39 votes

Daily Tildes discussion - finding a balance between discussions and quality links

This is a topic I wanted to talk about late last week, since there were a few posts related to it coming up at the time. For example: "Idea: requiring submission statements for link‐based topics, at least in certain groups". This is interesting to me, so I wanted to turn it into a bit more of an official discussion.

I think there's a bit of a conflict here, where people have different ideas of what purpose they're coming to the site for. There are some people in that thread (and some other similar ones) with an opinion that external links are a bit inherently "lazy", or even unnecessary if they can't trigger a discussion. I disagree pretty strongly with that - good discussion is definitely one of the things I want Tildes to have, but it's not a requirement for every single post. If people want to share songs on ~music, trailers on ~movies, interesting articles on ~news and so on, that should be a good thing.

As a specific example of what I mean, I submitted this article from Wired earlier today. It's an interesting, well-researched article that goes into depth on the story, and I enjoyed reading it. The reason I'm submitting it is because I think other people would enjoy reading it too, not because I want to start a discussion on it. If a discussion happens, that's great, but it's not the actual purpose of why I'm submitting.

I want Tildes to be able to cover both of these: help bring good content to people's attention, and also foster good discussions (whether those are attached to external content or not). I think right now it's a bit tilted towards the discussion side (the "Activity" sort as default is probably a big factor), so I guess I'm looking for general thoughts about how we can try to balance this and serve both purposes.

The ability to set different default sorts for individual groups probably helps some, and I think topic filtering based on tags will help a lot as well for people that are more interested in one side or the other. What else should we consider?

24 comments

  1. Ark (edited ) Link
    External links are essential to a discussion based website as they bring in more ideas that users may have never ended up discussing themselves. As long as the content being linked is interesting...

    External links are essential to a discussion based website as they bring in more ideas that users may have never ended up discussing themselves. As long as the content being linked is interesting (a rather subjective feeling I know), fits within the specific tilde and has the possibility to spark a discussion I think it should be welcomed. The fact that you enjoy an article and feel that others might enjoy it as well warrants a linking to said article as there is a high chance someone will want to discuss some part of the article.

    Half of the conversations I’ve had with people have begun because I mention something I’ve read or seen online. It’s perfectly fine for a discussion to be sparked by an external source and not our own wandering minds.

    In terms of balance between links and text based submissions, I don’t feel like there needs to be any. Like you mentioned at the moment there does seem to be a higher amount of discussion based posts, but I see this as a positive thing. The community is already becoming extremely good at creating its own discussion starters which only encourages others to do the same.

    Discussing external sources is great, but discussing ideas created by other users is even better, as they are original thoughts. When users see a positive reaction to their own ideas, this will persuade them to post more. More posts leads to more discussions, and so on.

    A simple sorting system between links only, text only and both would be convenient for those looking for external content, internal content or a mix of both.

    18 votes
  2. rkcr (edited ) Link
    I think the core problem is that high-quality content is often high in calories. That Wired article you posted is at least a 10-minute read. I posted what I consider a great piece of journalism...

    I think the core problem is that high-quality content is often high in calories. That Wired article you posted is at least a 10-minute read. I posted what I consider a great piece of journalism yesterday but frankly that's at least a 30-minute commitment to actually digest. If someone posts a 15-minute video, well, then, you're in for 15 minutes before you can decide (fairly) if you want to vote on it or not. If Tildes is all high-quality content, then I'll only have time to digest/discuss a handful of links a day.

    Meanwhile, a post like "what do you think of blockchain?" requires no time to jump into a discussion. However, it is no guarantee of a good discussion, either. I think good articles are better starting points for good discussions, but by their nature it'll take too long for everyone to actually read it.

    I don't have an answer; at this point I'm just trying to better define (to myself) what I see as a crucial issue with a site limited to only high-quality (but high calorie) content.

    16 votes
  3. [4]
    Lazarus Link
    Would making a “vote” count as activity help pull things back toward the middle between links and discussions? I agree- I want both, and I also want something that encourages people to hit “Vote”...

    Would making a “vote” count as activity help pull things back toward the middle between links and discussions?

    I agree- I want both, and I also want something that encourages people to hit “Vote” as well...we have 4-figure membership but I don’t think I’ve seen a single 100+ vote post.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Ark Link Parent
        I am the same and actually glad this is how I now treat upvotes. Now that have become valuable it forces me to think about a post and question whether or not it provides good discussion points and...

