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    • 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.

    • If I understand correctly, even topics with no followers will be seen in the All stream. So presumably there's always a basic level of exposure, and as the number of posts in that topic increase, so will its exposure to new people.

    • 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).

      I definitely hear what you’re saying. Ideally you would poll your followers to see if they’d be interested in the topic. Then if enough were interested, you would post something amazing knowing that you had an audience and commenters lined up to discuss it.

      Nobody wants to post on something their passionate about only to hear crickets.

      Or maybe it’s just me?

      I’m just brainstorming here, so maybe this is complete crap, but perhaps we could create a “Topic Proposals” topic?

      When you’re interested in starting a new topic, you could send up a trial balloon by creating a new post to “Topic Proposals,” explaining what your passion is about and asking for a show of interested hands.

      ***Here’s a hypothetical example post

      Topic: Topic Proposals

      Title: Anybody interested in Red Dwarf?

      Would anyon be interested in joining a Red Dwarf topic discussion? I’ve been a huge fan since I first saw it on public television twenty years ago. I recently picked up the complete 8 season DVD box set and would love to discuss favorite episodes, plot holes that you could drive a truck through, and the hidden meaning behind some of the later episodes when it got convoluted. I also read the book by the head writers, so we could discuss the alternate timeline there as well.

      If you’re interested, reply with a comment or a thumb’s up. If I get at least half a dozen “heck yeahs” in the next few days, I will add the topic and an inaugural post.

      ***END hypothetical post

      I would think that if the topic was proposed by a regular who is a great conversationalist, it would be in Cake’s best interest to feature your post. This could be another way to reward the consistently high quality content creators.

    • Several of us have posted complaints regarding the way that "Add Topics" makes one search blindly for pre-existing topics. Hopefully, this will end up in the "to do" queue.

    • 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?

      This is possible, and actually not too difficult thanks to the existence of cloud services that do the hard work. But the quality of suggested topics based on text analysis is usually not very good except for extremely obvious topics that are explicitly mentioned in the text.

      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.

      This is a really great idea! It would take a fair amount of work, but I think it's likely to often result in pretty decent suggestions. I'll give this some thought.

    • 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.

      The same thing has happened on Facebook, I frequently see the same post multiple times due to it having being crossposted in many groups.

      In regards to hashtags, anymore than 2 in a post and I scroll past.

    • 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.

      Having some way to explore the topic space would be really cool. How to do so really depends on whether it is stored/conceived internally as a strictly hierarchical graph or some sort of directed acyclic graph. In the first case, some sort of rooted tree would look just fine and make perfect sense, while in the second, some sort of dynamic, three-dimensional set of nodes connected by relationship arcs would probably be necessary.

      Both of them are pretty straightforward to generate in JavaScript libraries that already exist, thankfully enough.

    • Here's the problem:

      The real thing that all of this discussion is circling around without actually saying aloud is "discovery is a thing that we want to happen to our content." It's the one part of the traditional social media architecture that is both intuitive and effective.

      Consider. You are a person. You create content. You know other people. They know you. Because they know you, they see your content and either like it or not. There is no question of whether or not that when you create that content it will get seen. The question is whether or not it will get liked.

      Now, consider the situation on Cake. You are a person. You want to create content. That content is about something – and you want that content to be seen. You have no guarantee that when you conceive of the post, there will be an audience which will read it. The best you can do is to look at the taxonomy as it stands, look at the number of followers for any given topic, and pick one or more that you can justify to yourself as being related to what you wanted to write the first place. Alternately, you can look at the taxonomy as it stands, look at the number of followers for any given topic, and write to target that audience.

      Frankly, I hate writing in the latter mode. It feels cheap, it feels dirty, and it feels like I'm writing advertising copy. But there are writers and a lot of bloggers who "make their living" (emotionally or financially) by chasing the Dragon of writing just anything to any group of people they can find to advertise to.

      Which brings us to discovery. On Cake, that is driven by two primary interfaces: firstly, search, the use thereof being extremely obvious. Secondly, finding content in topics that you already follow which have links to topics at the bottom to topics you may not already follow.

