For those of you who know me only from my Geek Trivia column, it may
come as a surprise that I've been an ad hoc community moderator at
TechRepublic for over a year. In that time, I've learned a few rules of
thumb about promoting and harvesting good discussions. Put simply, what
makes a discussion great.
300 posts is a good yardstick. There are thousands of threads lurking
in the TechRepublic database, most of which never get more than two or
three posts. In TechRepublic's six years of existence, only 45 threads
When you create an all-time Top 25 list for TR discussions,
regardless of topic, it looks like the off-topic stuff is supremely
popular. It isn't. Off-topic makes it easy to ramp up numbers of posts,
but a surprisingly small audience of devoted enthusiasts is repsonsible
for this. When you look at pageviews—which takes into account idle
readers (lurkers), rather than posters—the on-topic stuff is far more
efficient and has a wider appeal. While very few formal examinations of
lurker-to-poster ratios have been conducted (by us or anybody, actually), in general, there are at
least two orders of magnitude involved. Posters make up a mere fraction
of a percent of any online community audience.
Which brings us to the idea of a newsletter that does nothing but
promote off-topic content. The idea is that, since these topics have
been supressed, they haven't been exposed to their fair share of casual
lurkers. This presumes that casual lurkers want off-topic, at least
from our site. Geek Trivia seems to suggest they do, raw traffic data
says they don't. I'd like to hear what other poeple think. Send a shout.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.