19

votes

[meta] Growing Pains at PaleoHacks?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 18, 2011 at 12:33 AM

Computer networking pioneer Robert Metcalfe developed a popular (and disputed) concept in the 1990's which became known as "Metcalfe's Law", which says that the value of a network grows exponentially with the number of participants.

Applying this concept to PaleoHacks, this site should become ever-more valuable as it grows. Yet I can't help but notice a recent spike in the amount of divisiveness, invective, closed questions, etc. Also, most of the "easy" and "obvious" paleo questions have already been asked and answered. In my view, this has led questioners into areas that are more esoteric, repetitive, localized or contentious (such as politics and public policy).

My question is whether PaleoHacks will continue to scale well, and what can we members do to keep it vital, fresh and friendly?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:55 PM

@Jeff sending you an email ....

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on September 02, 2011
at 03:47 AM

The full article is great if you can get it. lemme know if you want me to email it

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on September 02, 2011
at 03:44 AM

Paul I just randomly stumbled on this question and skimming down I saw your bit about the importance of putting all the knowledge together... I was just thinking about that reading this paper from 1991! http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/2/125.abstract It's basically paleo way before it became the movement/community we know it as.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 01, 2011
at 11:45 PM

Yes I agree, voting is a good tool. I never assume anyone regardless of reputation knows everything and take my time to decide the answer I like best. I haven't been here long enough to understand why some folks get in trouble for certain questions or answers, but do study them to avoid the pitfalls in my own questions and answers.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 01, 2011
at 05:47 PM

Regarding long-time members being overrated, if you look at anyone's profile, you will see lots of posts with scores of 0, 1 or 2. However, if you stay around and contribute long enough, you will eventually make an occasional "big score" post, which will greatly enhance your reputation. Diversity of views is, of course, positive, but those who go against the "grain" should be prepared to defend their position. Personally, I will try to vote up thoughtful and well-written posts, even if I disagree.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 01, 2011
at 05:31 PM

Thanks, Laura--great points and a very thoughtful post. I agree that members need to vote more, and that a lot of good answers are "undervoted." Alternatively, some of the detailed answers which you may prefer could strike others as verbose, un-focused, or not well-written. Regarding flippant posts, there is often a fine line between flippant, pithy, witty, funny, dismissive, etc. All we can do is vote up the ones we like, and ignore or vote down the rest.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:07 PM

@Jae and Paul, agree. I would like to see questioners link to the old threads, and perhaps explain why the old answers were not quite what they were looking for.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 05:10 AM

Agree with that. Good distinction.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 18, 2011
at 04:38 AM

I think slight variations on old threads = awesome. Simply repeating old threads in a manner that indicates that no effort went into the search bar = not awesome.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 18, 2011
at 02:45 AM

Thanks Patrik, that's what I like :)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 02:15 AM

...or right now

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 02:02 AM

Touche. I have an idea though, and already bought the domain name. Semi-promotional paleohacks question coming next week...

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:57 AM

Maybe paleohacks needs to start using this more: http://lmgtfy.com/

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:54 AM

One of my faults is that I am too tolerant of quasi-trolls. I need to take a firmer hand with PH and start ripping out the drama-queens (or drama-kings for that matter) right away.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:52 AM

Actually, I thought this was going to be a branch of your new website.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:46 AM

So you're going to make a paleo-centric metabolism website? Sweet!

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:44 AM

I still like the "individualized problem" questions, even if I've seen a lot of the problems before. I guess I just like hearing people's stories.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:26 AM

There's a lot of paleohackers. It's tough to tell who to listen to and who to ignore, especially as rep points do not perfectly correlate with knowledge. (e.g. Kurt Harris is on here once in a blue moon)

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:21 AM

funny FB does not get moderated? I think you learn who to listen to and who to ignore and it becomes a lot less bumpy ride.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:12 AM

Thanks Vandy, I'll have a look at Jeff Howe. Here's a link to his website: http://crowdsourcing.typepad.com/

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:04 AM

Great question! Maybe moderation becomes more important at this point, with respect to already-answered questions. And somehow gently nudging newbies to search before asking--not only on paleohacks, but on the wide world of paleo sites. Personally, I gravitate towards reading questions that apply to a large number of people and science-y questions, and veer away from "I have this individualized problem...what am I doing wrong" questions.

