Is CPod picking up Newbies?
Average number of user comments per new lesson this year:
Upper Intermediate: 22
I find this surprising. You would expect that the most activity would occur near the bottom levels and then fall away at the top levels, due to the fact that most people don't follow through with their studies.
I'm wondering if the higher numbers at the higher levels reflect a kind of "Baby Boom" at Chinese Pod a couple of years back (as evidenced by the huge number of comments in the 'Rankings' section back then), and that perhaps they are not getting the same number of new users that they once did.
pretzellogicJune 16, 2012, 02:04 AM
Interesting findings indeed. But maybe alternate explanations are:
1. the upper level lessons were on more interesting or inflammatory topics.
2. one or two people made the overwhelming majority of comments at the upper levels.
3. Seasonality? maybe every February to June is a big comment period because subscribers/commenters plan going to China in July/August, and start practicing Chinese prior to their trip.
I don't know how well the level of lesson commented on reflects the commentator's level. I put the most energy into studying the Advanced and Media lessons, but I comment on whatever level provokes a comment.
My footprint on the upper level lessons is not big in terms of comments , or downloads, but I use them intensely. I pretty much just copy them to my smart phone when they come out, listen to them repeatedly there, then do the expansions and exercises once.
1. the upper level lessons were on more interesting or inflammatory topics.""
..the recent "tea scam" lesson is a very good case in point here. That was always going to attract a lot of comments no matter the level. I haven't checked but I suspect most of the comments were cultural...that is, related to experiences with the scam, and not language related. I think if it had been at newbie level it would have attracted just as many comments, possibly/probably more. If it had been advanced or media probably a little less comments due to the language barrier.
yes, Mark, but we subscribers don't have access to the tools Cpod has that allow us subscribers to infer what people are actually doing on the site. We can only see comments, but cpod can see logins, downloads, browsers used, maybe time spent on site, tools used and so on. Using #, type, frequency of comments and so on is the best (legal, ethical) proxy we have.
yeah, baba, I was thinking the Tea Scam as well. I also noticed that people chimed in with their own experience around the scam, not asking Chinese grammar questions. I suspect over the years, the lessons with the most comments have most of the comments around people's fun experiences, and nothing to do with Chinese language.
I also think the high level of comment in 2009 and 2010 was related to either controversial or amusing lines of personal experience, and discussion and debate - not so much to the level of difficulty of the lesson or the student's level. There have been some beauties in the past.
As an aside - isn't that why we went through the whole re-design of the boards? We got nested comments so that the long discussions could be hidden from view. Actually, the re-design was one of the most notable catalysts for discussion in the past three years! And the aim of the re-design was to ensure that off-topic discussion did not distract learners. :)
Also, 2009 we were suffering the peak of the GFC - maybe people had more time on their hands. Have we all gone back to work? (Yeah, I'm not serious about that one.)
Baba's point that a critical mass of commenters is required rings true for me in principal. But there are still plenty of commenters on ChinesePod - we just don't seem to get those discussions flowering now.
Another possible explanation is that ChinesePod itself has changed - but I don't give it too much weight. There is a continuing flow of good lesson material, just not enough at the Intermediate and above. I liked it more when there was a more even distribution - generally a new lesson at each level each week. I used to listen to any level - lately I haven't had the time.
"Baba's point that a critical mass of commenters is required rings true for me in principal. But there are still plenty of commenters on ChinesePod - we just don't seem to get those discussions flowering now. "
maybe it's not only the critical mass that's required, but the commenters need "chemistry" between them.
CoolPJune 16, 2012, 06:49 AM
OK, I checked the first 6 months of 2009, and its the same pattern, so I guess my assumption was wrong.
But what gets me is the number of people that were posting back then. The numbers are:
Newbie: 62 (comments per lesson) [vs. 14 this year]
Elementary: 75 
Intermediate: 96 
Upper Intermediate: 71 
About 10 to 15% of the comments on 2009 lessons have been made since that 6 month period. But even when we deduct them in order to directly compare with the recent figures, there has been an enormous reduction in the number of comments posted in the last 3 years. What has caused this drop-off?
I know it must be laborious, but while I too have noticed a drop off in comments, I think to even start to make any sense of it, it would be helpful to analyse it a lot further, breaking down the comments, and comparing apples with apples [how many comments in the first day, the first week and the first month after lesson publication], how many comments were language related questions, how many were cultural questions/anecdotes and how many of these got answered [broken down by poddie answer/ teacher answer], and how many different poddies commented on the lessons, what level were those poddies at, deng deng. If you were to go back to the start of CPod, you would also have to presume there would be a plethora of questions that were subsequently answered by later lessons [esp QW]. The archive is huge now, so it's possible that more and more folk are able to refer to the archive and find answers there [though I've never had the impression that folk do this a lot, but we only base our observations on those that comment, and not on the lurkers].
