12 votes

Topics about the coronavirus seem to be stifling other activity on the site. How should that be handled?

I wish I had more data to base these assumptions on, but just from my time on the site and having checked the groups page for the past few days, it's pretty clear to me that the ~health.coronavirus subgroup is dominating Tildes at the moment. An overwhelming amount of the site's activity is concentrated in that subgroup. (It might even be more active than the rest of the site combined.)

I also feel like its level of activity is stifling the other groups and making them less active.

So my question:

Should we do anything about this? Should the standard of what is acceptable to post in that group be raised?[1] Should we stop the daily discussion topics, or at least reduce their frequency (as suggested by @Adys)? Should anything at all be done to try to normalize the distribution of site activity?


This is an open question, not a suggestion, so please be charitable with your responses.

Also, consider a few things before deciding on your position:

  • What percentage of the site's users very actively post topics?

  • How many of those users have "switched gears" to posting almost exclusively coronavirus related topics?

  • Does a concentration of activity into one group represent a natural interest-shift in the community?

  • Topics related to technology had (have?) a reputation of dominating Tildes. The response to that problem was for users to diversify the topics they post and to post more in other groups.

  • Obviously this is an unprecedented, international event. How should that affect how we deal with this (if at all)?


1. That is not to say that the topics posted in there so far have not been "high quality" or up to the site's standards overall (I suspect they would be removed otherwise).

24 comments

  1. [5]
    hamstergeddon
    Link
    I wonder if there's much than can be done? There's not much really going in the world that isn't coronavirus related. Events cancelled, no sports, a lot of movies are being delayed, etc. Even when...

    I wonder if there's much than can be done? There's not much really going in the world that isn't coronavirus related. Events cancelled, no sports, a lot of movies are being delayed, etc. Even when games or movies are released it's in the shadow of the virus (released early because of quarantine, serves as a good distraction from the virus, etc.). Most tech news is somehow related or in response to the virus.

    I think in a week or so once we're all more adjusted to the lifestyle shift things will even out a little bit better. I may start actually contributing to the site (aside from comments) to help speed that along.

    29 votes
    1. [3]
      Autoxidation
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Agreed. The world is affected by this and IMO this is one of the most significant events in our lifetime. I would expect it to dominate discussion.

      Agreed. The world is affected by this and IMO this is one of the most significant events in our lifetime. I would expect it to dominate discussion.

      12 votes
      1. [2]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        I worked 50+ hours last week and expect to work 50+ this week. I'm in health care, and can pretty much guarantee it's going to dominate for awhile. Practically everyone has been affected by this...

        I worked 50+ hours last week and expect to work 50+ this week. I'm in health care, and can pretty much guarantee it's going to dominate for awhile. Practically everyone has been affected by this now, and it's only going to get worse as people we know get seriously ill.

        Much love to everyone out there. Stay safe friends. đź’ś

        19 votes
        1. Loire
          Link Parent
          Thank you for your hard work and the risk you put yourself in. It might not always seem that way but your sacrifices are appreciated.

          Thank you for your hard work and the risk you put yourself in. It might not always seem that way but your sacrifices are appreciated.

          10 votes
    2. ali
      Link Parent
      I agree the whole world is pretty much dominated by coronavirus by now. I mean there’s things changing every day. Germany just announced that you’re not allowed to gather in groups of >2 (except...

      I agree the whole world is pretty much dominated by coronavirus by now. I mean there’s things changing every day. Germany just announced that you’re not allowed to gather in groups of >2 (except for the same household etc)
      Our whole world is changing and I think it reflects in all social media.
      I don’t think next week will be different though, I am sure this will be the new normal for quite a while.

      7 votes
  2. [9]
    Atvelonis
    Link
    There's already a way to filter coronavirus articles from the feed, which I've been doing lately. I don't think that artificially/arbitrarily counter-stifling discussion on a popular topic is...

    There's already a way to filter coronavirus articles from the feed, which I've been doing lately. I don't think that artificially/arbitrarily counter-stifling discussion on a popular topic is necessarily prudent, if nothing else because implementing any specific policy in this regard is challenging and not that fun for users. Within reason, there's nothing wrong with adhering to people's natural inclination to discuss whatever they want to discuss. Outside of the daily auto-threads—which I actually don't mind, given how much can change in a single day (as opposed to a week)—I would leave it alone. As long as the filter button is visible, people who care will use it! I think there's still enough non-coronavirus discussion going on to keep them entertained.

    Unlike Tildes' excessive focus on, say, programming, the coronavirus has started to affect basically everyone who uses the site, I would think. Given the universality of the virus, my impression is that the site's character/primary audience isn't going to change from programmers to biologists, at least.

    16 votes
    1. [8]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      I agree with your post. My point here was mainly that if we end up with multiple "daily discussion" topics on the homepage around the same place, that might be a sign they're posted too often.

      I agree with your post. My point here was mainly that if we end up with multiple "daily discussion" topics on the homepage around the same place, that might be a sign they're posted too often.

