I have noticed discussion about the paucity of posts lately, but I did a quick survey of the dashboard and found that the top-ranking topics of the past week or two are:
Hair salon card
Random and reckless
Money laundering operation
The topics are revealing feedback for ChinesePod - this is the kind of flummery that the current poddie wants more of!
The next ranking show I'm pleased to say is a weightier topic than the top three:
I'm also pleased to note that the QingWen show continues to rate strongly.
pretzellogicJuly 15, 2012, 01:27 AM
how about characterizing the feedback? Is it one person posting 50 times? 25 people posting twice? Lots of newbies/lurkers posting that never/rarely posted? 1 newbie in all the posts? Lots of comments that center around the topic, or lots of comments that are really off topic?
I noticed that a 1 time poster started a thread that has around 20 posts at this point. But that person hasn't posted a comment again. Not sure what that means.
By the way of nothing at all, Pretz, I can't tell you how much I enjoy it when you ask questions about delving deeper into the numbers (if I'm not mistaken, I've seen you do it several times before).
In my last job I had to produce a lot of analysis. I've worked with a lot of people who didn't intuitively understand the importance of distributions in understanding data. It broke my heart so often when bosses especially dismissed meaningful analysis and asked me to just boil something down to an average. So it makes me feel weirdly joyful to see your interest and questions in a non-professional context where someone just wants to understand something better.
Data Analytics turning into a huge business these days with the sheer scale of transactional data that is increasingly easy for companies to access. I think some consultancies have coined the phrase "big data".
SF_Rachel, thanks for your thoughts/kind words! And I thought I was the only analyst here. Looks like there are at least you and I.
Yes, I've asked these questions here before. Bodawei did a good job with his survey of top-ranking topics. The part that is unfortunate is that we both know my questions really require digging up more data MANUALLY that doesn't exist on cpod. Bodawei would have to actually go through each of the lessons and count new posters, old posters, total number of comments, then characterize for us flame wars, polite conversation, etc.. Of course, that would only beg other questions around seasonality and broader year-over-year trends. All in the quest for actionable data......
SF_RachelJuly 15, 2012, 02:41 AM
bodawei, I have to start by apologizing that while I saw some conversation a couple of weeks back about the drop in posting, I didn't read it carefully and don't remember a lot of it.
The lessons you noted above are interesting. Intuitively, it makes sense that the QW lessons will always tend to produce more discussion, since the lessons themselves are mostly in English (so more people can functionally follow along and thus participate). Also because QWs are a bit more informal -- for someone who is over-conscienciously hesitant to avoid disrupting on-topic conversation, the QWs cover a lot more topical ground and less is "off topic."
Of the other two lessons, for one of them I remember that maybe a third of the posting was some low-grade flaming between veteran poddies that began with one person lightly ridiculing the lesson topic. (The conversation ultimately resolved itself with a graceful apology or two over how heated they got/appeared to be, so I don't want to call too much attention to it). So I wouldn't necessarily draw conclusions about whether the topic content itself is driving discussion levels. Or if it is, maybe the takeaway is that the sillier the topic, the more conversation will be prompted just by people complaining and then arguing with each other!
It would be interesting if there were a way (and I know there's NOT) to measure the amount of on-topic conversation about the lesson content. People asking and answering questions about vocab, grammar, usage, and culture. But wouldn't it be interesting to see a pivot table tabulating that by lesson channel, level, poddie vintage, and date?
That being said, while on-topic content is more satisfying, I'm in favor of enabling plenty of off-topic conversation. Too many rules and judgements about who's justified in posting what where make for a chilly community.
Gosh, that was long-winded of me (sorry)! Like the man in the movie said, I guess I sure picked a hell of a week to give up heroin.
"But wouldn't it be interesting to see a pivot table tabulating that by lesson channel, level, poddie vintage, and date?"
Boy, I would love to see this! I suspect that at the end of the day, either the data doesn't exist, would be multiple steps to pull out of a database, or is something that cpod wouldn't release. But I also suspect that at the end of the day, there are no silver bullets (lesson topics) that will consistently increase the number of subscribers.
'I sure picked a hell of a week to give up heroin.'
Hey, good one, I don't know the film (having a nearly 8 month old grandchild about half my viewing is 喜羊羊) ...
