« Will the Internet kill universities, too? | Main | Foo * »

Un-suckification week 1 report

So we made some rather massive changes to Topix last week. It's still very early, but ... how's it going?

Is Skrenta going to get fired or is the damn thing working? :-)

So far it looks GREAT. We've approved over 500 editors in the first week. Not all are active, and some of them signed up for non-local channels. But at this point we've got about 100 daily active local cities being edited.

You can see the list of editors here and the list of most recent local editor posting actions here.

Just after we launched this stuff I realized something which hadn't occurred to me before, about the DMOZ/wikipedia model and how we're trying to apply it to local news. There's an advantage to community-edited news which actually makes it a much easier problem to tackle than either a web directory or encyclopedia.

At DMOZ we signed up 75,000 editors, who ultimately created 400,000 categories and filled them with links. The problem was that, even with 400k categories, we hadn't even made a dent in the problem of organizing the web's information. 400k categories is less than 1% of what you need for that problem.

But local news is a finite domain. We have 32,500 local news channels. Once we approve an editor for a town, if they become active then that town's page is basically 'fixed'. We aim to sign up multiple editors, and of course the character and style of editing varies, but pretty much any human can do a better job than our roboblogging technology.

So if we signed up an equivalent number of editors to DMOZ, we'd have an average of 2 editors per locality. It wouldn't work out that evenly, we'd have clumps with multiple editors in bigger cities, and some small towns would still only be roboblogged. But I'm guessing we'd have coverage over about 1/3rd of the US map, or 10,000 towns.

Another neat thing about this model that I hadn't thought of before is that any kind of commercial spam we might receive is going to get "washed away" in the daily flow of articles on the local pages. Unlike the wikipedia or DMOZ, where a spammed link can hide for years, nothing really "sticks" to topix, since it's all new each day. This does mean we need continuously active editors though, or at least a steady re-supply of new editors if some of the old ones drop out.

Something about the redesign has also lead to a big jump in our local forum activity. We set a new forum record yesterday, with 47k posts. That's a 25% increase from two weeks ago.

So early results look good. I'll post more detailed stats on our active coverage and posting volume in about a month.

TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Un-suckification week 1 report:

» Inside Topix from u1amo01
Nachdem ich jetzt schon im Topix-Blog im Artikel »500 Editors and Counting« zitiert werde, muß ich meinen eigenen Artikel endlich auf den Weg bringen. Wie schon geschrieben bin ich seit ein paar Tagen frisch gebackener Topix-Editor. To... [Read More]

» Topix.com : Les Humains plus malins ? from Cmicblog
Lancé en 2004, Topix.net fait peau neuve et se transforme en Topix.com Qu’est-ce que Topix.com ? Jusqu’ici, c’éait un agrégateur automatique de news, dont le crawler intelligent classait des nouvelles et des blogs en se basant sur ... [Read More]

Comments (3)

Vic:

Rich,

I don't know if you want - or need - any suggestions, but something in your post above caught my eye, so here goes:

>> Unlike the wikipedia or DMOZ, where a spammed link can hide for years, nothing really "sticks" to topix, since it's all new each day.

Are you saying today's content will get completely obliterated from the site tomorrow? If yes, would it not be a waste? While this strategy can effectively get rid of the spam, what about the good and actually useful content? If everything is removed daily, would it not be a bit like throwing out the baby with the bath water so far as the good content / posts are concerned?

Obviously, archiving the old content would be a cure for this but equally obviously, it'll re-introduce the spam problem.

Here is one way in which you can retain / archive the old content minus the spam:

Retain old content in your database without showing it on the public site. Mark all such records as 'unapproved'. Give approval privileges to a select group of - or even all - editors. What gets approved shows up in the archives section of the site, the rest stays 'hidden', thus providing the best of both worlds to the site as well as the visitors.

Hope what I've blurted out above is useful, or even relevant, in some way.

Best,


Vic

That's a good point. Actually we do have archives going back...we even roboblogged all our crawled news back 3 years, but unfortunately the UI doesn't currently make it very easy to find. You have to use the little calendar widget to navigate back in time. Hopefully we'll be able to add "next" and "previous" links at the bottom of our pages so it will be more straightforward to look at yesterday's news, or click your way back in time as far as you want.

I guess that does admit some benefit to spammage, although in the past when we had "page 2" listings at the bottom of our results, only 5% of people ever clicked on them. Topix has always been more about checking out what the latest stuff at the top of the page is than old links. So I don't think we'd drive much traffic to archive material, but it is nice to have.

Jim:

Rich,

Congrats in signing up the 500 editors so quickly. I'm curious - have you been able to determine what motivates these folks? It's obviously not monetary, so is it an ego boost?

Seems like these "power users" are the key to making any community site successful - witness Digg. But no one really seems to understand who these folks are, what motivates them, and how do you find them in the first place?

Any insights you can share?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 12, 2007 10:58 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Will the Internet kill universities, too?.

The next post in this blog is Foo *.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33