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Chester Zoo Chester News Threads Announcement and Guidance

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by FunkyGibbon, 7 Jan 2018.

  1. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    We are changing the format of the Chester News threads.

    As a little bit of background, this has been something the moderation team has been looking at for a long time. It's based on the feedback of members as well as our own views. Basically the Chester News thread has become so large and unwieldy in recent years that it is almost inaccessible to anyone who doesn't follow it on a daily basis. This is obviously not what we want for one of Europe's major zoos. If you are reading this and thinking "But I love the Chester threads", then have a look at the Prague 2017 News thread here:
    Prague Zoo Praha - Prague zoo news 2017

    That's a bigger zoo than Chester, where all the major information, and discussion, has been confined to 4 pages. It can be read and absorbed in under ten minutes. Chester's four threads contain a combined 105 pages. Anyone wanting to recap the year faces a mammoth task, and anyone looking for a specific titbit is asking for trouble.

    Now the last thing we want is to stifle discussion or reduce people's enjoyment and use of the site. But we also want to the news threads to be useable by all members, not just a few. As a result we are introducing some Chester specific policies.

    Moving forward we are adopting a three-tier system:

    The premier Chester Thread will be Chester Zoo Headline News. This is for major news. In order to sidestep a highly subjective debate about what constitutes 'major', we are defining it as news which can be linked to, i.e. from the zoo's website, from social media or from other news sources.
    Chester Zoo - Chester Zoo Headline News 2018

    The secondary thread will be Chester Zoo Reports. This is for minor news, pretty much anything you have noticed when you visit the zoo. This is the place for things like a species moving enclosures or temporarily going off-show, updates on ongoing projects, and basically anything that doesn't make it into the first thread. These are all things that are of great interest to many regulars, but of little importance to many others.
    Chester Zoo - Chester Zoo Reports 2018

    We still expect discussion of whatever is posted in the above two threads to take place within those threads, however.....

    For everything else there will Chester Zoo Discussion, Speculation & Questions. This is for all the random, fun chat that makes the Chester Zoo community the most vibrant on ZC. Pretty much anything goes here!
    Chester Zoo - Chester Zoo Discussion, Speculation & Questions

    Please note that it is possible to quote from the Reports thread within Discussions and if you think you are starting a tangent then that's a good idea.

    Lastly, and this is something that has already started happening, if you have something specific you want to discuss you are encouraged to create a separate thread for it. This makes the forum easier to navigate and also gives each topic the space it needs to breathe and thrive.

    We hope that the new system will be reasonably intuitive. In the first few weeks we'll be moderating quite heavily in order to keep things on track, but things should settle down pretty quickly. The takeaway message is that anything you posted about Chester last year would still have a home this year, it just probably won't be in Chester Zoo Headline News :p
     
    Last edited: 7 Jan 2018
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  2. Charlie Simmomds

    Charlie Simmomds Well-Known Member

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    I can see why changes are being made but one question what about births, some are reported here before they are on social media for example the birth of a Sumatran orangutan which is very significant wasn't reported by the zoo for a few days but we all knew about it thanks to those who visited the zoo so which thread would that information be put into just for future reference?
     
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    For simplicity, and clarity, in that example it would be reported in the second thread, Reports, until the zoo (or other body) releases the information, at which point it would be also posted into Headline News.
     
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  4. bongorob

    bongorob Well-Known Member

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    It seems to be a good system.
     
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  5. Mattaki

    Mattaki Well-Known Member

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    I like the idea. It will definantly be useful!
     
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  6. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    Good luck mods... seems fairly straightforward but being an online moderator myself, I know how much stuff like this can be like herding cats!

    Can I make one suggestion? That if a member spots something posted in the wrong thread, they simply report the post so the mods can deal with it - rather than pointing it out in the thread themselves I mean.
     
  7. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    That would be preferable, yes.
     
  8. cliffxdavis

    cliffxdavis Well-Known Member

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    A good system but do we want it to be Chester only? Is there is a page number trigger that splits out any location into three categories?
     
  9. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    For the foreseeable future, Chester is the only zoo that seems to require this approach. Obviously this is subject to change, and if the headline/report split is a roaring success then it might make sense to apply that more widely even if there isn't a 'volume' problem.

    To pick an exact number for when dividing the threads becomes necessary would be quite arbitrary, but it's definitely a lot less than 105 pages!
     
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  10. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    That's not a suggestion - it's actually a part of the rules!

    Let me reiterate what @Zia wrote a little more forcefully: PLEASE REPORT POSTS THAT REQUIRE MODERATOR ATTENTION - do not post about it in the thread, since the mods may not see it and we'd just have to clean up your posts as well as the problematic ones.
     
  11. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    Just finished doing some stats and thought it neatly illustrated the reason we have implemented this approach for the Chester discussions and not other zoos:

    upload_2019-1-14_7-47-15.png


    upload_2019-1-14_7-47-44.png


    upload_2019-1-14_7-48-12.png


    ... Chester consistently gets 4x as many posts as any other zoo discussed on ZooChat!
     
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  12. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    I am looking for some feedback from members, especially Chester posters, on this issue.