Actually, that content can theoretically be evaluated, but ChinesePod is unlikely to put resources into that.
Speaking of what ChinesePod is likely to invest in, while the mission is language learning, the business model constrains the product. ChinesePod could introduce some features that are beneficial to learners and as a consequence lose revenues; it's not going to do that. The way I figure it, they are not absolutely clear about what to do with the community boards - they have invested considerable sums in the board functions in the past, but the focus now is on mobile applications that are not conducive to learning in a community. They know they have something valuable but they are cautious about how many resources to pour in. It seems to me that when the poddie community fell away somewhat, they threw a few teacher hours into conversations, answering questions, but to some extent the teachers' involvement tend to close discussion. Usually this is because the teacher provides something valuable, a solution, but perversely it may limit learning opportunities at times. Jenny's role in particular in this respect, is interesting, although they all have pretty much the same formula - they rarely get involved in an 'exchange'. Quite often someone posts a follow-up question or comment for Jenny but she doesn't return (okay - her time is valuable - we are fortunate to have her commenting on the boards at all.) That said, I always read any comments by the other two native Chinese teachers because they provide most of the language models. John necessarily seems to have a slightly different mode - about half his contributions are straight language learning, and about half cultural observations, more light-hearted.
Being a book kind of guy, I would love there to be a point of 'look-up' for all of the teacher contributions - really they are the only fully reliable Chinese language models on the site, for expressions, situational language, grammar points etc. Or, and here's an idea, those on-going learning opportunities could be incorporated into the grammar tabs.
My original post was, as per usual, only half serious - the 'flummery' I refer to is one of the reasons for ChinesePod's success. Perhaps not 'money laundering', but hair dresser cards, and being random and reckless, I am definitely into those things.
What your comments suggest to me though is that a great deal of learning occurs via the community, and it should be nurtured. One way of nurturing it would be to do some of the metrics on a regular basis, and [I return to a theme] make it searchable. So much valuable material is 'lost' - we simply forget where it is. (Despite the fact reinventing the wheel is also where a lot of learning goes on. I think we should have the option of re-inventing, or looking up previous discussions.)
One interesting thing about QingWen is that they are grammar-focussed - ironic, hey?
Yeah - pretzel really likes delving into the data, I've noticed that too.
Oh, ... don't worry about being wordy. :)
No, of course agreed. Even IF Cpod were to release data, the data isn't flagged for on-topic versus off-topic. And even if it were possible to flag that way, it wouldn't mean anything since the definition of on- versus off- topic is, by definition, subjective. Just a bit of data fantasizing.
I love the community. To my meat-world friends who are interested in my journey to learn Chinese, I tend to refer to you as "my classmates." The transcripts group is a fantastic way to work on a "group project." And personally I find the community very useful for discussing meta issues like learning strategies or for cultural insights because these things interest me particularly. And just as often I'm there to enjoy the BS and smacktalk when it's genial (and roll my eyes when it's not, sigh). And as you and several people have pointed out, nowadays when you ask a question about 中文 chances are the response will come from a particularly helpful subscriber, not a teacher (though Jenny, John, Connie and Liaojie have all helped me out at one time or another).
I really love your idea of wishing there were a way to filter or lookup comments restricting to teachers or at least staff. That is a neat idea.
My guess would be that to the extent that CPod cares a lot about what's going on in the comments, it's probably on two basic levels: 1. primary concern: what is good for the company financially and 2. secondary concern: the secret slurry of love, professional pride, intellectual curiosity and ego that drives business decisions made by humans more than many will admit.
The second one is easier for us civilians to wrap our heads around. Not having enough real information about the company isn't going to stop me from speculating on the first level though. I would suppose that financial impact from activity on the boards is going to be mostly about what happens at the Newbie and Ellie levels since I'm guessing that's where most of the bodies are, that's where most of the churn is, that's where they probably spend their marketing dollars for new customer acquisition and existing customer retention, and that's who they're primarily thinking of (that and corporate clients) for new content and technology development.
I just did a quick scan of a handful of comments in recent Ellie lessons and a couple of things struck me (I'm not backing this up with numbers because it's not a valid sample and I'm too lazy to count anyway):
* staff participates more regularly
* a large chunk (more than half) of the commenting activity is coming from the same veterans who are posting in Intermediate and UI.
