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One of the recurring questions that came up during our first week in the new SCN was around blog moderation. Some put it bluntly, sending links to examples of blogs that were (quite frankly) crap.  Several of you asked why we decided to let people publish blogs without Moderators approving previously. As one of the decision makers for taking this approach, I wanted to share with you the reasons why, and the expectations we have for the future of blogs and other content in SCN, as well as the community members who will be an important part of the process.

First, the decision. Why are we letting people write blogs without pre-approval from Moderators?

  • It’s out of the box functionality.  No, that’s not the most important reason, but it’s the one that got us thinking about this in the first place.  In the spirit of doing what we tell our customers to do, we wanted to avoid customization of the platform for good reasons, like resources, upgrades, time to implement…you get the idea. 
  • Let members voice what is valuable to them.  All members have the capability to “Like”, rate, share, bookmark content, in addition to commenting. When members do this, the content will show as being highly rated and valuable.  And guess what? Valuable content is more prominent when searching.  Content that doesn’t get positive feedback will fall to the bottom and not be read. Members can also report abusive content, which moderators can remove.
  • Let Moderators deal with exceptions. Moderators are busy people who support SCN without payment for their work. This new model should eventually free up time for moderators who only need to react to abuse of the Community’s Rules of Engagement.

What about members who need some blog coaching, or who want it?  We will be launching an “Apprentice Pilot” once the launch is behind us.  There will be a subspace for “Apprentices” who want to practice blogging prior to publishing for all to see.  Moderators of spaces with Apprentice subspaces will review blogs and advise authors prior to publication in the larger overall space. xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct) will be supporting this pilot.

But what about points gaming?  We’ve already seen some of this – friends liking friends content, for example.  We have ways of detecting this and we have a pretty firm process for “guestification” in the new SCN.  Unlike our old platform, now a guestified user will be shown as someone who has been deactivated.  We won’t delete users, but we can disable them, take away their points, and ensure that they no longer will be active in the community.  People who have been disabled still show up, but community members will be able to see that they were “guestified”. 

I’m sure that some of you do not agree with this decision, but I hope that you will give it a try.  I welcome your feedback and comments in response to this blog.

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  1. Gordon Du

    Dear Jeanne,

    I like the idea to free SCN member blog without moderator pre-approval. You are right: Community Care is Everyone’s Responsibility! Moderator should be released from this burden. I am sure this will ensure improving quality of blog for new SCN in the long run.

    Gordon

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  2. Steve Rumsby

    This process sounds like it will work quite well for managing the SCN content long term. The lower quality stuff will quietly disappear and never be found. In the short term, though, it does pollute the activity stream and the blog RSS feeds, and those are both, for me at least, the most effective ways of making sure I keep up with new stuff as it is produced.

    I don’t have an answer for this (but I will give it some thought) – just pointing out that short term pollution of the blog space is an issue too.

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  3. Jarret Pazahanick

    Let me provide a different perspective as I think the blog moderation served a valuable purpose although I will wait a few months to before final judgment.

    It is easy in theory to say that poor quality blogs will move to the bottom but that is to simplistic on a number of levels. Good quality will also get lost in a sea of blog posts as I am already seeing that happen. I for example used to follow all the blog post via RSS….scan through everyone and help promote the best via social media and other areas. Now the combination of old posts being refreshed, forum questions in wrong area and weaker quality it is not possible hence I dont read any.

    Good quality raises the bar for what is expected and poorer quality does the same and at the core that is what I think moderation helped to protect. Seeing what is out there I probably would publish a shorter/simpler blog than I would have 2 months ago even though I didnt have blog moderation at that time being an expert blogger.

    There are many things I love about the new SCN but the lack of blog moderation is something that should be closely monitored as I believe it is a mistake.

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    1. Ethan Jewett

      I think that the approach described in this blog could theoretically work, and given the conversations prior to go-live I was optimistic. But now I am not.

