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Last post Author Topic: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads  (Read 7214 times)

mouser

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A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« on: September 11, 2013, 11:29:39 AM »
Can I make a plea proposal to the forum?

When ongoing news or similar stories break, on subjects I don't understand well, I start coming across some great articles on the web by people who really know their stuff, and there tend to be a half-dozen or so really good analysis essays that come out in the days surrounding a breaking story.. or some good round ups.

As much fun as it is to have a long thread back and forth, usually among people who are reading about the issue elsewhere, what i think would really be useful to a lot of us, especially for putting this stuff in context and being able to keep up with it, is if one or two people who were interested in an issue when it comes up, is to start a thread and keep the first post updated with a collection/roundup of these top insightful serious writeups about it by trustworthy knowledgeable sources.

Often when I'm making the newsletter i get depressed that we don't have a good authoritative thread on some issue that happened in the last month, collecting clear links to good articles were people can learn more.

This gets back to the idea of trying to make an effort of making threads that can serve as ways to learn about an issue..  Not every thread has to be like that of course, but I really feel the lack of them sometimes.

If someone visiting our forum really wanted to learn a breaking story i'd have to tell them to go elsewhere -- we simply do a very bad job of creating threads that will help people learn about a breaking issue.  I wish we could fix that..

I think all it would take is when someone sees an interesting story that they are going to be following, create a thread whose purpose it is to comprehensively collect links to articles/essays that do a good job of exploring it.

Instead, what we tend to have is a thread with one link to an item and then a lot of back and forth random insider talk and noise, and an occasional useful link scattered in there.



I guess the bottom line is that I'd really like to see an effort to mix the insider one-liner back and forths with an effort to make the first post in the thread a kind of definitive balanced informative summary of the topic with links to good trustworthy articles to learn more -- an effort to make that first post a resource for learning more and updated nicely formatted list of of links to the latest articles, etc. With a good subject title that was easy to find and identify, etc.  So that if someone said, i am interested in news event X, they would be able to easily identify the thread that's going to discuss that issue, and in the first post find all the links they need to go read about the story from all angles and educate themselves.

Yes, it takes more work to make such posts.  Yes they are less fun to make.  But it's the difference between this forum being a small clique of people bitching to themselves vs a place where everyone can learn about issues.



Sorry for being so grumpy today, i'm just in a mood  :(
« Last Edit: September 11, 2013, 02:24:03 PM by mouser »

mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2013, 11:58:38 AM »
Let me try to be a littler more concise and concrete:

Can we try to think about making Definitive threads on issues? Where the first post is made by someone who intends to follow an issue, and will keep the first post updated with a good balanced summary of the issue and an updated annotated list of links where they can read the best articles on the issue from different sides?

With that in place, i think the discussions that follow will be better, and new people will be able to inform themselves and then join in.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2013, 12:01:15 PM »
I never got that impression that it was noise Mouser, I think the Dialectic is Alive and Well! Stories come out in waves, and a big ticket topic takes over two months to play out, so the early stories full of "breaking news" sound silly when the next week's update comes out.

I think this is what forums do well - people respond with the next parcel of the conversation as they see it, quoting for extra credit when their jump point is four points back. Perfect would be a Mind Map tree, but forums can only be linear.

As a super raw example, this *year*'s story is Edward Snowden, and he did (what? I'm lost...) a few things right that kicked his story over the top into mainstream news where now as a direct corollary these encryption stories are coming out, and of course that affects tech professionals. (Look for contrast how they just barely had enough old school clout left to bury Bradley Manning.)

So I'm not so sure a Mega Post of 15 links is quite the right answer either!


TaoPhoenix

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2013, 12:02:13 PM »
Let me try to be a littler more concise and concrete:

Can we try to think about making Definitive threads on issues? Where the first post is made by someone who intends to follow an issue, and will keep the first post updated with a good balanced summary of the issue and an updated annotated list of links where they can read the best articles on the issue from different sides?

With that in place, i think the discussions that follow will be better, and new people will be able to inform themselves and then join in.

We posted ours at the same time.

I don't think there IS a definitive thread until MONTHS or YEARS later!!

I think it has to thrash out as necessary messiness.


mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2013, 01:30:47 PM »
Yes but what I'm asking for is for the first post in the thread to be kept updated with new information (and collected links from followup posts); that way the first post in a thread is a sort of constantly updated table of summary and list of reading material to inform the pages of discussion posts that follow.

tomos

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2013, 02:17:04 PM »
I think it's a great idea.
If the thread-starter didnt want the complete responsibility, they could also invite moderaters to add links at the end of the post. Posters in thread can request interesting links be added to OP by either of the above.
e.g.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed laoreet sodales lacus at venenatis. Nulla vitae elementum ligula. Nam scelerisque blandit ipsum, et semper est porta eu. Vivamus hendrerit erat sed ornare ornare. Etiam sollicitudin eros porttitor nunc adipiscing fermentum. Mauris dignissim porta neque nec vestibulum. Cras non purus quis massa accumsan sodales. Pellentesque quis eros in turpis placerat elementum.

