Controlling Signal to Noise on Threadwatch

19 comments is a public site. How do we keep the signal-to-noise ratio low?

If Threadwatch continues to thrive, signal-to-noise will become one of the biggest problems we face.

My thoughts on this is clear. Posting and comments are should be members only. To become a member you need to be nominated by an existing member in good standing.

We all know one another from other forums and weblogs.

There is no reason that this system wouldn't work now that Threadwatch has achieved critical mass.

And without such a system, I don't know how Threadwatch - as a successful public website - will survive the flood of poor quality posting and confusion which has sunk every search forum I've ever visited.

Alternatively there could be the slashdot system of moderating down posts which combined with reputation keeps their threads within reasonable length (as opposed to telephone book like length).

On the other hand, the slashdot threads are almost unreadable as the conversation is not at all continuous and many of the highlighted replies are often to questions which are modded down.

Membership to post or comment seems to me the way to go. Membership controlled by nomination.

The other advantage of nomination is that if an individual persistently recommends nitwits for nominees that member could lost his nomination privileges.

*The signal-to-noise issue was raised by another Threadwatcher in a PM in response to my thread on Return to roots.



so now we have two posts on the same topic, both rather vague and a bit wordy. Signal?

I find the TW'ers have been stepping up to the plate. You don't find gems like this on those other forums:

Comment spam for a product launch is such a bad strategy. It's like if a Pizza joint was opening up in your home town and paid their delivery boy to take a crap on everyone's doorstep while delivering coupon flyers.

Way to go Loren!

Ronsard, how about giving Aaron more than 4 days to find his perch?

I agree with John, There

I agree with John,

There seems to have been more posts the last few days but I've actually liked this as it's meant there's always been fresh topics to read when visiting the site. If Aaron has the stamina to keep up posting in this volume then good on him.


Agree with John too

The quantity of posting has been great, even if the quality hasn't always been the best. Give Aaron some time, following in the footsteps of Nick would be a hard ask for anyone and I've noticed things improving. Aaron will get the hang of it, and I've noticed that he's slowly starting to emulate Nick's sarcasm on things as well :-)


shades of gmail ...

we don't need that

Threads like this are noise.

Threads like this are noise. :)

Seriously, if this place

Seriously, if this place starts to debate "signal-to-noise ratio" nonsense ala WMW I am out of here.

This is how is always starts...

A few villagers with torches and pitchforks start to revolt and the next thing you know my posting privileges are revoked, sigh...

Hmmm... this seemed to be like a genuine "concern".

If only minor (?) in other people's views.

I think people here are open and caring enough to take note of "concerns" like this one.

@ nutsandbolts. Please don't say that. I took a similar stance over at SeoChat and now I'm gone. I'm just happy that any "issues" over here are handled in a very civil way. Pros and cons and stuff like that. Good reasoning (and a bit of swearing to balance things eheh).

Besides, one always needs to suggest a somewhat too extreme counter measure to be able to meet in the middle. Right?


I mentioned to Nick a couple of times in the past that the noise ration was rising - his respone was always that if necessary he would get ruthless - I know Aaron is equally capable of telling people to bugger off, he's hardly a new face to moderating and he has a nice network of people who won't fail to tell him what they really think if things do start getting out of hand :)

I noticed (from experience)...

...that Nick's ruthlessness had to "grow" a bit. Lessee if Aaron can be a post sniper right from the start LOL.

Quick tip: never protect anyone from chop-chop type moderation, not even your closest buddies or the biggest loudmouths.

Fair point Wit... :)

Fair point Wit... :)

Aaron will do a great job

Aaron will do a great job I am sure, its only been a few days since he has taken the helm at threadwatch so lets just give him time to pull up a chair and get his feet under the table before we all start jumping up and down demanding this that and the other. He knows the ropes when it come's down to editing a post for the noise aspect of the thread plus he has the backup of the threadwatch editors to keep things on track

Can you really control noise?

My theory is that you can't control noise unless you have a finite amount of writers/editors.

Do you think that "invitation"-like membership will solve the problem? The number of members will still increase and as that happens so will noise. If you are going to offset that by increasing the amount of editors, then shouldn't you be better off having the editors write instead of edit?