      The reason? Previously there was discussion of filtering tools that would help us find content that was getting good ratings, large numbers of likes, or high traffic. But that kind of filtering tool actually doesn’t exist as far as I can tell. As such, I have a hard time seeing how content will “fall to the bottom”. Sure, in search it will be de-prioritized, but I don’t know anyone who uses search to find new content.

      If this is going to work, then we desperately need filters on rating & # of likes (or something similar) that can be applied in the “Content” area. This will allow us to generate useful feeds and bubble up good content.

      I guess that the “Jive Genius” feature is supposed to provide this functionality. But (while it is a good thing) it seems to be disabled currently on the global level, and this approach doesn’t give the level of specificity that will be needed.

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    2. Luke Marson

      I have to say that I’ve also stopped checking the RSS for the blogs for the same reasons. I’ll keep an eye on it until it improves, but for now I recommend using the Twitter feed @SCNBlogs as it’s pretty easy to spot the blogs from there.

      Usually they don’t being with “Dear gurus, I need help with my issue…” 😉

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      1. Sascha Wenninger

        Agree, however I believe the twitter feed also contains blogs which were updated after being posted for the first time, so more than occasionally one of those “Hai gurus” blogs has appeared multiple times in the twitter feed.

        Maybe something else to add to the (lengthy, I’m sure) backlog… 🙂

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  4. Jeanne Carboni Post author

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for your feedback, especially noting that the filtering is needed. 

    Please note that some functionality has been turned off to help with the performance issues that we’ve had in these first few days of the new platform. 

    I will ensure that this one is a high priority on the list of follow ups since it is critical for the new approach to work. 

    I’m sorry for the temporary “clutter” in the blogs.  Try to keep smiling, knowing that we are working on these things.

    BTW, I personally am helping to smack down the Dear gurus blogs.  😉

    When you come across those, please report them as general abuse.  Thank you!

    Jeanne

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    1. Tobias Hofmann

      Can we have the different levels of bloggers back? Nothing against that now everybody can blog without approval. People that are saying the approval process should be back: No. That process was already broken as many times copy&paste blogs from SAP Help came through, short reviews or bullet blogs were published, etc.

      The approval process made it only a little bit harder for newbies to have the courage to blog. Now its easier and I hope that now people start blogs that won`t be able to win the pulitzer price but have something to share.

      But may I please have the possibility to filter for people that are expert bloggers, new bloggers, average experienced bloggers, and professional bloggers that post their blog on other sides too (like eric lai)?

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      1. Jeanne Carboni Post author

        Hi Sascha and Tobias,

        Don’t think we will be implementing a “Dislike” button. It doesn’t promote the type of comradarie and supportive attitude that we try to promote in the community.  However, I like the idea of enhancing reputation to include blogger level.  We are planning a Reputation and Gamification project this year that Laure Cetin will lead later this year.  I will pass this idea to her as a possibility of badges that indicate more about the person’s experience level.  It could be somewhat complicated, but it’s something to consider.

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        1. Laure Cetin

          I’ll think about it, I like the suggestion. Anyway, Tobias, you’ll be involved at some point this year – if you still have time and interest (remember the Reputation Council?) 😉
          Laure

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  5. Jon Reed

    @Jeanne I understand the idea behind giving the community a chance to asses blog content and while I had concerns about that from the beginning I’m certainly willing to see how it plays out.

    However @SteveRumsby raises a key point which is that while it may take a number of days for a blog to find its proper “status” within the community, by then it has already gone out on a number of feeds, including the SCN twitter account, etc. The end result of that is not good as the caliber of those feeds will go down dramatically.

    One potential solution that might help that I mentioned on @Jarret’s post on G+ is to impose a minimum word count on a blog post – nothing prohibitive, 350 words or maybe a bit less, now that I spend more time on it I’m thinking 250 might be about right (this comment is around 200 words). This would at least reinforce that the blog is meant to be a blog and is not a microblog where a simple “Hello world” or a post to a webinar link will suffice. Twitter is great for that but I think it becomes a problem here and an issue for the autofeeds and quality control there. Wouldn’t solve all issues but would buy time to see how well community ratings sort it from there.

