Determining how specific a single topic title should be: too broad or too specific is always bad


(Anton) #1

In our goat farmers online community, I experimented with both narrowing and expanding topics.

I found out that it is always very important to think 5 times about a topic title, and never hesitate to rename it later, even multiple times, until you find the golden working one:

A) that much specific that no much digression can happen
B) that much broad that many various people will have what to say

We experimented a lot and found out that renaming topics is a great way to revive topics and convert them from inactive to active and even super active. Some topics that had been “dead” for months got super-popular after a few renames and we still can’t stop people from writing in them.

The idea here can be explained by a simple example. Consider the following topic names:

A. CRV disease in goats
B. Viral diseases in goats
C. Goat diseases that can be transmitted through milk
D. Most threatening diseases in goats
E. Diseases in goats

Someone may create a topic with title A. Chances are such a topic will never get popular. Here are the reasons why: it is a rare disease, it looks like a particular case for a particular farmer, not every farmers wants to disclose the diseases found on their farms, and, after all, nobody cares about CRV until it happens in their stock.

Renaming such a topic to a broader one (B) will work much better. But it’s still not ideal. Here is why: not everyone may understand what exactly “viral disease” is and how it is different to a “non-viral disease” (e.g. someone with 5 goats bought 1 year ago might still know nothing about viral vs non-viral).

The best topic titles are C and D. C is very catching because everyone wanna know which threats are exposed when: 1) consuming milk of their own goats and 2) letting newborn goats consume milk of their moms. There is plenty to talk about in this topic, many questions to be asked, a lot of advice to be given, yet no much space for digression exists.

D is a bit worse, but still a good one - it plays with people emotion, but is very subjective: what is considered a very threatening by one, might be considered so-so by another, so even though this topic has plenty things to talk about, it is also dangerous in that conflicts can arise.

E, as you can guess on your own, is too broad and will become a bin of everything, not interesting for anyone except those few taking part in the discussion, not searchable and not structured at all.

So, here are rules of thumb that worked quite well for us and helped us to reanimate dead topics by just reformulating their titles:

  • allows for multiple things to talk about without digression
  • does not allow for digression that will be hard to decide whether it is within a topic or not
  • does not contain calls for a conflict (concepts which are easily misinterpreted)
  • potentially touches many people, even those who are not affected directly

Don't split too early: what are our criteria on when it's time to split a topic