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the_mad_poster's Journal: Please Read: Feedback to Rob Malda [Heavy Edits] 45

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Edits: Implemented a complete tone change to remove the confrontational aspect, per FortKnox's suggestion.

Revised to remove the threat of additional carnage at the suggestion of several people.

Also, to the AC: I've already got you beat on the virgin subject (with a woman even!), but if you'd like to go with "unloved and penniless", that's still a distinct possibility.

Original Article follows

Thanks to RxWxS for his mention of Taco's latest JE.

My feedback to Rob Malda, which I will e-mail to him from my primary, non-slashdot account. Please feel free to suggest edits, additions, or deletions, or just drop a line "signing" it if you approve of the content.

You requested thoughts on increasing the ability to downmod users. My thoughts are centered more around the fact that Slashdot appears, by all accounts, to be falling apart and nobody appears to be addressing the underlying issue as to why.

When it comes right down to it, technical solutions to stop the crapflooders can be implemented, strongarm censorship practices to silence individual accounts can be implemented, but "trolls" cannot be stopped unless one thing is done:

Slashdot has to stop creating them.

Slashdot invites abuses, and failure to admit this is the reason that there has been a constant problem with them. We already have a moderation system that allows users who were "abusive" (as a sidenote, I'd like to mention that "abusive" has never actually taken on a material meaning here) to be modded in such a way that other users can choose not to view their posts. What happened? People used the moderation system to silence abusers and people with unpopular opinions alike, and everyone had to start browsing at a lower threshold just to see something other than stagnant groupthink that a handful of people who learned to work the mod system made visible. Whenever I need a reminder of what slashdot's deepest problem is, I just go back to the Farenheit 9/11 story you posted in which one could view two things by setting a +6 on all negative moderation types, and a -6 on all positive moderation types:

1. Trolls and people trying to be offensive.
2. Conservative opinons.

Slashdot has been an exercise in attempting to retrofit technical solutions to social problems. Every time one of these technical solutions is implemented, a whole new group of people are alienated when their legitimate behaviors are lumped in with people who were working the last "fix" to their advantage. A whole new group of people becomes ticked off and look to abuse slashdot in retalition for their treatment.

No retort would be complete, of course, without a personal anecdote.

At one time, TxMxP was an excellent karma account which extolled the virtues of open source, discussed YRO articles with the masses, and even moderated once. After being rejected from moderation for being too active on the site, banned from posting because other people on my subnet were being abusive, and being mod-bombed by people who found my opinions to be unacceptable, I got fed up with the whole thing. I began to identify with people like Trollaxor and OSM, Spiral X, Klerck, and rkz. People who were attacking (or had attacked) the site and its inhabitants from the inside. I began to look at "slashbots" as ignorants who were just perpetuating other people's generalized opinons because it got them upmods that validated them as members of the site. I began to pick out stories that weren't all they appeared to be, citing editorilization disguised as summary. All of this eventually got me repeatedly downmodded until I finally decided I'd had enough, and simply began attempting to agitate people on the site whether individual stories and posts were legitimate or not.

I'll tell you how to fix the site, if you'll consider what amounts to a blow-by-blow criticism of the handling done by you and other managers behind the scenes:

1. Editors must quit editing people's submissions (especially their headlines) to be inflammatory.

2. Likewise, editors must quit accepting unncessarily inflammatory submissions. I've seen numerous cases where angry, retaliatory write-ups that don't accurately reflect the article being referenced have been accepted (the recent mis-characterization of Theo de Raadt's firey comments as indicating Linux is for "losers" comes to mind) only to have other people come into the comments and post their own submissions which were simple summaries without all the editorializing. What really tops it off though is that these posts are often downmodded as "Offtopic" within seconds.

3. EDIT the submissions for clarity, grammar, and spelling.

4. VALIDATE the submissions. "RTFA" doesn't just apply to the users. I've seen stories posted containing erroneous information, complete rips of copyrighted works, and blatant trolls that could have been avoided with five minutes worth of work. I realize you get a lot of submissions, but if you're unable to do your job properly because of the volume, then you have structural issues in the organization that need addressed.

5. Quit using a shotgun to shoot rats. If you ban 253 IP address to try and get one "troll", you could be angering as many as 252 legitimate users just to keep one guy who already posts at -1 or 0 from posting an Old Ike story or a skull troll.