      7 votes
      1. [4]
        Deimos
        Link Parent
        Assuming you're using one of the activity-based sorts, reducing the frequency won't change anything. If we switch to posting one every two days then the first one will just stay active for two...

        Assuming you're using one of the activity-based sorts, reducing the frequency won't change anything.

        If we switch to posting one every two days then the first one will just stay active for two days instead of one, and it'll still be near the top when the next one is posted too. That's just the nature of using activity to sort.

        You can use a different sorting method, restrict the time period, or use the ignore function on the previous topic if you don't want to see it any more.

        8 votes
        1. [2]
          Adys
          Link Parent
          Theoretically I agree but I'm not sure it's what actually ends up happening. Otherwise, there would never be a reason to post a new topic? In practice, I believe a topic in a "reddit-style forum"...

          Theoretically I agree but I'm not sure it's what actually ends up happening. Otherwise, there would never be a reason to post a new topic?

          In practice, I believe a topic in a "reddit-style forum" will naturally see less activity over time, and the creation of a new topic fosters new activity. So posting a new topic while the previous one is still seeing similar levels of activity as on day 1 is probably counter-productive. I dunno, I don't care enough to push any further for that.

          4 votes
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            IMO spreading recurring topics out too far in between can also be counter-productive as well, since the longer a topic lasts and the larger the comment section in it gets, the less likely it...

            So posting a new topic while the previous one is still seeing similar levels of activity as on day 1 is probably counter-productive.

            IMO spreading recurring topics out too far in between can also be counter-productive as well, since the longer a topic lasts and the larger the comment section in it gets, the less likely it becomes that anyone will add a new top-level comment to it. This is why eventually every topic tends towards only new replies, and replies to replies. So unless you refresh the topic periodically, you're effectively discouraging new people from posting new top-level comments... though the activity sort, "Collapse old comments when I return to a topic ", and the "Last comment posted" link do help a little bit there.

            And in the case of the daily coronovirus topic, I think stretching it out too much may be particularly detrimental, since people seem to be using it largely to vent their anxiety, frustrations, worries, etc. And if we allow the comment sections to get too large, new people may feel that since it's unlikely anyone will see what they have to say if they make a new top-level comment, they simply won't express themselves even if they may need to.

            3 votes
        2. vivaria
          Link Parent
          Is there any benefit to automatically hiding/suppressing past "daily topic" threads, and then linking to the previous "daily topic" thread in the new one? It would give the appearance of the topic...

          Is there any benefit to automatically hiding/suppressing past "daily topic" threads, and then linking to the previous "daily topic" thread in the new one? It would give the appearance of the topic "refreshing" daily so to speak, but still provide a chronological log of topics.

          Actually, regardless of the suppress part, it could be nice to have that linking built-in to the "scheduled topics" site functionality, maybe. I remember when I made the most recent "Introductions" post, it was sort of a pain to have to go back and get all of the older links. But that's a total aside here, and a bit complicated.

          3 votes
      2. [3]
        Atvelonis
        Link Parent
        Right, that's a good point. I'd tend to think that most users are only likely to read the current day's update, so perhaps the old ones could be automatically purged from the feed? I suppose that...

        Right, that's a good point. I'd tend to think that most users are only likely to read the current day's update, so perhaps the old ones could be automatically purged from the feed? I suppose that if the threads usually receive most of their top-level comments day-of, it wouldn't hamper multi-day discussion too much. But I'm still uncertain about implementing specific restrictions on threads for specific topics.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          Adys
          Link Parent
          HN has a concept of downweighting topics. It doesn't purge them / remove them, but it heavily mods them down so they don't show up as high in the default sort. That could be something done...

          HN has a concept of downweighting topics. It doesn't purge them / remove them, but it heavily mods them down so they don't show up as high in the default sort. That could be something done automatically to scheduled topics.

          6 votes
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            HN does that shit opaquely and to posts that don't require or deserve it though, IMO. E.g. Tildes launch announcement got mysteriously downwieghted for seemingly no reason, other than because a...

            HN does that shit opaquely and to posts that don't require or deserve it though, IMO. E.g. Tildes launch announcement got mysteriously downwieghted for seemingly no reason, other than because a mod decided it, and then it went from the front page to suddenly dropping several pages back with submissions with 1/10th the amount of votes in the same time frame. So unlike HN, IMO if anything like that is implemented here it better be done completely transparently, with clear intent/purpose, in a limited capacity, and taking community feedback into account.

            4 votes
  3. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    I can only speak for myself, but to me it's not so much that topics about coronavirus are taking over Tildes, but more that news and related anxieties about the coronavirus have taken over me, and...

