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How can we make this subreddit even better?: Suggestions for improving engagement and discussion.

Gamingtodaynews1e - How can we make this subreddit even better?: Suggestions for improving engagement and discussion.

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truegaming - How can we make this subreddit even better?: Suggestions for improving engagement and discussion.

r/truegaming for a while now, and I've had some great discussions and thoughts on here. When this subreddit works, it really works. But there's a lot of time when it doesn't work. We've all seen posts where we are excited about the topic.. only to have it fizzle out completely. Yes, sometimes this is just going to happen – but I think it happens here more than it should.

I've thought about some ways we might be able to improve the activity on this subreddit, regardless of how you use it. Many of these are mindset changes, some ask you to put in a little more effort during engagement – but they're all intended to increase the quality and quantity of active posts around here. As always, these are just suggestions. They are:

1) Rethink the downvote.
2) Create discussion questions.
3) Avoid absolute language.
4) Steelman when appropriate.
5) Don't be limited by the OP.

Suggestion 1: Rethink the downvote.

This is probably the single biggest mindset change we can make. When I browse by new, I almost always will find at least one thread sitting at 0 upvotes that would be just fine for sparking some good discussions. I often click on them and find 40% upvotes or some very low ratio. Other posts may sit in the single digits forever, with only 53% upvotes or something.

A post with 0 karma is one of the most immediate discussion killers on Reddit: it is seen by few people, when people do see it they are discouraged from engaging (even if interested) because very few people will see their comment and engage back, and it tells the OP "your effort sucked" and may make them abandon the post entirely. For a subreddit that expects higher-effort posts and comments, these effects are amplified.

Here's an example from a few weeks ago (when I started thinking about making this post). The OP had written a good little description of what they were asking, given some examples, and had obviously posed a clear discussion question. I was excited to see where the conversations went, and it made me think about examples I had seen as well.

It never got above 0 karma, and after a while the OP just deleted their post. I'm hoping it didn't make them leave the subreddit or avoid posting in the future, because I liked their question and they put some effort into it.

So here's what I'm suggesting: Don't use downvotes to disagree. Don't use downvotes to say you're not interested. Reserve downvotes for rude comments, incredibly low-effort posts, or the same post you've seen thirty times this week. Think about upvoting not just because of agreement or interest, but because of effort or potential.

Mod Implementation suggestion: Change upvote/downvote hover text to encourage usage to represent effort, not personal agreement.

Mod Implementation suggestion (more severe): Remove the downvote button.

Suggestion 2: Create discussion questions.

Another big one, particularly for posters here: give readers something clear to engage with. If someone reads your post and isn't sure how to engage, you will get more "what exactly do you want us to discuss" comments than actual engagement. Think about what explicit questions you want people to engage with – it will help you better understand your arguments, and it will make entry points to the discussion immediately accessible. It's a win-win. Even if you have an argument you're making, you should be able to clearly state a thesis for people to engage with. Always give a clear way for readers to participate.

Mod Implementation suggestion: Add "have a clear thesis or discussion question" or something similar added to the rules.

Suggestion 3: Avoid absolute language.

This one probably kills my interest in a post or comment the most. Please, by all that is holy, try to avoid absolute language. There's a reason things like "Mechanic X is awful and sucks" don't get any traction. Instead of saying "Game X is the best game in <genre type> that will ever exist" (a real post I remember), say "Game X does some amazing things to elevate the <genre type>".


I get it. We all have some strong opinions here. I'll fight people over Final Fantasy II. But think about what this absolute language really accomplishes:

  • It reduces the discussion landscape. Instead of commenters coming in and saying "Game Y also did some amazing innovations that resulted in XYZ, some of which it did better than X" or "Man, I never realized that game X was doing all that. I was particularly impressed by…", you instead will get people engaging with the most absolute statement. "No, X wasn't good". or "Yeah, X was great. I liked it too". That's much less interesting and results in less entertaining subdiscussions.
  • It focuses attention on the absolute statement. We're all critical people here that like arguing (this should not be a surprise to anyone). But when we see some low-hanging fruit, we tend to focus on it. An absolute statement is easy to argue against, and you'll see a lot of comments entirely focusing on that alone.
  • It gives the impression OP is not wanting discussion. This is often missed by posters that use absolute language, but when someone writes a comment engaging with your post, that is an investment. And if they think it's not worth taking, they'll skip contributing. If someone sees a post and thinks they're open to engagement and discussion, that makes the investment easier. If they see a post and interpret it as someone just wanting agreement or combative arguments, they might just avoid it. You don't want to send a signal that you're too set in your ways that discussion won't be worthwhile.

Just avoid it when you can. It sets the initial tone of the entire post (or comment), and that first impression is very important. Word your contributions in a way that conveys a willingness to hear disagreements or nuance.

Suggestion 4: Steelman when appropriate.

Wiktionary defines steelman as: (verb) "To refute a stronger version of an argument than what was actually given; to repair flaws in an argument before refuting it."

It's the opposite of a strawman in many ways. We've all seen posts where there isn't a clear discussion question given, where the central thesis is weak, where the examples are bad, the OP uses absolute language etc.. but the general premise still has an interesting nugget hidden inside. You should feel free to sidestep any of the weakness and try to strengthen the discussion! Whether that is by proposing a different thesis, giving a stronger example, or by offering some advice to OP, we should try to do this more.

I've seen a lot of threads with a good idea but a single weak example that all the comments revolve around bashing – this gets at the low-hanging fruit concept again. Yet, I rarely have seen anyone go "Alright, so X was a bad example.. but aside from that, OP kinda has a point with the other examples. Additionally, I've seen this done in Y as well". This can be invaluable to creating discussion, and I'd like to see it more.

A lot us here are new at this sort of engagement. Creating a good argument takes practice! Explaining your thoughts clearly is a skill! A little bit of friendliness can go a long way.

Suggestion 5: Don't be limited by the OP.

This strongly correlates with #4, but is important enough to separate out: you should not be constrained by the OPs actions. Instead of thinking of a post as entirely about what the OP wrote and argued, change your mindset to it being the start of possible discussions. It can be a prompt! (And I hope this will be a prompt for other suggestions!).

Does the OP get close to a thought you've been having, but doesn't manage to hit on it? Make a top-level comment about it! Expanding on a topic can be more valuable than engaging with a topic directly. Did the OP fail to provide discussion questions, but you can identify some? Then you should give them!

Don't be afraid to take the initial post and go somewhere else with it (as long as it's reasonable).


Thanks for reading! I'm looking forward to hearing thoughts on this (and maybe some other suggestions)!

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