To me those who worry about

To me those who worry about "noise" are the ones who want to exclude others. Do not fear, us newbies do not have plans to assimilate you and dumb you down. If we say stupid stuff please forgive us, we are just learning your ways. ;)

don't take this as criticism of aaron

as the threadwatch site stands now, the signal to noise is fine as far as i can tell. if threadwatch grows (which is surely what aaron wants if he bought it and is putting his time into it now), the signal to noise problems will start.

personally i can't abide the search forums. the reason i joined threadwatch as a paying member way back when was to have some place with the news and just the news (which in search means the latest discoveries). all the rest of the nonsense and newbie questions are covered elsewhere.

if somebody has a better model for how to grow the site and to keep quality high, let he or she propose it.

assigning writers/editors to beats (individual forums) is a time-honoured tradition which has worked well for newspapers. i expect it would work well for websites as well.

in any case, i threw this one out for discussion, not as an accusation.

cheers, ronsard

Okay ...

Your point is noted, ronsard.

> the reason i joined threadwatch as a paying member way back when was to have some place with the news and just the news (which in search means the latest discoveries).

Okay. I'm not sure that Threadwatch was ever billed as a "news and just the news" place. Was it? As to newbie questions, haven't really seen any particularly "newbie" questions; in fact, I wouldn't say that I notice many questions at all. I'm just not sure what you're referring to.

I think there's some concern here, though, because it seems like Nick just passed the baton to Aaron a few days ago, and already there is a call to change it radically -- with membership by recommendation only, membership-only posting and heavy moderation -- and all for something that you're saying hasn't happened yet. A solution that penalizes everyone en masse in the absence of a problem would seem premature, at best, and cripplingly poor policy at worst. I've been in those types of forums; heck, I moderated in one 'way back, and I can tell you that the over-control thing gets old fast and simply doesn't achieve whatever it was hoped it would achieve. To me, that really isn't the way to go -- and I think it would be a mistake here, too.

Take a look at the difference between search forums (help and get help) and Threadwatch (discuss the latest). One has to know something, really, to comment on the latest developments, and I don't see any forum here for requesting optimization information anyway.

No, much of the regular membership here are seasoned veterans; I recognize plenty of faces/names from 5-8 years ago. Independent people; people who have achieved some measure of success; owners of companies. I would think that trying to herd them into tight little lines would not play well.

Seems to me that when you "inherit" a working installation, your first move might be to restrain the urge to start changing things left and right. Certainly not the elements that made it work in the first place, or before you have time to see whether anything actually needs to be changed. Let's not take drastic measures to fix something that hasn't happened yet and may not ever happen.

I don't know; maybe I'm missing something.


I don't know; maybe I'm missing something.

I don't think you missed a thing Diane, I could not agree with you more.

Side Note:
Aaron is a smart guy, even with (because of?) his exposure to radiation. So I am sure he will do what he believes is best for TW. ;-)

(which is surely what aaron

(which is surely what aaron wants if he bought it and is putting his time into it now)

I am not certain how others can be so certain of my intent. The main reason I bought TW is that I wanted it to be the place that was still my home page. Nick wanted to move on and he offered it up.

I am taking a chance and I hope it works. The thing is there are lots of people here who are not only smart, but also uber honest. I have already got lots of feedback and some stuff takes time and whatnot.

I don't want to go member invite requirement, kill all bot traffic via robots.txt, or do other stuff to put up some sort of walled garden.

I tend to think some of these threads will sorta sort out who would want to post here and who would not. Nick has done a lot to establish a good membership and tone for the site. I hope it stays that way.

FYI, if I was looking to really grow massively big I would have thrown an seo forum on SEO Book, but that is so not my goal.

On a less positive note, in response to this:

Aaron is a smart guy, even with (because of?) his exposure to radiation.

Due to shielding from the reactor compartment it does not give off much radiation unless you sit right near a few key points to avoid...and even there it's not too much.

And as far as overall radiation exposure goes, the hull and water above a submerged submarine block out a large % of cosmic rays. Thus, as a nuclear reactor operator on a submarine you typically get less radiation exposure than most civilians roaming the Earth.

"Controlling Signal to Noise on Threadwatch"

*Ding ding*

Hmmmm, time gentlemen please. 20 minutes only

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