I've been reading kuro5hin.org for about 6 months now. I kept hearing mention of it on Slashdot.org, or what is affectionately known here as "the other site," and finally I followed a link. I've become familiar with the culture, complete with inside jokes, recurring themes, popular characters who may or may not actually exist (rusty, Inoshiro...), and even the periodic observation about the site itself in the form of parodies and other miscellaneous humor. I became enamored with Scoop, and began investigating Scoop hosting and other scoop sites.
Watching K5 work, you inadvertantly learn a lot about not only the way Scoop works, but also about the readership of K5. Certain types of articles are consistently favored, while others are frequently frozen out. Certain types of articles make it to the front page more often, while others are doomed to the section pages, which are less frequently read and therefore, there is less active discussion. It's interesting to note the psychology behind the gears that turn this site, to watch the way people react. In essence, I could hypothesize that people watch the way K5 works, and then begin to "predict" how others would vote and vote with the crowd when they don't have emphatic opinions, since all voting is public. After a few months, I felt confident I understood, mostly by reading and watching, less by participating, how the K5 community works.
The only thing that I found surprising were how many articles were in the queue and how few seemed to show up on the actual site. In the K5 RDF feed, it's not uncommon to have only one or two new stories a day. Other sites that many K5'ers frequent, like the other site, OS News, and the Register are updated with many stories daily, some sites a few times an hour. Why, then, were there so many stories and so few updates?
I finally submitted my first article to the K5 queue the other day to see what would happen. I was surprised, to be honest. Over 640 people read my submission and voted, and the "score" of my submission continued to hover in the 40s for 36 hours until it magically disappeared never to be seen again. I wasn't bitter - it was an edgy humor piece and more people than I predicted were not as amused as I had hoped. More people than I expected were more forthcoming under the anonymity of the internet and were all too anxious to tell me my submission was neither funny nor creative, etc, etc, etc. This is not a revenge piece: I can certainly live with that. Not every piece is front page material.
What occurred to me, though, was that a small section - a few hundred readers - determined the fate of the article. While the piece was never posted, about 300 people ultimately voted they'd like it to be posted, a little over 50% of the non-abstainers. It's certainly fair to assume, therefore, that about half of the total K5 readership might have found it, at a minimum, "worth a read," if not worthwhile. Take into account, though, that many of the 640 aforementioned users are frequent moderators, and, as discussed above, have an idea of what they expect will be published and what will not. Taboo topics, as you see, can quickly become relegated to the "unseen" part of K5, where unposted articles go to whither and die.
As someone who is neither a "regular" nor a true K5 insider, it feels a bit futile watching articles go from the queue that do not fit a standard bill. In fact, lately, it seems the only articles that fly through the queue are either sternly political in nature, well documented research pieces, or K5 self reflections. I've seen a number of articles in the queue that I've found entertaining, informative, or just plain discussion-inspiring, and they've been shrugged off. And I rarely smile when reading K5 articles anymore because the overwhelming majority are strictly serious in tone. As a site like K5 gets larger, more distributed, less centralized, and more diverse, I'm watching the psychology change. I'd love to see a report that contains a ratio of stories submitted to stories posted.
My personal preference, and it is purely my personal opinion, is that overposting is okay. During the course of the day, I'd rather see 5 pieces I don't care about posted than just one I do. Volume is important to many people on a site like this, because it allows you the choice to not participate in discussions that don't interest you, but still always have fresh discussion available. At times, it feels as though too much of the bulk of the site is in either the queue and the diaries, and not enough is posted to the general site, if only to generate some fun discussion amongst what are clearly skilled, bright, diverse people. I've found myself reading the K5 QUEUE for content, not the actual site, because many of the articles submitted, even the bad ones, are often worth the 2 minutes it took me to read them. This is not a professional news site like CNN, and it's okay to have an article that is less than perfect if it sparks good discussion or gives everyone a laugh.
Many sites don't seem to restrain themselves like K5 - yet, K5's Scoop posting threshold is the same. As the site gets bigger, loyal readers, I think, feel a responsibility to the site and want to regulate what is posted more harshly to keep the quality of the site high. More readers should mean more proportionally more submissions, and I'd anticipate the same overall number of articles accepted. But it doesn't appear to be the case. It seems more like the bigger the site, the more the community feels protective of the site, the more exclusive they become, the fewer articles appear to qualify under the more rigid criteria. Admittedly, few websites where the community is in charge have the readership that K5 does, and so there is an utter lack of evidence to make an informed decision about scalability. Still, it makes you wonder - can K5, as a community, not as code, scale?