Dear RedState: About that Recommended List -- Updated

UPDATE — Neil Stevens, RedState’s technical guru, has responded to my questions and issues with a diary On Diaries and Recommendations. Please read it, it is detailed and highly interesting and informative. It is at least in part an effective answer to this diary, though I would argue that if in fact the magic formula remains intact, there is nevertheless a significant problem, felt by many, many users, that needs to be addressed.

Neil has done a fantastic job in an insane situation, with rather little gratitude. As a programming professional myself, I understand more than most users here the under-the-surface complexity that modern web programming (with a massive userbase) entails. Things that sound simple are anything but. Changing the Rec List algorithm back to the RS2 model was done, but due to multiple factors, the Rec List behavior is sharply different. To ask for the Rec List BEHAVIOR to return to RS2 form apparently is to ask that the ALGORITHM be adapted. Trust me, that’s some funky math, and tweaking the system without introducing new problems, that ain’t so simple.

But IMO, that’s what we need to do. Change the math. I posit here that the current situation is untenable, and that the user-diary frustration is close to a breaking point. The fact that this diary got over 40 Recs when posted Friday afternoon and into Saturday [i.e., hardly prime visibility time] suggests that a whole ton of people, including site heavyweights (that’s not a fat joke, BTW – Caleb!), see a problem. So I hope something is changed.

Unreasonable? Pushy? Yeah, and I’m sorry about that. As Neil reminds us though, we all want the same thing. Do not doubt that.

Original post starts here:
Gentlemen and Ladies, I make this request in the spirit of friendship – I count a number of the RS Galaxy of Stars as personal friends (at least 7), and several others in the ‘I would be your friend too if you responded even in the merest way to my overtures of friendship’ category (at least 5). I hope that I am thought of generally fondly by the Galaxy of Stars (except when I go on my Fred rampages…..) and that my contributions are generally welcome (except when I go on my Fred rampages…..).

I love RedState, and I know [not wanting to brag, but to make a point] that I am one of those users who has contributed to the unique flavor of conservative advocacy that RedState offers perhaps better than any place on the internet. I believe we want the same thing. We want RedState to have a massive readership, and a wealth of rich content that separates RedState from the screamers and shouters. I believe you want the user community to pony up a significant part of this quality content. I believe you want excellent diaries and excellent diarists to be widely read.

But lately I wonder just a bit about that last part. Do you really, now? Just to be blunt and not very nice about it, I think you have forgotten what it is like to be the little guy. Because to the user, especially the frequent poster, the Rec List is our lifeblood. It is the single most important part of RedState. So let me walk you through life as a regular guy — in an effort to show how stinking F-ed up the current Rec List is now, and what you can do to make it work for us.

Regular guy reading

When I arrive at RedState, I check a few things:

  • The top 3 or 4 front page articles.
  • RedHot.
  • The Rec List.
  • The list of Member Diaries, looking mainly for users that I like or find tend to write good diaries. Like all of us, I am partial to certain diarists. So I will read those, Rec some of them.

But lately I generally just skip the Rec List. You know why? Because there’s very likely only 1 or 2 that changed from yesterday. Take right now as a case in point. This is noon, Friday of election week. Not a one was written today. Only #10 was written yesterday. 4 of the 10 were written before the election.

The Rec List is stale and out of date. FP articles rotate off very quickly (sometimes too quickly), and they are never, EVER stale. But an excellent diary written Tuesday, that I read Tuesday – on Friday it is most likely irrelevant, just like the 4 Recommended ones that were written before the election.

So generally I don’t even check the list. And you know what? Most likely there have been a whole BOATLOAD of excellent diaries written in the last 2 days that rotated off the Member Diaries list before getting the number of Recs that is required to break in, according to your new formula. And that is just criminally wrong. You have 9 diaries that were read by everybody 2 and 3 days ago, while new and excellent diaries are essentially being urinated away.

Regular guy posting diaries

Comments are a nice form of expression, and we have thousands upon thousands of commenters. When somebody sets out to write a diary, then he is taking something near to his heart and putting it out there for the viewing and approval (or not) of others. If the user is relatively new or unknown, then GOOD LUCK getting read. You better have some awesome catchy title, or you may get few or no page hits, no commenters, and no Recs.

Chances are that this person will NEVER break in, never get his first diary onto the Rec List until he has made a name for himself through a history of comments (and possibly debates through the comments). But NOW, the threshold required to break into the Rec List is so high, that your name almost has to be Gamecock, Hinz, swamp_yankee, EPU, NightTwister, Achance, Dave in Boca/FL, or a few privileged others, to get there. That, and/or a huge GOTV effort to get all your friends to Rec something. Which is undignified and SHOULD be unnecessary, but hey, we do what it takes sometimes.

We have some super, super budding diarists who rarely if ever make a showing in the Rec List. And as much as anything, it is the fault of the current Rec formula.

Frequent-poster guy posting diaries

Even those who have a history and a name are no longer being rewarded for writing excellent diaries. We believe that we formerly made a measurable positive impact on the flavor of RedState. Most of these have a following, and EVEN STILL can’t get into the Rec List. Ultimately where does this lead?

It leads to a community of superb diarists who no longer bother to write well-researched and thought-out diaries that die within 12 hours, having been read by maybe 10 people, commented on by 2, and Recommended by 1. Excellent diarists will eventually either quit writing, or take their talents elsewhere. I’m not threatening, I’m just telling you what I see from others, and what I feel myself on many days.

So then, what would work, you big whiner EPU?

Very simple. Give us back the Rec-List formula that was in place in RS 2. Anything that existed more than 48 hours is very, very unusual, and lots of people get an occasional piece at the top. New excellent diarists get rewarded with a little exposure, and your old guard of excellent diarists are rewarded by having their work consistently read.

In closing….

We the users have felt for years that we were part of the team. Right now I can tell you, and this comes from numerous corners, we don’t. We feel like readers. I don’t think you ever meant that to happen, but here we are. So how about you guys suck it up and show us some RedState love? You don’t even have to admit you are wrong, just make that change.