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Slashdot Moderation Phase 1.1 515

As many of you have noticed, something has changed recently with Slashdot moderation. Its not my major change that is still coming, but instead its a significant tweak to the old system. Hit the link below to read the summary of these changes, and comments about them. This is extremely important to any of you who read or post comments.
Back in the old days, I was the only moderator. Dave pitched in. It was easy, there were only a hundred comments each day. We read them all. They were almost always good- only a couple were really flamebait or offensive, and those were just deleted. This got sticky- I never liked deleting comments.

As Slashdot grew to have hundreds of comments each day, I coded a fancy moderator system. One that didn't involve deleting comments, but rather just organizing them for people who wanted it. Over the following months, friends, family, pets, and even a few bots tried to do the job. At the end we had 25 people moderating a total of about 5 comments per day. It was obviously not working- any regular reader of the comments knows that the signal to noise ratio is simply terrible in those flamebait articles. The system grew to have thousands of comments each day, and the 25 moderators (of whom only a 2-5 were active on any given day) simply couldn't keep up.

I have a new system that I'm devising, but I've decided to experiment with the old system. I think I can learn from it, and make the new system better. Or else, this "Tweak" might even work and then I won't have to write the code. We'll have to see.

So what is the change? Simple, we had 20 or so moderators. Now we have 408.



The system was tracking moderation done to each user internally for just this purpose. (I had a score of 2, Anonymous Coward had a -1628 *grin*) All users with a positive score were given moderator access.

Last week wed. we had 2,800 comments posted on Slashdot. 11 of them were moderated. This week 15-30% of comments are being moderated, and its my hope that this number will increase.

Now a lot of you guys are going to scream and cry about censorship, but that just isn't the case. Anyone can disable the actions of the moderators by simply setting their default user preference to -5 or something really low. Tada! Slashdot in all its flamey off topic glory. But my goal is that users reading with a preference set to 3 will only read the absolute best comments. That type of reader doesn't want a discussion. They don't care about the 300 comments- they just want those 2 comments that are really smart, insightful, and often, better then the story that they are attached to. Try setting your Comment Limit to 10, and your Comment Order by Score. Suddenly the few comments that you see are interesting. They're useful.

The goal here is to create a better dispersal of scores. Last week, a +4 comment was virtually impossible, but we've had 40 since the new system took place. Sure, not all of them were great, but as a whole, they were good comments.

Now the danger. With 25 moderators, it was pretty easy to keep an eye on things. But with 400 its going to get simply crazy. We're going to have abusers. I've already revoked access from a few people. For you moderators, read those The Moderator Guidelines carefully. The rest of you might be interested too. The general summary, is the moderators shouldn't let their own opinions factor in. They do and thats the problem. Its my hope that since we have 400 of them, we'll have some abusers (who will hopefully surface and have their access removed) but they'll be outnumbered by honest, fair people who don't let their own ideals interfere with the task at hand. Its a difficult task, but an essential one.

A few of the more important rules for moderators:

  • Impartiality. This isn't "I agree with That", this is "That is worth reading, and that isn't". This is obviously the hardest, and most subjective part of the task, and the one that will require the sharpest eye on everyone's part.
  • Anonymity. Any moderator who posts that they are a moderator will probably have their access revoked. I simply don't want moderation to be an ego thing.
  • Accountability. Anyone who sees clear breaking of the above 2 rules should send me info (I need a URL to the comment: cid & sid. Click the reply button and send me that URL if you need it). This isn't "3 Strikes and Your Out". If someone is abusing their trust, they'll lose it.

As an aside, if you have problems, bugs, or complaints, email them to me. I don't read all the comments. We have 2800+ of them on a good day. There's no way I'm gonna read them all. Send problems to me. Posting complaints is usually off-topic. Emailing me is much more likely to get a response, plus if you want to complain about how much I suck, don't do it in a story about CD Vending Machines or Wearable PCs- its simply off topic. Do it in this story! Its on topic here. Or email me so I'm sure to read it and cry.

Where is this heading? Think of a news site like Slashdot without a guy like me, or a group of guys at the center. One where the best comments become the articles on the homepage. If we could make that work... wow. At some point I'll have a page of the top 10 comments from the last 24 hours. I think that will be really interesting- I'll probably have a general discussion at some point specifically for this purpose.

Its a delicate thing trying to make all 75,000 of you happy- Your tastes are diverse, and there's just no pleasing all of you 100%. So I'll keep trying new things, and make as many things customizable as possible, so most of us can have it the way they want it.

We're getting closer. But until then, hang in there. Constructive criticism is appreciated (although I simply can't reply to everyone) I even read the flames, although if you make me cry I don't reply.

Update: 03/23 01:53 by CT : Responses to some of the comments:

  1. No, simply creating new accounts won't work. You had to have had a comment moderated up by the original 25 moderators.
  2. No, moderators can't moderate their own comments.
  3. I yanked someone already for revealing that they had access. Someone didn't read very carefully.
  4. An absolute minimum for comments? Set it to -10000 or something. I doubt we'll ever see a comment that bad *grin*
  5. I'll probably figure out a clean way to reassign moderator access occasionally. I haven't thought that far ahead yet.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashdot Moderation Phase 1.1

Comments Filter:
  • I disagree that we shouldn't allow negatives.

    I see _no_ value in "First Post!!!!" and in "LINUX ROCKS ALL OTHER THINGS SUCK!!!!!" posts. I defy _anyone_ to show value in things like that.

    (Sure, if there's _more_ than what I quoted,it could have value... but there are a number of posts consisting solely of stuff I have above.)

    As for scoring wars, moderators don't have enough points for it. 1 point for every 50 posts on slashdot doesn't go very far.
  • One finds out they're a moderator by seeing little moderation buttons at the end of posts, by the "Reply to this" and "Parent" links. A sidebar to the article shows the number of points the moderator has, give some brief tips, and points off to the moderator guidelines.
  • No, track every single moderation event. ACs are not some sort of underclass that can be stamped on at will, they are people who prefer to remain anonymous.

    Why they choose to be ACs is not an issue. They deserve to know who and why they got moderated just like everyone else.

  • asmussen, you have a very good point that the default setting is an important thing and, even if the users who use the defaults mostly don't care, that doesn't mean that *we* shouldn't care at least a little for them.

    With the defaults the way I understand they are, a single moderator can get an article out of 80% of the audience's view with a single vote. Doesn't that sound a little too easy to you?

    I would advise that the default threshold be -1 instead of 0, so that the casual ./ reader can at least get an idea of the noise that is available for him should he want to read it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd probably just change the posting form. Right now, it's termendously easy to post. I would do the following:
    - Have people go through an extra page when they hit "reply" telling them what types of posts are good and what types are not.
    - Have a pull-down for type of post. For instance, for "Ask slashdot," you could have "answer," "follow-up question," "me to," and "personal story." People could filter out the latter two (and I also think having sarcastic categories might discourage people from posting those types of messages).
    - Have everyone go through a "preview" stage.

    By the way, when you introduced accounts, you said that people opposed to big brother tracking should continue posting as anonymous cowards. I did that, signing with "pmitros" at the bottom of each message. I think all of my posts have been reasonably intelligent. I don't want moderation, but I'm not sure if it is fair to discriminate against people who have been doing that from being moderators.

    - pmitros at
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will "Ask Slashdot" be moderated?

    How will the scoring be done for an answer to someones question? Will an unconventional answer be given fewer points because the moderators don't think it is the best answer?

    I think if this is the case that the perl motto "There's More Than One Way To Do It!" will be ignored and the most obvious answer to any question will be the one that stands.

    Some questions will breed other questions that some moderators may feel are off topic and should be demoted. If the default value is 0 and I ask a question that one moderator feels is stupid (remember, there are no stupid questions) does that mean that only people who are willing to wade through the dregs of /. posts will have the opportunity to read and possibly answer my question?

    I do think that this moderation is a good idea but there have to be GOOD ways to make sure that one person doesnt/cant banish a comment low enough that it is never read again. (How many points can a single moderator give/remove?)

    I haven't actually read any comments here on /. since MEEPT! started making regular appearance (and got a cheering squad to encourage him) but have still found most of the articles posted worthwile. Maybe this system will get me back into reading the comments.

    Keep up the good work!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This whole problem can be viewed as a fundamental genetic neural network. You are summing the output of a network of several nodes (moderators) to arrive at a single value. Each generation of nodes is dependant upon the ouput of the previous generation. Unfortunately, you have created a feedback loop, which if not controlled has the potential to create havoc.

    Let me explain. You are the seed. You moderated until it became to much for you, then you chose 25 others. The choice depended upon your view of what a good comment is. When the work became too great for the 25, the network grew, but the growth was dependant upon the output of the original seed. The network was then pruned by removing jerks, but who decided they were jerks? The original seed. There is inbreeding within the network here.

    I'm not saying there is an intentional conspiracy here. I'm just pointing out that there are some inherent attributes of this method of operation. I don't have time to read most of the comments anyway. If you continue to refine your network of moderators by having those who were approved of before choosing the future moderators, then the group as a whole will begin to think alike.

    A simple way to avoid this would be to randomly serve pages with the moderator buttons to a small percentage of non-moderators. I would get a page with buttons maybe 1% of the time. Some comments would get higher ratings than they might otherwise, which means that the next generation would possibly have a different makeup. You would be in effect adding new blood to the gene pool.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A lot of us work for computer companies and as representatives of our corporations, we can't say anything bad about other corporations that we're sleeping with. I don't want to slam say and have it come back to me personally, knowing the company I work for, say, has a strong working relationship with
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is exactly like a peer reviewed system. The people who write good comments become the people who acknowledge other good comments. It's like Alan Cox himself saying "thou hast written mighty cool code" when you submit a patch.