6. Quit relying on IPs in general. I already have a modified SS script that I use to vet proxies that work on Slashdot, I'm sure others that abuse the site have their own methods as well. Unless you ban the whole internet, you're not going to stop anyone who's determined from causing trouble by picking at their IPs.

7. There have been a number of highly controversial people who have held editorial positions at Slashdot since its inception. Two of them engendered a large amount of negative feeling from not just trolls and abusers, but the Slashdot community - especially longer standing members - in general. How can we be expected to take the editors seriously when, from our perspective, it appears that Slashdot doesn't?

8. Provide an easy system for feedback on Slashdot that isn't limited to your e-mail address or technical discussion of the code on sourceforge. Slash isn't that terribly great of a codebase, it could stand some major upgrades and improvements. Stop squeezing every suggestion through your unncessarily tight grip.

9. QUIT ATTACKING THE TROLLS. First of all, I've said it before and I'll say it again: you ought to pay me to post, as much ad revenue as I must generate for you when I get first posts. Half the time, the stories that get huge responses get huge responses because someone posted a well-crafted troll. It's not unusual for the non-root replies to these trolls to branch off into legitimate discussion either. I realize you've suffered a lot of attacks from trolls, but trolling - in stark contrast to crapflooding and general abusiveness - can be a great mixer when opinions stratify and can encourage people to consider all sorts of things they hadn't thought about before.

10. Quit encouraging people to punish individual opinions while rewarding views that the majority approves of. Why is the moderation system attached at all to a person's ability to post? The implication is that a person's value is determined by majority opinion. The irony of a man with liberal views that are currently under attack for not being "mainstream" running a site that punishes non-standard ideas is so thick it's suffocating.

When it comes right down to it, if you want to fix slashdot, quit breaking it first.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Please Read: Feedback to Rob Malda [Heavy Edits]

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  • While you and I disagree on most things political, on this topic you're right - moderation, and M2, is horribly broken, and creates more problems then it solves.

    One other possible solution? The complete elimination of AC posting. Slashdot accounts are free, so dictating that you must create one to post doesn't seem like a whole lot to ask. Oh, you need a email address? How many free web mail accounts can you sign up for?

    Then, when someone posts a GNAA troll or a skull troll or that Knoppix penguin anal

    • Then, when someone posts a GNAA troll or a skull troll or that Knoppix penguin anal sex troll, it's tied to an account and that account can be barred from posting for 72 hours.

      I disagree. Bans and time limits for posting are completely unnecessary and counterproductive; they only breed discontent and more trollish behaviour -- especially since Taco's misguided shotgun approach to IP bans typically affects entire subnets.

      A GNAA troll, skull troll or the good old "Old Ike" troll will get soon moderated d

      • The problem is, from a business point of view (slashdot is a business), you have to give people the ability to post without an account, to get their feet wet.

        A lot of people won't be bothered to get an account at first, so you allow them to post anon., hoping that eventually they'll take a minute to create an account. The rewards youre offering are accumulating karma, having a history, being recognizable to others, and your own journal.

        This is a reasonable compromise, from a business point of view. The

        • I like trashdot in all its ragged glory.
          The structural problems it has are related to money; they need to have some amount of discipline to attract $.
          Plenty of thoughtful discussion going on in the journals, and other sites like lwn.net and lambda-the-ultimate.org
          The technerati need a community sphincter, and trashdot is it.
          I did like the letter, though, in my useless opinion, it amounts to flatus in a thunderstorm.
          Any 'fix' you implement merely engenders work-arounds. Have fun instead, and don't let
        • hm. Modding would then expose you to the mod abuses of others- because that lets the circle of modbombings start up all over again.

          I like your 'explanation' requirement. the lack of available mod options contributed, i think (and there should be an 'abuse' button on the metamod, triggering a review in at least a percentage of cases.)

          I'd like to see 'agree/disagree' mods with no karma attached, giving the groupthink a place to go. I could then ignore them completely, but people would have a way of marking
        • Actually many sites won't allow you to post unless you create an account.

          Typically those accounts also can't post at all for say 24-48 hours and have very limited posting privlidges until they are a few weeks old.

          This seems to be working well on a lot of other busy sites on the net.