    I can only speak for myself, but to me it's not so much that topics about coronavirus are taking over Tildes, but more that news and related anxieties about the coronavirus have taken over me, and my behavior on Tildes has changed as a result. I'm a pretty regular contributor here and post semi-frequent discussion threads, but many times in the last two weeks, when I've gone to comment or post a new topic, I've ended up deleting what I had planned and not posting anything because it feels, for lack of a better word, hollow. This is not a comment on Tildes or anyone else at the moment, it's just how I genuinely feel. At my worst points I'm deeply nervous; at my best I'm still living under a generalized malaise. This whole situation has taken the wind out of my sails in a powerful way.

    I, too, have noticed a lot of topics unrelated to the coronavirus come and go with little fanfare. A big part of me wants to spend more time commenting on those, to help instill a bit of normalcy to myself and others, but I just... haven't? I don't really have a good reason for it. I wonder if part of what we're seeing is that others are feeling similarly at the moment.

    11 votes
    1. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      I've felt something like this, too. It's as if everything else pales into insignificance compared to this pandemic. You're not alone. Me too.

      I've ended up deleting what I had planned and not posting anything because it feels, for lack of a better word, hollow.

      I've felt something like this, too. It's as if everything else pales into insignificance compared to this pandemic.

      At my worst points I'm deeply nervous; at my best I'm still living under a generalized malaise.

      You're not alone. Me too.

      6 votes
  4. skybrian
    Link
    I like reading the daily updates. They are a glimpse of what people are doing in other parts of the world, and I am recognizing more Tildes usernames than I used to. It seems pretty natural to me...

    I like reading the daily updates. They are a glimpse of what people are doing in other parts of the world, and I am recognizing more Tildes usernames than I used to.

    It seems pretty natural to me that this is what many people are interested in talking about, and that they will post less about other things? But if you want to start discussion about something else, you're of course free to try it.

    9 votes
  5. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    The coronavirus is stifling other activity in the world. I can't think of a single part of Australian life that isn't affected by this: the performing arts have been decimated, the major sporting...

    The coronavirus is stifling other activity in the world. I can't think of a single part of Australian life that isn't affected by this: the performing arts have been decimated, the major sporting codes are cancelled, business is dominated by panic-buying, financial markets are reacting to the trends, and so on. Even politics isn't happening! (Every politician is being effusively bipartisan and cooperative at best, or silent at worst.) This site just reflects what's going on in the real world.

    Tell the coronavirus to stop, and we'll stop posting about it.

    7 votes
  6. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    I've disabled the COVID-19 news as much as I could on Tildes. They aren't of any use to me. I have reason to suspect that even the local news on the matter are untrustworthy, so I have to assume...

    I've disabled the COVID-19 news as much as I could on Tildes. They aren't of any use to me. I have reason to suspect that even the local news on the matter are untrustworthy, so I have to assume that I have no reliable information on the matter.

    Hearing constantly about how the rest of the world is in panic or struggling is not helping my mental health. I suspect it doesn't yours, either, but the desire to keep knowing that you can generally filter out is now amplified by the threat of an epidemic with a relatively-high fatality rate, and the fact it may threaten you personally.

    I also have no desire to participate in any discussion that comes with COVID-19. I have nothing of importance to share: no insight, no data, not even an anecdote. Aside from that... what is there to discuss? WHO statements are not up for discussion: they're for employing in your lives. As much as I'd like to commiserate with those affected and those whose friends and family died from the virus so far, I fear it may damage me more.

    I've been focusing, instead, on things that I can affect; specifically, on things I can make. Mods, writing, code, design... Anything to exercise the power of the creative and push away entropy. I dunno about you, but this – and keeping up hygiene – helps me stay sane.

    6 votes
  7. [5]
    DanBC
    Link
    There are two parts to your question: Is there too much covid-19 content? Why isn't there more other content? We really need to understand why users don't stay at Tildes and why the people who...

    There are two parts to your question:

    1. Is there too much covid-19 content?

    2. Why isn't there more other content?

    We really need to understand why users don't stay at Tildes and why the people who stay don't post more. This much covid-19 content wouldn't be such a problem if there was more stuff that wasn't covid-19 related.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      As a long-term user who also posts a fair bit, my posting reflects what's going on in the world around me. I still post the same number of articles overall, but most of them now are about the...

      As a long-term user who also posts a fair bit, my posting reflects what's going on in the world around me. I still post the same number of articles overall, but most of them now are about the COVID-19 coronavirus because that's what I'm reading.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        Not synonymous.

        what's going on in the world around me

        that's what I'm reading

        Not synonymous.

        1. Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          They are synonymous for me: I'm a news junkie. I read news. Therefore, I'm reading about the coronavirus (among other topics, but mostly the coronavirus).

          They are synonymous for me: I'm a news junkie. I read news. Therefore, I'm reading about the coronavirus (among other topics, but mostly the coronavirus).

          1 vote
        2. [2]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [2]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. ThatFanficGuy
              Link Parent
              Well, it was pedantry, but it wasn't pedantry for pedantry's sake, you're right.

              Well, it was pedantry, but it wasn't pedantry for pedantry's sake, you're right.

              2 votes