    I've been an Anonymous Coward for ages, not being happy with the login system, but this moderation system gives me an incentive to get an account. It is now possible for me to make my comments more visible by getting praise and acknowledgement from the moderators.

    That's good incentive not only to login so I get the credit, but also encourages me to write better comments and proofread them more rigorously.

    I'm happy with this new system. I'm setting my cutoff factor high, and hopefully slashdot will be just like it was last year.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was quite surprised when I found out that I'd been given moderator status. Even more so when I found out that it really was not for everybody. I thought: "Kind of cool, pity that I can't brag about it."

    After reading this article I lowered my rate from +1 to -99, thinking: "Shitload of work, but I'll try it out and give up when I get tired."

    I have a full time job and too many hobbiy projects already, so extra work feels heavy on my shoulders. However I view this system as a probable future soap-box news model - remember you always have the chance to view all the crappiest content by lowering your limit. So I decided to give it a try.

    Hints for Rob:
    1) Make it easy for moderators to refuse the honor at any given time,
    2) automate finding new moderators.
    3) I'd love having about 5% of the registered users as moderators at all times.
    4) set a lower limit at, say, -10, so people can be sure they see all the comments if they choose to
    5) no more work for mods = please do not require reasons for moderation.

    5th above requires an additional anecdote. Back in the days of old USSR those sent to Siberia or otherwise mishandled seldom were accused by the real political reasons - rather, foul "reasons" were spurred up instead. We must assume mankind hasn't grown up in ten years.

    Hint for moderators: I browse with Netscape logged in, and KDE-kfm anonymously, so I can write comments and view only reasonable parts at the same time as I moderate. Neato - no need to boot a second computer for that :P

    *g* - after Submit I can get back and give all my day's points to this AC comment ;P
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am one of the moderators. I'm not sure I want the job because it means reading Slashdot involves more work, but I take it seriously. As a moderator, I have downgraded one MEEPT and three First-Posts, but mostly I have raised a few good AC comments from obscurity/zero, and I have given thumbs up to a few other good comments.

    This post is to urge all moderators to be judicious when downgrading comments. We are in danger of acting like a committee. If we remove every post that is slightly offensive to any one of us, then although we may be left with more intelligent posts, the results may also be very bland. I've seen posts at -2 that were mostly 'sez you/so's your old man', but were also humourous. Remember that a reasonable amount of the more colourful, if less thoughtful, posts tends to break up the monotony. Personally, I was even nervous that some people may find MEEPT posts entertaining, though that's hard to believe. I tend to agree with those who say that, except when the posts are really bad (e.g. First Post), we should concentrate on raising, rather than lowering scores. It is true that people can lower their threshholds, but I still urge you to be careful. Don't, as they say, throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a moderator, it's easy to get caught up in the reading and forget to notice the scores. As a reader, it's hard to visually scan for desired scores. Both could be helped by adding some color coding. One possibility would be four colors for minus, zero, one, and higher. Another would be white (normal) for posts that are still at their default score, then one color for posts that are above their default, and another for those below.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hopefully this will find both Rob and the other moderators.

    The Moderator's Dilemma is that, as moderators, we are unable to discuss aspects of the moderation system without also violating the rules under which we are allowed to moderate. I've been thinking all evening of whether I want to post this under my own ID or as an AC, and I'm taking the Coward's way out for now, but I'm not happy about it.

    The other two alternatives are for the moderators to post under their /. login (and lose their moderator status as we've seen), or for Rob to set up a private chat area for moderators to discuss issues. I really dislike the second suggestion -- it turns moderation into some sort of a star chamber. For the 75k - 407 of you who aren't moderators, realize that those of us who are don't know who the other mods are (other than Taco & Co.) either.

    Of all the possible problems with the system (and I've been bumping up many of the posts pointing out issues as I find them), the most pernicious one is that a person aquires two moderator IDs and creates a cabal for themselves. A bot programmed to be reasonable and interesting might be able to pull this off. For an example of what bots can do, start here [] and follow the links.

    It's not clear to me why Rob is insisting on moderator anonymity. This isn't a job I asked for, though it is somewhat interesting. I don't spend as much time on Slashdot as I had in the past, partly because of the AC issue, partly because there are alternate sites (LinuxToday [], LWN [], the revived RedHat [], and SVLUG [] to name a few), and, well, I've got a real paying job.

    There's also the fact that /. discussions are very short lived -- once off the front page, a day at most, they're effectively dead. It makes meaningful discussion very difficult. Despite the flameage, it is possible to carry on a real discussion for days or weeks in Usenet or mailing lists. This just isn't possible with the current /. setup, and contributes IMO to the fractured, opinionated, rash, nature of many posts here. It's not that there aren't pearls, it's just very hard to cultivate them.

    I'm past the age where I'd score a lot of points bragging about my /. moderator status. Most of the people I know don't know what /. is. It's not going to impress my clients or my girlfriend, and Mom & Dad never understand all this computer junk anyway. If it's the threat of being mailbombed, well, my address has been posted here anyway, and if I wanted to disable its display, I could.

    Why do I think moderators ought to be able to identify themselves?

    1. Accountability. As a moderator, I'm making decisions that reflect how Slashdot appears. I think the fact that I am doing so should be public knowledge. Maybe not my phone and street address, but at least my /. login. Barring this, if I want to mention I am a moderator, I don't see why I shoud be barred from doing so. Frankly, the fact that I cannot do so makes me question the whole system.

    2. Feedback. As moderators we get to see both sides of the system. FWIW, it's a set of radio buttons, (-)(0)(+)(++), and an article ID, next to each post. There's a 'Moderate' button at the bottom of the page. I'd like to be able to discuss what is good or bad about the system, and I don't particularly think this ought to be a private conversation between myself and Rob. I think that dropping Roy's status was inappropriate for what were some legitimate, well reasoned, and real issues with the moderation system. This is my protest vote, as a fellow moderator.

    3. I can't quit. There's no 'I resign' button on the user accounts screen (where the basic "you're a moderator" info is). I suppose Rob would be able to deactivate me (there's a pleasent thought) if I sent an email request -- which would promptly get lost with the 500 other messages he gets daily.... I'm not criticising Rob, I'm just saying he gets a lot of mail. My other alternative is to say, "My user id is xxx and I'm a moderator", and hope that the Taco is feeling mean that day.

    4. Living in fear. I've sent email to the wrong person, left my resume in the printer (or worse: copier <g>), had that girl sent the cutest reply back to me...and everyone else on the distribution list, shot my mouth (fingers) off in USENET and other fora. I've done a lot of things I've regretted. Cruising through this page, scoring and commenting, I've had to weigh very carefully what I've said for fear of losing my status. While it's possible to log out and post AC, you have to remember to do so, and as an AC, there is no credibility or authentication. I've already seen one challenge "how do we know you're a Moderator". It's a Catch-22. I really don't like living this way. It cramps my style.

    With that off my chest, the system looks pretty good. I set prefs low (you can edit the threshhold value directly in the URL to some rediculous value). In this first forum, there are only 9 posts with negative values, the lowest is -2 (my threshhold is -10000). Searching for "(Score:-" will turn up all "underwater" posts. There are two possibly relevent posts which are thwacked, two gibberish posts, three '', and the rest are way off topic (taxes, skiing ??). It's working OK.

    It would be nice to have a way of quickly reviewing negative posts. A 'max score' filter would do this. Several non-moderators have requested this as well. It would be a useful feature.

    The highest ranked post has a score of 6. It's recommending an NNTP server. I've got my own arguments in favor of this as well. The second most favorably scored post calls into question the whole moderation concept. This is also healthy -- the system is not only tolerating criticism, it considers it important.

    There's a real issue surrounding controversial posts. These would have low aggregate scores, but a large number of moderators. I would like to see a secondary moderation attribute on posts indicating the number of times a post has been moderated.

    WRT losing threads under thwacked posts (I refer to positive scores as "bumps" and negatives as "thwacks" or "drops"), this tends to happen if you read in flat mode. If you are reading threaded, you'll tend to see threads beneath posts, and if you open threads in a new window (my MO), you'll get all posts at your default threshhold underneath.

    I'm spending my points really quickly. Down to 2 left. All but one were bumps. I don't know if I ought to have more points to grant or if I should be more sparing in how I rate stuff, I'll have to see how this plays out and how quickly points refresh.

    The concept behind moderation, and on the selecting of moderators, is good. It's a lot like Google []. Though the definition is circular -- good sites are sites that good sites point to -- good posters are posters that good posters like -- it bootstraps well. I think it also avoids cliquishness. You just won't get one mindset. This is one of the better systems I've seen. It's not perfect but it's a damned good start. I think it's got everything in it it needs to be great.

    The moderator guidelines are posted []. (Rob: is this the same page Mods see -- I think it is but I can't check right now without logging in, which I can't do until I finish this post. Another Catch-22. Mods and Plebes should see the exact same guidelines -- the rules should be open).

    Note among other things the math: there are four points granted per post (one point to each of 400 moderators per 100 posts). Your average article will see four votes cast if all points are spent. This is unlikely at best.

    Signed, Anonymous Moderator :-(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:46AM (#1966251)
    ...who is temporarily logged out so as to be anonymous.The system has been in place for just short of a week now, during which time I'm figuring out how to best use my "moderator points" for the good of Slashdot. (I was rather surprised when the ability to moderate was given) I hope that other moderators are doing the same, rather than burning up their points on agenda wars.