      For myself, I actually prefer this structure of discovery to a lot of potential options online. I don't have to know any given individual, I don't have to judge any given individual; I just figure out what I want to learn about/be involved with and start digging.

      But this is terrible for people who feel like they need to write for people to immediately consume. I just sit down and write whatever I feel like at any given time, slap whatever topics feel onto it, and shove it out the door into the world. That's how I do things. They want to know who's going to see this, when it's going to be seen, and if there is a real demand for it.

      I am not sure that the twain shall ever be met, realistically.

      "For you" is supposed to be one of the major mechanisms for discovery on Cake, particularly when sorted by "interesting," but it doesn't feel like people trust the mechanism to deliver their content to people who will in fact find it interesting. This may be a problem in perception, and it may do a fantastic job. This may be a problem in fact and it doesn't do so great a job. It's very difficult to tell with the current rate of content creation on the platform.

      The "fishing for topics" behavior is probably one of the contributing factors for unnatural topic proliferation. People want to cover the broadest number of potential ways for people to see the content and absent a pressure which makes adding more tags more expensive in some sense, they have no reason not to.

      Frankly, I suspect this will always be a real issue given the design of Cake as topic-first rather than creator-first. The fear that they won't get read is a big deal.

      The Cake rule against "self-promotion" doesn't help, in this sense. I have five or six different places where my longform content may get published and it seems silly to repurpose my text by cut-and-paste from, for example, the steem blockchain to Cake, or a link to one of my professionally published articles to Cake if I would like to have the conversation about it on this platform. Add to that the difficulty of moving formatted content over (which ties to my whole Markdown thing), and it means that Cake has a few things going on which are understandably inserting some confusion into the creators who would like to do some stuff here.

      Suggested topics for a given post? That might be okay, but it doesn't solve the original problem that the poster actually possesses which is trying to find an audience to target. There is nothing to say that NLP might suggest perfectly valid, reasonable topics which no one reads, because the article best fits into those topics.

      It's a real situation.

    • The same thing has happened on Facebook, I frequently see the same post multiple times due to it having being crossposted in many groups.

      The real solution to this problem is to have the system aware of which articles you've seen and to unify multiple examples of it at any given read. Perhaps it should be a user option whether or not having seen it once, the system will keep it from showing up again even if it's a different, later, reading session.

      Why systems don't do this in a reasonable way or even keep up with what things you've read most of the time remains one of the great mysteries of our age.

    • I agree in principle with much of what you've said here, and much of what you and others have said elsewhere in this conversation. There's a ton of really valuable insight here! I'm still processing a lot of it.

      But I think it's important to acknowledge — and I often have to remind myself of this — that a journey consists of many steps. Each step is necessary, but no individual step is sufficient.

      Cake is still at the beginning of its journey. We've taken many steps, but we have many more still to take. We can see some of the biggest and most prominent parts of our destination on the horizon, but much of it is still obscured.

      It's tempting to try to find a magical shortcut that will teleport us to the end instantly, but the reality is that those parts of our destination that we can't yet see can only be revealed by taking more steps, one after another, and being careful not to choose the wrong path.

      Small usability improvements to topics may not be the solution to all of Cake's discovery problems and to helping users find an audience, but they are steps on the path.

    • The Small usability improvements to topics may not be the solution to all of Cake's discovery problems and to helping users find an audience, but they are steps on the path.

      I don’t know if @Chris worked with Ideo Labs when he was at NeXT, but I’ve been a big fan of their rapid prototyping philosophy. If you’re looking for guinea pigs to try out new features on another instance, you certainly have interested volunteers amongst the commenters in this thread.

      On a tangential but related note, I know of bloggers who have ten years of SEO on their website and over 10,000 followers on Twitter. And yet nowadays they’re lucky to get 3 or 4 comments on their latest post.

      I look at both the quantity and quality of comments to this thread over the past two(!) days and I already see proof of concept for Cake.