=============
Links added later in thread:
=============
most recent link
middle-aged link
Second oldest link
Oldest link

- or could a moderater/mouser 'inject' a sub-post below the OP, where the links could be added?


Edit// (wondering should these posts be split to new thread?)
Tom

mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2013, 02:24:28 PM »
Quote
Edit// (wondering should these posts be split to new thread?)

good idea, i've split it off.

nosh

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2013, 03:06:35 PM »
Just my $0.02 - I obviously haven't thought this out in detail.  ;)
 
How about a board feature that just summarizes the links in a thread?

A list of links in the format (off the top of my head):

Author    Date     Description      Url       Jump to Post (url)     

It could be used in regular software threads too, if there's a 40 post thread with a link I'm looking for, I don't have to go scanning through everything. Just click the 'Links' button and scan through those. A lot of us have something similar installed in our browsers and my mail client summarizes message links too

Summarizing all the links would definitely help but if you think something like that would be overkill, create a custom [toplink] tag that users can use at their discretion. A user looking just for toplinks could generate those then. That way there are no mods involved, everyone does their own housekeeping and discussions aren't hampered by the fact that's there's going to be unnecessary housekeeping effort involved if one posts something.

Too crazy? Here's some more...

Users could choose to [toplink] plain text too. That way if there's an update or something the poster finds significant enough to go into the summary he could just [toplink][/toplink] it.

wraith808

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2013, 03:11:15 PM »
Yes but what I'm asking for is for the first post in the thread to be kept updated with new information (and collected links from followup posts); that way the first post in a thread is a sort of constantly updated table of summary and list of reading material to inform the pages of discussion posts that follow.

Doesn't that put a bit more responsibility in the hand of the OP- that might not be keeping up with the thread?   Others might be bantering back and forth, but only the OP can update the OP...

And having anyone else edit a post is a very slippery slope...

40hz

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2013, 03:47:34 PM »
I think it's important to fit the tool to the task.

A forum is, to me at least, a tool for open dialog. Dialog tends to be messy since the participants are conducting a process that ideally leads to mutual discovery and clarification. As such, the dialog referred to as "insider noise" is what it's about since dialog is a tool for participants rather than silent observers. Most people that engage in dialog don't see or intend their discussion be seen or treated as an instructional text or formal article. And certainly not as a way to spontaneously generate instructional materials on the cheap.

If tighter focus and curation are the main goal, a blog with comments enabled would fit the bill much better.

If the goal is to create an open but structured learning tool, or a repository of group sourced wisdom, use a wiki.


mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2013, 03:55:32 PM »
I hear what you are saying about different tools for different tasks, but i think the model i'm proposing works exceedingly well on this forum as we have seen in other threads.

The first post of the thread is maintained and updated by the original poster with the best summary and links to 3rd party articles/essays/resources.

The rest of the thread is discussion.

When someone posts a new link to an article or essay or whatever, that seems valuable, the first post author updates the first post to include it.

The only thing it requires is a bit of effort on the person who starts the thread to put in the work to make it the Definitive thread on the subject and occasionally update it.

The benefits of doing this are huge.

It helps everyone who wants to participate in the discussion see right away some places they can go to learn more, it collects info that would otherwise be lost in the noise of the thread and found by other posters in one place.  It makes for great historical reading and in the newlsetter and is suitable for blogging on the website.

In short, it makes the thread into something genuinely useful to everyone on the forum, and helps facilitate intelligent and open discussion of the issue.

tomos

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2013, 04:09:06 PM »
The only thing it requires is a bit of effort on the person who starts the thread to put in the work to make it the Definitive thread on the subject and occasionally update it.

the reality though is that some people are open to working like that, and many arent - which is why I suggested alternatives above (they're not necessarily solutions either, just ideas).
Tom

wraith808

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2013, 04:11:18 PM »
I think that your response to 40 sort of gels what I don't like about the idea.

Have you ever seen threads on forums where someone hasn't read through the whole thread before they reply?  As threads on forums are dynamic discussions, even a summary doesn't convey the meat of the conversation, and the tone of what has gone before.  So the replies aren't as much of an addition to the discussion.  They're disconnected, and can feel like the real life conversations when you're talking to someone and someone comes and interjects only having heard the last bit of the conversation.

