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I moderate a subreddit that primarily sees submissions in the form of news articles, with very little discussion in the comments except for very important news or events. I would like to automate some weekly discussion threads to help "break the ice" a bit, as well as to get subscribers to open up and share their projects and interests.

In a more traditional forum, these weekly threads would be comparable to a popular thread that has been getting bumped for an arbitrarily long time due to user activity. On Reddit, we have to forcibly "refresh" these topics by creating new threads, because the sorting algorithm will knock even a very popular thread off of the top of the subreddit after a day or so no matter how much user activity it receives.

My subreddit primarily attracts hobbyists, so I'm considering maybe having a couple of weekly threads that are created on different days of the week to discuss their experiences:

  • What have you been working on this week?
  • What new X has caught your attention this week?

Would these sorts of threads foster quality comments, or is this sort of thing too visibly contrived to really get any discussion going? If so, could I go about it a different way while still taking advantage of thread automation?

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I've had varied experiences with long term threads. In one of my communities, it is an online gaming community. We have a very visible fluctuation of users throughout the year. Our player base swells at the beginning of new school semesters for a few weeks (late August and mid January) and gradually tapers off. Toward the end of the terms (early December and May), the player base is very low. After the May drop, the base recovers and is fairly steady through the summer months and then the August bump occurs again.

During each of their bumps, the few long terms threads we have see the most activity. We have three threads:

  • What music are you listening to right now?
  • Share your amazing screenshots
  • Who are you and why are you here?

All three of these see conversations spawn, live and die in the span of hours to days. New members introduce themselves and share a few musical preferences. Older members say "Hi" back and comment on music choices and the amazing new screenshots that are shared. These ice breaker threads hold many years of introductions and music choices. They also provide a great way for the new guys to talk with the existing crowd outside of the game.


On the flip side, another community I'm a part of has semi-weekly "What are you doing?" type topics. These do receive user interaction, but it doesn't seem as engaged. It's almost like a status report to your boss at work. "I did this thing. It worked. Next week I'm going to try this other thing. Hopefully it works." Rarely is a conversation spawned from these topics. Unless someone posts a fancy screenshot for me to look at, I admit that I don't read through most of the posts. They are a wall of text and lack the "catch" to keep me interested.


From these two experiences, the take away, for me, is to have topics that are engaging. Weekly ice breaker threads should be engaging. Why do I, as a user, want to post a response? Even more importantly, why do I, as a user, care what you, as a user, are telling me? If the ice breakers turn into the same group of people posting status updates on a weekly basis, it's not engaging to new users. If the ice breakers end up being boring walls of text, the new users aren't even going to read them. But, if your ice breakers are interesting and your users share interesting information, they will spawn the conversations you want to occur.

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