CoolP, bless your heart for going back and gathering the data. I've been curious about this also. Now if I can just stroke your ego enough to get you to look at 2007 - 2011, and we can see/characterize/estimate broader trends (At my current job, I have to look back three years, then forecast four years).
4. Subscriber rates are down across all subscription levels from 2007 - 2009,
a) because the US economy is getting better
b) the zeitgeist around China isn't what it was
c) more Cpod competitors with better content
5. to baba's point, more lurkers are subscribing these days.
adam_p_laxJune 16, 2012, 08:54 AM
well I think the way Chinesepod seems to be making lessons these days- making like 3 elementary lessons a week and making mostly practical situations rather than culturally based, that they are at least trying to target low level and more casual Chinese language learners
Yes, agreed Adam, I think they do a good job catering to all levels with a particular emphasis on where the numbers naturally are..at the lower levels. But whether the drop off in commenting reflects a true drop off in numbers of poddies or just a drop off in commenting [if indeed there is a drop off in the number of poddies commenting, and not just a drop off in the number of comments] only CPod would know [as pretz has pointed out above]. And I think a distinction needs to be drawn between ones appreciation of the lessons and ones enjoyment in participating in the discussions. I'm coming to think there is kind of a necessary critical number of active participants in a community like this posting comments for it to be worthwhile....to feel alive and like you will get a reply to your questions etc. I think CPod is keeping it's head above water to date, but you wouldn't want a further drop off in commenting numbers. I have kept up some posting on occasion on the other Praxis sites since their demise but it is kind of fruitless and discouraging when there are no responses. I think I was holding out for a resurrection, hehe. They're still great sites, but its amazing what a difference an active community makes. which after all is what language is all about...communication.
[if indeed there is a drop off in the number of poddies commenting, and not just a drop off in the number of comments]
come on baba - own up. It's all your fault. You're just not commenting enough these days! :)
I also wonder if more people have a Chinesepod personal teacher these days, so they can ask questions directly to their teacher rather than posting on the boards.
hehe, well I know I've been less active/distracted lately with my finger in too many pies, hehe, [and plan to get much more active with my Chinese once I've got some other stuff up to speed...and couldn't live without CPod, so you haven't got rid of me, hehe ], but seriously I too have felt there have been less folk commenting, but haven't crunched the numbers, don't have the patience for that [hats off to coolp for having the fortitude]. But hey, it's great to see you're still around mate. Support of folk like yourself makes the journey so much more enjoyable and it's so encouraging so thanks for that. I've been lurking a bit and been very pleased to see tingyun is still around also to provide his excellent input so that's encouraging. Also the transcript group were still going strong last time I checked with Chris leading the way with tremendous perseverance and good work, so all encouraging signs for mine.
yeah, good point mate, they have pushed the personal teacher and other course options, and if you had your own teacher then that would be a great way to get your questions addressed.
guolanJune 16, 2012, 06:42 PM
Interesting thoughts. I am probably among the numbers of those who used to comment often and comment less these days. So I tried to analyze why.
I think my "relationship" with C-Pod is cyclic. Over the period of the past maybe eight years, at times I have posted on every single lesson that came out and paticipated in all kinds of on-topic and off-topic discussions. At other times, I've lurked, commenting only when something really spiked my interest or when I could do it in Chinese. At other times, I haven't even logged in for months at a time.
But, I keep coming back, knowing that I'll find a great group of folk (ie. you guys) ready to have interesting and informative discussions.
I think this cycle, for me, happens over a period of years. When I first used C-pod, under a different name, I spent maybe two hours on the site every day. Then, I backed off, then at some point I got married and quit logging in entirely! Then, I slowly came back, and began commenting on everything again, maybe two years or more ago. Then, I got busy, and left again. And here I am now, coming back again, though maybe I'm at the point of merely "lurking" most of the time these days!
I love that C-pod is, in a way, addictive...I always know that the more I comment, the more I'll want to comment, and that, when this happens, I will learn (both from the awesome C-Pod teachers AND from my amazing co-students) valuable and interesting things about China and China's culture and the Chinese language. (And, sometimes, about other completely off-topic issues, which is fun too, though I always worry about how far off topic I've strayed!)
I am probably not a typical student, but I thought it was interesting that my pattern of use would seem to be reflected in your figures.