* even though it's mostly the same people, the conversations have fewer infusions of crankiness (for whatever that's worth) than I've seen in the higher levels.
If this pattern holds out over more lessons than the few I've sampled, it suggests that actual Ellie learners are not so much actively participating in the comments. THIS trend would bother me if I were CPod because if it's a change from the past, I'd be asking myself about the implications for customer retention. I will put on my veteran's cranky hat for a moment to say "in my day" (2 years ago when I was new) Ellies participated, but perhaps this was an illusion. When I was new, how was I to know who was a veteran and who wasn't, beyond knowing that I myself was an Ellie?
I'm not convinced that the lesson topic is a primary driver of comment volume. Intuitively, it seems like it should be, but a lot of the most lively discussion seems to have a pretty loose, stream-of-consciousness connection to the lesson topic. This suggests to me it's often driven by one or two people just happening to feel particularly spunky when they encounter a particular lesson, and thus kicking off an active discussion. I know I was talking about on-topic and off-topic conversation earlier, but in the end this distinction is pretty subjective. And for myself, the marginally off-topic stuff is often the most interesting, if not necessarily pedagogically helpful. I think what I meant by that in my earlier comment is lessons with the highest comment count often achieve that with one or two really long threads, and those long threads are often flame wars and not useful to anyone.
Going back to my admiration for pretzellogic's interest in the data, I think that to the extent that number of comments is a meaningful proxy for measuring poddies' engagement with specific lessons, my guess is that the rubber would hit the road on finding some way to discount the weight of long threads and give more value to lessons with a larger number of "shallow" threads. And in agreement with everyone here, the data isn't structured to allow that because it would require doing a detailed manual tabulation first. And believe me, no one enjoys methodical drudgery more than I. :)
I'm not inclined in the least to complain about CPod not sharing 商业机密 data or not adding more functionality to the boards. In 2010 and 2011, I saw enough system instability and dysfunction apparently resulting from technology and functionality changes (ugh, Android app from last year I'm talking about you!) that I'm very much in favor of CPod's recent apparent approach to being more careful and considered with changes. I think we've all benefited from that lately with improved stability. In short (too late! ha!), I think I get my money's worth.
Chris -- impressed at your identifying Airplane (and Lloyd Bridges). Not just that the movie was from a long time ago and hasn't aged very well, but that's not one of the better known gags in the film. Props, man. Surely you must have seen that movie many times.
Rachel, I like your turn of phrase and enjoyed particularly this bit:
"one or two people just happening to feel particularly spunky when they encounter a particular lesson"
..and am wondering if you could be kind enough to describe for me just what such a particularly spunky feeling might be like...I wanna be on the lookout for it, hehe
Rachel, whilst I'm certainly no movie buff, I must admit to liking the Airplane movie. I think I'm right in saying it was the first "spoof" movie ripping off others and so many of the gags are delivered perfectly, it still makes me laugh even now. I think it's fair to say that Leslie Nielsen got most of the best bags ("Surely you can't be serious", "I am serious and don't call me Shirley", etc, etc). Many subsequent movies tried to do the same thing, e.g. Hot Shots, Naked Gun, but Airplane was the one that started it all.
totally agree chris. Yeah,
"Surely you can't be serious", "I am serious and don't call me Shirley"
is a line I'll never forget and pulled off as only Leslie Nielsen can pull off. I'm a huge fan of his comedy. I was in tears, pretty much literally rolling on the floor watching Naked Gun series of movies.
Rachel (may I call you Rachel?) - like Baba I too really like your turn of phrase. You have made some good points based on what we all know is bodgy data and yet you have taken us along with you. You are a master of the meta (I would suggest that we call you a MOTM except for my well-known dislike for acronyms on these boards.) Acronyms are indicative of cliques, tools of divisiveness, but they are also fun sometimes.
'smacktalk' - I love it, and if you did not invent that word I will have to admit that I don't get out enough.
chris - I am surprised that 'Airplane' slips so smoothly from your lips. As you are a self-proclaimed Englishman can I take it the film was released in the UK with this name? For reasons nothing to do with the UK/US English thing, I like the Flying High name they used in Australia, it added something to the original name - it made me think of Cheech & Chong.