There needs to be a clear direction as to whether a thread is a discussion, or just a series of disconnected comments about a news article.  You see the latter in many places on the internet- which is why I tend not to engage there.  You don't get to know the people and the tone of the area, and conversations tend to fragment as the discussion isn't the point- the original link is.  And even trying to add context to the discussion isn't really adequate.  

To contribute to a discussion, especially coming in on the tail end, you have to be willing to invest the time IMO.  And this gives the illusion that you have gone through the thread, when really you haven't.

rgdot

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2013, 04:25:09 PM »
I think in theory what mouser proposes is a really good idea but to me it sounds like swinging the pendulum away from a discussion to an article. Almost as if they are blog posts with comments instead of threads on message boards. Nothing really wrong with that, mind you.

mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2013, 04:34:34 PM »
I don't think my idea needs to have anything but a positive impact on discussions -- i see it as enhancing the discussion because the best links and new discoveries mentioned in the free-ranging discussion can get added to the first post so that they aren't overlooked, and new people coming into the discussion can educate themselves by reading some of the external links so that they can join in the discussion in an intelligent way.  It would open up discussions to more people, something i think we desperately need.

wraith808

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2013, 06:13:32 PM »
I don't think my idea needs to have anything but a positive impact on discussions -- i see it as enhancing the discussion because the best links and new discoveries mentioned in the free-ranging discussion can get added to the first post so that they aren't overlooked, and new people coming into the discussion can educate themselves by reading some of the external links so that they can join in the discussion in an intelligent way.  It would open up discussions to more people, something i think we desperately need.

What do you think that adding it to the top does that reading through the thread (if you're interested) doesn't?  I only see it of use if you want a TL;DR version and don't want to really join the discussion.  In any other cases, you get the whole disjointed conversation bit IMO.  rgdot sums it up (as does 40's discussion of tools for the job).

Renegade

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2013, 06:45:38 PM »
I've updated this post:

http://www.donationc....msg336376#msg336376

With a very, very simple format for links. It follows this format:

<SITE TITLE>
- <brief description 1 line or less>
<link1>
<link2>
...
<original DC post link>

Any stylistic issues aside, it's succinct, and lets you jump to the DC post, which is important for context, etc. I used chronological order with most recent at the bottom.

For "credible sources", I'll continue that discussion in the Orwellian thread in the basement. Suffice it to say that what constitutes a "credible source" is a topic for debate, and trying to have some sort of standard there will be nothing but counter productive. As you'll see in the summary I gave, there are already disputes about what sources are credible (or their motivations), and a Dilbert cartoon. (Is satire/humour credible?) Simply putting it all in there and leaving the readers to decide for themselves is likely the best and easiest course of action. i.e. This is the issue. These are some resources. Have at 'er.
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TaoPhoenix

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2013, 07:10:52 PM »
The first post of the thread is maintained and updated by the original poster with the best summary and links to 3rd party articles/essays/resources.

What if the OP doesn't want the work to maintain the thread? I've been the first poster on a modest number of threads simply because I read Slashdot 3X daily, and have cross posted some starter info over here. But then I am usually content to let the thread go where it may!


TaoPhoenix

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2013, 07:13:48 PM »
There needs to be a clear direction as to whether a thread is a discussion, or just a series of disconnected comments about a news article.

And then there's the angle that there are multiple discussions going on in a meaty news thread! So in my view it would take a *lot* of work to keep outlining all the developments!

See? I couldn't make it past seven sentences without two discussion fragments to update!

mouser

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #19 on: September 11, 2013, 07:18:17 PM »
Well if the original poster doesn't want to do the work, then that's the death of that.

But if you have someone who is willing to do what renegade just did on that thread, then it opens up all sorts of possibilities for people working together.  Like now i'm going to go send Renegade a few articles that i came across lately that i find fascinating.  

The fact that he is willing to update his first post and organize the links makes all the difference, and i think adds so much to the discussion.  It's not just that it adds to the discussion in terms of the people who were already discussing it, it's that it also opens up the possibility of new people jumping in, and increases the likelyhood that we will be discussing a common set of articles.

Renegade and I don't agree on too much -- but if he's willing to entertain adding some links that others find -- he's now opened up the range of discussion we can have on that thread and opened up the potential to get assistance in assembling a collection of "definitive" links -- while at the same time made it more likely that the thread can be a jumping off point to learn more and discucss more deeply.

We don't want to be a forum where it's always just 5 of us talking to each other -- let's make an active effort to have our discussion threads be useful reference material so others can more easily participate in the discussions and learn more, and so that those who are more knowledgeable than us can more easily improve the content of a thread in a way that isn't so hard to find.