    I thought I would share my criteria for the comments which I have moderated (9-10 total, so far):

    I marked two comments up. Good ideas, well written. With a new guideline Rob posted today, I will probably use more points to mark up rather than down.

    I downed one "first post" comment for the obvious reason. Most of the time, the other moderators nailed the first post type comments before I even saw them.

    Two comments were troll-bait. Just saying "M$ sucks, or RH sucks, etc. is liable to get nailed quick, unless the poster (AC or not) has a good point to make.

    I marked down two (maybe three) comments that were primarily obscene or had racist remarks in them. Note that I didn't say "any" -- just those where the content was primarily the obscenity or racist statement. There have been plenty of posts I disagreed with, only one of which I downed (see my next point)

    Lastly, I downed one comment (don't remember why), realized that it was sort of an "agenda" like hit, and went back and used another moderator point to restore it's rating.

    This may not be exact because I'm not trying to remember every little detail, but although anonymous, I think the goals are good, and will try to do an adequate job for all of the Slashdot reader core.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @03:49PM (#1966252)
    Just write interesting stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @09:25AM (#1966253)
    While I can appreciate the desire to try and form some order out of chaos, this whole moderator thing sits very ill with me.

    Why? Because I've had my posts moderated before, in some cases, severely.

    I'm not talking about "First Post" or "THiS SuX" or profanity-filled invective or other such stuff that I think we can all agree falls firmly into the "noise" department - I'm talking about on topic, carefully written commentary.

    I've gone through some of these posts, trying to keep an open mind and objective viewpoint, looking to discover what it was that was so objectionable to require moderation - and I found nothing.

    My only conclusion is that the moderator in question disagreed with the content of the post, and moderated it in an attempt to supress the viewpoint.

    I don't consider myself all that radical, but yet I've been moderated. If this has happened to me, then surely it has happened to others.

    This is wrong. It's Evil.

    Worst of all, I was never given a chance to "face my accuser". Not ONCE have I learned WHY the particular post was moderated.

    Rob, there should be some sort of "moderation history list" tagged to every comment. Each downward moderation should have a REASON tagged onto it, and the identity of the moderator should be listed - even if that identity is just a moderator number, untraceable by anyone other than you back to the meatspace person.

    Like this:

    [18:02-03/22/1999] Downgraded to -2 by #402: Offensive language

    At least this gives us victims a way to track who is doing what and for what reasons to our posts.

  • I'll be posting a story that contains their names, addresses, home phone numbers, social security card numbers, sexual orientation, IQ, high school GPA and mother's maiden name next week.

    Oh wait. No. Read that section about anonymity again.
    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda
    Pants are Optional

  • Umm... because it doesn't work that way?
    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda
    Pants are Optional
  • So turn it off. Set your user preference threshold to be -10. Nobody decides anything for you then.

    Its almost like I planned it that way, ain't it :)

    Yeah, its a lot like usenet, but not quite. I'm trying to organize things more intelligently. Put some structure into it. Usenet is chaos that you need to go out of your way to order. I'm trying to make it possible for the readers to order it themselves, and then allow all readers to benefit from that.

    But only if they want it. You don't. So go set your preferences to ignore this crap and stop letting it bother you.
    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda
    Pants are Optional

  • So much for anonymity. 407 moderators now.
    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda
    Pants are Optional
  • by CmdrTaco ( 1 ) <malda AT slashdot DOT org> on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:23AM (#1966258) Homepage Journal
    Thats exactly how it works. Except only 400 people see those little buttons. I'm trying to keep tabs on it so that people don't push idealogies, and instead are fair and impartial. We'll see if it works.
    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda
    Pants are Optional
  • The only problem with lowering the defaults (or removing them altogether) is that since by default, the pages are sorted chronologically, you end up having the first wave of first post/this sux/rob sux comments right at the top of the article. I know this irritates me (which is why I have configured my browser otherwise), and it might also be a turn off for new readers.
    I think that if we do choose to lower the default threshhold, then we might also want to set the default mode to order by score. That way, the better comments will quickly filter to the top, but the other ones will be available for the masochists. *grin*
  • Think this through. If you don't like the moderation as is, visit the Preferences page and knock your threshold down to -5 or something.

    A killfile would be cool, but I wonder what the /. overhead would be?

  • I can see why you'd feel that adding a price to /. would increase its worth to posters, but I feel that the unmoderated situation is more analogous to the tragedy of the commons. Nobody pays anything, everyone is free to post, and so irresponsible people post without trying to add value to the site.

    Making people pay would create a situation where people expect to be able to post anything, without adding value, because they had paid the fee of entry.

    Intelligent moderation is simply a way to disallow overgrazing (to return to the commons analogy) by sharing a portion of ownership with what appears to be a carefully selected bunch of commoners.

    Perhaps the most interesting factor here is that we can very easily see if the new model is working; just look at the comments posted from here on out, and see whether they add more value than the type of comments posted under the earlier system. This promises to be facinating!

  • Some good points.

    I've suggested a couple of different moderation schemes in the past. Most of the serious needs are addressed on the client side, not the user side -- what you are asking for is the ability to view articles which have provoked strong reactions up or down. To this end, an "absolute score" filter would be good. Posts which are merely offensive or annoying would likely not get a strong reaction, just a mild whack-a-troll.

    It's also not clear how conflicting moderation gets mitigated -- if you have four moderators scoring an article down 1 point, and two scoring it up two, does it net out to zero? Moderators get limited points, so there's a disincentive to vote on something which has already been moderated in the direction the moderator would have it done.

    Your floating point suggestion is good, but it's only part of the story. Ideally, I'd like to see a score given a few different ways:

    • Aggregate score (-1 = score Scorings (number of times the article has been moderated): 1, 2, 3,...
    • Aggreement ratio -- number of posts in agreement or out of agreement. High level of moderation and low level of agreement (~= 50%). Controversial articles are likely to have relatively low absolute scores but a high number of moderators.

    A combination of net score and number of scores would be a good indication of how good and/or controversial a post was. High score, many scores -- good post. Low score, many scores -- bad post. Middlin score (~=0), many scores -- raging controversy.

    I was thinking about this this morning, what I'd really like to see is MUSENET -- moderated USENET. This would be, like USENET, a distributed database, but of ratings, not articles. Backward compatible, natch. Completely independent of the client software, so if you really wanted a feature, you could add it. I'd like it to be more of an 'attributes database', where attributes could be arbitrarily created. Attribute attributes might be (key, value, reference, owner, expiry, permissions). Not sure what else would be required. Basically, what you want to assign, the weight assigned, what it refers to, who created it, when it expires (if ever), and who may modify it (if anyone). Expiry and permissions might be advisory only, but the addition of a signature might add some additional assurances to the system.

    It's probably a lot of baggage to carry around, but I'd invite others to kick the idea around.

  • You should realize that it's quite probable that moderators won't be seeing posts which have slipped below their own threshold settings. Once a post goes below see level, so to speak, it won't keep getting thwacked. A really beligerent post might get swatted simultaneously by several moderators (threshholds don't apply until you reload the page), but this should not be a major issue.

    I would hope that moderators have better things to do with their time then finding out what the lowest scored comment in a discussion is and drilling it into the floor.

  • Moderation indicates both preferences and controversy. I would expect that there will be some abuse of the moderation system, in the sense that moderators will (conciously or unconciously) vote their personal preferences. But with 400 people out there, there's a lot of opinion to be divided up. It should work out.

    Still, I think the current score is only part of the story. It would be really nice to have the number of moderation votes as an additional indicator. Comments with a high score and high number of votes are highly favored. Comments with a very low score and a high number of votes are pretty unambiguously bad. But a netral (~= 0) score with a large number of votes indicates a strong set of differences in the moderators' community. These articles are important, even if they aren't agreeable to all.

  • Another idea would be to have two "score" ratings, one scored by moderator, and one scored by users. An option on the user account preferences screen could give a user the opportunity to base thresholding of comments on either the moderator score, or the user score. This would probably be hell to implement cleanly (stopping multiple scoring requests on one post, etc.), but it sounds like it'd be neat.

    Anyway, just my -$0.02.

  • There's already at least one up and running. Screenshot []

    The two main problems why I haven't gone public with mine are:
    1) No sensible way to implement slashdot's banner advertisements
    2) Comment/story copyright

  • I still like my original idea about simply voting each comment's sscore up or down and ordering the comments based on score.

    At the top of each comment you could put a little header like:

    Score 8Vote up () Vote Down()
    Freaks in the clown show
    by blah blah (blah)

    And at the bottom, a little button labeled "vote" which would submit all the up and down votes. Note of course the vote up/vote down are radio buttons for XOR'ness and all voting should be done on an ip-by-ip basis just like forum voting.

    Maybe I'm just being unrealistic.

  • Just my two cents worth:

    First, just let me say that I'm familiar with the moderator system that's just been put in place because a *friend* of mine is a moderator and I took a look at his browser just now to see what its all about.

    So don't flame me for violating the "revealing I'm a moderator" rule, I'm just making comments on behalf of my anonymous moderator friend, who obviously couldn't do this himself.

    We've discussed this a bit, and have the following couple of points to contribute:

    1. Make the top-level comments display in random order for moderators. This may impose a load on the slashdot server, but it's an important issue.

