that you marked as "favorite", so you know which topics are "alive".

So, the basic idea is that topics proliferate and stay on the top if they turn out to be interesting, or they "sink" (nothing's is deleted - expect what freely roaming moderators find inappropriate) if noone's interested.

I think, this model would be better suited for a "chit-chat" community than the /. one.
--
Real life is overrated.

that sounds like the Well. (none / 0) (#13)
by Gernsback on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 07:59:24 PM EST

The above sounds a lot like the well. It's organized by "Conference", such as Linux, boating, sanfran, weird, etc... For a full list of confs, go here Underneath that, there are specific topics, for example, in the inkwell.vue conf, there are:
  • 73 Neil Gaiman - SANDMAN:THE DREAM HUNTERS (01/27/01) 1765
  • 95 Cory Doctorow Talks About Nearly Everything (01/27/01) 79
  • 96 Hyphenation 11 (01/27/01) 97
  • 48 Tim Powers (01/22/01) 251
  • 100 Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future (01/20/01) 53
  • 30 Your favorite bookshop
Any member can start a new topic, certain types of members can start, IIRC, up to three new conferences a year. These conferences are labelled with a .ind on the end. To get your conference from a .ind calls for politicking and other dirty stuff, but it's definitely possible. There's a very intelligent system for reading and responding to posts.
Matt
[ Parent ]
How far can your community go? | 13 comments (5 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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