Regarding what are "reputable" sites -- I'm not hung up on that -- as long as the first poster is open to adding new links i think it's all good.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2013, 07:31:42 PM by mouser »

TaoPhoenix

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #20 on: September 11, 2013, 07:44:02 PM »
Heh Mouser you're describing giving someone a "job".

:D

I knock out a lot of first posts just to be sure the "data point" is here for the general anti-Orwellian theme that we specialize in, but then I quite often don't care about the small aspect of the issue other than it's part of this year's whole NSA-Revelations arc, like a TV season arc!

I'm almost to the point of writing my own large exhibit on that stuff, but I don't quite yet have the catalyst kicker showpiece news nugget to really kick it over the edge to make it worth 100 hours of work. Right now it's simmering badly, but we're all a bit trapped. But see as simple examples that the big corporate legal departments are taking their first nudge steps while eye-ing each other to log the first proto-steps to turn all this around.

(But I spidey-sense there's an awesome info-graphic here, some kind of Super-Madlibs of "_____ said/did ____ that took ____ right away from you and/or oppressed your overall freedom". And also I have the fun idea of "pointilism links" where each link consists of a single "dot", ((a triple pun play on the whole "here" "here" "here" "here" "here" thing!))

And then you can wave your mouse over which section of oppression you want to survey and 100 articles are linked in a big overall graphic!



40hz

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2013, 08:07:26 PM »
I think it would depend on the thread.

There are some threads (along with my posts in it) I'd rather not see handed down to posterity.

Kidding aside however, if it seems to be where people want to go with this, I'll be happy to go along too. I still think something other than a discussion forum would be a better way to accomplish something like that. But maybe that's mostly me.

Regarding the same 5 people, what can I say? Some people will always prefer to lurk - and that should be their prerogative. I'd personally like to see a lot more people join in the discussions. But in any assembly there will always be a more active group that invests considerably more time and effort to keep 'the gab' going. And I've never seen any regular poster here say or do anything that could remotely be interpreted as attempting to exclude newcomers - or sending the message that some discussion thread was a "private party." But I'm fairly comfortable in a crowd (and occasionally more dense - or less sensitive than I might be) so maybe I'm just more likely to step in and join the crowd than another person might be.

 :)

wraith808

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2013, 08:16:54 PM »
But maybe that's mostly me.

Mostly, but not all.  ;D

40hz

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2013, 08:21:40 PM »
But maybe that's mostly me.

Mostly, but not all.  ;D

Thanks Wraith...I was starting to feel so alone... :P

Renegade

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Re: A Proposal for Improving Quality of News-Related Threads
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2013, 11:06:21 PM »
Well if the original poster doesn't want to do the work, then that's the death of that.

Which could kind of suck at times, but it's still no loss over what's happening now. You're really just suggesting a way to improve what happens. If say 10% of threads that could benefit from it actually do it, then that's still an improvement.

But if you have someone who is willing to do what renegade just did on that thread, then it opens up all sorts of possibilities for people working together.  Like now i'm going to go send Renegade a few articles that i came across lately that i find fascinating. 

It might be better to post those in the thread along with some commentary. They could then be linked as a part of the discussion rather than just sort of popping out of nowhere. (Hint hint nudge nudge wink wink ;) )

Renegade and I don't agree on too much

Hahaha! ;D Not sure how much I agree with you there... ;) :P

(No, I can never resist! ;D )

-- but if he's willing to entertain adding some links that others find -- he's now opened up the range of discussion we can have on that thread and opened up the potential to get assistance in assembling a collection of "definitive" links -- while at the same time made it more likely that the thread can be a jumping off point to learn more and discucss more deeply.

It would be particularly useful for threads as they get long, e.g. the Thermageddon thread.

But then, the chronological order will start to deteriorate. A larger number of resources needs to be categorized to be easier to use.

Regarding what are "reputable" sites -- I'm not hung up on that -- as long as the first poster is open to adding new links i think it's all good.

We're going to get some chaff either way, from any perspective. Let the reader sort it out. No amount of reason will convince those that don't want to be convinced, in any direction. 

Want "the" top source for extra-dimensional higher-frequency out-of-phase shapeshifting reptilian aliens that possess people? http://www.davidicke.com/ ;D (I find him very entertaining - he even has a lot of useful things to say!)

My guess is that some people won't want to add some links, and people will likely also miss links (particularly inline links like this), but whatever - at the end of the day the first post in a thread will be more useful to new readers. It will also let them catch up pretty quickly in some ways. Everything skews one way or another, so it's not something that we should worry about.

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