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Changes in the wind...

Having the community on moderated status for this past week has forced me to take a much harder look at how the community is functioning, and I've decided that it's time for a few changes. As of the writing of this entry, membership stands at 6,251 readers. Wow. I never expected a community that I started to keep track of my reading goals and for my friends and I to share book ideas would ever expand exponentially to be one of the largest reading communities on LJ (of course, being in the LJ Spotlight back in January played a big role in that).

I noticed some things this past week, though...while the community is still generating 25-30 entries a day, 60% of those entries get no comments. Of those that *do* get comments, another 25% get 2 comments or less. For those of you playing along at home, that's 85% of the community entries that get get less than 3 comments. You only have a 15% chance of posting an entry to this community that will evolve into anything approaching, in the most liberal sense of the word, a discussion. To me....well, that's not much of a community. Isn't the entire point of the community *discussion*?

Why is this happening? Well, I have a few theories. One is that the sheer size of the community and volume of posts has driven the community off of most people's Friends Lists. That means that although a lot of people are participating by *posting* entries, very few people are *reading* those entries. Another thing that has become apparent to me as I've been forced to review each individual entry in the moderator queue is that a large percentage of the posts I see are what I think of as content-free.

How do I define content-free? Lists. Entries that consist of nothing more than a list of what you've read (often with a progress meter tacked to the bottom) with no descriptions of the books read, commentary on whether you enjoyed the book or not, etc. are useless from a community standpoint.

Please don't get me wrong...I in no way want to discourage people from participating in the community. In fact, the changes I'm making are intended to produce the exact opposite result. I'm not expecting people to write a master's thesis on the content of every book that they post to the community. However, the honest truth is that entries that simply list the books you've read with no other content A) take up room on people's FLs and thus force them to drop the community from their reading list and B) are rarely actually read by anyone who *is* following the community. I'd like to start seeing entries that people feel that they can participate in instead of yadda yadda scroll scroll right past. If the quality of the entries improves, I'm hoping that people will find it worthwhile to add the community back to their regular reading list, and we can get some discussion activity going rather than just lonely entries.

Where am I going with this? Well, I'd like to try to raise the awareness of what sort of entries are appropriate to post in a community and what entries are best left to your personal journal. One of the other issues I've noticed is that because so few people read the community in its entirety, many of my moderation posts go unnoticed/unread by a huge segment of the community. I've decided that now is a good time to head in this new direction, since the community is on moderation and I'm in position to force people to listen to me. ;)

In case you aren't aware, moderation in a community has an option to release members on a one-by-one basis to unmoderated posting privileges. This is going to be the new world order in 50bookchallenge. In order to be released to unmoderated status, you will need to submit an entry that meets the new standards that I'm going to lay out below. Entries that I think no longer meet the parameters of where I'd like to see this community head will be rejected (and invited to repost, of course!) with a link to this entry explaining the new guidelines:

Posting guidelines - Effective 7/26/07:

  1. Before you post, ask yourself this question: Is what I'm about to post potentially useful/interesting to a good portion of 6,000 people?

  2. You are still welcome to post updated lists of your progress to date, but I ask that you place lists of books you're not discussing in the current entry behind a cut.

  3. For the benefit of the community readership, please include some detail on the current books that you're posting about. As I said above, I don't expect a full dissertation in every entry, but at minimum, the following would be helpful:
    • The book's genre. I still encourage tag usage, but if you review 5 books in an entry and have 5 tags, it can be difficult for anyone unfamiliar with your books to know which tag goes with which book.

    • A brief description of the subject matter, preferably in your own words, but you may link to someplace like amazon.com or C&P an outline from another site as long as it's credited as such.

    • Whether you enjoyed it and/or recommend the book to others.

  4. Entries consisting of lists only with no other discussion/content should be posted to your personal journal.

  5. Plot spoilers must still be posted behind a cut, regardless of the age of the book.

  6. While plot spoilers must be cut, try to avoid cutting the entire review of your book simply because it contains a spoiler. Doing so prevents people who might have otherwise been interested in the book from benefitting from your review. Do your best to put only the specific spoiler details behind the cut.

  7. Tag usage isn't required, but it is appreciated, as it increases the utility of the community for other members. Please note that if you do elect to use tags, only include tags that are relevant to the current books that you're reviewing, not tags that relate to prior books in your list (provided you're including that sort of list behind a cut in your entry). Tag links only pull the last 100 entries that used that tag, so using it on an entry where there's no discussion of a book in that genre decreases the usefulness of that tag for people looking for book suggestions.

