Improving the Neatorama Upcoming Queue

Hello, everyone! Yesterday, Neatorama user rellimz submitted a post to the Upcoming Queue, which subsequently got promoted to Neatorama's front page, about how the Queue is wreaking havoc on the blog. Overnight, the post got over 100 comments from other readers voicing the same concern.

First of all, please let me thank rellimz for the interesting post, and all of you who posted a comment for giving us your feedback. I'm going to tell you what we're going to do about the Queue, but first, please let me give a background on why we have the Upcoming Queue feature in the first place.

Why Do We Have the Upcoming Queue in the First Place?

As much as I enjoy writing for Neatorama, blogging is kind of a "closed" enterprise. Traditionally, blog authors write and blog readers read (and comment, if they like). For something that is supposed to improve interactivity on the Web, it's pretty much a top-down approach or a one-way street.

For a long while, I've been thinking of ways to improve user participations - and thanks to the good folks of VideoSift and VaroCMS, I think we've found the answer. The Upcoming Queue is a place where people can write their own Neatorama posts and have their submissions be reviewed by the community (through voting) and Neatorama editors.

Submissions that get enough votes (and therefore deemed "good" by the community) are promoted to the front page. Conversely, those that are spammy or of dubious quality get voted down and actually purged from the Queue. That's the theory, anyhow.

In practice, community votes may not be enough: good posts that are written up poorly don't get votes. Bad posts may get promoted because of coordinated gaming of the system. Moreover, unless you're a hardcore Neatorama reader, you may not have noticed that the submitted post had already been covered on the blog before. Because of its size, a small number of users can dominate the Queue.

Like any new project, there will be bugs and kinks that need to be worked out - and the Queue is no different. A couple of days ago, we had a massive influx of promoted submissions of dubious quality. We had since tighten up Queuebot's algo, and the problem seems to have largely been solved.

It has been a learning experience, and I'm not ready to get rid of Queuebot nor will we completely discount the community votes (if we were going to do that, why have the voting in place in the first place?). I think the Upcoming Queue has a place on Neatorama. We're not going to change the blog into a web 2.0 or user-generated content. Instead, we will use the Upcoming Queue as a supplementary source of posts.

What We'll Do to Improve the Upcoming Queue

Here are a few things we'll do to make Queuebot better:

  • Tighten up the promotion algorithm
    It's now harder for a post to be automatically promoted to the front page. While this will have a negative effect of throttling down the number of posts that make it, it will also rid the front page of lower quality posts.

  • Greater editorial control
    Neatorama admins can now flag submissions that have been featured on the blog before as "dupes." This stops the voting, but lets the submission be visible for the alloted 24 hours in the Queue.

    We haven't been as aggressive in marking things as "spam" in the Upcoming Queue before, but we will start doing so soon. We will also edit the descriptions to make them more "Neatorama-worthy" whenever applicable. (Give us a couple of days on this one!)

  • Fishing from the discard pile
    On the other hand, stricter rules will undoubtedly mean that "worthy" submissions end up being discarded rather than promoted. We will continue to fish these out of the discards and promote them manually. This also guards against hateful downvotes, where a user downvotes a worthy post simply because he or she doesn't like the submitter.

Queuebot-Less RSS Feed

One big reason that I stopped using an RSS feed reader is the ever-increasing number of unread post displayed. It's disheartening to open your reader in the morning and find that you have 500 unread posts.

While I think that the fixes above should greatly improve the quality of front page posts on Neatorama, if you hate Queuebot that much, here's an RSS feed that will display every front page post except those promoted from the Upcoming Queue:

Simply copy and paste that into your feed reader and voilà! No more Queuebot posts.

Again, thank you everyone for your input - we take your feedback seriously and will work hard to make Neatorama a blog you can enjoy daily!

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Awesome I was waiting for this. Thank you! I can go back to paying attention to Neatorama (it took me a while to find this post as I had stopped reading).
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I love the Upcoming Queue! I understand, and am sympathetic that it is a new undertaking and so, is a work in progress. I think it is a wonderful, fun and interesting idea, that can better serve the blog.

Of course, a lot of that depends on constructive interaction from the entire community.

I'm not much of a commenter (maybe a handful of times in the years I've been coming to Neatorama), but I have been thinking of posting to the Queue because it intrigues me. And, I think, that's what the Queue is all about. Getting all the Neatos out there to participate on the blog, not just by reading the blog.

My 2 cents :)
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While I am certain that the Queuebot will increase Neatorama's raw numbers, I am equally certain that it will cost the blog its unique character. I guess if Alex (and the other eds.) are willing to strike that bargain, that's all that matters. It is, after all, their blog.

It will be interesting to come back in a year or so, and compare the content then to the archived content from before the change (to the bot), and see what the spawn of the Queuebot actually grows into.

IMHO noting good ever comes from anything with "bot" in its name.

I'm just sayin'
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"I’m not convinced that quality and Queuebot are mutually exclusive - so please give it some time."

That's certainly reasonable, and I wouldn't argue that Queuebot posts are necessarily of lower quality as a rule; it's just that with a limited amount of time to spend reading through blogs for fun I would prefer to at least have the -option- to only read the postings of 'official' bloggers. I just like having some means of divvying up my blog-reading time based on knowing whose blog posts I generally like or dislike. True, scrolling through Queuebot posts isn't a -hugely- onerous task, but it is one more thing I'd rather -not- take on if possible.

As you say, though, if offering a secondary, Queuebot-free page is technically out of reach at the moment that's understandable; I do hope that it can be placed high on the list of "Nice to Haves," though <=)
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