Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • From my experience on Twitter, people love to hashtag the heck out of their tweets to get more views. But most people I ask say that they usually forget to search those hashtags.

      The signal to noise ratio is also often atrocious: someone who failed a math test, or can’t figure out their bill, or who wants to discuss solving a differential calculus problem will all use the math hashtag.

      Probably why I’m so excited about 🍰, since it’s optimized for by topic discussions.

      But I’m still curious . . .

      Does anyone actively follow hashtags on other platforms?

    • My opinion is they just junk up the tweet or Instagram post so it becomes hard to read, they are crazy noisy. We are trying to improve them at Cake by formalizing them, limiting them, moderating them, and making it so you can follow them.

    • OMG, that was both hilarious and incredibly annoying—I had to stop halfway through it!

      Thank you for sharing this—it was a long day for me today and the laugh was greatly needed. 😊

    • I was chatting today with someone on Mastodon and we were griping that hashtags were basically an afterthought there: you can’t follow them and there’s no directory to know what’s being used.

      I suggested she check out Cake and shared a link to an amazingly well-written Cake post by a recent newbie.

      Note:

      Mastodon is my replacement for Twitter: I follow/followed by less than 50 people on Mastodon and have more meaningful conversations in a week than I do with 450 follow/1,500 followers on Twitter.

      Cake is hopefully my replacement for commenting on blogs and Reddit: two dying platforms compared to what they were four or five years ago.

    • Hashtags are good on Twitter if used correctly. Many times they are used for live events so people can find other relevant tweets. This was my experience following all the live tech events that happened in October like Google's Pixel event and OnePlus' 6T unveiling. Following the hashtags made it easy to find what other people were saying about the events and the products.

      It's also great for sports. I follow football (not American) so every time there's a match, hashtags combining the names of the teams that are playing will be used for specific matches (like #BOUMUN for the recent Bournemouth vs Man United match last weekend). This again, makes it easy to find relevant tweets live during matches.

      Also great for movies, TV shows, video games, and other forms of entertainment. Red Dead Redemption 2 is big at the moment, so just searching the hashtag will give you loads of content relevant to the video game.

      Sometimes because of Twitter's character limit, you write about something without any context then just add a hashtag so people know what you are talking about. Or you might tweet something short, but not have any context, so a hashtag gives context. Like this tweet of mine.

      It does get abused, especially on Instagram (I don't use it, but I've seen posts), but if used correctly, it can be a very powerful social media tool.

    • if used correctly, it can be a very powerful social media tool.

      Agreed. I'd like to add that not all problems that come with user's ability to add hashtags are resolved by Cake's alternative of adding up to five topics instead.

      Although I've only been here for a few days, I've already seen some posts in my "Interesting" stream that are actually not that interesting to me, and only appeared there because the post author added topics that the content didn't really belong in.

      @Chris mentioned the moderation of post topics, which of course is an argument for topics and against in-line hashtags (it's less intrusive to change a topic than it is to change a hashtag in the content itself) - but that moderation also seems necessary because it will always be tempting for users to add another topic for some more eyes on their content. :)

    • You follow hashtags in Diaspora, and in fact that seems to be the main way you organize your feed. But there's no management of hashtags, so in practice you end up with a proliferation of tags that all point to the same topic, but end up dispersing the community unless you follow all the hashtags. Perhaps Cake can correct for this proliferation of topics through moderation?

      And yes, I've only been here a day and am already seeing the topics misused. Filling your post with tags serves the poster in attracting more views, but doesn't do much for the reader who's actually interested in the topics being tagged. There aren't a lot of users here yet, but if the platform grows so will the noise to signal ratio.

    • You follow hashtags in Diaspora, and in fact that seems to be the main way you organize your feed. But there's no management of hashtags, so in practice you end up with a proliferation of tags that all point to the same topic, but end up dispersing the community unless you follow all the hashtags.

