ANATOMY OF A HUBSKI DUSTUP
I. THE INFLUX
- A. A New Cast of Characters
- - 1. Lots of new posts
- - 2. Lots of enthusiasm
- - 3. Lots of new social connections tested
- B. The Recurrents React
- - 1. "What tags do I filter?"
- - 2. "I'm going to stay away for a while."
- - 3. "Things will be fine when they get their sea legs."
II. THE CONFLICT
- A. Migrant Go Home
- - 1. "Hubski used to be cool now it's full of Reddit refugees"
- - 2. "Without new blood this place calcifies into an echo chamber"
- - 3. "The only constant is change"
- B. Mad As Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore
- - 1. "You know what? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on."
- - 2. "Me too."
- - 3. ^q^q
III. THE DENUEMENT
- A. Pour one out for the departed
- - 1. "I miss X"
- - 2. "X left under similar circumstances to Y"
- B. A Plague on both your houses
- - 1. "You insular shits reap what you sew"
- - 2. "If you want to see what's wrong look in the mirror"
- - 3. "Be the change you wish to see in the world"
- C. mk ponders ways in which the algorithm can be refined
- - 1. "This will fix all our problems"
- - 2. "This will fix none of our problems"
- - 3. "Can we stop talking about our problems? I'm in the middle of (major life change)."
RETURN TO I.
We’ve done this a few times. We’ll do it a few times more. Personally, I’m invested in this site because it’s a social news aggregator, emphasis on the “social.” However, it’s also a “news aggregator” and those are hostile, angry places.
I’ve studied online behavior more than anybody else I know, and that’s frightening because I’ve known most of the community managers at Reddit. This shit is truly the Wild Wild West and everyone is working it out in real-time. Hubski has the distinct advantage of caring, which puts it lightyears ahead of Reddit, SA, 4chan, Imgur (yech - who woulda thunk?) or any other similar website. It’s also go the most robust method of dealing with content curation, in that there is no middle man between you and the site. Hubski puts users in absolute control over their feeds and their friends.
That does not mean, however, that Hubski gives them the best tools to do so.
I’ve been following my own behavior and observing the behavior of others across several different forums, both open and closed. I’ve been paying particular attention to Hubski and the connections formed here and I think I’ve come up with a hypothesis.
HUBSKI IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
Hubski is just a place where friends congregate. HOWEVER because the visual and conversant cues we receive do almost nothing to differentiate one person from another, WE SUBCONSCIOUSLY RECOGNIZE EACH OTHER AS OUR FRIEND “HUBSKI.”
Think about it. To you, I’m either blue, green, gray or teal. You’ve probably never even said my name aloud (and looking at it now, you’re wondering how you would). If you click on my name, you see a weird cat-thing that you likely don’t understand and a bunch of ridiculous stats. I might as well be a line in a database.
But because this website is so deeply wired towards human connections, we all form them. This website is what it is because we all treat each other as human. there’s more affinity here than there will ever be on Reddit, except in some of those quiet, private corners still left in the dross. So we’re trying to treat each other as friends, but the visual cues we get aren’t allowing us to subconsciously distinguish each other. When someone says something nice, “Hubski” is saying something nice. When someone says something mean, “Hubski” is saying something mean.
This problem extends to new members - they see “hubski” being very chatty and insular… with itself. Hubski becomes a “person” that isn’t trying very hard to be your friend, rather than a community of friends that hasn’t yet warmed up to you. When one person on Hubski treats you poorly, all people on Hubski are treating you poorly.
I don’t see this problem nearly as often on VBulletins. VBs go out of their way to put your name, your avatar, and a little bit about you next to everything you say. The site of any VB is pretty much limited to color; on the other hand, Reddit’s functionality, Hubski’s functionality, slashdot’s functionality, Hacker News’ functionality are all different enough that it’s the site that’s distinctive while the users are effectively anonymized.
BUT YOUR FRIENDS ARE ON HUBSKI
My deepest regret on Reddit is functionality I couldn’t make happen. Kickme444 was a friend of mine before he worked for Reddit, and HonestBleeps said nice things about me in private, too. Me and Dan were talking one night about how redditgifts.com is a lot more human than Reddit - it’s got (optional) real names, it’s got avatars, it’s got participation, it’s got all that “human” stuff that Reddit sorely lacks. So I approached Dan - could that stuff be scraped? And I approached HonestBleeps - could RES pull info off Redditgifts?
The idea would be that a double opt-in (you as the profile holder, you as the profile seeker) have both approved “yes, I want RES to provide RedditGifts info on a Redditor’s profile page.” Either side could opt out at any time, and either side would be opt-out by default. But if you both agree, suddenly that stupid username that is clearly a shitcamel becomes a friendly, smiling kid from Michigan who likes Yu-Gi-Oh. Would it have “solved” reddit? I doubt it. Would it have made Reddit a lot more human?
I firmly believe so.
Hubski provides limited customization of one’s profile page. This limited customization is miles ahead of its competitors, but it’s still pretty spare. More than that, there’s absolutely no marker of affinity between you and someone else beyond changing the color of your name. This is not a fault of Hubski, because again, it’s further along than anywhere else. But I don’t think it’s far enough along.
AND YOU SHOULD KNOW IT
Nothing that follows has been considered beyond the “spitballing” stage. I was talking about this with mk yesterday and we were going to chat, but I thought it might be more useful to get everyone to opine since the strategic development of Hubski is crowdsourced more than any place I’ve ever been (even if the coding is not). The general idea would be simple, low-impact ways in which users can be differentiated from each other in order to better align our members psychologically with “I’m talking to a bunch of people on a website” and away from “i’m talking to a website.” Pulled completely out of my ass:
- There should be more information shared on your profile page if you’re following the person looking at it. This should be opt-in information and we should come up with a way to psychologically incentivize it.
- When I look at someone else’s profile page, I should see it in their theme, not mine.
- I should be able to see the content and comments I’ve shared by someone very easily, ideally from the main page.
- I should be able to customize the way my name appears (color, font, points, etc) for people who follow me. People who follow me should tell me that bold italic gothic in 18 point blue is pompous as fuck.
- I know mk hates the fuck out of avatars, but I should be able to opt-in to a hover avatar, especially for people who follow me.
Basically, I think this site is very good at getting people to talk at a deeper level than they would on any other news aggregator, but not as good at reminding people that every one of us is a different person with different wants, needs, desires, peeves and pleasures. I think we all benefit by differentiating this from a sheer stability standpoint. The more we can say “That guy pisses me off” the less often we’ll say “Hubski pisses me off” because the problem with a love/hate relationship is half the time you’re angry.
Anyway. Now I need to eat lunch.