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  6. Mark Yolton

    Good blog and commentary here. I do think we need some “low bar’ to set for blogs to be published. We thought about anything needing a few “likes” before it goes live or winds-up in the stream. Or the idea about minimum length. Keep the ideas coming; I know we’re already investigating the feasibility of a couple suggestions.

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  7. Gordon Du

    I think both Blog and Document need certain length to block any inadequate postings. For the new comer here, they may not have a good idea what is right and what is wrong. We need certain basic tools to help them.

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  8. Jeanne Carboni Post author

    Good suggestion, Jon on providing some minimum qualifiers for blogs and documents.  We’re adding it to the list of phase 2 requirements.

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    1. Sascha Wenninger

      Hello all,

      This week, during Mastering SAP Technology in Sydney, Chris Paine (aka @wombling) mentioned how StackOverflow has in the past been mentioned as a potential role model to what SCN forums could be/become. This gave me an idea on this topic: Introduce a minimum lifetime point requirement for blogging. StackOverflow and other sites in the StackExchange network use something similar, and require a minimum number of points in order to post a question. Points can be earned by contributing answers to open questions which others find useful. In other words, it’s not a massive entry barrier.

      Let’s assume SCN were to introduce such a measure and set a threshold of 50 lifetime points. This provides a small barrier to entry, but in my opinion doesn’t raise the bar to blogging too much because it’s now so much easier to earn points on the new platform. With 2 points for every comment being liked, and the usual forum answer points, I think anyone who puts a little bit of effort into the community will get to the 50 point threshold pretty quickly.

      The other nice side-effect is that it effectively forces people to interact with the SCN for a few hours before deciding to write a blog. This would in turn increase the opportunity for people new to the site to “learn the ropes” by observing how others use the platform. The occurrence of “I would like to introduce myself” and “Hi Gurus” posts should thus be naturally reduced as new members are forced to watch before jumping in.

      As long as this period of ‘enforced’ watching isn’t too long and hurdles to participation are not too cumbersome, then I believe the appeal of “openness” the new SCN fosters won’t be disturbed.

      Just my 2 cents, but I do believe the blogs would benefit from a more scalable approach to quality assurance than reliance on individuals to hit the “abuse” button…

      Thanks for listening,

      Sascha

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      1. Tobias Hofmann

        Sascha,

        With a minimum point number on your account, people like Jim Snabe won’t be able to blog 😉 For me, everybody is free to blog, as long as it’s possible to filter for their blogger level. And a blogger level should be hard to earn or given by business role. A blog from a product manager from SAP – even the first and maybe only blog ever – is of more interest than the 20th blog of a fresher that writes about his travel experience as a consultant.

        Having a status like: speaker at an SAP event, named valuable blogger by SAP, etc may help in restoring some order.

        Oh, and people that copy & paste content from other sides like SAP Help should not be able to blog or write a document again.

        Hm, think I should go to Ideas Place instead of writing this here 😕

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        1. Sascha Wenninger

          Hi Tobias,

          I’m sure the SCN team can make an exception for people like Jim, or even anyone who is an SAP employee… However, such a filter could still improve quality while only raising the barrier to entry for new bloggers by a very small amount. After all, it’s also become a lot easier to get points on the new SCN!

          Sascha

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          1. Ethan Jewett

            Please, let’s not go back to another system in which SAP employees are exempt from filters that everyone else has to struggle with. At least under this system, the bad blogs from SAP employees are lost in the noise 😉

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  9. Jeanne Carboni Post author

    Thanks for the ideas and the feedback Sascha and Tobias.  One of the projects we have ahead of us in 2012 is Reputation and Gamification, to be led by Laure Cetin.  We will be able to apply different badges, and might be able to make it dependent on number of blogs written or some other factor. 

    Another idea that our team is discussing now is a requirement to have at least 350 words to be able to post content as a blog.  Our average blog has over 800 words, so this might help resolve the problem.  Thoughts?