    Moderators often don't get to the very bottom of the list of top-level comments, which basically means that first-post type comments will get the better moderation. If you randomize this, then there's a higher chance of more fair moderation across the boards, rather than those that were at the top of the list getting all the moderator attention.

    2. Where does a moderator (or anyone else for that matter) see how many moderation points they've got to use up for that day? My moderator buddy just spent 5 minutes moderating comments in an article, and when we reloaded the main slashdot page the "total articles moderated" figure only went up by four, instead of 15 as he had predicted.

  • Absolutely: I've set my preferences to -999 :) I'd had a funny feeling something was happening, and sure enough I ended up seeing a certain amount of moderation by content. Interestingly, I've since then seen some anti-moderation by content!
    I was reading Slashdot the whole time the scores were being established, so I know the sorts of people who traditionally got high original-moderator scores, and they go across all walks of life. The big names naturally would tend to be given higher scores, but there were also good scores for everyone from fervent RMS-disciples to fervent anti-RMS guys to Mac users, even. It really is a pretty good mix- it's actually ideal laissez-faire capitalism in action in a weird way, because abuses and personal feelings can happen, but there's a good mix out there rather than everything being predominantly one viewpoint. Pretty much for every major viewpoint there's a watchdog moderator or six, to guard against the viewpoint's silencing well spoken dissenters.
    Furthermore, I know from setting prefs to -999 that slashdotters don't like having articulate posts whacked to -27 or so, and they get pumped up despite their personal convictions and bring it back to 1 just on outrage at what looks like content-moderating...
    The flip side is when somebody posts a 'yaaa, the moderators in black helicopters are persecuting me!' and might easily get down to -412 just as a joke among moderators :) j/k!
    I think this is a neat idea. It'll take time to see how it develops, but it puts Slashdot's comments content squarely in the hands of the actual readers, which are such a diverse group that it's self-correcting. I especially like the way CmdrTaco just picked people and didn't have them apply for the job or anything- it's rather like the sci-fi/Hitchhiker's concept of, nobody who applies for the job should be allowed to do it! Apparently a whole bunch of people just got confronted with "Whaaaa? What the fsck is thi... Doh! Far out- guess I better be a good little moderator then. *hehehehehe!* Man, Slashdot just keeps getting _weirder_ and _weirder_..."
  • by DukeTuring ( 828 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:48AM (#1966284)
    Ooops... I pressed the submit the submit button too soon.

    2. It might encourage other (more sensible) /. readers to post sensible comments because they would feel that their comments would not be drowned out by the noise of non-sensical ravings and rantings.

    I do have some questions however:
    -- Who guards the guardians? -- How are the moderators evaluated? I don't know if there is a mechanism by which we can identify and evaluate how the moderators are doing their work...

    I might have a suggestion though:
    -- Identify the moderator who gave the rating -- not by their user name but something like the id that telephone operators give out so that we can complain to their supervisors but not know their real name...
    -- Allow a search of articles/comments by moderator id so that everyone (not just CmdrTaco) can evaluate what they do and complain if they show a distinct bias or not...

    Also some minor nitpicks:
    1. comment count on main page should be based on comment level a user selected.
    2. comment spillover should also be based on comment count that reflects the comment level a user selected.

    Other than that, I like it very,very much!!!!

  • ip voting won't work for /. users who use a real multi user operating system that has multipul users. Most of us are the former, I know I'm not the only one in the latter catagory.

  • Because like it or not, our comments (good or bad) bring traffic, traffic brings revenue in the form of banner impressions/clicks.

    If all the comments were offloaded to a NNTP server, revenue here would dry up pretty fast ... then how would they pay for the NNTP server? *grin*
  • by DaBuzz ( 878 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:44AM (#1966300) Homepage
    Why doesn't anyone realize that forcing a 0 threshold default while setting negative scores is just as bad as integrating IE into Win98 while saying "well they can install Netscape". We all know good and well that 80% of people stick with the default options, so marking a message in the negatives effectivily deletes it since most people will never change their default threshold.

    This is a hypocritical method for moderation.

    If you want to use scores, that's fine but DON'T ALLOW NEGATIVES and leave the threashold at 0. That way, the default is to see ALL COMMENTS and if someone wants your 408 moderators making decisions on what they read for them, they are free to do so.

    I also find it hard to believe that 408 people will agree on what's "worth reading", I suspect there will be scoring wars a plenty in the coming days/weeks/months and this will soon become EFNet with the people with power helping their friends and holding down the people they don't like.

    *** DaBuzz joins #slashdot
    <DaBuzz> Can I get a +v?
    *** Buzz's_Friend sets mode: +v DaBuzz
    *** Moderator_with_ego sets mode: -o-v Buzz's_Friend DaBuzz
    <Moderator_with_ego> HAHAHAHA you guys suck, I own you ... where's my packet monkey when I need him?

    Get the point?
  • by jpatters ( 883 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @11:14AM (#1966301)
    1. Allow the user to decide how much to penalize AC's. There could be a box in the prefs screen that would be set to however many points to adjust an AC post's score. That way, if a user really hates AC's, they could set it to -4000, or if they think they should be equal, set it to 1 (adjusting all of the zero's to one's) or whatever. Maybe this idea could be generalized into a very flexable killfile.

    2. Have the moderators directly select what score they think an article should be, rather then plus or minus relative to the article's current score. This would avoid the potential problem of several moderators adjusting a comment down simultainously. How it is now, a comment could end up at -400 when all 400 moderators really only thought it should be a -1. Of course, it may be complex to figure out how the moderator scores should be weighted and rounded.
  • by reemul ( 1554 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @09:58AM (#1966328)
    I'm afraid I disagree with both of your ideas.

    Let's start with the use of real names. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea, and only one actually decent one: accountability. Admittedly, some folks would be less likely to post offensive or just plain stupid things if their own real name was attached to it for all to see, and that is a plus. They might also be less likely to post unpopular or controversial views, and that is the biggest weakness. Other people really value their privacy a great deal, and wouldn't use their real name to post *anything* much less something juicy or passionate, and they would be a great loss, too. And some people just don't use their real names much on the net, so using it doesn't make a lot of sense anyway. I knew a guy in college who always went by his nick, doubt. I happened to know that this was derived from his real name, and even knew what it was, but nobody used it. If there was some post with his actual parent-given monniker, I'd have no idea who that guy was. But if it said 'doubt' I think, hmm, oh yeah, I know him. I use reemul on the net. I'm not trying to hide behind some pseudonym, I just like the name. Anyone who wants to track down all my real-life info is welcome to mosey on over to internic and lookup the contact info on my domain, listed above. I think it even has my phone number.

    Next is cost. Your (I feel) arbitrary $29 figure might have some utility in filtering the participants in Slashdot, in the sense that it may limit users to only those who feel that Slashdot is important enough to pay the money. This would certainly have the effect of drastically diminishing the numbers of casual users, folks who only wander by from time-to-time and post rarely if at all. But is that a good thing? Perhaps a person attracted to the site by word-of-mouth or a link in some other article has something valuable to say, or is at least amusing. Why cut them off? And certainly I doubt that this would cut down on trolls and flames. If I pony up the cash, I get to say whatever I want. Killing my access means that Rob would have to give me a refund, with all the touch costs and handling fees and problems with the credit card billing company. Ugh. So we may get less folks, but perhaps less inhibited folks. And what about people for whom $29 is a hardship? The students, the struggling freelancers, the international readers on the down side of the exchange rate? I wouldn't want to lose them, either. On the other side are folks for whom $29 isn't really that much at all, who could pay it and still not really care about the site. I blow that much on my lunch break buying a book and a nice meal most every weekday, $29 doesn't indicate commitment on my part.

    (And just for you conspiracy theorists, do you think that the all those Microsoft employees you suspect are posting will be deterred by a measly little $29 fee?)

    So, while I understand your concerns, I don't think that your ideas are the way to go.

  • Putting total and visible message counters a/o percentages would also give readers some idea of the S/N ratio in a given forum, which might also be interesting (entertaining?) information.

    What I really would like to see is an option to distinctively mark all messages in a given forum based on my custom score threshold limit rather than physically removing them from my sight. Say coloring the subjects of good messages green, bad ones red, and neutral ones black, or perhaps using some sort of text indicator for lynx users.

    That would allow me to see which messages are the "most worthwhile" and avoid things which are "bad", but it would still allow me to easily read a bad message if I have to in order to maintain the context in a given thread.

    Just a thought from the peanut gallery...
    -Rich (OS/2, Linux, Mac, NT, Solaris, FreeBSD, BeOS, and OS2200 user in Bloomington MN)
  • by marcus ( 1916 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:44AM (#1966337) Journal
    Rob, as much as anything, geeks love numbers. Everyone is asking about this score level, or that, moderator this or that. How about this idea:

    Give each moderator a public/permanent number and publish their stats. Show how many articles read or downloaded, how many voted up(with a list), how many down.

    That way I can identify with a moderator or a few. I can look and see modXXX has voted these up, and I agree his opinion, so I bookmark his(her) up-list. After a couple of weeks of scouting out the mods, I won't even have to vist anymore, just the pre-read bookmarks. Or allow us to use the prefs to select from a list, include the threshold and say "show all articles voted up by mods x, y, and z and anything else that is above 3", or something like that.

    Even if someone chose to go by the raw score, they could still look at the mod stats and see what each has been doing.

    Next, let the readers rate a story. Perhaps it will have to be confined to logged-in users, but anyway, giving the story a simple +/- and the sum would be much more efficient than posting another "Jo* *atz is a gasbag" reply.