          Another thing that would help the moderation system would be the ablity to see who modded a post and what moderation they gave it. It does work to prevent moderation abuse somewhat. The only downside is you end up with a bunch
    • As i understand it, AC posting is a part of the whole "we're not responsible for what they post" package. Meaning that they cannot just drop it without taking some responsibility for the things that get posted. Even if registration was left just as easy as it is now, no AC commenting would mean that Slashdot (or OSTG or whoever runs the place) would be responsible for letting someone post. Which would, at the very least, mean more work for the editors.

      I might be wrong, though.

  • ... just a few comments/suggestions.

    Timothy posted some Roland Pipsqueak stories, there was a lot of grumbling, no more Roland Pipsqueak stories, so he DOES seem to listen.

    Your point about the bans is dead on. It doesn't work, and is being abused by people who mod-bomb others into being banned. The whole purpose of moderation was to rank comments so people could set their own viewing threshold. Taking it a step further by outright bans is an extension to the moderation system that attempts to use the wro

    • Gah. I'm agreeing with a confessed troll. But Yes, i would say less threatening.

      There are a lot of things wrong with ANY majority rule system, and i don't know enough (even after all this time) to know about what's right or wrong here. I've never been banned, and i've never really been inflammatory, either, so it simply hasn't been a problem for me.

      I suspect that i'm like a lot of users.

      I LIKE the mod system. No entirely, but there are people like me who mod honestly. The fact that there was a poll askin
      • Gah. I'm agreeing with a confessed troll. But Yes, i would say less threatening.

        Well I'd say there is a big difference between what tomhudson and the rest of the Troll Tuesday crowd do and the kind of trolls or crapflooding that most of us would like to see go away.

        The TT type of troll tends to be intelligently written and somewhat witty. It also attempts to stir up discussion which ultimately is to the benefit of slashdot. Sadly TT posts to FP articles tend to have more intelligent (or at least entertai
    • That's true.

      Timothy and Jamie seem to be really level-headed editors, and I've noticed that they often listen.

      I can't really say much for Taco because I've not really interacted with him, but the rest of them all have been pretty bad.

      Even during the subscriber sneak-preview time, Timothy & Jamie have been the two editors who actually make changes and corrections to the original submission.
  • by FortKnox (169099) * on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:33PM (#12873157) Homepage Journal
    When you start saying "Here is your problem, and what you are ignoring," he'll simply ignore it and go to the next email.

    Some of what you say makes great sense. Take out him as the blame, take out the part about timothy, make it seem like you really want these changes to help him out. Its all about the angle you take. You are taking the "You have these problems, go fix them" angle, and go for the "I really enjoy this site, and here's some constructive criticism" angle.
  • ....since you provided more thought and analysis of their site and its issues than they apparently have in a long time. A little too pointed in some spots, but overall very nice!

    I feel that their general thought is "you don't like it, don't come here" figuring that they have XXXX amount of users, and XXXX amount of click-thru....

  • This has to be one of the very best statements on this topic to date. Very, very well handled.

  • I'd suggest removing any and all projections of motivations. They will be perceived as personal attacks; this perception is unlikely to induce the result you want. For example, having

    "Slashdot appears, by all accounts, to be falling apart and you appear to be attempting to skirt blame on this [...]"

    in the opening paragraph is not a good way to keep him reading long enough to see your later, well-thought points. Likewise, having

    "[...] so stop pretending that you're some all-knowing guru who's keeping it

    • [self-reply to account for the "heavy edit" update]

      Good changes thus far. Feedback on this round follows.

      "Falling apart" is tricky. I doubt he'll agree, and you probably will not profit by getting into a debate on that choice of words. (See "Gulag".) You might want to say something more specific, like "trolls are an increasing problem" or "I see more comments about user dissatisfaction" or somesuch. The point is to make it a self-evident description of a problem that he acknowledges to be real.

      A bit late
  • Whats an Old Ike troll? Or a Skull troll? I do know about GNAA...

    ITs a great letter and it hangs on one presumption; the presumption that the open source model works and that these people( the Rulxx0rz of /.) are aware of the problems and willing to do the right thing about it.

    Personally, I think they prefer to fill out their courtier positions with slashbots and take on more satlinistic approaches to "quashing the rebel troll scum."

    That Theo De Raalt article was horrible... and I totally agreed with The
  • You have to remember that any kind of automated crowd control system is a game, fundamentally, for those of that ilk that treat it as such. Therefore, they will game the system and discover its weaknesses. A subset of those will use the information gained for retribution for perceived wrongs.