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    1. Tobias Hofmann

      Jeanne,

      sure you can go with the 350 words limit, but in that case, this blog Thanks SCN Team would have never seen the day of light. Looking at the blog’s comments Laure Cetin was happy that it was published 😉

      350 words != quality. People may push their blog above that limit by all means, maybe even using lorem ipsum 😆

      Why not let everyone blog like crazy but let only bloggers with a certain history let their blog move to a space? Or even let SAP choose blogs that are prominently featured at a space and use a “community blogger” widget for the rest

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      1. Sascha Wenninger

        Hi Tobias,

        as for the “blogging like crazy” aspect, my most frequent interaction with SCN is via the twitter feed, which usually alerts me to blogs which sound like they might be interesting. Having this full of poor quality content isn’t helping me, or the other 14k followers of that account…

        Just my $0.02 (again!). Off the soapbox now 🙂

        Sascha

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      2. Ethan Jewett

        I completely agree with Tobias about the length restriction. Reintroducing limits on blogs is, in my opinion, going back in the wrong direction. As a temporary solution, maybe it is OK, but the limits should be removed again as soon as possible.

        What we need in the long term, in my opinion (and as discussed at length before the go-live), are strong filtering tools that allow us to generate a feed of or be notified about blogs that meet certain criteria. Maybe length should be one of these criteria that is made available. Minimum number of views, ratings, or stars should definitely be a filtering criteria.

        Cheers,

        Ethan

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      3. Laure Cetin

        That blog… It brings me nice memories 😉

        I think some members could be exempt of the word limit: Mentors, SAP Employees, Moderators. Sorry Ethan I still think it would avoid a lot of bad instances.

        I was thinking about the personal spaces and whether it would make sense for everyone to use their personal space as a “play ground” and once they’ve received enough good feedback from the community (no points, but likes, stars, etc) they are allowed to contribute in topic spaces. The personal space would be like a play ground, with metadata tags that surfaces the content in the corresponding topic spaces, showing new content to other members who can encourage the newbies. Not sure how easily this would be managed, we would need to avoid too much manual effort. Actually I’m not even sure this is a good idea.

        Laure

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        1. Ethan Jewett

          Hi Laure,

          I probably wasn’t clear enough. I don’t really like the idea of a hard minimum word limit, but I see the point, at least temporarily until we can get better filters rolled out on the consumption side of the equation. Specifically, I think the right thing to do is to introduce a user-configurable word count filter in the Content view, rather than have a hard word limit when creating a blog, but in this case it is just splitting hairs. I have a feeling that once a word limit is introduced, filters on the consumption side will be deprioritized because the problem won’t feel as urgent and the limited attention of the team will turn elsewhere, but I look forward to being proven wrong.

          I more strongly object to having separate limits for “normals” and “specials”. Under the old SCN, SAP employees convincingly demonstrated their ability to write terrible blogs that would/should not have made it through moderation. But SAP employees weren’t moderated. The result was that a surprisingly large % of really quite bad blogs were written by SAP employees. Unintended consequences 🙂 But it also just goes back to a tiered system, and in this case it’s actually worse because there would be no simple way for someone to become an “expert blogger” and become exempt from the limitations.

          Also, a technical warning: What will happen to video blogs? Will people posting those be obliged to write 350 words of filler? What else haven’t we thought of?

          Food for thought…

          Ethan

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        2. Tobias Hofmann

          Laure,

          current blogs can be published without providing an abstract. Force blogs to have an abstract – and there a word limit can be enforced. No abstract == no blog published.

          The specified item was not found. As soon as SCN decides if the idea of letting only certain users publish / move a blog in a space, the twitter feed spam problem can be solved by having 2 twitter bots: one for private spaces and one for public spaces

          In the meantime: let’s wait a few months, maybe until TechEd to see how things evolve.

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  10. Mark Yolton

    Data and facts are always interesting, at least to me…

    Here are data on 2011 blogs, for reference: 

    • Blogs published: 5744 = 15 blogs per day on average x 365 days per year
    • Min length: 1 word = (?!)  
    • Max length: 6342 words = (wow)
    • Avg: 642 words
    • Median: 846 words

    This certainly shows that a 350 word count minimum is very supportable by the community.