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3 Answers

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15
47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:41 AM

This is a great question.

Well one thing I want to mention -- maybe I'm dodging your question for the moment -- is that Paleohacks would still serve a great purpose even if it somehow, theoretically, lost all interest to longtime users. I told a friend about the website once, because she was learning about the "lifestyle." She came back to me a week later and told me: "Paleohacks is amazing. Every question I could have possibly been interested in is there. Omega-3? Type it in, there it is. Weight loss? Type it in, there it is. Green beans? Type it in, there it is." And so on. (Although maybe I shouldn't be making the green beans joke, since that was before my time.)

But perhaps I'm coming around to your question, because this does suggest at least one thing we could work on more: fine-tuning the answers to the basic questions, making them better and better. Because for every one registered user with a screen name and a presence in the conversation, there might be two more who are just reading along. A lot of those are beginners. How about making things better for them?

One problem we encounter here is that when old threads are refreshed with new answers or new edits, relatively few users look at them. It's always more exciting to see a new question. So there's not all that much incentive to go back and edit your answers; even if it had nothing to do with reputation, there would still be the issue of views. Why do that work if no one is going to look at it?

This leads me to believe that the "repetitiveness" of near-duplicate questions is not an entirely bad thing. It's almost like we want slight variations on the same theme, just like we want to watch the same romantic comedy over and over again, but with different actors and actresses. Patrik anyhow endorses the idea in the FAQ:

Please look around to see if your question has already been asked (and maybe even answered!) before you ask. If you end up asking a question that has been asked before, that is OK and deliberately allowed. Other users will hopefully edit in links to related or similar questions to help future visitors find their way.

But if that doesn't satisfy, if the re-working of old plotlines is not enough for us, then how about this: things do change in the paleo world. Think about all that has happened just in the last year or so: the fall of insulin, the rise of the potato, skepticism about fish oil, the re-discovery of choline -- not nearly as earth-shattering as world affairs, to be sure, but for those of us who dedicate a big chunk of our free time to thinking about this stuff it's enough to keep things at least somewhat fresh.

Maybe the site will slow down a little bit. But I don't think things should come to a stop. These two things -- refining our answers to old questions, and dealing with the occasional new ones -- are definitely enough to keep us going. These aren't startling new ideas from me, I admit, but I'm more the synthesizing type than the creative type anyway. So that's how I see things.

(Note: My own personal project is to try to keep learning about human metabolism. Because even if a lot of the basics are well-known and can be learned with biochemistry textbooks, a lot of it is still unknown. And even if it is known, even if it's out there somewhere, there's still the challenge of putting it together. I think a lot of this work happens in various places on Paleohacks, even if that's not everyone's cup of tea -- and I certainly don't think it should be. Sorry about the long answer, but, you know, in for a penny in for a pound.)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 02:15 AM

...or right now

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:07 PM

@Jae and Paul, agree. I would like to see questioners link to the old threads, and perhaps explain why the old answers were not quite what they were looking for.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 18, 2011
at 04:38 AM

I think slight variations on old threads = awesome. Simply repeating old threads in a manner that indicates that no effort went into the search bar = not awesome.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:52 AM

Actually, I thought this was going to be a branch of your new website.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:46 AM

So you're going to make a paleo-centric metabolism website? Sweet!

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 18, 2011
at 05:10 AM

Agree with that. Good distinction.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on March 18, 2011
at 02:02 AM

Touche. I have an idea though, and already bought the domain name. Semi-promotional paleohacks question coming next week...

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on September 02, 2011
at 03:47 AM

The full article is great if you can get it. lemme know if you want me to email it

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on September 03, 2011
at 02:55 PM

@Jeff sending you an email ....

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on September 02, 2011
at 03:44 AM

Paul I just randomly stumbled on this question and skimming down I saw your bit about the importance of putting all the knowledge together... I was just thinking about that reading this paper from 1991! http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/2/125.abstract It's basically paleo way before it became the movement/community we know it as.

