Humanising Slant

One of the biggest strengths of Slant is that the information is written by people. As opposed to scraping data from other reviews and trying to wrangle it into something useful, a Slant question and it’s answers are written by people who care for people who want to be informed.

However given the collaborative and structured nature of our data as well as the current UI, the question pages on Slant don’t feel 100% human. A StackOverflow approach is obviously written by people as the answers all have a single identified author written in that persons style. It’s a little harder to look at a Slant question and immediately know:

  • it’s written by a community
  • it’s looked after by a community
  • there are people in that community that are trustable

This has implications for the contributors too. We want people who contribute to Slant to feel:

  • like they are empowered to drastically improve the content (like writing a new answer on Stack)
  • that their contributions are appreciated and recognized

Before I take this discussion down a rabbit hole by suggesting a couple of my ideas, I’d love to hear everyones thoughts on this issue. Some concepts to consider:

  • Our content is decoupled from the recommendations. Ie a expert/trusted user can come into a mature Slant question and share their experience with nothing but votes on the various options and their pros/cons.

  • This idea by @johnlbevan

  • What are the signals you need to show people to enable them to trust a random on the internet?

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This is a big, tough subject and I’m going to mostly hold back for now and sleep on it, but I’d like to drop two more items into the consideration list:

  • I think that what we’ve got right now is pretty amazing from top to bottom, and not one speck of it should be sacrificed for other improvements without heavy consideration.
  • We’re useful because of our differences from other sites, and that will get in the way of adopting anyone else’s solution. But it’s worth talking about why other systems have succeeded.

Both of these are probably taken for granted by everyone present, but they feel very important, and I hate taking anything for granted. :smile:


I know I have brought this up in other areas but I feel we need explanations, rules and guidelines. These need to be front and center so users understand what the site is and how to contribute properly. Not only will this remove any misunderstanding of where the content comes from, it will also help in getting better content contributed.

Branding is another issue, no one knows what Slant is and when coupled with the fact we never explain it, it leads to confusion. We have only one keyword tied to Slant and that is Slant. We need to at some point start SEOing the site as a whole and figure out what keywords we want Slant to compete in. By branding, the name familiarity will come with recognition of what the site is. Currently we are seeing growth for the Keyword Slant on the home (/) page so it does seem there is some familiarity with our brand starting to grow (users specifically typing in the word Slant to find our site), which I think is a good sign people are starting to recognize us and search us out.

We also need places for the community to talk in a visible and easy manner. Things like a private messaging system and pubic user walls as well as unified comments that are visible on an options page.

Another area that may not be as closely tied to the community (but will simplify contributions) is unified options. By unifying options it will create less work for everyone as well as less confusion and empty contributions. For instance, look at how many options we have for “Team Fortress 2” (of which I only recently combined to have all filled out, most were blank as of a week ago). There are 11, that is 11 separate user entries. How much easier could it have been if there was one central “Team Fortress 2” (option) that could then be added into a question upon its creation or editing. This would make answering questions a hundred times easier if already created content could be added in easily. Which I think would help in fostering a more user friendly environment which in turn I would think will help in retaining users/editors.

Showing similar questions when creating a question is another area that could help with keeping contributions worthwhile (as well as cutting down on duplicates) and could help in gaining more answers to questions or comments/discussion within them.

Really these are all things we have all discussed in the past and currently there does not seem to be any kind of quick fix to resolve these issues but are definitely the areas that need to be focused on and hopefully with time things will fall in line. Concentrating on the community, explaining how things work along with creating an easier workflow as well as fostering easily viewable comments and discussion, for me, is where I as a user would like to see some changes and added features.

*edit - I would like to add that I do agree with tejon, this is a very big subject that will require a lot of thought and work. What we have so far is great and I think first and foremost we should do what feels works the best for the site even if that is contrary to how others have succeeded. Being different I think is a good thing.

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As I see it, this covers three topics.

Community effort

One way I see of making the collaborative nature of Slant more obvious is simply by explaining it through a banner/warning somewhere on the question page for people that haven’t logged in. And, additionally, setting up a one-time signup email (or a notification directing to an about page) explaining how the site works more thoroughly.

Could also surface more of the discussion, community interaction process to show that there are people working on this.

Could add question level leaderboards.

Or show more of how the site is built. If a person knows it can be edited, improved or flagged by anyone, maybe it becomes clearer that it’s a community effort.

Trustworthy members

Imo, to truly figure out that the community has trustworthy members, the content has to be tested by the user. There can be indicators of status, but I don’t think true trust can be gained without some sort of a successful leap of faith. For example, downloading an app and it being just as described.

Status can of course help, and to show that, there can be flairs, badges, different colored avatars or follower counts mentioned.

But again, I don’t think something like reddit’s comment karma is a definitive measure of trustworthiness. While it can still be a helpful indicator.

And I have to mentioned that there are pressure and attribution issues that arise from associating content with people that will be more pronounced with these solutions.

Encouraging contributions

While some of the ways of encouraging contributions that come to mind are more gamification, ability to say “thanks” and granting the ability to create a following, the three that I think are more important are explaining the value of contributing, removing the high cost of participation and creating a sense of community.

I think we should be explaining the value of contributing, because I don’t think it’s as obvious in our case than, say, Wikipedia’s. It could work in tandem with the banner that explains how the site works. I believe we already have mockup for that with a great inspiring chain of events.

I think we should be removing the high cost of contributing good content that’s imposed by having to register. I think we’re missing out on so much good flyby content. If not remove the restriction, how about making it simpler by asking for an email address to make changes? “Enter an email to submit changes?”

