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Holy shit

Something about our relaunch has caused a 25% spike in our forum posting activity.

(click for non awfully scaled image)

At first I thought our captcha had been broken and this had to be spam. But after rooting around we decided it wasn't spam, it's real activity. Then I looked at seo but I didn't see any change there. Our best bet now is that it's due to the redesign plus the new site being faster, which has lead to more on-site activity.

An odp editor is picking a bone with my "75k" number of dmoz editors. That's the number on the dmoz homepage. Yeah of course not all of them are active, the site is 9 years old and the number never goes down. Plus they stopped letting anyone new in about 4 years ago. A much more interesting number is the number of daily edits. But in the end it's apples-to-oranges, since dmoz in theory benefits from the previous edits of now-inactive editors, whereas Topix will only benefit from sustained daily editing activity.

Thus it's more interesting for me to say that Topix had 804 editor posting events yesterday, which is a 24% increase from the 645 posting events it had the previous monday. It's hard to predict success with two weeks of data, but of course we want to answer the question -- will Topix become big in its domain like dmoz and wikipedia, or will it moulder with no use like a Backfence. Well at this point it looks like it will become very big. No one will realize it for 1-2 years while it grows though. :)

Our launch party came off quite well last night. We had about 200 people at the St. Regis and I saw a lot of old pals I hadn't connected with in a while. The street teams worked out better than I expected too. I got some good quotage too from the morning panel. My talk tomorrow in front of the whole audience (wow big room) should be fun.

Comments (9)



That's a pretty amazing stat! With the new emphasis on your forums, I'm wondering: is a forum user more valuable to you than a user who comes to the site via SEO? Does one type of user produce higher ad click-through rates than the other?

Forum users are worth about 20X the pageviews of a typical seo visit. A while ago we did some measurements to see if the conventional wisdom that seo traffic would monetize better than our core repeat users was true...turned out it wasn't. Regular users click on ads just as much as first time visitors.

Ultimately though we are deliberately under-monetizing the site at this point, and focusing on building up a big repeat audience.

Rich, you said:
> "An odp editor is picking a bone with my "75k" number of dmoz editors.

I don't have a problem with the 75k number itself (the number of accounts opened since 1998). The problem is, you did an estimate how many simultaneously active contributors you'd like to have at Topix (~ enough to provide coverage for 10,000 channels), and then compared with the total sum of people who signed up to ODP over nine years. It would be better to use numbers that refer to comparable time intervalls. E.g. the number of active ODP editors that we publish regularly: it is defined, roughly, as the number of people who made at least one edit during the last four months. This number has been oscillating between ~6,000 and ~10,000 between 2000 and today.
Comparing the number of edits done per day, as you suggest, could be an alternative, but transforming the raw number of ODP edits into something meaningful is nontrivial. E.g. there's lots of automated editing activity between the "really human" edits. And as you say yourself, the work that is measured in these "edit" units in both projects is different.
Another alternative is to compare the development of editor numbers, or other data, during the first half year after the launch, or the first 1-3 years, for various projects.

> "But in the end it's apples-to-oranges, since dmoz in theory benefits from the previous edits of now-inactive editors, whereas Topix will only benefit from sustained daily editing activity."

Yep, there's some rather interesting differences :-)
That ODP and Wikipedia editors can build on already existing walls, and that the users judge based on the overall experience of all the collected content, is true. This "benefit" has a Janus face, of course, as you know: keeping the content fresh and the quality high is an often underrated challenge.

What I find rather interesting about the new Topix: ODP and Wikipedia both work according to the "principle of incremental improvement": the first editor fills in a rough draft, the next comes along and improves the content a bit, and if someone adds spam it will be found later and removed... over the years, the content quality will rise (at least we and the Wikipedians hope it will). And peer review is, of course, essential in both projects, too.
The time window in which a specific Topix article can be improved or peer-reviewed is far shorter: maybe some days in smaller cities, some hours in the big cities. So short that incremental improvement and peer reviewing are certainly not impossible, but I'd expect that the focus will be more on the overall coverage for a city, less on single content items.
Under these circumstances, it was imho a very reasonable decision to adapt ODP's sign-up process for Topix' purposes, and not just let everybody edit without signing up as in Wikipedia: Topix needs not only continuously active editors, but editors who can be trusted to make good choices and add valuable additional content. According to your first numbers, the signing up seems to be a lot less deterring then is often suggested :-)

We specifically don't allow tier 1 editors to muck with each other's posts. We experienced the fall-off in activity you get with chefmoz -- the more you ask an editor to do, the less participation you get. Hence the very easy to use one-click wire feed poster on topix. About 10% of the items being posted are newly authored content, the rest are edits being made to the news stream. Which is about what I would expect.

As I said, however, we're mostly interested in predicting whether it will grow at the sufficient rate to "win", or if it doesn't catch any win. And since we have more cities being edited every, more editors editing, it looks like it's working. How long it will take to get to town X is an open question though.

Congrats on the early success and the two good talks at Web 2.0. Meant to stop by the Topix party with Dariusz, but got sidetracked.

I really can't think of a meaningful way to compare ODP and Topix editor numbers. Recent corporate support from their respective owners has been vastly different, but we're working on fixing that.

How do editors go about deleting wire entries? In my town, much of the content that gets posted by the wire services is essentially garbage. Of the ten stories listed right now, at least 5 I wouldn't consider local. Arlington is home to a lot of NGOs and lobbying firms, so there are a lot of national stories with very tangential local references.

Thanks Rocky. Would have loved to have met up with you and chatted in person.

You should be able to delete wire entries...next to each article is a 'kill article' link. If you didn't have that perm you should have it now..

Great. I was able to go in and kill a bunch of them.

One thing I would suggest is building tools that allow editors to train the entity extractors. For example, in Arlington there are sub-areas known to locals as "Clarendon", "Rosslyn", "Ballston", "Virginia Square". A story that uses these terms is much more likely to be truly local than not.

You could also allow editors to prioritize sources. In my case, a story is more likely to be local if it's from washingtonpost.com than from PR Newswire.

More thoughts on this here:


Just did my first real story from scratch and had some additional thoughts. Story is here: http://www.topix.net/city/arlington-va/2007/04/liberty-tavern-beta-in-clarendon

- A better editor for from scratch stories. The editor you have now just plain sucks. I'm tempted to write in WordPress and then just copy the code it generates.

- Flickr integration. Let me pull in pictures from Flickr. Optionally, you could write back to the Flickr account that the story is on Topix. (See NowPublic integration.) Flickr's new collection montage could be added to the story page.

- Geotagging. Can't be truly local without the map. This would also allow radius searching in the future.


Thanks Rocky, that's great feedback. I'll pass it on to the team.

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