      A similar thing happened on Google+ with its communities. Whether by accident or deliberately ("I don't like the admin, so I'm going to create my own community"), if more than one community was created for the same topic, users often felt the need to post their content (often photography) to all communities that were a match, which meant that people who were community members to see a variety of content were forced to instead see the same post a dozen times.

      Perhaps Cake can correct for this proliferation of topics through moderation?

      This more centralized approach of having moderated topics is a great way to solve these issues, but this comes at a cost. I wonder how many more users it will take before moderation by the platform owner itself no longer works. Perhaps a way out here would be to have one or more user arbiters for each topic, who can decide (or at least suggest for moderation) whether some post really belongs to that topic.

      This could either be a role that is explicitly given to long-term users - or every user could have a way to "flag" potentially wrong topics of a post, and some sort of background score (based on activity in that topic?) would be used to prioritize all that flagging.

    • Welcome to Cake, Apocryphal. 😁 Very insightful post.

      I wonder how you think the dynamics might change if we let you ignore topics as well as follow them. It isn't something we're working on at the moment but it's interesting to think of how it would affect things if we got it working.

      For example, perhaps when we get large the photography topic becomes too much a firehose for you, that people attach it to every camera review and pic of their child. So you ignore it but you follow the topic macro photography. Do you think that photographers who shoot macro would catch on and stop also adding the photography topic because it would exclude people like you?

      I'm reading the new book on the creation of Reddit and I was surprised to learn that they started with hashtags but switched to the sub system they use now. The issue is subs end up being pretty general like photography with no sub for macro photography, so you have to wade through all of photography to find macro shots. The scenarios Jazli describes on Twitter are very powerful for specific interests like following a particular football game.

    • or every user could have a way to "flag" potentially wrong topics of a post

      I’ve worked a lot with optimizing processes for organizations and systems and the most effective controls are the ones that require the least amount of resources to maintain.

      For example, you could automate a huge chunk of this process:

      If x number of users flag a post for being off topic, the offender gets an automatic gentle reminder to be more selective.

      Second offense, another gentle reminder.

      Third offense, posting rights suspended until/unless admin reinstates them.

    • Thanks for the welcome!

      Ignoring topics as well as following them has some appeal, but might just end up moving the problem, rather than solving it. For example, let's say you got fed up with seeing Nikon posts in the Camera Equipment topic, so you ignore the 'Nikon' topic. Only then to find out that you are missing a whole lot of great Landscape Photography tips under that topic because people were also tagging Nikon there, even though their camera model wasn't really relevant to what they were posting.

      I think educating people as to how to properly tag posts, and when (or when not to) create a new category is really important. Giving users the ability to flag mislabeled posts might work, but will create more work for mods, but will somewhat distribute the work to the broader community. Mods only need to act if a certain threshold of complaints is reached. Maybe this can be automated.

      Another method (probably difficult to implement from an engineering standpoint) would be to let users tailor how they follow a topic by ignoring keywords. This might let someone ignore mentions of 'Nikon' in a Camera Equipment category, while allowing them in a Landscape Photography category.

      Categorization is certainly a big puzzle. You don't want to be too broad, because as you say broad topics like 'Photography' become overwhelming. You don't want to be too narrow or niche either, because there won't be enough followers. And when there are too many topics, it becomes hard to browse through them to find what you want. For example, I noticed there is a category for Hurricanes, and another for a specific hurricane, This raises a bunch of questions (what is the long term usefulness of the specific hurricane topic? Does each hurricane deserve its own topic? Or is this something to be handled at the conversation level) but also suggests that maybe nesting of topics is needed. At the moment there are some broad categories, and underneath those are topics. But shouldn't a topic for a specific hurricane be even one more level below the 'Hurricanes' topic? Photography should probably be a category, with Camera Equipment a topic, and Nikon a sub-topic. This would clean up the experience of browing topics to find ones that are of interest to you, which is only going to get messier over time. I'm not sure if that's enough of a benefit to justify the work involved, but I suppose followers of the parent topic would automatically be enrolled in the niche topics, which might clean up their personal list of topics, too.

