As some of you may recall, a while back we conducted a survey for the Avocado community at large concerning the perception of the Politics Thread, its value to the community, and what could be done to improve it. This was a lot of qualitative data to comb through to provide a detailed and compelling analysis that pretty much amounts to the conclusion that the PT itself is a necessary part of the Avocado that provides an alternative to other social media sites for news updates as well as a cathartic release due to the stress of the modern state of politics. We posted the survey for at least a full week and received responses from 329 participants, along with at least 100 Social Security numbers, 72 credit card numbers, 53 mother’s maiden names, and 27 best friend’s middle names. Thank you for helping me pay off my student loans.
First, big props to Hobbes MkII for their assistance in the creation and implementation of the survey and compiling of results.
Now, as I stated, the results of the survey, aside from the first question, were all qualitative, and it would be pretty exhausting to just relay all that information here. So to work around that, a link to a PDF of the results themselves can be found at the top and bottom of this page, so please take an opportunity to read through it; it will be worth the time. Additionally, I will provide the top-level takeaways from the results and list them in bullet points below. I will do so with as little editorializing as possible.
Question 1 Summary: Who Are You?
This is an easy one. I am Martha. Hahahaha… oh, forget you.
Our only simple question that can be easily quantified yielded 318 participant responses. Of those who answered, 85% could be considered “active” commenters. Honestly, for all the “PT vs OT” comments that tend to get tossed around in jest, when you consider that 329 people participated in this survey, and 279 could be considered active in the PT, you have to figure that a hefty chunk of the Avocado community likely participates almost equally between both of our dominant threads. At any given time, we probably are only about 300 active users deep, and even accounting for users dedicated solely to either thread, that divide might not be as solid as we like to believe.
Question 2 Summary: What is the Value of the PT to You?
- An alternative news aggregator
- Great for up-to-date information/breaking news
- A digestible offering of information
- A place to engage/discuss various political topics
- A place for catharsis
The common thought here is that the PT has value as a place to share news and vent about the current state of politics in general, while also learning new things or being exposed to new/other ideas/perspectives.
Question 3 Summary: Who is not being served by the Politics Thread who would contribute value? Why do you think that is? What value would they contribute?
- People outside of the US (a desire to feature more non-US news/topics was a common theme)
- POC, queer, and women commenters (again, a common theme was that the thread was dominated by cis-het white male voices, thus other voices were not being given equal consideration given the disparity of diversity)
- People with differing opinions
- Casual readers (in that, the perception of the PT consisting of cliques or being too intimidating to others who rarely comment but would otherwise like to participate)
There was also mention of perceived hostility or a need for more positivity in the thread, as well as offering opportunity for more in-depth discussions. To also unpack the “differing opinions” point, the general consensus was that the PT tends to be an echo-chamber more often than not, often leaving people with less-than-warm impressions of what is an acceptable political position to hold.
Question 4 Summary: What would the Politics Thread look like at its most valuable? What would an “ideal” (whatever that means to you) Politics Thread be?
- No change – it is fine as is
- But now that you mention it, Twitter. Less Twitter posts/shares/links/embeds
- The geo-centric (to the US) slant of the news/politics presented
- Better structure, especially in allowing for more in-depth/longform discussions of specific topics
- Greater ability to share news and sources
- Increased civility and diversity
- Less shitposting
- Less posting of “horrible things someone said” if that person is not politically powerful in some way
The general feeling towards Twitter was that the PT would function better if Twitter were utilized far less often than it is, with many complaints being that people just post links without context or a prompt for discussion, often from questionable/problematic sources. The consensus was that this leads to confusion and serves no greater purpose.
I also want to emphasize the point about diversity and civility. There has been a persistent perception that certain corners of the Avocado itself, not only the PT, have been unwelcoming at times to people who are not of the overrepresented demographics — that people often speak based on their experiences alone without consideration of the other. For this to be a common thought highlighted in the survey is stunning. The need for diversity is not alone a call for more representation, but for better representation, to allow the underrepresented to speak for themselves and for the rest of us to listen and respond with empathy.
Question 5 Summary: What changes would the Politics Thread and/or the mods of The Avocado need to make to get there?
Aside from a high number of responses along the lines “Not sure,” we did receive a few stand-out suggestions.
- Combat criticisms of the PT seen elsewhere on the Avocado to help increase acceptance
- A small container of important, updated links posted in the thread
- Decrease the number of tweets posted (a very common theme)
Question 6 Summary: Anything else you’d like the community to consider?
Responses to this question reiterated responses found elsewhere, including reduced frequency of tweets as substitutions for content, decreased shitposting, increased civility/empathy towards fellow posters, and reminders for people to take breaks/walk away when necessary.
Final Thought: How Do We Make This Actionable?
A common refrain in my job is how do we make the data actionable? It may be great that we are able to gleam such wonderful insights, but how do we implement that? What does that look like?
It would be easy enough for the Mods to step in and make a single, unquestionable move to improve the state of the PT, but it isn’t only up to us. It is also up to the community at large, especially those who post exclusively/frequently in the PT. From what we collected from the survey, I think we have some great insights to work off of. My own suggestions are:
- Change the format of the PT to be strictly a general discussion of news/politics in the world. Longform discussions are welcome, but should be hosted in a new affiliated thread (this goes for live-posting any sort of speech, hearing, etc.).
- Agree upon a set list of posting guidelines, and have those posted in the header DAILY for reference (this would mean reducing the editorial content in a header to a couple of paragraphs, as well, so the guidelines are clearly visible).
- Do not post tweets without a prompt for discussion or additional context as to why this particular post is worthy of discussion.
- Give better consideration to the perspectives of our members of color, queer members, and women members – they often feel like they have to speak louder than others if even given that opportunity. If they voice a concern about something, listen. Understand. Take a moment to examine yourself as well.
- The Avocado itself is fairly liberal politically; however, not everyone fits the same personal standards for what is a liberal/leftist/communist/socialist/progressive, et al. For every five things you have in common, you may differ on the sixth. Keep this in mind when you post.
- If you see something that is not in the spirit of the Avocado, potentially or intentionally violates guidelines, is questionable/problematic, and/or needs to be called out or documented by the Mods, please FLAG AND/OR EMAIL THE MODS WITH THIS INFORMATION, PROVIDING LINKS/SCREENSHOTS AND ANY DETAILS YOU CAN PROVIDE. This is not a full-time gig no matter how present we may appear on the site; we do not see everything that needs to be addressed, so the more help we can get from the community, the easier it will be to make sure that certain issues are addressed and things can improve.