If you're confused by the "lists behind a cut" requirement above, here's an example of how I see this working:

Entry subject

Hai guyz, I haven't updated in a while, here's what I'm up to!

1. Book Title/Author
2. Book Title/Author
3. Book Title/Author
4. Book Title/Author
5. Book Title/Author

6. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]
7. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]
8. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]

ETA: To sum up, I just want to be clear...the above guidelines are what I would *like* to see in your day to day posts. I will not, however, be moderating every single entry in perpetuity. Once a member has submitted an entry that demonstrates to me that they understand what an appropriate community post is, they'll be released to unmoderated status and all of their future posts will post directly to the community, bypassing the moderator queue. What this means to you is that I'm trusting you to make *future* posts in the same manner. I don't want this to turn into an overly regimented "So and so didn't include the genre on his 25th book!" sort of environment. I don't have 12 hours a day to spend here watching every single word that gets posted, and I don't think YOU guys want that sort of oversight. This community has always been relatively drama-free, and I hope it stays that way. :)

So...what do you guys think? Too odious? Too restrictive? Utter genius and you love me forever? ;)


( 100 pithy comments — Say something pithy! )
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Jul. 26th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
I think this is a really good idea :)
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I hope it helps, and I'm open to other suggestions if you guys have any.
Jul. 26th, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)
To be honest, this is how I kind of thought the community was supposed to work from the get-go. I'd personally reword point #1 to something more like "is this potentially useful/interesting to a good portion of 6k people", because "do 6000 people care about this" is something that a lot of people are better off not asking themselves (many people who spend a lot of time reading are withdrawn, withdrawn people generally don't have the best self-esteem).

Also, a potentially very stupid question... What's the genre of a "general" novel? Simply 'fiction'?

Jul. 26th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
Good, point...I've reworded.

As for the genre of a general fiction novel...yes, I'd say "fiction" is enough, since you can elaborate in your description that will give people a better idea of whether they might be interested. I'm not looking to set up rules that are so rigid as to be overbearing, just trying to guide people's entries towards being more useful to the community as a whole.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
It's a nice idea, but the whole discussion thing work as a two-way street. I just believe that if some people wanted more interaction, then they should find a way to dive right in.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
You're right, I can't force people to interact if they're not interested. I do think, though, that the direction that community has gone has been specifically detrimental to fostering discussion...it's hard to want to discuss things when you're not getting any feedback. People post entries or comments that go unnoticed or unanswered, so next time they don't even try...or it's too much bother to wade through lists of books people are reading to find a post that has some actual content that sparks inspiration to say "Hey, I read that and liked it too...what did you think about X?"

If you don't want any interaction, well...maybe your post is best off in your own journal (speaking of the general "you" here, not you specificially).
(no subject) - discostare - Jul. 26th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
I think that's okay.

What I sometimes find frustrating is when I read someone has read a book I am curious about, but they hide all thoughts concerning the book behind a book because they have included spoilers. I don't know, maybe there should be a plea to cut separately or try to limit spoilers? I don't see the point of spoilers myself in the review, though expect that they will occur in a post review discussion. What do you think?
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
Good point...posting the entire review behind a cut because it contains a spoiler makes information inaccessible to people who might have benefitted from a more general review. I'll see if I can re-word the spoiler cut guideline.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
Just plain lists don't help me decide whether or not I need to read a book you added to it, unless you added books that I know I love and it seems that we have the same taste...but if you didn't love it, and I didn't know you didn't love it, I'm going to feel v. ripped off.

That said...I don't generally comment on the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-related posts because it's being discussed ad nauseum on personal journals in my f-list, especially if Deathly Hallows is the only book being discussed. Don't get me wrong! I'm a die-hard Harry Potter fan, and it's a book, and as such, it's discussion belongs here. BUT when it's a post on something which I'm sure about 99.5% of the world already has an opinion, and you just want to either sing Jo's praises or bitch about how you feel like she didn't do it justice, that's your right...but I'd like to see OTHER books discussed in that post, too.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
I agree with you about the lists, which is why I think that in the context of a community, the really don't add any value. I'm all for people keeping track of what they read (that's how this community was born, after all), but if you're not going to talk about the books, then you might as well have just posted it in your own journal. With 6,000 people reading, it's not like people are keeping track of names and saying "Hey, spoookykat's really cranking along, good job!" every time they see someone's progress list posted.