The last part about community building is I think self explanatory and I’ve mentioned before how I think we can get there with moving the comments system to a more visible position.

This conversation actually went into a tangent I originally didn’t intend. I’m not talking about getting more community/contributions. I’m talking about better presenting questions already with a lot of people/activity.

We’ve already got a plan for this last I checked, and I think it would have a huge impact. Jumping back to Stuart’s contributor implications:

I can only speak for myself, but item #1 seems like it’s in the bag. The problem is #2: does anyone care if the content is improved? Showcasing comments should help, there. This also ties in with the topic of making options global, so that an improvement in one obscure corner isn’t necessarily stuck there (and I added some additional commentary to that topic earlier).

Moving up to what I’m taking for the primary concerns, making sure users are aware that:

Again, making comments more visible pretty much solves #2, and helps a lot with #1. There’s probably more we could do to make it immediately obvious that every scrap of content is community-driven, but I’m not sure there’s much more without starting to sacrifice good things in our presentation.

So I think the spot where we have the most room for improvement is in distinguishing expert members of the community. There have been a few prior ideas on this topic as well, though mostly tangential stuff as far as real planning goes; allowing users to follow each others’ recommendations, the karma system (which is in desperate need of a deflationary overhaul), etc.

It’s tough, though, to come up with a community-driven way to mark out certain users that can’t be gamed in some way – and I think that if we do it at the moderator level, it won’t really have the same effect. Not useless; but for every few people reassured by us naming experts from on high, one will inevitably call foul.

As luck would have it, just an hour ago I ran into a system that I had totally forgotten about, that might actually be perfect here. The Unity Feedback system is used to gauge community desire for new features. Users suggest features, and other users vote on them. The trick is, each user has a limited pool of ten votes. You can put all ten on a single feature, or divide them up between several; and you can retract a vote at any time to return it to your pool.

We could adapt this idea to kudos that users can give to each other; users who have received more kudos are considered more trustworthy. Preventing basic account-spam abuse is easy: you have no kudos to give until you hit a certain karma threshold, and perhaps you should only earn 1 initially, with more coming at (exponentially?) higher karma thresholds. And because kudos are limited and can be withdrawn, it’s much more resistant to follow-the-leader, “cult of personality” influence.

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Awesome points.

So I think the spot where we have the most room for improvement is in distinguishing expert members of the community.

This could be extended by offering a badge system. After a certain number of badges, a member can eventually reach expert status (In some cases, expert status can be granted because of activities outside of Slant). In addition to badges relating to excellent contributions, maybe users could tell Slant which products/services they use or have used. When they review the product or service, their badge “uses this product” can be displayed and make their opinion have more weight.

The karma system definitely needs an overhaul, but I think that’s only part of the issue. The whole concept of user identity on Slant needs an overhaul. In addition to badges, private messages, and all the other stuff that we have mentioned, users also need ways to indicate who they are. Being able to change your profile picture seems like a very basic feature, but you can’t do it on Slant (as far as I know). Although point #4 on that Wikipedia said that users contributed more when identity was de-emphasized, I don’t think that applies here. We want more experts here, and it’s not just because they have great opinions. Experts tend to have pretty big followings, so if an expert vlogger or tech blogger comes to Slant, the followers will come just to see the updates.

Yep, looks I went in the wrong direction there.

While it is interesting that Wikipedia de-emphasizes users, I have to agree with Taylor that is probably not for us. A way for users to be highlighted and differentiated is probably the way to go, badges, awards, medals of some kind to highlight top contributors (indicators of status as Andris mentions) or maybe those with the least amount of edits (as in their posts are so well created no one needs to edit them for correctness). I do have to say I like tejons idea of the Unity Feedback system used as a Kudos system. To me that sounds fun and engaging. It would also be a good way for us to currently reward those making worthwhile contributions, a sense of feedback for those making effort. Taylor also is correct that we need to allow custom Avatars, maybe also a place for users to put their website address to be tied to their account.

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I agree there, @StuartK - people went way off-topic here! But I suppose there’s a reason for that. Maybe humanizing it just isn’t as simple as improving the layout. Also, most people already do tend to trust random written information anywhere. I’m not so sure that’s something to consider, really.

That being said…

I’ll push my idea about profiling people, with one focus: how about grabbing friends from other services? Facebook, google, twitter, linkedin, etc. The more friends you have in slant, the better the friend-recommendation screen can look like. Of course you can also add friends on slant, or better yet, people you’d like to follow advices. And almost nothing would need to change on the layout!

It’d be a bit like google’s personalized results, but heavily based on opinions from people you chose to trust. And you could toggle it off to compare with an unified view as well.

Maybe I should elaborate an example… But maybe later. It’d help if anyone shows interest. :wink:

This is exactly the first thing I would suggest as a patch, after trying slant for a little while. But I think it’s still off-topic here. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Well, Slant is much more human than Crozdesk:

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Can an alternative to the word Human be used? Im new and I definitely am Human. However, the term Humanist, Humanism can be construed as a political identifier, nowadays. And that brings forth questions of neutrality. I apologize for the heady Post.
I still , don’t know how to use Slant, but know that the word “Human” is a slippery slope.*

  • I may just be sensitive, as I am a huge fan of John Gray, author of the “Silence of Animals”.

What word would you use in its place?


Is it unpalatable to refer to the public as “Users” .Old school. With hospitality of the UI, measured in it’s Q