A Tale of Two Communities (Part 1/3)
Some time ago, a popular skeptic blogger and Ph.D. candidate in the biological sciences made waves with a series of posts covering the interrelationship between atheism, activism, and feminism. A community of like-minded commentators coalesced around her, creating their own atheist subculture with a distinct mode of discourse and their own specialized norms for congenial participation. Eventually, this community migrated off their founder’s blog site and onto their own domain, which is now running a discussion forum using phpBB.
This sounds like the sort of thing which could only ever have happened only once, but to the best of my understanding, it is this process that gave birth to two separate and opposing forums: Atheism+ and the SlymePit. The bloggers in question are Jen McCreight and Abbie Smith, two women whom I respect and admire even though they don’t always agree. (Full disclosure: Abbie and I are friends in real life.)
I’d like to take a little time to compare and contrast these two forums, and see whether there are instructive lessons to be found in doing so. As a personal rule, I only stir up internet drama on Sundays, so I’m not going to editorialize here and now. Instead, we’re just going to look at a few numbers to get a sense of how the two forums compare in terms of throughput, authorship, and readership.
A few summary statistics: The A+ forum boasts 2,146 registered users who have produced over 4,100 new posts during the past seven days. The SlymePit has only 327 registered users and has produced just short of 2,000 posts during the same period. Some of this difference is probably because the SlymePit allows unregistered users to post as ‘Guest,’ whereas the Atheism Plus forums require registration in order to post. Still, that’s quite a significant productivity gap. One might well suppose that those registered at the Pit are much more likely to actively contribute than those registered at the A+ forums.
As to the everyday balance of contributors to lurkers at the two groups, consider the last 12 hours of data from each:
You are free, of course, to draw you own conclusions, but what I’m seeing here is a similar number of non-registered guests lurking on both fora (no doubt some people are lurking in both) with about twice as many registered users active on the A+ forum. Considering that A+ has over six times as many registered users, the participation rate must be significantly lower on the A+ boards. Moreover, it seems that the posters at the ‘Pit must have outsized influence, since they are getting nearly as many guest readers with only half the rate of posting and registered participation. I can think of two possible explanations for this: Either the Pit gets a lot more monitoring from its adversaries, or else would-be participants are deterred from posting for fear of being labelled “one of them” and ostracized accordingly. I’d go into this a bit more, but it’s only just Tuesday.
Drop in on Sunday morning for a few qualitative methods to differentiate the Pit from the Plus. Meanwhile, have a great week!