As for the HP thing...it'll die down soon. :)
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
Utter genius and I love you forever... ;^)

I've replied a few times to several posts and received no feed back and gave up on future postings, so do I think the new rules will help foster community? You bet. Do I scroll over the random lists? Yes. Will I read someone's personal comments on what looks to be an interesting book? Yup. And even if I don't comment to it you can bet the next time I'm in the book store I'll be searching for that title. Do I like the idea of a bit more structure in the posts? Sure do. So thank you for putting it out there.

PS: My Friends Page thanks you too...
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
Kissing up to the mod earns you a gold star. ;)

I'm glad people seem to be agreeing with me (at least so far!). I hope it works.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC)
Great idea! I succumbed once and did post a list with no info and I felt really guilty. I definitely scroll right past the posts with long lists myself and/or ones with too many bells and whistles, counters, etc. Sometimes I am simply hard-pressed to be creative about my reviews if I've read a lot of books since my last post or if a book was simply so amazing I'm blown away and can't think of anything else to say besides "OMG--so amazing..." I figure that's not helpful either. A perk of reading is an increased vocabulary. I vow to put it to good use in the future. Thanks!
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
I didn't include the counter issue in my guidelines, because I'm still struggling with how I feel about them. I don't care for them personally, but they're favored by a lot of people and I hate to forbid them. I'm leaning towards asking that they be behind a cut as well, or at least limiting them to one per entry (instead of a separate meter for books read, pages read, days left, etc.). I haven't decided on that, though.

I know what you mean about struggling to find something new and creative to say...I often feel the same. Something that helps me is to just compare it to something else..."If you liked X, then you might really love this book!" That's useful to people reading who are familiar with X without having to reinvent the wheel when reviewing Y...you know?
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
I think it's a good idea, but I also think it's restrictive. I can't speak for anyone else, but I do skim through the lists. If someone has something on their list I've been considering reading, then I'll ask about it. If not, I'll just pass it by.

I think it really depends on what you want the community to be. I've always seen it more as "challenge" than a as "discussion" community.

I think the description you have on the front page implies that as well:

It is a place to discuss progress, get ideas for further reading, chat about books you've completed, etc.

Progress is listed first, and discussion is listed third. To me, that reads as, "If you want to discuss something, then great, but it's not necessarily the main purpose."

That may not be what you intend. That may not even be how other people read it. It's just how I've read it and always thought of the community.

Just my two cents.
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
Well, this is why I'm not forbidding lists...I just think that for the benefit of everyone involved, they need to be cut if there's no active discussion of the content of said list.

Yes, the community is centered around the challenge of stretching your reading goals...but the sentence you quoted from the profile page doesn't list "progress" first, it lists "discuss". Discuss progress. A list detailing your progress is not a discussion.

I tried to make clear in the community info that this is not a contest...no one's grading you on how much you read, or whether you hit the goal you set for yourself. So, if there's to be no discussion of what's going on with your reading challenge, what would be the point of having a community at all??
(no subject) - coldspaghetti - Jul. 28th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
I think this is brilliant. I've been a member of this community for a really long time, and I love it, but I do have a hard time finding the discussion posts in amongst the lists. I also know that several of my friends who've left the community or who took it off their default views are more likely to come back with these new guidelines in place.
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
I do hope your friends come back to reading regularly, and that things improve for everyone involved. :)
(no subject) - kicking_k - Jul. 27th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
I think the suggested rules changes are good ones. While I personally have never taken the community off of my Friends page as I often find the suggestions of other community members to be helpful (and, where the heck did badgerpop go; I miss his reviews) and have frequently expanded my "to read" list in response to recommendations I see here. It would be nice to be able to get to the useful recommendations and reviews without having to plow through posts that are nothing but lists.

I would note, however, that a lack of comments does not necessarily mean that one does not find the community useful. I seldom comment, not because the community isn't useful to me, but simply because I am not generally given to commenting much at any internet forum.

