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Is dev.to entering eternal September?

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In recent months I have felt that dev.to is becoming quite noisy and simultaneously less friendly to new members, it may be at risk of entering Eternal September, which tends to spell the end of a community.

What do other people feel, and should more moderation or other community management strategies be used?

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I think the perspective needs to change, here.

First, any platform will have to deal with spammers. The moderation tools and team are always finding new ways to fight back, but that battle will never be "over". That's just the nature of the internet.

More importantly, one should remember that we are not USENET. There was more than a touch of elitism and intellectual arrogance in the original phrase "Eternal September": "The influx of new users are not up to our standard or high intellectual plane. Sniff What plebs."

DEV has always aimed to be something different. We want to be welcoming to people who don't know what they're doing, and that means being patient with "noise". The war against the "noise to signal ratio" was what made Stack Overflow so unfriendly towards newbies.

As one of the tag moderators, I usually see more of the scum posts than most members, and I can't really say it's gotten that much worse. I think there are three components to this:

  1. The DEV crew is always improving the algorithms for the Feed. Follow tags you like, upvote articles you appreciate, follow excellent authors, and you'll find that more good content than bad comes shows up for you.

  2. It's like the desert analogy: you find what you look for. If you look for life and beauty in the desert, you'll find plenty of it. If you look for death and desolation, you'll find plenty of it. Focus on, and promote, the positive. Ignore or flag the bad.

  3. Make DEV what you want to see. If it doesn't feel welcoming enough to new members, make it more welcoming. (We even have a Welcome Thread to make it easy!) If you want to see more content like a certain article, like it, comment on it, even promote it on your social media. And then, of course, flag problematic content so it can be dealt with.

By the way, if anyone is wanting to help deal with the spam problem, especially within particular tags, we can always use more tag moderators! Just email yo@dev.to.


Just in case anyone is unaware, the following types of posts are generally discouraged, if not outright disallowed, depending on the exact circumstances:

  • Affiliate link collections. (Some major tags forbid them, all the rest require clear indication they're affiliate links.)

  • "Linkback" posts, including "article previews", meant to drive traffic elsewhere. The whole article should generally be posted on DEV.

  • Advertising products or services. We encourage Listings to be used instead.

  • Showing off a project should be limited to #showdev and the appropriate technology tags.

The moderators are always adapting policy and approach to keep DEV clean.

 

Thanks Jason, all excellent advice to try and keep the ship right-side-up :)

I did wonder if I used the right metaphor with eternal September, was struggling to find something else, perhaps an SO reference would have been better - also I probably fell victim to click-bait titling!

As I mentioned in another reply, it feels a little like admitting defeat if I have to use filters to remove things that shouldn't be here in the first place, however, it also helps lower the impact of those doing bad and they are likely to go away if their return on investment / effort is too low.

I should probably report a few more things and follow some tags ;)

 

Yeah, I agree the best response is really two-fold:

  1. Use tags (and the experience setting in Settings > Misc to filter out the content that isn't right for you.

  2. Report content that doesn't belong on the site at all.

That isn't admitting defeat at all, but rather addressing the actual problem so it can be curbed.

And, of course, if this is something that you feel really passionate about, you could always volunteer to be a community or tag moderator! Then you get some additional tools for helping fight back against spam.

 

Most articles I see in the Latest section are either spam, ads, beginner google questions, or professional project presentations.

I miss the early days, when lots of technical and personal articles popped up, although I'm not the most well placed to comment on that as I don't write a lot.

 

What's odd is that nowadays, I see lots of technical and personal articles, and relatively little spam, ads, beginner google questions, and professional project presentations...(and remember, I'm deliberately looking for the latter as one of the tag mods!)

Maybe you need to follow more tags?

 

There have been more instances of posts that do not adhere to DEV's content policy regarding advertising and quality content. DEV typically does not remove content unless it is obvious spam.

Advertising injected into the content generally remains. I wouldn't mind seeing advertising in the content if companies are paying to support the site and it was clearly marked as a paid promotion. But it can feel like the community is being taken advantage of when that isn't the case.

There are a few things that community members can do to help that I have mentioned below.