6
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 01, 2011
at 04:26 PM

I don't know if I can add a lot to the conversation regarding the more technical aspects of scalability. Many of the suggestions for helping new members/readers, are right on as I am one of them. I lurked for a while then joined, because I felt I had unique questions to ask and desired to respond to others. I tend to research my questions exhaustively before I put them out there which leads me to my suggestions as a newbie on how Paleohacks can keep the interest and participation high.

  1. Everyone especially long time users please explain your answers fully with regards to abbreviations and acronyms. I often have to go off the site or the post to figure out what all the letters mean in some users answers.

  2. Voting: If I get votes I'm thrilled. If it's my question and I get answers from long time users I'm thrilled. What I'm not so thrilled about is when I see answers whether mine or others not getting any votes even though they are often very good.(I've started voting a lot more!) In addition I often see longtime users (usually with very high points) getting a lot of votes for answers that are short, simple or flippant. I would find it discouraging if I felt that votes were more for popularity than for the best answers. Voting of course is subjective, but for my vote a detailed serious answer is more helpful to me. I also like thoughtful and personal responses whether they agree/disagree, or give me insights I hadn't thought of. Ultimately I think newbies will respond with more and better questions and answers when they get the feedback of votes.

  3. One of the pitfalls of any like minded group is to lose patience, criticize, and otherwise punish people we don't feel agree enough with us. (yet:) If PH really nurtures the dissenting views, the questioning views, the skeptical views. It will make PH seem balanced and approachable. People with opposing views or who are less than "on board" with paleo are one of the keys to growing. It let's those who want to learn feel like they can ask anything without risking the ire of the group.

In other words Newbies respond to caring and support which is what I think Paleohacks does very well most of the time.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 01, 2011
at 11:45 PM

Yes I agree, voting is a good tool. I never assume anyone regardless of reputation knows everything and take my time to decide the answer I like best. I haven't been here long enough to understand why some folks get in trouble for certain questions or answers, but do study them to avoid the pitfalls in my own questions and answers.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 01, 2011
at 05:31 PM

Thanks, Laura--great points and a very thoughtful post. I agree that members need to vote more, and that a lot of good answers are "undervoted." Alternatively, some of the detailed answers which you may prefer could strike others as verbose, un-focused, or not well-written. Regarding flippant posts, there is often a fine line between flippant, pithy, witty, funny, dismissive, etc. All we can do is vote up the ones we like, and ignore or vote down the rest.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 01, 2011
at 05:47 PM

Regarding long-time members being overrated, if you look at anyone's profile, you will see lots of posts with scores of 0, 1 or 2. However, if you stay around and contribute long enough, you will eventually make an occasional "big score" post, which will greatly enhance your reputation. Diversity of views is, of course, positive, but those who go against the "grain" should be prepared to defend their position. Personally, I will try to vote up thoughtful and well-written posts, even if I disagree.

5
949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

on March 18, 2011
at 12:51 AM

It's funny that you mention this, because I never really thought about it before earlier today. I'm reading a book called Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe. Today I read a section that says that crowds with a similar knowledge base tend to do one of two things: A) they divide into factions that pit some ideas against others, or B) they slowly develop a consensus. Jeff's argument is that either of these actions serves to decrease the diversity of the crowd (and so decrease its value as a problem-solving entity). He seems to feel that part of the value of internet communities is to bring together people from disparate backgrounds who can increase the diversity of a knowledge base and therefore increase the number of innovative and efficient solutions to problems.

I haven't been around this site long enough to get an idea of the phenomena you're describing, but I wonder whether the plethora of information that is now available on the Paleo diet and lifestyle makes the community more homogeneous and less diverse. Perhaps people are all coming at this site with information from the same five or six books and blogs, and so therefore the perceived value of the community is not growing at the exponential rate you might otherwise predict. I???ll just have to spend more time here and see what kind of value I can discern before I can really make a determination.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on March 18, 2011
at 01:12 AM

Thanks Vandy, I'll have a look at Jeff Howe. Here's a link to his website: http://crowdsourcing.typepad.com/

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