    Finally, along with the current summary header that includes the number of articles, add how many up/downs there have been or perhaps an average score. 217/0.76 or something like that.

  • by marcus ( 1916 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:59AM (#1966338) Journal
    Allow logged-on users to post as AC? Put a checkbox next to the submit button that says "Post Anon". That way, the posts can be anon, and untraceable by the rest of us and the user can still have "user" privledges like preferences.

  • Ok, so I'm not a moderator; is there any way to find out how far I missed the cutoff by? No doubt you don't have records of the old totals, Rob, but is there any way I can know what my lifetime comment sum is? Also, in the list which shows the comments posted in the past few weeks by a given user, could we see the score each comment currently has?

    I'm actually a bit confused, as I think I've posted only one comment that was rated anything other than a 1, (if you don't say anything exciting, you also end up saying very little that's objectionable) and I'm frankly a bit confused at the rating on that comment too. Of course, I don't have time lately to read much slashdot so even had I made the cutoff I might out myself so that I'd lose moderator power and not have to deal with it.
  • Well, it looks like you did get flamed for it, but I'll add my two cents anyway.

    You can find several examples of sites that cost money which do have intelligent conversation. The Well is probably the best example. I just signed up for an account today, since I figured that, in the worst possible case, I'm only out $10, and in the best case, the quality of conversation will be well worth my money. Delphi and the former BIX were also good examples, although Delphi Forums are now free and BIX seems to be dead.

    However, your premise that the opposite applies (charge money, and the conversation will be intelligent) most definitely doesn't hold. Simply look at AOL: most AOL users are paying $22/month and 99.9% of them I wouldn't want to talk to if they paid me!

    If Rob's tweaks pan out, and I think they will (simply adding more moderators is a great start), then I'd be willing to donate a reasonable sum of money to keep the system going, if it was necessary. Perhaps /. could offer some sort of "premium" membership with extra features for members only (no, I don't know what those features might be). But, since banner ad revenues are enough to make Yahoo a billion dollar company, I don't think slashdot will need to start charging money to make ends meet any time soon.

    As for anonymous access, we've already gone over the reasons why it's highly valuable. For example, employees of companies posting information "off the record". Even more important are the reasons you can't think of in advance: just today, I've seen /. moderators log in as AC to talk about the system without acknowledging their "moderator-hood" and therefore losing it. :)

  • I really don't like this moderation idea as it stands... Expecting true impartiality from people is unrealistic. Grouping people by "score" smacks of Family Feud ("survey says!!! 42. good answer, good answer"). I say let the user make the choice ( no i don't want to set my threshold to -infinity to get all the comments). Just put a button next the comment's header that says something like "blackball" , which , for logged in users, will allow a user to add that individual to their user filter. That way if a comment is drivel to you, you can kill it (and any further posts by that author) but if you love someones comments that everyone but you hates, you can see them (and not have to see other lowly comments if you don't want to).
  • by ploeg ( 3058 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:47AM (#1966360)
    To all moderators:
    Unless a posting is out-and-out abuse, let the comment sit for an arbitrary length of time (30 minutes, for example). If the comment attracts good-quality responses, it's probably worth keeping. (Unless, of course, the whole thread is abuse heaped upon abuse.)

    To all others:
    If a posting is not worth a rebuttal, don't post one. This will help the moderators sort the gold from the dreck.
  • A paid membership goes against everything slashdot stands for. /. is about freedom of information, freedom to share ideas, and express... it is OSS taken to journalism. You make us pay, you lose that. No if ands or buts. This isn't saying "everything in the world should be free!" or "commercial stuff sucks!". I'm not saying any of that, but you turn /. into what your suggesting, then Slashdot becomes nothing more than NY Times online or whatever... /. is much more than that. Today, it's the Linux (or gnu/linux or whatever) of Journalism. Lets keep it that way, sit back, and enjoy the ride. Lets see what happens - Rob will figure it out.
  • by Ray Dassen ( 3291 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:00AM (#1966370) Homepage
    The system was tracking moderation done to each user internally for just this purpose. (I had a score of 2, Anonymous Coward had a -1628 *grin*)

    Could this score info be included in the "user account" (and perhaps the "user info") pages please?

  • One thing that should be pointed out - not all the unfair negative scores are intentional. I just noticed a comment, Score=1, that while not deserving to be stricken from the page didn't deserve to be filtered up, either. So, I hit the checkbox to knock it's score back down a point.

    Apparantly somebody else agreed with me, and tried to fix the problem at the same time, because when I came back, the comment was gone completely, Score=-1.

    Rob, a request: Could you set all Moderator thresholds to -100, and just let those who really want to change them back? One of the most important ways to spend a moderator point is fixing an unfairly negative-scored post, but I suspect 98% of the moderators still have their thresholds set not to see negative-scored posts at all.
  • by Skip666Kent ( 4128 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @09:11AM (#1966384)
    Every castle needs its Court Jester. Like it or not, "MEEPT" is our Jester.

    He/she/it should be given an unchangeable status of +99999, provided the priviledge only be abused in ways that would be fairly and democratically irksome and/or distressing to ALL SlashDot readers accross the board. This would provide much needed comic relief in times of strife and quite possibly bring about an end to World Hunger and Y2K paranoia.


    Skip Kent
  • by [null] ( 4156 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @11:07AM (#1966388)
    Lurk mode off.

    99% of previous comments unread due to extremely slow link (I apologize if I cover something previously posted)

    Comment: This is probably one of the best moderation systems I've seen so far.

    Question 1: Is there a heirarchy of moderation, i.e. are there "Super" moderators who can change/revoke moderation that another moderator has done, remove moderator status from lower moderators, etc?

    Question 2: Is there some sort of trial period (please don't mention a duration or specifics) for new/added moderators?

    Question 3: Is there/will there be a system for moderators to provide feedback to comment posters as to why their comment was moderated (i.e. "flamebait", "MEEPT!", etc.)? This would be good to help those of us who think we're writing good comments, yet we're either stating the obvious or are off-topic but don't know it.

    Question 4: Now that my brainstorm is getting underway, with all the recent customization, how about an area for "trusted" "part-time" story posters? Like those of us who have a story on Linux that's more than the "Linux on CNN" stuff, but almost never gets posted, e.g. the BeroLinux-Linux Mandrake distro merger? Something where people can turn off part-time story posters if they choose, and maybe combine the moderation feature into that so part-time posters are rated on the importance/quality of stories they post. To me at least, this seems like something that could provide more news (especially on those slow days) and still leave the "original" Slashdot for those who want it.

    Question 5: How about a way to alert/flag stuff for moderators to moderate? Like a MEEPT! post (sorry to pick on MEEPT, but that's the only example I can think of right now) could get flagged for moderator attention, or something that goes waaaaaaay off-topic. Sounds useful.

    Question 6: Is there some sort of "real" democratic system for the suggestion of new features and other feedback? I mean, is there like a congress of moderators or people who vote aye or nay on stuff after reviewing it, and their vote counts so many points, and higher-ups can veto it, etc.?

    Question 7 (rhetorical): Will this actually be read and responded to, and acheive a high score? ;-)

    I'll gladly take full responsibility for this comment if you'll gladly mail telling me why you like/dislike it.
    James R. Turinsky, LilithFair.Org/SomeSites.Com owner/administrator/Linux user and advocate.
  • You can essentially disable the filters if you want to, now that the /. preferences are enabled. Just go a bit of the way down the page & set your default threshold so low that you should see everything, even the moderated posts (unless some overzealous moderator(s) decided to knock them down a couple hundred points). My current threshold's at -10, so I can see everything & not have to worry about what the moderators think is/isn't right for me. That's not to say I have anything against moderation; it seems like a good idea for those who want it. But those of us who don't want it do have a method of essentially disabling it.

    -mike kania
  • But Rob, Rob...

    I'm not entirely sure you've thought this thing through.

    You see, you've selected a method, implemented it, and people seem to be saying, by and large, "Well, it's fine, but I won't be using it.", or else, "Well, it's not fine, and I won't be using it.".

    Perhaps these are only the people who are vocal enough to express an opinion - we all know that people who agree with the status quo are pretty much silent.

    Now, suggestions and comments of my own:

    - First, why not, in future, propose these things to everyone, and let them make comments about how it could be improved. That way, Slashdot surely benefits from the experience and suggestions of its readers, which is certainly a large part of its success. (Not saying you've done nowt, Rob, but the readers haven't done nowt either.)

    - Second, I don't want to read through reams of crap. I have no intention of doing so, either. However, if there's a good post to be read, then I enjoy reading any old reply to it - it's one thing to read a dull reply to the article, but often another thinng entirely to read a dull reply to someone else's post. Can there be an option to only have the moderation affect the top level?

    - Third, I have to say that as I write this post, I'm very conscious of the moderation, of getting a good score. I try to write constructively anyway - anyone can go look at what I've written before, I don't post much. But I write constructively because I like to read constructive posts. Now I find myself thinking, "I'm criticising Rob - I'll be scored down." I hope I won't be, at least, I hope I won't be scored down purely for that, but where does it end? Does it matter that my grammer isn't perfect? Does it matter that I spell colour with a 'u'? Should I use shorter paragraphs? Should I write more or less? It's just plain disconcerting.

    - And lastly, I'd like a user pref to be able to drop printing the scores. I took no notice of them before, and I'm quite happy for them to exist, just I don't feel any need to read them. Except on my own posts.

    Right. Time to post this and check out that score... :-/
  • [This is a repost of something I posted to an earlier story. It is more appropriate here. Yes, I agree with crow.]