      And how to you deal with that over time? I happen to have a big interest in the history of the Ancient Near East, for example. There isn't currently a topic for that, but I can create one. Do I create 'Ancient History' as a topic, knowing it might eventually be overwhelmed by posts on Greece and Rome? Do I go straight for 'The Ancient Near East', even though I do have some interest in Greece and Rome as well. Will topics like 'photography' or 'computing' have the ability to be split over time as their activity grows? Will users later have be able to move their old conversations when a new sub-topic is created? And are old conversations even relevant? Are conversations meant to stick around for future reference, or are they meant to be ephemeral? This is probably it's own topic.

      Anyway, some of this is just food for thought. You'll go mad trying to solve every edge case that crops up, obviously. Heck, you'll probably go mad trying solve the core cases.

    • Mastodon is my replacement for Twitter: I follow/followed by less than 50 people on Mastodon and have more meaningful conversations in a week than I do with 450 follow/1,500 followers on Twitter.

      The problem with Mastodon is that it's essentially Twitter in structure and presentation. "Meaningful conversation" is literally the opposite of what it was intended to do. Hell, IRC is a better designed federated system for carrying on conversations, and far more stable besides.

      Cake is hopefully my replacement for commenting on blogs and Reddit: two dying platforms compared to what they were four or five years ago.

      I don't think anything will really ever replace commenting on blogs because of one simple thing: locality. Blogs with their own comment systems provide a self-selected community of people interested in that topic simply by providing a single point of contact for those conversations. That is not something that can be easily replicated with conversation anywhere else.

      Reddit, on the other hand… That's another monster altogether. The broad universality of Reddit is a pretty amazing thing. There is probably a sub-Reddit for anything you're interested in and if there isn't – you can create it. In a sense, that actually gives them a significant advantage over Cake as it stands right now. Being bound to an imposed taxonomy, a hierarchy of topics and subjects determined by someone else, means that introducing new ideas that aren't currently labeled but which somebody might want to find later can be a little difficult.

      Of course, the means of discovery for such things go beyond straight up search. I've discovered topics to follow by reading along in an article, getting to the bottom and seeing that they used something I didn't expect, something significantly more specific that I then follow.

      Things get interesting when you start poking at folksonomies and then using the implicit network of tags that appear together to generate a hierarchy-as-used.

      But I might be a little strange.

    • Because I am a complete another geek, I'm fascinated by an alternate database approach called Neo4j, which focuses on modeling data as graphs as a first order operation rather than as an emergent phenomenon. They recently had an article linked from their newsletter which actively discussed developing a hierarchical taxonomy from a set of unstructured folksonomic tags, which I find really interesting from a mechanical point of view.

      That is to say, building a hierarchy which is built from the ground up from the tags people actually use.

      Something alongside a way to tell the system that you are less interested in a given topic/subject/tag, this would mean that usage would dictate the taxonomy, to some degree and the user could have a tool to focus their attention on just the part of the content they're interested in.

      Because, after all, "photography" as a tag still applies to all of those pictures of every camera review and picture of their child. It is all photography. There's no question about that. And for macro photographers, their work is still photography even if it is also likewise the more specific macro photography.

      This provides more of an argument for a system which allows users to provide a certain amount of weight to any given topic that they follow. Apocryphal may be interested in photography in general, but is really interested in macro photography. If attached to their account, their list of interests was something like "Photography+, Macro_Photography++" and the system knows to order things with more pluses more highly, then when looking at their stream of posts which are interesting, the ones that are most likely to be interesting are closer to the top.

      This is strangely a pretty good argument for removing the limitation of only five topics on a given post because eventually the system will have more than five topics deep that certain parts of the conversational taxonomy might need to be a part of.

      (Though that might be minimized if the presence of a tag implies some degree of the expressed interest by the user transfers up and down the hierarchy to some degree. If the next step up the hierarchy for a topic that a user expresses interest in gets considered effectively 25% of its sub-topic, and topics downstream of the selected interest topic receive 50% (unless otherwise specified by the user at some point), you could get a very effective automatic sort from a very limited number of expressed interests.