Community Moderators

Users that have been made community moderators have the ability to downvote content which will make it rank lower in the feed. I think a positive step would be to make sure community moderators know this and they are actively downvoting things that are side-stepping the terms and code of conduct. If no one does it, that type of content will continue to gain traction.

Positive Reactions

Posts are also ranked higher based on community responses. If you are looking at a post that you do not think is a quality post or violates the terms, do not give it a positive reaction. Some of these posts stay higher in the feed because they get a lot of hearts. If you see a post from an individual that you do like, give it a positive reaction and comment on it. Reward those that contribute quality content to the community and help that rise to the top.

 

I find that a lot of these kinds of junky posts, especially the listicles, do get a lot of hearts/bookmarks. I think the reason is that they are aspirational, they create an illusion for beginners that they're just a list of links away from becoming a highly paid expert. I can sympathise - I've certainly bought advanced textbooks in my time on the same principle, and of course they largely go unread.

 

Advertising injected into the content generally remains. I wouldn't mind seeing advertising in the content if companies are paying to support the site and it was clearly marked as a paid promotion. But it can feel like the community is being taken advantage of when that isn't the case.

It's a problem the mods have long been aware of, but it's harder to fix than it first appears to be. They're continually working on solutions, though, just FYI.

 

It's totally valid to bring up these concerns, but I really hope (and think) we're getting better as time goes on, not worse! The truth is, we're always working to improve our methods and tools for fighting spam and welcoming new members.

Just to show ya what I mean, here's a few examples...

Looking at #meta, you'll see some recent work went into giving authors a way to hide comments — a user safety feature. We're also currently looking into ways that we might better use text classification tools to proactively block spam in its tracks. Aside from these recent moves, we've got a number of issues floating around in our repo related to fighting abuse and mod experience that are in the works. It's all part of a continuous effort to make the site better organized, friendlier, and easier to moderate.

Which speaking of, we have a seriously awesome team of volunteer mods that I can't thank enough for their continued efforts. I think it can be tough to clearly see their effect on the site because the nature of their work is often behind-the-scenes. The thing about flagging spam and reorganizing posts by tags is that when it's working well, it's kind of invisible, but, it's definitely having a major effect. We honestly wouldn't be able to fight spammers as effectively as we have if it weren't for the mods.

 

Thanks Michael, I appreciate the reply and pointers to ongoing efforts to stick with the stated purpose and community spirit of dev.to as we grow :)

 

Yeah, ironically it was around September-ish when it felt like the front page kinda took a turn for the spammy.

I welcome people, especially beginners, posting small articles about what small wins they've accomplished or whatever.

What I am less appreciative of is the proliferation of posts that are trying to sell stuff (that aren't marked as sponsored or ads). Especially when they're top 10 lists of udemy referral links or whatever. Self promotion still makes me side eye them a bit, but as long as the article stands alone, it's fine. But if it's literally just a link to go to their site? That's over the line

 

I have a similar feeling. There seem to be more and more articles being published that I consider to be clickbait or junk. Lots of articles that are just links to other things (usually with affiliate links). Also a lot of numbered articles "2,020 new git commands for 2020!". I see language popping up in the titles of articles that is clearly meant to snag beginners, such as "10 things you must know to pass a coding interview." If you look at the top 10 articles for the week on any given week, mostly it's these kinds of things that you will find. I am also not a big fan of people posting something under a given title, but then there is no article, just a link to someplace else, like an external article or a podcast.

 

I am also not a big fan of people posting something under a given title, but then there is no article, just a link to someplace else, like an external article or a podcast.

Those are strictly against site policy. Report any such posts, please.

 

I try to moderate articles when I can. However, it's not always clearcut. It would be nice if the moderation facilities at dev offered more feedback about the status of a report. That way it would be easier to know what's considered acceptable and what isn't. For example, I've noticed more articles written from company/organization accounts popping up where there are a couple of introductory paragraphs, then a link to the organization's web site to "read more." I don't like this, and don't consider it appropriate, but I am not sure where it lands with respect to site policy.

It lands solidly in the "not allowed" policy: it's in the Terms of Use, article 11.

