1. 9

  2. 6

    It is increasingly hard for small content producers…

    This introduction really gets right to the core of the problem. The author views themselves as a “content producer.” And “getting noticed” is the goal.

    I can’t speak for the community, but personally I very rarely find anyone who’s trying to get me to pay attention to their “content” interesting.

    I’m here looking for links to people talking about things they’ve done. Or things they’ve come to understand. Or sharing well-researched insight into something they’re passionate about. Or posting news that has been under-covered elsewhere.

    I’m having a hard time explaining the precise difference between things I find interesting and “content”, but I definitely know it when I see it.

    I absolutely want to hear more small voices, like the author of this piece suggests. I want those voices to be sharing what they’ve done or advancing some field I care about. The ones that are just seeking attention for their “content” are very seldom the interesting ones.

    1. 4

      I don’t like the term “content” for independent authors and creators, but I think you can mentally replace “content producers” with “bloggers and writers” and the rest of the piece is unchanged. Sometimes the motivation for posting something is more than just “I found this interesting”. Sometimes it’s “I found this interesting and I want other people to find out about it”. And I think you and the author are getting at the same problem: we do want a differentiation between “content” and interesting posts by independent writers, but we don’t currently have good systems for doing that.

      All that being said, I have a little bit more faith in RSS/Atom and newsletters than he does. For me, I usually find a new blog (such as the author’s) via Lobste.rs and then follow them via Atom. That’s how I came across this article in fact. There is still an issue of how to get new readers on to your site, but maybe adding a “please share this to your favorite aggregator” could be a way to get readers to more organically share things?

      1. 3

        thanks a lot for posting the post here. I like your suggestion about inviting readers to share it around. I will experiment with that.

        I love RSS. I think I developed the first blog client for MacOS 8 way back when, at least I didn’t knew any other. RSS and blogging have always been my favorite thing and I am now getting back to it. I just wish that syndication was more common and that browsers still bundled feed readers.

        In the future, I’ll try to use a different term than “content producer”, this appears to be a loaded term that is doesn’t mean what I wanted it to mean, sorry.

        1. 3

          Definitely the situation with RSS readers is less than ideal. I was thinking the other day that I did a lot of “longform” reading in a number of different places: websites themselves, cleaned up versions saved to Instapaper for later, RSS feeds and more recently a bunch of newsletters. I use different apps for all of them, but conceptually they are all the same thing and really should be unified. Feedbin lets you read RSS feeds, email newsletter, and some Twitter streams in the same place which I think is a step in the right direction.

          Thanks to your post, I’m thinking of aggregators as well as part of this “how and where do I read” puzzle. I think there could be some interesting tools built by combining all of the above, but I will have to think about it more.

        2. 2

          I should have added that I was specifically disparaging the language this blogger chose for this post around “content.” I wasn’t commenting on their other work. I’ve noticed links to their posts here before, and found the ones about the surface go, FOSDEM, wxWidgets, etc. to be interesting reading.

          I’d have given the same dirty scowl to any singer or painter who called themselves a “content producer” also.

          1. 3

            Hey, I’m the author. Sorry, I was attempting to not repeat the word blogger too much and felt that “content producer” could be used as a synonym that also encompassed people who are doing other stuff such as podcasting and video. Sorry if it came out as bad, it was not my intention. Most of my posts here from my blog are how I did something, or an opinion thing on something I consider important. They are personal takes and stories, not really the kind of farming or bland content that the original measures for spam mitigation were trying to stop. Also, it is original content from yours truly. I’m not a native English speaker so sometimes I lack the vocabulary to express stuff. I wish I could have a better term to differentiate between bloggers/podcasters/videocasters and “guerrilla marketing content producers”.

            1. 2

              I understand! I might have overstated the badness just because you happened to choose the same word some spammers have recently. I really have enjoyed your surface go posts especially, and hope you keep blogging and keep getting linked here.

        3. 4

          This introduction really gets right to the core of the problem. The author views themselves as a “content producer.” And “getting noticed” is the goal.