    I am, after two years, firmly of the opinion that the Headline/Reports split has been a moderate failure. It has managed to produce two news threads which are readable for non-Chester regulars, which is good. But the system has only held its structure through full-time shepherding by moderators (actually moderator, always me). It seems that the vast majority of Chester news posts go into the most recent Chester thread, be it Headlines, Reports or even Discussion, without any consideration of where they should actually be. They are then moved by a moderator (again, yours truly) into the correct spot, along with replies. Since this can be retroactive in terms of a brief analysis of the news by members having already taken place I often wonder how many people subsequently go back to find some news and simply can't. People either don't know or don't care about the three thread system (This should be read as an observation, not a criticism).

    In 2018 Headlines had 15 pages and Reports had 16. This year we are currently on 7 and 4 respectively. Why Headlines is down so much is an interesting question. For Reports it seems that the habit of people meticulously documenting every minor change they noticed on their visit, which is what drove the creation of Reports in the first place, has really declined.

    Assuming these trends continue, I see no reason not to consolidate 'Headlines' and 'Reports' into a single 'News' thread, and to keep 'Discussion, Speculation and Questions' separate (perhaps to be renamed 'Discussion and Questions', since the Speculation part feels a little superfluous). Since it is much simpler, hopefully it will be more obvious to users where to post and find news, as well as saving me a task.

    Personally I am quite sure that the change I'm proposing is sensible, but I'd like to hear what others think. No promises that any or all feedback will be followed through on but it will be considered and discussed.
     
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  13. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    Before I'd finished reading your post my own feeling was to suggest two threads:

    1. Headline news including official info from the zoo and solid first hand 'reports' from visitors
    2. Everything else including discussion, questions, speculation, offshoots about parking and water... etc.

    I certainly don't think it is worth your while herding cats - and if you guys do decide to continue with the current structure maybe just deleting stuff that is in the wrong place will get the message across clearer? Sorry if I have caused you any extra work @FunkyGibbon - I admin a chat group myself and do get what a thankless task it can be! Appreciate you taking time out of your day to do it here ;)
     
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  14. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    You certainly haven't caused any extra work, and indeed I don't really view any of the 'cat herding' I've been doing to be the fault of members. It was simply an imperfect system that was put in place.

    Where possible we still would still like larger topics to have their own threads, since a discussion thread can really only sustain one thought at a time. I'd encourage people to pre-emptively do this if they feel they are introducing a major topic to the discussion thread.
     
  15. SMR

    SMR Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    From my experience owning a busy forum, the more structured one tries to make it, the more it stifles conversation. Deleting posts deemed to be in the wrong place would only serve to annoy members and make the forum even quieter. Then there's the question of where to put a post...

    For example: "I went to the zoo today; the bongos are off-show but saw a baby elephant being born." Does the average forum user know whether this is a report post, a headline news post or both?

    Along with the three primary threads that were re-started in January, there have only been four new threads in the Chester forum all year (and at least one was splintered-off by a mod). We found that encouraging users to create threads when the topic was new was actually the best way to sort content and to allow people to interact on subjects that are particular interest, it also makes things much easier to find, or ignore if one chooses.
     
  16. Andrew Swales

    Andrew Swales Well-Known Member

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    As a very casual user with almost no experience of this, I am increasingly nervous of mentioning anything not directly linked to the exact, narrow title of the thread. Yes - that could certainly be classed as 'stifling conversation'.
     
  17. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Why was there a need for the split in Chester threads? Excitement of Islands opening, the TV show and a very small number of members who just could not control their posting?
     
  18. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    I don't and would not support deleting posts purely because they were in the wrong place (especially in this case). You are right that structure can stifle conversation, but conversation can also stifle information. The goal of this thread structure was to separate most of the chat from news. In that it has been very successful, but the system isn't functional, it exists only on permanent life support.

    I hope anyone who read this, the explanatory thread, could clearly see that should be in Reports. The problem, it would seem, is that few did.

    I think you are right, but there is still a need, I believe, for a general discussion thread due to the amount of traffic Chester receives. Apart from anything else, long experience has shown that most ZooChatters won't create new threads for new off-topic topics, but would just post into the most obvious Chester thread, creating the kind of moderation I am trying to avoid.


    You have mentioned this quite a lot on the site, but I don't really know why. When part of a thread is split off it doesn't reflect poorly on those involved, it just reflects the fact that two conversations are trying to exist in a single 'space' which doesn't really work. If anything, it is a measure to protect and continue the tangent.

    I know that some users will criticise people for starting or continuing tangents, because they want to keep threads on-track. I don't like this because it can stifle debate. I'd recommend those people to report the issue instead. If you feel that people are attacking you in-thread, I'd recommend you to report that.
     
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  19. Andrew Swales

    Andrew Swales Well-Known Member

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    OK - debate stifled.
     
  20. SMR

    SMR Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I was careful with my example. "I went to the zoo today; the bongos are off-show but saw a baby elephant being born." Your application of the guidelines is that such a post should be in reports, but the guidelines state reports are "...for minor news, pretty much anything you have noticed when you visit the zoo." The key being "minor news". I doubt most users would think that an elephant birth was minor news. Major news is "...news which can be linked to, i.e. from the zoo's website, from social media or from other news sources." In this example it may not be possible as news takes time to release. A day later however when it's all over the Internet... I think we can all understand why there's some confusion.
    It's hard to win, but forum activity has declined. There will be a number of factors, but perhaps the guidelines introduced this year are partly responsible. From the numbers above: 2016 ~1,380 posts, 2017 ~2,710 posts, 2018 ~1,980 posts. 2019 to-date ~788 posts, which if the average continues would put is at approximately 995 for the year.