Online communities should highlight quality, not quantity

by Martin Reed on 22 November 2011 in Snippets

Woot does a great job with its online community.

Not only does the community content appear prominently on the homepage, the site highlights what it considers ‘quality posts’ – only posts it deems to be useful, interesting or otherwise valuable to the community make it to the homepage.

Woot Homepage

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Furthermore, when you delve into a product discussion thread, things look a little different. Before you even see the discussion thread, you see the quality posts.

Woot quality posts

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If you scroll down further, you get to the actual discussion thread. In a typical forum you’ll see a member’s username, title, avatar, location and post count. Woot does things differently. The post count is very different to what you’d expect. We only see ‘quality posts’ tallied under the username. Only when you hover over the shapes under each username do you see more of the ‘traditional’ statistics.

Woot threadview

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Woot does a great job at giving its community the respect it deserves. They’re proving how much value they place in their community by giving it pride of place on the homepage. They’re also ensuring they recognize quality over quantity – a community culture that should always be encouraged, but is still relatively rare.

Is your community recognizing (and rewarding) quality or quantity? The former is better than the latter.

UPDATE – December 7, 2011

Yesterday, Woot had a 2012 calendar for sale. Each month features a member of the Woot community and brings attention to significant dates in Woot history. What a fantastic way of recognizing community members and building a community history and culture by drawing attention to milestones. This kind of recognition also gives other members motivation to ‘up their game’ for a chance to be featured in the calendar for 2013.

Woot calendar featuring members of the community

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Woot is a leading example of community building in an ecommerce environment done right.

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Scotty Weeks December 1, 2011 at 5:02 am

I think that’s a great idea with larger sites. Post counts (and variations thereof) are all part of a general reputation system. Unfortunately reputation systems are a pretty hard problem and it seems like it’s very often that they can cause perverse incentives and degrade the quality of discussion. The larger the community the more important they are, but I’d also wager that the smaller the community the more important it is that they be simple.

Mike Liechty December 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Hadn’t heard of woot before I read this – I have to say what they have going on there is very impressive. After reading through some of the threads in their forum (which is very unique), it’s good to see that the posters there are honest and won’t hold back when they think a product on there sucks. I was worried that perhaps the “community” was a sort of fake community being used to sell the products but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I think that’s great.

I also liked the fact that they don’t have a post count, but instead have a “quality post count”. That seems like a good way to reduce spam and improve post quality.

Sandy Rowley January 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Inventive ecommerce site! I wish they would offer better comments on each product instead of general comments and posts on un related products. I am amazed at the ammount of members within this social network. I wonder if they are real members or paid advertisers?

On a side note, If they added a timer to each product page, I am sure they would push more goodies though.

Matt January 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

This is simply an un-debatable topic you come up with but unfortunately we see forums and other communities where people are caring about numbers only and the real talk between people on real topics are moving away… one of the reason why moderators don’t take stands against it is cuz numbers bring them dollars…

Communities are Webmaster World, SEOmoz or Hacker News is really important not only in IT but every field available today!

Good points!

Bob Wallace January 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm

100% agree with this post, too many people only focus on numbers and neglect to maintain a quality experience for the readers. they are after all the ones who make it all happen.

sam January 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

Trying to pick decent information out of a thread filled with mindless gibberish, can be frustrating to the point of giving up on that community altogether. Giving proven community members the opportunity to moderate or flag both accounts and comments helps. A “proven community” member has a lot to lose by allowing their community to be diluted by such nonsense.

Scott February 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Excellent article! I agree totally. When I first started blogging I thought QUANTITY baby…that is it!! Now….just like my twitter. I don’t want 500,000 followers, I want those that can help with an online community that helps each other. Thank you so much for your forward thinking!


Steve February 20, 2012 at 7:17 am

Never heard of Woot before, but launching our own deals site similar to them for the Spain and Gibraltar area and still tweaking it a bit, but now i have seen their site there are some things like the quality posts that i would like to incorporate, thanks for the info and bringing me to light with woot.

Jaysee Blabs February 29, 2012 at 10:43 am

Totally agree with you on that. Communities these days are obsessed with numbers without thinking that quality ones should be king.

Tommy T May 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Ah thanks for this article – something to think about and take note of.

Yes, I see many communities, and admittedly I was guilty of this at one point – as I’m sure all of us are when first starting out – “ohh look at all the posts, we’d better highlight how many posts/users are registering”.

Completely wrong in my opinion.

On the current project I may think of a way to incorporate Woot’s idea of having a “quality post” feature on members profiles, rather than their post count. Forum posts, stories, poems, articles & blogs members can post all have a ‘rating’ system – perhaps I can play around with the php code that adds a “Quality Posts” section in the members profile that lists their ‘best’ posts based on the rating, rather than listing the members “Latest Posts”.

Something I’ll look into later.

I’m not so sure about giving members a “Quality Poster” title under their username, though. This could make other, just as loyal, members feel very left out and unappreciated. Some may just not be as articulate or find it difficult to express creativity by typing, but nonetheless provide a valuable service to your community in other ways – I certainly wouldn’t want to upset them or hurt their feelings by turning around and saying “no you don’t deserve a quality poster title because you don’t create quality posts”.

Great tip!