      Just spit-balling, here.

    • I would be really careful with systems which use automated thresholds before that sort of thing. They immediately become obviously gameable, and there is no system on earth in which human beings will not use a gameable system in order to mess with other human beings.

      If it's a one-off, it will make much of a difference if someone does it one way or another. If it's a common occurrence, it seems like it would be a better idea to give individual users the ability to turn down the volume of particular user/topic pairs because it's unlikely that they're not doing it for a reason.

      And what we do if there is a legitimate difference of opinion between segments of an audience who believe that a topic is relevant or not? Maybe it is a legitimate issue of contention. How do you resolve that?

      This doesn't seem like a situation which can be successfully managed via top-down engagement.

    • But I might be a little strange.

      I think strange is vastly underrated as a character trait.

      I’ve read several of your comments here and I am often simultaneously intrigued and overwhelmed by the depth of your platformosphere analyses.

      My experience on Mastodon is significantly better than on Twitter: 500 character length, being able to put a content warning and a SHOW MORE button on topics not of interest to my home instance (including political thoughts), having our instance admin block entire instances because they are home to hate mongers or spam bots. IRC may be a better option by comparison, but at this point I’m happily assimilated there.

      Cake vs blogs vs Reddit. I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on Reddit. In its heyday it was an amazing site worth investing my time in. But its interface isn’t as appealing as a Wordpress blog site or Cake.

    • I’ve read several of your comments here and I am often simultaneously intrigued and overwhelmed by the depth of your platformosphere analyses.

      I've had a lot of time to think about social media networks, the interaction of users within the context of social media networks, and what works and doesn't work, as a result of having been part of the Internet since before there was a web. Since before there was the inklings of a web.

      I used to do research with Archie and Veronica, and if you don't know what those are – terrify yourself and go do a little bit of research into how things used to be.

      As a result, and also because I am weirdly obsessed with automatically generated understanding of arbitrary text and corpora of data, I accumulated a lot of random crap which sometimes falls out.

      My experience on Mastodon is significantly better than on Twitter:

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but it would pretty much have to be. Twitter was pioneering in a lot of ways and continues to be, but many of the design decisions which went into it and which have never really been addressed don't actually line up with the way in which it is currently being used. And I don't mean anything about content, harassment, or anything of that order. I just mean the way that normal people engage with the tool to achieve some outcome.

      Mastodon is effectively taking the lessons of IRC from 20 years ago, slapping a web front end on it, and using Federation as a first-order mechanism to do things with. It's the Federation mechanisms that let you do things like "show more" and which implement locality as a means of filtering which are the really big deals in Mastodon. They are, not surprisingly, also some of the least talked about features of the platform.

      Cake vs blogs vs Reddit. I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on Reddit. In its heyday it was an amazing site worth investing my time in. But its interface isn’t as appealing as a Wordpress blog site or Cake.

      No, you probably should cast aspersions on Reddit. It has earned some aspersions. I appreciate many of the freedoms that the platform offers architecturally and many of the tools that it's integrated, but it has suffered from its success. It's probably unfair to blame a platform for the people who find it and like it, but if it was ever fair to do so, Reddit would be the platform to do so for.

      I rather like the "new/beta" Reddit interface in night mode because it makes actually reading content doable. You can scroll down through content, see enough of it that you don't have to unfold every single post to see what it's about, reply and share very simply, and move on to the next bit of content. Sub-Reddits provide locality so that you can specifically be in a community with content you're looking for and the friction for creating new sub-Reddits is extremely low, so if you don't like the community you find and there other people who don't like it, you can migrate to someplace you do, create your own locality, and more power to you.

      If Cake had properly thread-presented replies so that we could actually see the nesting and follow the line of conversation (and a night mode), it probably would be one of my favorite interfaces to work with on a regular basis, right alongside Medium for blogging.

      We've got what we've got.

    • I agree with this completely. So much better when it's limited and moderated!