    What we really need (though I don't expect it will arrive any time soon) is collaborative moderation.

    When reading comments, you can say 'I like this comment' or 'I don't like this comment'. Then Slashdot will match your likes / dislikes against other people with similar tastes, and will guess on your behalf which comments to show, based on
    what others with the same tastes as you have chosen. That way, there is no central moderator for people to be pissed off with. Occasionally, Slashdot would show a comment even if it thought you might not like it; if it turns out you do like it, that signals that your preferences have changed from what Slashdot thought.

    Kind of like's recommendations: 'other people who liked this comment also liked these comments'.
  • To keep moderaton fair and unbiased, I would suggest:

    1. Disable all moderation functions if any threshold above say -100 is used

    2. Don't display the current scores of the articles in moderator-mode (I disagree with you on this one - It is you job to judge the article and not the work of the other moderators)

    3. Don't allow moderators to vote even on followups to their own articles
  • Better yet, don't even make seperate newsgroups. Just "mirror" all of the the /. articles to a moderated newsgroup. Then all of the stories would show up as top level articles, and all of the comments could expand as USENET threads.

    Some info on the User Prefs page could be used to check articles that show up on the newsgroup and allow them to be posted to the web site as well. For instance, some "Maldian" program would continually mine alt.slashdot (or whatever) and whenever it finds a new article there it checks some of the info from the header or article and pipes it to the web server. Checking something like email address/name/something else would work for some sort of weak authentication. Likewise, ariticles posted to the web service could be piped out to the newsgroup using the User Information.

    I guess this raises all sorts of user authentication issues though. Oh well. It'd be a cool thing to try and see if it works anyway.

  • by Pasty Drone ( 8425 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @05:14PM (#1966431) Homepage
    If any of you are interested, we're discussing /. decision here. []
    And say what you want.

    NewsTrolls does not censor.


  • Of course there would still be ad banners. They'd be on the *web* portion of /. The part where all the Slashboxes and other stuff would be.

    Make the headlines another slashbox, perhaps...

    Opera, Symantec, Intel, Novell, Microsoft... all of those have newsgroups. Almost all ISPs have their own newsgroups. /. is just too big to remain a strictly web-based enterprise, and it seems like Rob is trying to reinvent the wheel. Scoring and filtering large amounts of mostly textual information is what NNTP (and trn/strn/slrn/Xemacs/xrn/etc) are designed to do best.

    As for killing the popularity of the site, it seems to me that more people would be put off by the sheer volume of information presented on the home page than by a switch to NNTP.

    I only log in every 2 to 4 days, for instance, and by the time I get around to any interesting article, there are usually hundreds of followups. Even Rob admits there are too many posts to follow most of the stuff here. I generally run with images off, as well. It's bad enough that I have to use Netscape to get here, and get around here; I certainly don't want the overhead of lots of little pictures bloating NS even faster than it usually bloats.

    The Opera web site allows its readers to access an NNTP server, so I don't see why Rob couldn't do something similar. Or, if NNTP is absolutely out-of-the-picture for whatever reason, there's always something along the lines of Newsguy's web-based usenet interface (they call it EDRN).

  • by lightning ( 8428 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:54AM (#1966434)
    I know there's probably some really obvious point I'm missing, but I don't understand why /. doesn't just switch to an NNTP interface. *Particularly* with 75,000 users, and with most articles getting 200+ comments within the first couple of days.

    Using NNTP, people could use whatever newsreader suits them best, and do their own filtering and/or scoring the usual way.

    There could be a slashdot.headlines group, for instance, where all articles are (cross-?)posted, with followups set to their relevant sub-topic groups: slashdot.debian, s.redhat,,, and so on. Moderate the s.headlines group to ensure that it contains *only* the headlines, and not followup discussions, and that's pretty much all that would be needed, it seems.

  • You can choose by what criteria to sort your comments display. I have mine sorting by score right now, with my thresh set to -999. I see all, but can choose to move along to another story if it starts going silly.

  • ChrisMul said: ...any limiting of comments is a form of censorship, though not necessarily in a bad way... -- but this isn't strictly true.

    While on the one hand I tend to abhor, for example, corporate/private restrictions on speech, and think it's a dangerous area that eneds watching, it's justn ot true that any and all forms of moderation or editorial input can be dumped into some wide-sweeping definition of "censorship".

    It's important to retain the rhetorical impact of labelling something or someone a censor. It shouldn't be used lightly, and it's not like we can't discuss the pros and cons of moderation or editorialism without resorting to calling everyone a censor. In fact, it's kind of argumentatively lazy to just throw that word around.

    Oddly, it seems to be in the air. The owner of one mailing list I'm on recently and temporarily gagged two posters, and ppl wigged out, as if jackbooted government thugs had just barged into their homes and stolen their secret printing presses in the basement.

    At the same time, a new policy of account-suspension was just launched on a chat server I hang out on, and ppl wigged out over there too. Interestingly, that particular case echoed some of Jon Katz's sentiments about how constant bullying of new people in effect silences those new people becos it's just not worth it.

    All in all, it's rather astonishing how well Slashdot manages to perform this experiment in using software combined with people to try to speak both to individual freedom and choice as well as to some sense of common good or social contract. Few other places online seem to strive so hardcore towards trying to fulfill both needs at once.

  • by eponymous cohort ( 8637 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @09:03AM (#1966442)
    Many of the most worthwhile usenet groups are moderated. The rest tend to look like this:


    1. 4001 best nude teen pics
    2. Make Money Fast!
    3. New Site best porn on the net!
    4. Ware Can I getz sum WaReZ?
    5. Best infant porn site!
    6. I like alt newsgroups
    7. Sell your product on the Web!
    8. Bestiality quicktime videos right here!
    9. Dis group sux
    10. Be your own boss!

    Sad as it is.
  • by Slef ( 8700 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @01:41PM (#1966444)

    Moderation is great, and I'm thrilled Slashdot is taking a nice step in that direction. But designing a moderation system is also very tricky: it has to be user friendly, but safe and reliable. This balance will greatly depend on the integrity and quality of the moderators.

    In other words, moderators have to be moderated. For now, this work (of moderating the moderators, let's call that 'metamoderation') is handled by Rob, and so it is up to him to tune the balance mentioned above to help him in his task.

    I will try here to consider the challenges of metamoderation, and propose some more technical tools to assist Rob in that task.

    The goal of moderation is to assign a rank to all comments, and rank them well. The available ressources for that work are the moderators. Of course, all moderators are not perfect.

    Ok, what do we mean by "a perfect moderator"? Well, we have two possibilities: it can either be Rob (this is the case if you read slashdot passively, and have a total trust in Rob's jugement to guide you through your slashdot experience), or it can be you, the reader (obviously, you know better!). The second solution is obviously better, but is more difficult to implement. Now, we can define the true rank of a page to be the rank decided objectively by the perfect moderator.

    If the perfect moderator were able to rank all by himself, it would be just great. Oviously, that is not possible. Thus we need to use non-perfect moderators, and thus, have some kind of control over the error introduced. The way it is done right now is totally static: In the first phase, Rob used his human jugement to hand-pick 20 moderators. In the second phase, he used the assumption that a person who posts good comments is a "good" moderator. One could design a more complicated system, but let me delay this discussion until later.

    Ok, so now, we have a bunch of good moderators, so we need a voting system. The moderation guidelines talks about the requirements of this system for the rank results, but doesn't talk about the requirements for the voting system. This causes some problems. Here is a scenario using the current voting system:

    Some article talks about night people vs. day people. If it is posted during the night, night people will push down messages bad for them until they becomes -1, and will be upped later to +4 by day people when they wake up. If the message had been posted during the day, the contrary would have happened.

    Altough this scenario is very improbable, it reveals a few flaws in the current voting system. So here are a few requirements for a voting system that may solve some of the flaws

    • Stability & convergence: as time progresses, and moderators vote, the error should go down. When all moderators have voted, the resulting rank should reflect all votes. This is obviously not the case with the current system, as two rival factions of moderators could keep the rank oscilliating indefinitely, and the final rank is decided by the most stuborn faction.
    • It should be possible to evaluate the quality (or the error) of a ranking. This is not currently possible.
    • The voting system should be order-independent. By that, we mean that the resulting rank should not depend on the order in which the votes have been cast. It is just a bit more tricky to see that the current system does not respect that. If yoou consider that a person's vote is just "up" or "down", then, yes, it is order-independent, but in the present case, the true vote of a person is what he believes to be the rank of the comment, and his up or down depends on that and the current score, so that in reality, the final score will be decided by the last voter. This means that in the system we want, the vote should not depend on the current rank.
    • The weight of a vote should not depend on anything else than the quality of the moderator (which is decided by the mmmetamoderator). In particular, it should not depend on the amount of time the moderator is spending on slashdot. Since in the current system, the number of currently available points is maxed at 10, a moderator who is voting all the time has more weight (more points to give) than someone who is not. (if I understood the system correctly).
    • Don't limit the amount of work the moderator can do. Right now, a moderator can only cast a vote on one tenth of the messages.

    Enough with the criticisms already. Here is a suggestion for the voting mechanism:

    every moderator gives a score between -3 and 5 (or something) to any message they read. All other messages have the status "not read" for that moderator.