        I am the same and actually glad this is how I now treat upvotes. Now that have become valuable it forces me to think about a post and question whether or not it provides good discussion points and ideas, instead of just upvoting any old post that is mildly interesting.

        4 votes
    2. [2]
      ZaphodBeebblebrox Link Parent
      Here is a post with 117 votes. Generally though, you are right, voting feels irrelevant.

      Here is a post with 117 votes. Generally though, you are right, voting feels irrelevant.

      4 votes
      1. Deimos Link Parent
        Votes only affect the "most votes" sorting method, so if you don't use that one, they basically are irrelevant. Right now, with the site activity still low, I expect people will most often be...

        Votes only affect the "most votes" sorting method, so if you don't use that one, they basically are irrelevant. Right now, with the site activity still low, I expect people will most often be sorting by "activity" or "newest" anyway, because it's easy to keep up with everything.

        However, once the activity is higher, it'll be more common to only want to see the most popular posts of the day from particular groups, so the voting will become a lot more relevant then. Even now, when someone new joins the site, they might want to look at something like "most voted posts in ~games over the last week", so that's where the voting becomes more relevant.

        6 votes
  4. [9]
    tomf Link
    An optional textarea for a statement would be fantastic, but this also plays into the benefits of the tagging. An interesting tag might be something great to subscribe to if tag subscriptions are...

    An optional textarea for a statement would be fantastic, but this also plays into the benefits of the tagging. An interesting tag might be something great to subscribe to if tag subscriptions are a thing down the road.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      clerical_terrors Link Parent
      I second the optional text area. I've never quite understood the need to exclude that from link posts. Especially given that, on Reddit, some people will more or less game the system by posting an...

      I second the optional text area. I've never quite understood the need to exclude that from link posts. Especially given that, on Reddit, some people will more or less game the system by posting an image and then putting an accompanying story in the comments.

      5 votes
      1. Ark Link Parent
        Agreed, I can imagine many users will want to post a link and also add their own initial thoughts and commentary to spark a discussion. This should be encouraged highly by creating said optional...

        Agreed, I can imagine many users will want to post a link and also add their own initial thoughts and commentary to spark a discussion. This should be encouraged highly by creating said optional text box instead of forcing the user to make a comment like you said. It could be argued that their initial thoughts could be put in the title, however they may be simply too long to put into a title and secondly if linking an external source I think the title should always be an accurate description of the source.

        1 vote
    2. [6]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      I think it's safe to assume that everyone who submits a post here does so because they think it's interesting. When every submission has an 'interesting' tag, that tag has no value.

      An 'interesting' tag might be something great to subscribe to if tag subscriptions are a thing down the road.

      I think it's safe to assume that everyone who submits a post here does so because they think it's interesting. When every submission has an 'interesting' tag, that tag has no value.

      1 vote
      1. [5]
        tomf Link Parent
        Well, not literally 'interesting', but a tag for the category.

        Well, not literally 'interesting', but a tag for the category.

        1. [4]
          Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          What category of posts are you trying to identify?

          What category of posts are you trying to identify?

          1. [3]
            tomf Link Parent
            I am more thinking that down the road I would like to be able to subscribe to a [Virtual Reality] tag to have a private feed that pulls virtual reality articles, regardless of the group they are...

            I am more thinking that down the road I would like to be able to subscribe to a [Virtual Reality] tag to have a private feed that pulls virtual reality articles, regardless of the group they are submitted to.

            1. [2]
              Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
              That sounds reasonable, and very likely.

              That sounds reasonable, and very likely.

              1 vote
              1. tomf Link Parent
                Sorry I wasn't clearer earlier. :)

                Sorry I wasn't clearer earlier. :)

  5. Catt Link
    I don't think external links are inherently low effort, but that feeling does comes across when we get a spam of them, which to be fair hasn't happened except for those specific couple days that...

    I don't think external links are inherently low effort, but that feeling does comes across when we get a spam of them, which to be fair hasn't happened except for those specific couple days that started this topic. I believe seeing a bunch of 0 comment 0 vote postings might point to an issue with content. However, I think people should continue posting whatever they want. Let the users decide what we want to read, vote comment on.

    5 votes
  6. TrialAndFailure Link
    A balance is great, but I think it's important to consider what an imbalance would look like. A) There are no external links, but the site is populated by discussions. B) There are no discussions,...