    The fact that moderations are made by human beings is irrelevant: one could easily predict what the moderations will be given the great mass of relatively average people that make up the mod pool. I'm surprised some
  • I'd make one suggestion on M2:

    The problem with M2 is that is biases the result. Consider this:

    Actually, you can.
    -1, Troll
    O fail 0 no opinion O unfair

    Now, consider - you've already biased me by showing me what the moderation is - this is like having somebody taste-test something by saying "Do you think this is too salty?" - you've pre-disposed them to say it is too salty.

    A better approach would be to simply present the comment, along with the standard set of moderation options, and then compare the

    • The poison pill thing is an interesting idea. The major problem I can see is that this automatically puts those who just mod already-modded comments at the extreme ends of the moderation pool. Why? Because the posts likely to be picked are, to use your words, "exemplary examples of good or bad posts". These aren't likely to be middle group, the ones good moderators really puzzle over. They'll have to be the absurdly and obviously informative postings, coupled with the absurdly and obviously flameworthy trol
      • I agree with your initial suggestion about M2. I think it also ought to be coupled with a "What would you say is a reasonable range for the score of this comment?", with people who modded a comment an additional +1 when it was +3 and clearly not that interesting penalized.

        Noooooooo!

        Refresh page, read, set mod bit, keep reading, click moderate. Meanwhile 7000 other people just upmodded the same comment I just upmodded, but it was sitting at zero when I thought that I upmodded it.

        Penalize me WHY? I

        • In terms of being "punished", the solution is easy enough - the form that does the moderating should send information (in HIDDEN fields) giving the current moderation level for each comment. Someone would only be penalised directly if they mod something that's +4 when they're looking at it up to +5 when it ought to be 2-4.

          On the wider issue of wasting mod points, the solution I found back when I could moderate was to open comments I wanted to mod in a new window/tab, and quickly do the deed. That way I'd

          • You can't put that in Hidden fields, because it's trivial to edit their contents. (In Firefox, right click->Page Info->Forms tab.) Slashdot would have to track the rating of every post at the time when any moderator viewed it, which clearly doesn't scale. Still, I think the idea is sound in principle, and at least no worse than the current one.
            • It's easy to change them, but why would someone? If something's +4 and you want to mod it to +5, surely you either feel the decision is justified (in which case you have no reason to change the hidden field) or you don't (in which case, why are you modding one of the five points you have?)

              I think a minimal number of people would actually do this. Especially as the hidden field could be relatively difficult to change. From memory, moderation works by having your entire page be one huge form. If you have on

  • Consider this my signature. :)
  • Very well said.

    And I find it odd that IP bans are somehow implemented, rather than account bans.

    For instance, I have been banned from home - but I can post perfectly fine from work. It's kinda ironic, because I just login to my school account and post from there, but I'm frustrated by the fact that I have to do that.

    And getting in touch with the folks if things are screwed over is absolute bullshit - Slashdot says, "Ooh, do you think this is unfair? Mail us, mail us, mail us!"

    Ofcourse, you mail them and
  • Ok. I'll sign the present version.

    Too bad this proposal cannot be made into an "Open letter to Rob Malda". It's way too easy for him to completely ignore it now.

  • Ah, there it is: 2. Likewise, editors must quit accepting unncessarily inflammatory submissions is missing an e in 'unnecessarily'.

    Signed,

    me.

  • by Sheetrock (152993)
    It's hard to take this place too seriously. It wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if you could.

    I continue to believe that a perfect troll-blocking algorithm would be the death of this site. I don't think the proprietors get nearly enough credit for the balance they've struck and maintained over the years between features and performance, trolls and average posters, and fun and informativeness.

    How many places are on the Internet that are this laid back while continuing to operate? Just the other day a

  • Just off the top of my head, how about a system where you can assign values to mods from people you trust? I gahter that the actual number of modders is pretty small compared even to the smallish number of regular posters and this way you would be able to select whose opinions you trust. So if I trust TMP's modding abilities more than I trust Fort Knox' (J. Random examples here, people) I might give a post that TMP modded up a +3 while something that FK modded up only gets a +1 and something that FoggyTwit
  • if you're unable to do your job properly because of the volume, then you have structural issues in the organization that need addressed.
    to
    if you're unable to do your job properly because of the volume, then you have structural issues in the organization that need to be addressed.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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