    Ok, I admit the memory necessary to keep track of all that info can be a problem (but you could for example close the votes after 24hours, and delete that info), but there are clear advantages:

    • all of the above requirements are met
    • you can display not only the average rank, but also the variance which gives an information on the error. The metamoderator can then look at the messages with high variance to detect problems.
    • You can keep a count on how many moderators actually read a message, which can be useful for telling moderators what they still have to do.
    • compute the distance between some moderator, and the perfect moderator, and exclude the ones whose distance is too large.
    • do the same, taking some user as the perfect moderator to provide the user with a moderation tailored to his taste
    • etc.

    Ok, I touched many things here, and I have many more ideas, but I can't keep on writing forever....


  • Well, not bugs per se, but suggestions for smoother operation of Slashdot under the New Regime:

    1. On the front page, do not list total comments; rather, only list the number of comments that match the user's filterlevel;
    2. When clicking a link to a particular article, shut all filtering off. Often I link to a particular article that turns out to be of Weight 1, and my filters, being set at 2, present me with a totally blank page;
    3. In the User's bio page, show the score for each article he's posted and the Average Score for that user's postings

    These minor improvements could really make Slashdot's moderation system exceedingly neat.

  • I sincerely hope this isn't lost in the scorching flames sure to have followed. I feel that the range of moderation should be narrow, perhaps between -20 and +20. Moderation should also be tracked for large deviation: Here's why:

    If more than 20 moderators (that's simply 5%, feel free to adjust it maybe to 10% or so) believe that an article is not worth reading, then assuming their opinions are reasoned, further weighing in on the article is really quite redundant. There should be no need for moderators to get into the "dogpile" effect, where they wish to further cram down a particularly objectionable post and basically stoke a sense of righteousness that shouldn't be allowed to be raised to that level. Furthermore, trolls might actually shoot for the lowest score they can get. They'd disappear off most peoples' screens quickly enough, but a side game might well appear for "lowballing". This would also tend to defuse tendencies for a trend in moderation of an article to become "runaway" -- more on that later.

    I don't know if a moderator can only increase or decrease by 1. If not, it would certainly be a wise idea or one rogue moderator would be a disaster.

    As for a low ceiling, let's not make a hugely high moderation score become a mark of celebrity, or worse, fandom. If 50 moderators will mark upward everything Bruce Perens says, then at least it would stop at 20. You'd also have a problem with the moderators in that respect. You could also run into ridiculous value distinctions between a +100 article and one that was "merely" +50. Dogpile effect there too, let's not inflate someone's ego by getting posters clamoring "let's put him over the 200 mark, c'mon moderators".

    Finally, I would urge you to keep track of the total number of moderation marks on a post and not *just* alter the score. If 100 mark it upward and 100 mark it downward, you have a serious split in opinion which is obviously marked by widely different values in "what's worth reading", and while it may be appropriate (perhaps something highly inflammatory but thought-provoking, like the "anti-arab virus" article), there's another very likely possibility: that the moderators need more training on objectivity.

    I hope you give this serious consideration.
  • by Pac ( 9516 )
    3. By Article above: 408 moderators
    By Guidelines: 10 points/day per moderator
    Lowest score: 408 * 10 * -1 = -4080

  • by Dast ( 10275 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:45AM (#1966467)
    is, if you don't like it. Go away. Or send Rob constructive criticism and deal.

    Or hell, take the source and start your own Make it everything you want it to be.

    Rob has done a damn fine job. Not enough people take the time to say so.
  • by K. ( 10774 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:17AM (#1966471) Homepage Journal
    >Think of a news site like Slashdot without a
    >guy like me, or a group of guys at the center.
    >One where the best comments become the articles
    >on the homepage. If we could make that work...

    It has been made work. It's called Usenet
    (+ killfiles).

    I thought filters were a good idea. They let you
    choose what you wanted to read. But I don't think
    much of other people deciding that for me. The
    ability to filter out keywords in the subjects of
    comments would have helped to eliminate a lot
    of flames from view. It would certainly be better
    then letting an anonymous group with random
    agendas loose on your site.

  • I like the idea, but I think some comments that are well thought etc can get flamed to the bottom if they are against GPL or something else... I saw many valid and inteligent arguments flamed in the "New Copyleft" article.
  • I was skimming along the increasingly drab posts like this one and just noticed the "we put the borg in .org" comment above. Any chance that the moderators will single this out as something worth reading? I doubt it but I thought it stood out as good tounge in cheek humor. What are the chances of catagorizing the votes so that moderators can dub somthing as silly but readable if your in that sort of mood?
  • CmdrTaco, I have some questions.

    First off, let me say that I'm all in favor of the new moderator system. Having a reliable core of people who devote their time to making slashdot better without making it a popularity contest is the Right Way to do it. Unfortunately, those same folks just socked me one in the nose on a recent posting, so I want to know what do do when they are abusive.

    I recently had a posting (on an apple topic) that had more replies than any other on the Topic, had replies rated up to 4. (Even had a reply scored at 1 calling me a twat) And yet, for quite a while, the post itself was scored at -1. Yes, Negative One. For an on topic, unoffensive post by a logged in user that happened to disagree with the premise of the topic.

    So, What information exactly would you like me to collect for you before I use up your time emailing a complaint? Do you want an emailed complaint for a case such as mine? What are your criteria for taking action against a moderator?

    I don't want to waste your time with a bunch of complaints (you're doing so much great work as it is, that I'd rather you spent your time on it). But I would like to have some course of action to make the moderation better so that moderators with heavy biases and no sense of impartiality don't stick people over and over again. (BTW, I really like the suggestion that there be trackable histories for anonymous, numbered moderators....that way I can do my homework before I appeal to you)

    So let me know how to help slashdot.

  • The problem i see with this system is that while
    some of us use usenet on a daily basis, others
    just "visit" occasionally. Surely, NNTP has
    developed into something exceptional, as a protocol, at least, and using it can be a very fruitful experience... however, I see some problems with what you suggest:
    1. A lot of people who access slashdot do it with a browser, and they use a browser to get most of the info they get off the internet (ok, ok, that's a lot of us, but still).

    2. Most people like to seamlessly surf the web. Personally, i dont like having to cut/paste URL's from a news server into my web client. You surf to slashdot, surf somewhere else, etc, without opening any new netscape windows (or xterms, for those rtin folks :)

    here are some suggestions:

    a web nntp portal for slashdot users,
    where there could be an s.headlines, s.redhat, s.debian, etc, etc, etc and they're shared between the web server and nntp server. Posts can be made to either one and while the posts won't be moderated from the nntp server (except with filtering software) they can still be moderated on the web server, as most people will access it.
    the NNTP server could run as login (using your slashdot username/password) or if anonymous, any posts are made as anonymous coward)

    here are some problems with this idea:

    1. an extra box for rob to set up as the nntp server. this web server is already taking a pretty heavly load, as i've been getting some weird server errors which quickly go away when hitting the reload button. rob, wanna shell out more cash?

    2. do you know the signal to noise ratio on nntp servers? be it regular nntp or a private server, there are those pesky porn bots, warez kiddies, script kiddies, who just love to SPAM SPAM SPAM.

    Still, its not a very bad idea, with some changes.
  • In this country, The Kingdom of Sweden, there is a law that says I can read the prime ministers mail. Actually I can read all (poor translation) "proper documents" that are not explicitly made secret (either because they're military secrets or because of "relation to foreign powers" or because of protection of privacy). I don't live in US of A and I don't know if I'd like to...


    Has it ever occurred to you that God might be a committee?
  • If people paid $29 to become a moderator, that doesn't prove anything except that you aren't afraid to throw around money. I'd personally rather go through controlled peer review than get moderated by someone who just paid to get in......
  • by ChrisMul ( 13717 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @08:41AM (#1966518)
    Okay people...lets look at some reality here:

    Fact is, the moderation system that Rob's coming up with is prob the best that could really be asked for.

    It's basically peer-review, which in a world with people making comments varying from "first post" to the recipe of coca-cola, is probably the best possible form of censorship available (sorry Rob, but any limiting of comments is a form of censorship, though not necessarily in a bad way)
    If you want the mindless blabber, then set your preferences low, if you want meat and potatoes, have some higher standards...very simple. Granted, the anonymous coward postings are lower...WONDERFUL! We don't need fingerpointing, but some credability is a great idea, IMHO. And even though there is a lot of good stuff that comes from AC posts, they'll get adjusted as moderators read them and up their status...and *POOF* they appear on my comment list too! amazing, isn't it?

    This way of doing things lets the people that actually might contribute something useful help decide what the comparatively useful comments might be. THIS IS A GOOD THING!

    Rob: not to kiss ass or anything, but fact is, you've done a great job handling the sh*t we feed slashdot sometimes, and I'm glad you're doing your best to look at your 'baby' as the community that it has become...great job...and on the same note, letting or helping us rule ourselves, well...welcome to democracy...:o)

    Good job rob...(and David...and anyone else that fails to be mentioned)...:o)

    BTW...When do we get to write the new constitution? ;o)
  • There is a subtle problem with moderation is that it leads to a very narrow community of interest.

    This is because the current system of moderators creates an unstable system, with the fixed point having only one opinion expressed on any issue.

    Say for example that there is an article posted that suggests that some feature of another operating system compares favourably against the comparable feature in Linux.

    Say, for simplicity, that all of the comments either support or disagree with the article, and that there are about 200 comments. I'd guess that at least 75% of people here are broadly pro-linux, so say that there are 50 supporting comments and 150 disagreements.