          Sorry if it came out this way. As a blogger and writer, I do want to be read. Not only that but I also want to read and interact with other authors. These days I’ve noticed that I care way less about how many people are reading me than in the past because writing feels good to me and I enjoy doing that. I’ve made posts recent that don’t interest anyone, they are just slices of my life. In the recent years I tell people to treat their blogs as a platform, but I’ve realized that it is much more fun if you just treat them as a journal, or better, a journey, one that you invite the occasional reader to tour with you. In that realization, I started blogging more and having more fun being a small voice and discovering other small voices. I might have overreacted with that post but I was just afraid that with less small voices around, this place wouldn’t be as much fun as it is now. I’m more afraid of losing the chance to discover more blogs here than I am of not being read.

          1. 1

            I agree with you and like your other posts. I meant to say so in this comment and did say so in another comment :)

            I think those words you chose just had an unfortunate overlap with how some spammers who have been actively looking for invitations in the IRC channel have been describing themselves. (They always say they’re “content creators” or “content producers” as opposed to talking about their passion/topic/etc.)

        4. 4

          This has a really good point, that the majority rule as implemented disproportionately affects small bloggers in a bad way. I mentioned in the initial description it’ll have to get patched this week and reaffirmed that; I’ll take your point into account there.

          And then positively: what difference can we get at between small bloggers with limited audiences and the quasi-spammers?

          1. 6

            I think bloggers (and people like me, who submit things they read from RSS when suitable) tend to engage with the site; even it’s just to update read status, but often substantive like replying to comments. Spammers tend to see the site as a dumping ground, and any engagement is very artificial looking.

            1. 4

              This feels like a very important point for making the distinction between the false positives and exploitative marketers. When I’ve nudged people in PM to do more than promote their business, I’ve said, “Lobsters is not a write-only site”.

              It feels like there’s probably a very useful metric here around non-self-promotional behavior like voting and posting well-scored comments on other people’s stories. I really don’t want to encourage “great article i loved the part where you wrote a program” me-too comments. Hmmmm.

            2. 2

              I think the key is to focus on the human aspects of our community. Maybe there could be some way for users to vouch for other users, or posts? I’m sure there are a lot of people here who would vouch for @soapdog and his posts as being useful and interesting and valuable to the community. And the same could probably be said for other independent bloggers who get featured here regularly. Of course, any system can be gamed, so this probably deserves more care and thought before being rolled out.

              1. 2

                As I said in my original comment on the original thread: Thanks a ton for the hard work on the site, I really appreciate it Reading this site is probably among my favourite things in my daily routine, I’m not forgetting all the sweat and effort that goes into keeping this going with such high quality content and engagement among community members.

                I decided to make that post because for me it was not just lobste.rs, there is a larger problem of sharing our blog posts elsewhere as well. Spam and “content marketing” became such a pervasive thing in our industry that I totally understand why you, the other ops and the rest of the community is so engaged in trying to solve it at least for this site. I wrote my post before reading some of your later comments in the thread. I don’t remember if they were already there when I wrote and I failed to see them, or, if I ended up posting before you commented further. Anyway, it is an important topic and it is leading to a very healthy conversation, so I think it is all positive and that whatever will come out of this will be the best we all can do.

                I wanted to agree with that comment from Calvin about somehow taking into account the other interactions on the site might lead to a better metric for separating marketeers from blogger but then, I saw your reply quoting that this might lead to a lot of “me too” comments. I totally agree with you, no one want that. It is bad enough to have spam links, spam comments would be even worse.

                Maybe the best measure would be reactionary instead of preventive. Maybe what is needed are better self-moderation tools so that community members can flag stuff. Given enough flags from good karma members, the post (or even the author) could face automatic spam measures such as be given a time delay, or even flagged for further investigation by a sysop. The key for this to work well would be for it not to rely on sysops for everything. Some stuff such as “given enough flags, this entry is hidden”, or “given enough flags, this author is prevented from posting for a week/month/etc”, if repeated offences from the same user happen, the user becomes read-only or banned. This way, sysop intervention should only be necessary if some arbitration is needed. Instead of algorithms and machine learning, we can have real humans triaging stuff and the consequences are automated. (it is just a thought)

              2. 4

                Just want to say I appreciate Andre Garzia for putting the thoughts out there. I relate to the subject matter as a blogger for many years myself.