    It’s one approach we could try…

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    1. Ethan Jewett

      Hi Mark,

      Interesting data, and I agree that this could be a good short term fix. But in my opinion the more necessary thing is to get the filters that were discussed prior to the go-live working properly. For this more open content style to work, there need to be good filters on the consumption side of the equation, including the ability to filter on # of views, rating, likes, and even word count 🙂 .

      If these filters existed, it would also solve the problem, and without arbitrary restrictions that would kill some OK blogs (example of a blog it would kill: http://scn.sap.com/community/soa/blog/2011/03/02/sap-web-services-developer-licensing-discussion). For example, the SCN Blogs twitter handle could implement a filter to only tweet blogs that have at least 3 ratings and average 4 stars, or whatever filter is required to get a high-content feed with reasonable frequency. Wouldn’t that be great?

      Cheers,

      Ethan

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      1. Sascha Wenninger

        Hi Ethan,

        I do support your call for better filtering in the UI, but I’m concerned that only “power” users might really make full use of such functionality, and the vast majority of people thus might not get much benefit. Just today there was a twitter discussion between Tammy Powlas, Matthew Harding and Susan Keohan about how certain things on SCN take too many mouse clicks. Could this be making the problem worse?

        In any case, a combination of some things might be best. I still like the idea of a minimum (lifetime) point level in order to be “allowed” to blog outside of your personal space. Implement better filters, exclude blogs in personal spaces from the Twitter feed and split the RSS feeds (one for all blogs, one for blogs “community” spaces), and the problem might be mostly solved… I know there are always exceptions (Jim Snabe writing a blog) but I’m sure there are good mechanisms for these small percentages of exceptions.

        Anyways, I’ll get off my soap box now and wait for the reputation and engagement work by Laure Cetin to kick off. Otherwise I’ll have run out of ideas by then… 🙂

        Sascha

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        1. Ethan Jewett

          Hi Sascha,

          I’d certainly support a filter with a default setting. Only power users will change the defaults, but you can give everyone good defaults. On the other hand, the only people I’ve seen really complaining about bad blog posts are power users who want a usable feed of all blogs on SCN. Currently that feed is being polluted by these posts.

          I love the idea of a minimum lifetime point level to blog in the community spaces. But it should apply to everybody equally! If Jim wants to blog in the community spaces, then he should answer a few questions in the discussion forums or comment on blogs first. I can think of a couple where his input would be welcome 😉

          Cheers,

          Ethan

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  11. Gordon Du

    I would suggest 200 to 300 (better 200) words as the minimum because it can effectively blocking most of the user who post it wrongly as a blog. However, some special blog may not need minimum 350 words per se.

    Do we have the statistics that shows how many blogs are below 200 words or between 200 to 350 words that was before the new SCN?

    Thanks,

    Gordon

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  12. Audrey Stevenson

    Just catching up with these comments about a minimum word limit for blogs. What would this mean for video blogs? I seem to recall seeing quite a few that have very little text but then a good video clip…

    Also, as an editor, I just have to say that encouraging people to write more words when fewer would do the trick goes against everything I ever learned about writing and especially writing for the web.

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  13. Jeanne Carboni Post author

    Thanks everyone for all of these comments and suggestions.  Very helpful. 

    Keith Elliott and I are both pushing back on the idea of the word limitation because it could lead to a decrease in quality.  I agree with Audrey that it’s not to ask for more words when less would do. 

    We’ve been asked to provide a proposal.  I will post a 350+ word blog to explain the concept.

    Jeanne

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    1. Tobias Hofmann

      Jeanne,

      I lost track over all the improvement suggestions already made, but did someone already raised this idea:

      Right now, when I click on create, the very first item is: blog post. Why not push discussions up, put a “/ forum question” behind it and separate it by a horizontal line and some more space + different colored background?

      I’m also not sure if people that write a blog do know that they have to follow a space to post a discussion, as my impression is that most of these “blogs” are posted in their private space (no point gaming involved).

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