      On Instagram I limit my following of hashtags to less then 5 and it keeps me sane. My favorites being advrider, #adventurerider and #doggles :)

    • Completely fascinating. Thanks for the pointer to Mark Needham's taxonomy paper.

      We have various tools in place to moderate topics, such as merging them. For example, the other day I noticed the topics fitness and getting fit seemed to be used the same way and each had about 130ish followers, so I merged them with the surviving topic being fitness. The software does the right things after merging.

      We can also correct spelling and disambiguate, such as refining Mastodon to Mastodon (social network). And we can add or subtract topics from a conversation as part of moderation.

      I suspect one of the most important things will be when we can devote someone very knowledgeable to the job. I suspect this is what Medium is doing because it looks to me like they handle topics really well.

    • We have various tools in place to moderate topics, such as merging them. For example, the other day I noticed the topics fitness and getting fit seemed to be used the same way and each had about 130ish followers, so I merged them with the surviving topic being fitness. The software does the right things after merging.

      But is there a mechanism in place to inform the people who got merged into another tag that it happened? Because getting that feedback loop established is one of the things that will keep people using "more useful" tags. Without it, they have no reason to change their behavior.

      Though it brings up another question of a more emergent nature: did the differentiation of "getting fit" and "fitness" serve a different set of expectations? It would be interesting to look at some sort of lexical decomposition of the post content tagged with each of them to see what words and phrases were often found in one rather than the other. After all, they both must have seemed important at some level to the people that tagged them so.

      The easily kind of mad questions I ask. I chalk it up to insanity.

      I suspect one of the most important things will be when we can devote someone very knowledgeable to the job. I suspect this is what Medium is doing because it looks to me like they handle topics really well.

      Medium has a very strange way of managing their topics. For technical issues they seem to be able to do some fine differentiation. For social issues – well, they seem to suffer from the fact that the development team is politically monocultural. It seems to come across in a very broad aggregation of topics on classically conservative positions and a lot more fine-grained differentiation for progressive positions. Part of that has got to be because their reader base has a very particular political slant and usage has a very particular political slant as a result, but I suspect you are absolutely correct that they have at least one and probably several people internally curating tag clustering and the taxonomy.

      I'm not sure it's the best solution, necessarily, because of the potential for human judgment to fall in certain patterns, but it certainly looks to be what they're doing.

    • We can also correct spelling and disambiguate, such as refining Mastodon to Mastodon (social network). And we can add or subtract topics from a conversation as part of moderation.

      I noticed this refinement today from Mastodon to Mastodon (social network). Thank you for that: I suspect discussions on cloning Mastodon DNA should inhabit its own separate space.

      I think one of the ideas expressed on Cake and elsewhere is the benefits of having a directory of topics and subtopics, whether in an ugly outline list format or a more elegant graphical sphere drill down format.

      Circling back to my point in another post, I think there’s an exponential benefit to creating tools that are going to be useful for your content creators.

      Specifically, I think you want polymath commenters like myself and others to easily know when new topics are introduced and also when a topic is stagnating:

      I know that I can easily highjack a topic if I don’t take a pause to let other voices join in. Knowing that there are new topics, or topics in need of some love, gives me direction on where I can help build community.

    • While we are on the topic of hashtags and Topics on Cake, I was wondering if anybody else sometimes gets stuck trying to find relevant Topics for their posts?

      I find it rather hard to choose Topics which are relevant but would also get good coverage. Sometimes I would start a new Topic, but then remove it because it doesn't exist (which means no followers). Sometimes I go to a Topic which I have already chosen and look at other posts to see what Topics other people use. This would help give me ideas on which Topics I can use for my posts.

      I know this is probably a very difficult undertaking from a coding perspective, but would it be possible for Cake to somehow suggest relevant Topics to us based on the content of our post? Or perhaps to suggest Topics to us once we select one our self. It could be based on other posts where people tend to use groups of Topics together. For example, if you choose "PlayStation" as one Topic, Cake could then suggest "video games", as these two Topics tend to be used together in other posts.

    You've been invited!