                I’d say though, “sharing” is not itself what’s difficult, it’s clearly that the mechanisms out there are not built well for getting us bloggers noticed. If I flew back to the 1980’s and very popular people might be on the news radio (my father was a newscaster) or TV, that’s how a person might be noticed. If you were the guy standing on the corner saying what you had to say, a news person might happen upon you and think it was news, but for the most part you’d really only reach who was in earshot. I guess what I’m getting at is that the mechanism for how our spewed out thoughts are shared and read have improved greatly.

                “The others quit because they couldn’t get their content noticed.”

                I struggle with this statement. There is an admitted aspect of all the things we do that its for attention or profit, but there are the other cases, as described by Woz, who was “going to be an engineer forever.” That’s what he loved, and that’s what he wanted to keep doing. Perhaps the best way is a mix of the two - but certainly if being noticed tipped too far on a person’s personal scale, I’d think they don’t really enjoy it as much.

                What separates my writing from your writing from some crackpot’s writing? Really nothing. We could all be that guy I think. What makes something percolate to the top of people’s attention of time has to be the quality of the work; a quality we can’t even sometimes assess (because who knows how its going to be read 100 years from now). The gatekeepers today have less of the gates and do less of the keeping anyway.

                It would not surprise me to see a sole voice rise at some point with no intermediates, no content curators, no publishing houses, distribution networks and - yes - even no platform but their own, etc. That person making their entire living off what they produce and having it directly consumed disseminated by their customers.

                Edit: I should mention I’ve also subscribed to Garzia’s blog via RSS.

                1. 3

                  There is too much content on the web for the notion that a creator who decides to be noticed should get noticed to be sustainable.

                  You mention the struggle of people not subscribing. The reason I’m not subscribed to hundreds of newsletters (only the half dozen or so which have proven to provide consistently quality content directly relevant to me) is because I don’t have the time or energy to sift through all that email, and yet letting them slide by unchecked is also somehow stressful. So I have to protect myself in this way. Not sure if others feel the same. For context, I’m a ‘millennial’ (barely) from the US.

                  Capturing a platform should have some obstacles. Money, connections, and resources always have and always will make it easier to hold a platform which reaches people. This kind of power is a differentiator, and that’s unfortunate.

                  But at internet scale, someone without any other initially differentiating features (from my perspective) such as relevance or demonstrable authority on a subject that’s important to me should not be able to grab and hold my attention. Policies like the new lobsters policy (not to say it’s perfect, of course) afford them an opportunity to get attention and subscribers without letting them spam. If I notice them, or if people I follow and/or trust notice them, they’ll get additional chances to earn my subscription. If their followers repost them, then they get more opportunities, and in this way those who have earned subscribers get a chance to earn more.

                  As an aside, I find federated communities cute and well-intentioned but somewhat irrelevant to the larger internet (although I get the feeling that in 20XX when the fediverse rules earth I’ll be put to the block for this comment..). They simply (by design) don’t have the reach or impact of sites like reddit or HN or even lobsters.

                  So yes, these systems sadly silence small authors, but they also silence what I assume is a disproportionate amount of spam while also reducing my overall stress. It’s hard to say whether this is worth it, but I’m glad that the onus is on me to subscribe (which lets me opt out) rather than on authors to choose to take over a channel I frequent.

                  1. 1

                    Alternative suggestion:

                    Let lobste.rs users point to “their” rss/atom feed(s) as part of the user settings. Have the server check for new blog postings once per day. When longtime users open the lobste.rs home page, show them the first 50 words from a blog posting from the pool and ask: “Do you think this should be posted to lobste.rs?” If a majority of five asked users click yes, post it.