Let's talk about a real world and an ideal world. Let's talk about a baseline user - we'll call him Ronnie Reddit - and let's say he's just found Hubski.
Ronnie is interested in 3D printing (he'll be perfect for this place). And when he joins up, there's a post on the "front page" about 3D printing tagged #3DPrinting, #technology and #stereolithography.
In the real world, #technology can be changed to #b_b_is_a_douche, thereby eliminating it from the #technology tagset in the amount of time it takes Ronnie to read the article and return to the comments. In the real world, Ronnie can choose to follow #stereolithography, despite the fact that this is the one post with that tag in the history of Hubski (it sounds more "science-ey" to Ronnie so he thinks it will have better discussion than #3DPrinting). In the real world, Ronnie is not encouraged to follow #3dPrinting, he's encouraged to follow thenewgreen because he posted it, and encouraged to follow me because TNG tagged me so that I could issue one of my trademark cheerio-pissings about 3d printing.
In the real world, Ronnie saw a post, added the wrong tag to his feed, and is now following two of the three biggest commenters/posters on Hubski. He has done effectively nothing - his feed hasn't changed a whit. Not only that, when he goes out to find more #3dprinting things to add to the discussion, he's howling in an empty room: he tagged his post with #stereolithography, you see, which nobody follows.
The counter-argument to this is that "the information is there, you just have to look." I fully appreciate that mk is a scientist who wanted to be an artist. It's evident in every bit of layout in this place. crucial functions are hidden in the corners. Useful toggles are buried like switches in a game of Myst. And the UI gives you two choices: asphalt or bubble gum.
Ronnie has joined Hubski. He has participated by "sharing" the most heavily-shared article on Hubski with every single one of his zero followers, and then mis-tagging the article he was hoping to find an audience with the next feckless individual who searches for #stereolithography six months from now. At which point Ronnie will be long gone. And when Hubski comes up on Reddit, /u/RonnieOnReddit will comment that he tried Hubski, discovered it was basically Tumblr but ugly, and that while AdviceAnimals are lame, at least you can figure the place out.
Now let's talk about an ideal world.
Ronnie joins Hubski. He sees a post about 3d printing. There's a button that shows him tags - he sees this article has been tagged with #3dprinting, #technology, #coolstuff, #pipedream, #MIT, #stereolithography, #b_bisadouche, #so_is_kleinbl00, and a half-dozen even-less-useful tags. As the window opens, his cursor gives him a question mark - he's being invited to try hover text! He learns that #3dprinting has 900 followers, #technology has 8000, #coolstuff has 400, #pipedream has 28, #mit has 225, #stereolithography has zero, #b_bisadouche has 2, #so_is_kleinbl00 has 55, and the rest of them are deep in the noise.
This is information that Ronnie had to ask for - but he was invited to ask for it. He now has the option of adding these tags to follow individually - or as a set. Ronnie feels like investigating, so he "adds set." A slider comes up and as he moves it, the number of tags he ends up with changes - at one end, he's adding only #technology. At the other, he's adding #IwishIHadMoreMoney (zero followers, never used before). Ronnie pares it down to three tags, but also selects #so_is_kleinbl00 because he has a hunch.
Now let's say Ronnie feels like adding a post about 3DPrinting from Gizmodo. He clicks the submit button and pastes the URL - suddenly the tag cloud self-populates with #gizmodo, #adrienchen, #MIT, #future, #3dprinting and #singularity, each with an "X" next to their name. Ronnie looks on, puzzled - the singularity is mentioned as a joke by the author and has nothing to do with the article, so he cancels the tab. Then he starts typing into the text field, and as this is his first post, he writes
"Hi guys, this is my first post. I'm still trying to figure out this site but I'm really enthused by what I see so far. I wanted to share this article on 3D Printing."
As he types, the tag cloud adds #newhere and #askhubski. Ronnie, curious and confused, moves his cursor over #askhubski - a question mark appears! He hovers a little longer and the three most recent, most shared #askhubski post titles appear, each of which he can click on to open in another window: "who thinks Hubski has too much new blood?" "Who thinks kleinbl00 is a douche?" "What is the defense of the qualia of color?" Ronnie deduces that #askhubski is an inappropriate tag so he closes it. Hubski, in response, takes note of the fact that it guessed wrong based on its presentation and rejection. However, #newhere was a good guess.
Ronnie submits the post. He's going to see it, because he submitted it... but people with similar interests will also see it because he tagged it #3Dprinting, one of the four tags he's currently following. But the system also tagged it #MIT, #future, #adrienchen, #newhere and #gizmodo.
Now - I'm not going to see his post because I have #adrienchen, #newhere and #gizmodo on my block list. But as it turns out a lot of people like the article and share it - so as soon as its popularity crests my "affinity" slider ("what 'affinity slider?'" gimme a minute) it'll pop into my feed regardless. At which point I will click "ignore" and then Hubski knows that I really mean it when I say "ignore fucking #gizmodo."
HERE'S WHERE IT ALL MATTERS
Right now, every search engine on every social aggregator is a yes/no device. Yes follow Gizmodo, No don't follow 3dprinting. Which is dumb - humans aren't binary, we're fickle clumps of decision trees. Google made a gajillion dollars by using trust to rank search results and retraining its algorithm to get better and better. Hubski needs to do the heavy lifting of knowing that #writing and #writebetterdammit are 95% related just by the content, the sites linked, the people following and the types of comments made. So while I follow #writebetterdammit and will see anything with zero shares in that tag, Hubski should know to throw anything with, say, 3 shares in #writing.
And this should be as easy to set up as the user wants, or as transparent as the user doesn't.
In the real world, Hubski is dumb. It finds you things you ask for and only things you ask for. Team Hubski attempts to circumvent this by suggesting you follow people, presuming that it will give you that "fuzzy logic" that it otherwise so sorely lacks.
In the ideal world, Hubski is smart. It provides the folklore that a "power user" would provide without giving me a platform to share my breakfast with 800 people. Not only that, "it just works" or it invites me under the hood to tweak and refine. Finally, the transition between "what is this interface" and "this is my 200th submission to #bugski" is seamless, without learning curve, and wholly autodidactic.
* * *
I recognize that what I put under "ideal" is going to require NSA-grade server power. I also recognize that with a thousand users it's wholly overkill. But I also wish to point out that when you establish your architecture one way for a thousand people, your site is going to grenade when you have ten thousand people.
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now. I didn't wake up intending to write a manifesto on everything that's wrong with Hubski discovery, but you asked. If it would make you feel any better, I can share the manifesto I wrote for Reddit three years ago along the same lines. no one is immune.