So, how can off-topic be so popular?

Submitted by Blake on Tue, 04/20/2004 - 12:49

"How can off-topic be so popular" was an interesting little read that got me thinking. It bothers me that people question why we post something. Most days not much else bothers me around here, but when people start to question why we find something interesting I get bothered for some reason. I think Fang may be right when he wrote "information being somehow relevant to be permitted is a factor in what we can call low-grade censorship." If an article appears to be not pertinent to you, you are under no compunction to read it, but may pass it by with asking any one else "by your leave". Better yet, slashcode gives you many options to filter our stories that you're not interested in, or just afraid to read.

But, I'll also agree with kctipton that the post was not really about libraries, and I'll also admit that I probably wouldn't have posted it, BUT that really doesn't mean it shouldn't be here. I'd love to outline the careful steps we all take in deciding what to post, but there really aren't any, at least for me. I find something interesting, and then I post it, that's about all there is to it. There is almost no offtopic for LISNews, we should post what we find interesting, while trying to keep things fair and open. There are A LOT of people who have author access to the site (actually, too many people have author access to the site now that I think about it) and they all have the ability to delete a submission, or post something they find interesting. I ask that they try to keep things on topic, and try to be "fair and balanced" in what they choose to post. I think they do a wonderful job %99.99 of the time.

Fang also got me to thinking about the LISNews numbers. Do more visits (hits, sessions, page views, how ever you want to measure it) really mean that we're doing a good job. Does popularity equate to admiration, agreement and participation? An average weekday now shows 5500+ visitors (73000 hits, 16000 page views), does that mean we're doing a good job? Was I not doing a good job 4 years ago when there were only 100 people a day stopping by? Are we on topic? Are we popular? Are we doing a good job? I've always wondered what the numbers really mean.

Someone asked me to delete a comment last night because they felt like they were being stalked by people who went on the attack. I've seen a lot of that over the past few months, a very vocal, small group of folks are really taking the fun out of reading the comments. It's not that I often disagree with what they say, I disagree with how they say it.
Personally, I try to use the comments as a place to expand and explain a story, to share something and to give something back. Unfortunately there is a growing number of people who use them as a place to act like 13 year old girls arguing over the cutest backstreet boy. I saw this coming years ago, and that was the #1 reason to move to the new code, moderation should be taking care of stupidity. There are days I just want to turn the comments off completely.

So, how can offtopic be so popular? The more comments a story receives, the more hits it gets. People are clearly coming to the site to read the stories we post, and read the comments on the stories, and read the journals.

I've whitelisted my mail now. Anyone I've sent an email to in the past few years is on my whitelist, everyone else in the world gets tagged as spam, unless they come through the contact us form. I'll be out of town and more often than not out of touch for the majority of the next week.