    A balance is great, but I think it's important to consider what an imbalance would look like.

    A) There are no external links, but the site is populated by discussions.
    B) There are no discussions, but the site is a link-dump.

    I phrased that with a little bias, of course, but A) has, to me, much more value if we'd hypothetically be forced to choose.

    3 votes
  7. rib Link
    A great idea but also I think that requiring a statement with a link should be determined by the group it's posted in, there's trade-offs either way. If you post a link with a statement you...

    A great idea but also I think that requiring a statement with a link should be determined by the group it's posted in, there's trade-offs either way.

    If you post a link with a statement you influence the discussion and potentially alter the conversation. You're manipulating the direction of the discussion.

    Of course the positive effect is more pronounced for linked content that doesn't have an obvious clear discussion associated with it.

    Each community seems to cultivate it's own personality so I doubt using examples of other sites will be very accurate in predicting the outcomes here at Tildes, ultimately I think this is going to be a trial and error as to which format promotes constructive high quality discussion.

    2 votes
  8. Algernon_Asimov Link
    Thank you for clearing that up! :) :) :)

    There are some people in that thread (and some other similar ones) with an opinion that external links are a bit inherently "lazy", or even unnecessary if they can't trigger a discussion. I disagree pretty strongly with that

    Thank you for clearing that up! :) :) :)

    1 vote
  9. [2]
    elf Link
    I like the idea of having a submission statement, even if it's only one sentence or something. It's nice to know why the poster thought the article was interesting before deciding whether to read...

    I like the idea of having a submission statement, even if it's only one sentence or something. It's nice to know why the poster thought the article was interesting before deciding whether to read it.

    I don't think we should necessarily require it, but I do encourage everyone who posts links to add a short comment to their topic.

    1 vote
    1. Deimos Link Parent
      I've found that while occasionally someone will write a good one, the large majority of them basically say "I think this is an interesting article about [topic]", or just quote a few sentences...

      I've found that while occasionally someone will write a good one, the large majority of them basically say "I think this is an interesting article about [topic]", or just quote a few sentences from the article. Those don't really add anything, and I'd even argue would be good candidates for a "noise" tag (when we have those again).

      6 votes
  10. Arbiter Link
    I'm pretty happy to read your take on this. It actually clears up some questions I had about posting.

    I'm pretty happy to read your take on this. It actually clears up some questions I had about posting.

    1 vote
  11. silva-rerum Link
    I posted this comment in another thread just now in response to /u/Ark, but I thought it would be disingenuous to not include it here too:

    I posted this comment in another thread just now in response to /u/Ark, but I thought it would be disingenuous to not include it here too:

    I am still a bit torn between keeping tildes discussion focused only or a mix of content, but honestly if tildes wants to separate itself from other sites like Reddit, it may be for the best that it becomes discussion based only.

    Given /u/Deimos' post on the subject yesterday, it's obvious there's confusion between what different subgroups expect to get out of this site, and even between what those subgroups expect versus what his vision for this community is. I think this is in part based on the Docs. When I joined Tildes, I took this part:

    In-depth content (primarily text-based) is the most important

    This includes linking to articles on other sites, posting text topics on Tildes itself, and the comment discussions. In general, any changes to the site that will cause "shallower" content to gain an advantage should be considered very carefully.

    to mean that this site had less of an emphasis on link aggregation and more of an emphasis on in-depth discussion and in-depth links. Yesterday's clarification by /u/Deimos gave me a different impression of the ultimate goals of the site.

    I think part of the difficulty with wanting a good balance of link aggregation and in-depth discussion in a community like this is that the former is much harder to guide than the latter. In striving for a balance like that, it seems like communities like this one ultimately set themselves on a trajectory to becoming Reddit-like clones because people's idea of what constitutes as quality, non-discussion-inducing links differs vastly.

    What's more, the people who are looking for that kind of link aggregation experience seem to already be primed from other communities (like Reddit and its predecessors) for the kind of experience they're trying to recreate. It's not that they aren't trying to improve on it, but it's still working off the same fundamental model.

    To that end, it wasn't the link aggregating aspect of Tildes that intrigued me enough to join, it was the aforementioned emphasis on depth and discussion. I'm curious to see what this balance will look like on Tildes.

    1 vote
  12. eYredWkae3QVaX8b Link
    I think this will naturally balance itself.

    I think this will naturally balance itself.