Finally, I would ask that the "tags" requirement not be enforced too strictly. I understand that they can be useful, but I also tend to believe they can be limiting.
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
While I'm definitely hoping to see comments/discussion pick up a bit, even if it doesn't, I think that cutting back on the lists-only posts will make the community more useful to people who would like to keep it on (or return it to) their Friends List just for reading purposes.

I don't have any tag requirements. I encourage their use because, again, I think it makes the community more useful to people as a whole, but I can't make people use them...and I'm certainly not willing or able to add tags to every post that comes through. ;)
(no subject) - armagh444 - Jul. 26th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Good for you, is what I think.

I haven't posted my reading, (because I don't think that anyone would really be interested, so I do it through my personal journal as you suggest) but I will reply to a post occassionally.

And you are right that lately, I have been simply skimming through the titles. Which is only marginally because I haven't finished HP yet.

While I am not active in this community, I have friended two members whose posts amused me - so I am grateful to you. Thanks for your work on this!
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
I think that a lot of people look to the community for suggestions only, to see what people are reading and what's trendy/new/interesting. That's perfectly OK! Everything I'm trying to do here is with an eye towards making the community as useful as possible for the largest number of people. :)
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Good for you! I can imagine that it's going to be really difficult enforcing this with so many members, but it is such a good comm with so much potential. So far when I've posted I have gotten responses on all of them I think, so I guess I must have been really lucky. I usually end up avoiding reading the posts, but I do look for the titles they've read and if it's anything I'm interested in I do then read there's and comment. Lol, anyway, useless rambling.

Good luck though! :)
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
Just to be clear (and I might edit my post to reiterate this), I don't intend to moderate every single post in the community ad infinitum. Once a member makes a post that demonstrates an understanding of the type of post I think is useful to the community, I'll release them to unmoderated status and they can make future posts without having to go through the mod queue.

I honestly don't want to turn this into a "S/he posted a review and forgot to list the genre!" sort of environment...I only want people to be more aware of what is and isn't appropriate for posting in such a large community.
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
I've been listing my books here and reviewing them on another blog. (Vox let's me insert the book cover easier than LJ does) I've been leaving links, is that acceptable?
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...I went to find one of your previous entries to see how it looked, and while I don't mind the external link to the review, my only concern is that there's no info in the entry itself for people to use to judge whether they want to click away to your review. Would it be possible for you to give at least a little info, like the genre and a 1 sentence summery, on the books you're reviewing?

Also, I didn't click the link so I may be mistaken, but the entry I looked at had 2 books listed, but just one link to your book review blog. When you link, are you always linking back to your general blog, or to specific entries? If it's the former, my concern is that someone who does a search on the community may find your entry months later, and then be linked to your current blog page rather than the specific books you'd mentioned there. If you're linking to the specific review entries, that's good...if you're always linking to your current blog page, then I'd have to learn towards no, I'd prefer you include the whole review in this community.
(no subject) - cteare - Jul. 26th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jadis - Jul. 26th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
I think this is a grand idea that will, I hope, encourage me to foster actual thoughts about the books I read.

I look forward to a little more discussion around these parts.
Jul. 26th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
I look forward to it as well...I'm really hoping that steering the community towards more info-heavy posts vs. listy posts will encourage people to participate a little more. At the very least, it will help the people who like to come here just to browse and look for recommendations, even if they don't tend to comment.
Jul. 26th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
I agree to your proposed changes, but also wanted to note that while I don't make a comment often, I *do* read every post -- I've gotten some new authors reading reviews, and picked up books based only on the posts I've read in this community.

Part of my problem in commenting is that a lot of us read the same books -- if 5 different people post the new Potter, or "The Time-Traveler's Wife", it's hard to think of anything new to say, and I really prefer not to post just to post.

Sadly, I'm also selfish and insular. ::grin:: I know I have types of books I love; other types I'm honestly not going to comment about. I'm not into manga, nor chick lit -- nothing **wrong** with those genres, just that I'm personally not interested in them, so posts about them pass me by.

My 2 cents on it all. :D
Jul. 26th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
One of the things that helped me come to the decision to try to redirect the energies of this community is that I often use LJ Seek to search for reviews of books I'm interested in, and more often than not, I'd find myself wading through the search results where 90% of the entries it returned had only a mention of the book but no info...not even so much as whether the person liked it not. Hello? Not helpful!

That's what I'm trying to turn around here...I'd like to see not only the daily activity being more interactive, but that the searchable info being more useful to those looking for recommendations.
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