  • Users must make a good-faith effort to share content that is on-topic, of high-quality, and is not designed primarily for the purposes of promotion or creating backlinks.
  • Posts must contain substantial content — they may not merely reference an external link that contains the full post.

When I encounter these "linkback" posts, I do the following (tag mod)...

  1. (Usually) leave a comment about the site policy. Many times, the author will edit or delete their own post. (I've got a canned response for that.)

  2. Flag it using moderator tools.

  3. Drop tags from it when I can.

  4. Post it in the Tag Moderators chatroom so the rest of the crew can do the same.

Non-moderators can still act on these posts, too:

  1. Anyone can comment citing the Terms of Use and Code of Conduct!

  2. Report Abuse.

Oh cool. Good to know. Is tag moderation a separate thing from regular moderation? I have a "moderate" button, but I don't think I have any tools to adjust tags or talk to tag moderators for my account.

Yes, tag moderation is additional. If you want to help moderate one or more tags, contact yo@dev.to and let them know where you'd like to volunteer. We always need the help, and the more tag mods, the easier our jobs get.

As to the chat, it's just DEV Connect that we're using. See what rooms are there. If you can't access the Tag Moderation room, you can still probably use Meta for urgent situations.

 

I'm just reading discussions now. To many articles on front page and no way to filter them to my liking (maybe that's just me). Also so much ads wtf :o

 

You can filter by subscribing to tags. There's also a feature (gah, can't remember where!) that lets you adjust the weight of tags in your feed. I've done this, and mainly see stuff I'm interested in on the front page as a result.

You can also adjust your experience level on Settings->Misc to gently filter articles accordingly.

 

here's also a feature (gah, can't remember where!) that lets you adjust the weight of tags in your feed.

dev.to/dashboard/following

I'm surprised it's working for you. I guess you're interested in Javascript then, because I've set its weight to -1000 and I'm still having most of the front page covered with js.

Ah, thank you!

Uhm, no, I don't like Javascript, nor do I follow/have that tag on my list. You might need to file a bug report!

I filed one about ignoring tags completely, so I think it covers my issue as well.

I hope it will be addressed, I have the same issues with JS.

 

Subscribing to tags is great. The problem starts when I see multiple articles below #programming telling me that I should drink warm water with lemon juice or eat avocado and nuts. It's nuts. Those might be useful info, but not under that tag... Should I look up them and report those or is it just me?

I'm afraid that #programming and #coding are two of those "junk drawer" uncurated tags. The tag rules haven't been defined, and no one goes through and cleans things up. You might subscribe to tags that have tag rules and moderators. (See the tag pages to learn more.)

Or, if you want to help fix that, email yo@dev.to and volunteer to be a tag moderator for #programming, or any other tag(s) you want to help with.

 

What specifically has changed for you? I have noticed that using the curation tools to select feeds that I resonate with and following people has really improved my user experience. My next experiment is to take the leap from being a lurker / consumer of content to starting to write my own posts. I hope this will continue to improve my experience and I have a feeling that it will

 

I think it's the poison of popularity, over the last few months I've seen an increasing amount of marketing content from bigger players, and as others have noted an awful lot of '500 things you must know...' attention whoring articles, many with just links to medium or wherever. At the same time, new people asking honest questions (albeit repeating others from the past, and possibly annoying long timers) who receive a dressing down (Stack Overflow style) rather than helpful links to previous articles or similar.

Edited to answer your point on filtering - yes, I can try and filter out the junk, much as I would on Facebook or Twitter, however for me that is "admitting defeat" that the community culture has failed / lost it's purpose and is just another watering hole for exploitation.

 

I really hope you're wrong!! I only joined recently (October...) and I was hoping this would be my new home for blogging about tech topics and just connecting with other devs 🙁 So far I've seen a mixed bag of posts. Some are similar to what you and the commenters on this post have complained about, but I've also seen some really cool content. I really hope the cool content prevails!

One thing I do love about dev.to that I haven't seen in other places is how engaged and positive everyone is! I feel like every time I write a post or comment I get so much great feedback, it feels like a very safe space, which is really cool.

 

Glad to hear this - I'm not really complaining (much) yet, but expressing my concerns of what could be starting, and asking if we should do something, if so: what?

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