    Now if there is no moderation, that is the proportion that everyone will see. Now assume that there are similar proportions of opinions amoungst the 400 moderators (This is actually unlikely- see below). Assume that 90% of them are well behaved and only moderate on such things as language, flames, giving interesting points of view etc. (this would be a _very_ good ratio), and the other 10% (bad) moderation is based on people agreeing with them. Now the number of biased (bad) moderators that may upgrade or downgrade articies is:

    Pro-Linux: 150, upgrade: 30, downgrade 10
    Pro-Other: 50, upgrade: 10, donwgrade 30

    For upgrades, this isn't a problem, since it is still proportional. For downgrades however, there is potentially quite a problem, as the Pro-Other articles may have a significant bias against them, so it is possible that the proportions at a threshold of 0 or 1 is more like 90:10, or even 95:5 instead of 75:25. This gets worse with a larger number of moderators.

    This in itself is not such a problem, these are only comments after all, and you can set the threshold to -(something large). However, those who keep getting comments downgraded and read an overwhelmingly single opinion are likely over repeated cases of this to get discouraged and go somewhere else, in this for instance pushing this (unintentionally) towards being a Linux only forum.

    Where it gets really bad is that even with a small bias, at some point Rob has to update the list of moderators. If he does it the same way, then those who hold opinions away from the majority are even less likely to be selected, since they have been moderated down a time or two, making this into a vicious cycle, admitting only those who hold the 'right' opinions, with the 'right' opinions getting narrower and narrower. (Don't use RedHat on x86? Tsk tsk tsk ... don't want you here). There are plenty of examples in history when this sort of thing has happened ... every time there is an 'in' group.

    One of the things that I enjoy in comments is when someone can reason well supporting a position that I don't agree with, as this helps me to expand my own ideas. I don't want to lose this.

    I wish that I could offer a better system, but one observation is that one of the reasons that democracy works as well as it does is that (nearly) everyone technically gets the same amount of vote. Perhaps if everyone could do one upgrade, (not downgrade) in a 24 hour period? .Any automatic system for selecting moderators is doomed to the problem that I described above.

    Roy Ward.
  • by Maciej Stachowiak ( 14282 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @11:15AM (#1966525)
    Although direct democracy moderation might sound like a good idea in theory, it would probably not work well in practice - imagine a KDE vs. GNOME flamewar in an article's comments if everyone were able to moderate. The scores would have as bad a signal-to-noise ratio as the comments. So a specific group of moderators provides a useful buffer.

    But moderators must have accountability too, and if there are a lot of them, Rob will have a hard time managing this himself.

    So how about this suggestion:

    * Make article scores floating point.

    * Give each moderator a weight, which is the amount by which he can change an article's score
    when moderating. Initialize all moderators to 1.0 and make 1.0 the maximum (or pick other suitable parameters).

    * Let everyone vote on whether or not they like the way an article was scored. This would feed back to the weight of the moderators who moderated it towards it's current score.

    Thus, ultimately moderators who consistently score articles up or down for bad reasons will have their weight lowered until their moderation does not really affect anything.

    This sort of applies the principles of representative democracy to moderation: moderation will be insulated from the momentary whims of the masses, but ultimately in a long-term sense, moderation is under the control of the entire community.
  • And it bites for several reasons:

    1) It discriminates unfairly against anonymous posters for no more reason than they prefer not to be identified (an automatic one-point penalty).

    2) Whether or not a post survives to be read is primarily a popularity contest among moderators. I've seen several reports, which I believe, of posts being scored downwards for no obvious reason.

    3) Negatively-scored posts are hard to find. Yes, you can set your default threshold to be very low so that you should be able to, theoretically, see everything. That is, IF you log in. Otherwise, you are stuck with adjusting it through the link on each article. And the interface only allows for going up or down one point at a time (yeah, you can rewrite the URL, but that's besides the point).

    With some very small changes, this could be a fair system:

    1) All comments start with a score of zero, regardless of identification.

    2) Scores are non-negative.

    3) Moderators can only increase a comment's score. I.e., as one poster suggested, treat the points as currency. Generally you are free to give away currency but not take it away...

    Thus, default settings will show all posts. Flame/noise posts are not a big problem unless there are a lot of comments on an article. When there are too many to consider, knock the threshold up by one until it's more reasonable.

    I won't/can't take credit for all these ideas. However, this is a workable combination which seems fair to everyone and doesn't allow censorship by moderators. It can also be implemented very, very easily. If anything, doing it this way is less CPU-intensive than the current way (no need to test if the user is anonymous or not for initial score; no button for negative scoring).
  • There is some major neatness happening here.
    I've been trying to think about problems
    like this for a while: how do you organize,
    open, collaborative intellectual efforts in
    general, (not just for software)? I think
    that slashdot is engaged in some impressive
    experiments in this direction. We may be
    on the verge of coming up with something
    that may rival the historical importance
    of the invention of the GPL.

    The trouble with negative filtering
    systems in a world of multiple virtual
    identies is obvious: anyone who is
    filtered out has the option of
    immediately returning under another name.

    So, in the absence of verifiable
    meatspace identies, you need to use some
    positive filtering, you select for the
    people who seem to be making an effort to
    do a good job. (Preventing forgery is
    still a problem, but it's eaisier to
    solve than pinning virtual identities to
    physical ones.)

    Letting everyone contribute to the
    ranking process can't really work,
    because of the problem of bozo's jamming
    the system using multiple identities.

    The slashdot system where anyone can
    contribute to the discussion and possibly
    earn moderator status from the existing
    moderators... this strikes me as

    And in retrospect, bootstrapping the
    system with a closed group of moderators
    was a really interesting approach. A
    state designed to whither away?

    Can we game it out to see if there still

    (1) Forgery, mentioned above. Eating a
    cookie doesn't imply any kind of PGP
    identity verification, (or maybe it does,
    and I don't understand cookies).

    (2) The anonymity of moderators sounds a
    bit problematic to me. There is the
    problem of not being able to "confront
    your accusers", and it also strikes me
    that it places a lot of burden on the
    moderators to conceal their status. And
    personally, I'd be reluctant to do a lot
    of volunteer work that I'm not allowed to
    take credit for. Open societies use
    anonymity only sparingly...

    So maybe this isn't a good idea, despite
    the bad taste you might have in your
    mouth from petty dictators on IRC (like
    Tom Christiansen?).

    (3) Can slashdot scale up further into
    the million reader's range?

    (a) If it got that big, the one central
    Moderator of Moderators would undoubtably
    be overwhelmed by the job of policing
    1000s of moderators. So at the very
    least, all of the moderators would
    probably have to start moderating each
    other's activities... or maybe there
    should be a hierarchy of promotion, where
    moderators earn meta-moderator status?

    (b) A Slashdot with a million readers
    would become a force to be reckoned with
    in the commercial arena: the buzz on
    slashdot could make or break a company.
    There would be a lot of incentive to try
    and corrupt the system, for example a
    large software company (possibly located
    in the Northwest) might send in a troupe
    of moles whose job is to post
    intelligently to earn moderator status.

    Anyway, I'm really interested to see where
    all of this ends up: I have fantasies of
    letting loose a group of volunteers on a
    problem like pinning down the truth about
    a big subject, like say global warming
    (investigating the magnitude of the problem,
    the weight of the evidence, the various
    prejudices pushing people in different
    directions, and possible methods of
    preventing or ameliorating the problems).
    Can we set up a dynamic intelectual web on
    the net where order has a chance to rise up
    above the noise?

  • by HardCase ( 14757 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @03:52PM (#1966533)
    That's an interesting idea, but I wonder if it could serve to silence a minority opinion? I mean, I'd like to think that if I didn't agree with an opinion, but it was well crafted that I'd upgrade it, but I wonder if, in reality I'd really do that? Multiply that by a few thousand.

    As a case in point, say somebody writes a well thought out response that shows, point by point, why Windows NT is a superior OS when compared to Linux. No rhetoric, no flamethrowing, just a carefully reasoned comment. I certainly wouldn't agree with it. And I'll bet that not only would most of the readers not agree with it, but many would be vitriolic in their disagreement. Suddenly, this comment is relegated to the moderation basement, all because it's an unpopular position.

    This is a long winded way of saying that a cadre of impartial, careful moderators can do a lot of good at weeding out the chaff, while protecting the voices of the minority. The new system seems like the right way to go.
  • First, why do you need my "REAL NAME"? Are you going to sue me? Why do you even care? Why can't I have multiple identities?

    It is virtually impossible to make sure you have "real names", even for a subscription service. It is too easy to falsify an identity, particularly online.

    Second, charge me $29 and I'll go away. I'll bet most everybody will go away. Has been tried, doesn't work.

    Pay services on that level are a hard sell unless they have really compelling content that is exclusive. A hard thing to come by. There is just too much content available on the web for free for sites to get away with charging that kind of subscription fee. Some people even whined when Slashdot added banner ads.

    Third, DejaNews makes Usenet quite usable.

    Well, I used to be an avid USENET reader/poster. Over the past few years I don't read it like I used to. Partially it is because I don't have enough network bandwidth to make it pleasant, but it is also because the signal to noise ratio on USENET definitely went downhill. DejaNews is a really great service that makes finding the good content on USENET a lot easier, albiet it isn't the most convenient way just to browse news groups.

  • I like the pure democracy idea of everyone being able to vote on articles. In turn, people could decide that they don't care about particular users' opinions, so they could tell the system to ignore votes by those users when displaying articles.

    The only trick is anonimity. How do you stop people from voting twice, but insure that they can vote once? Perhaps only allowed loged-in users to vote. Then if you see an article with a strange rating, you could see who voted to cause that rating, check to see what else the voted on, and then set to ignore the weirdos whose votes you don't like.

    Of course, a lot of people like to post as anonymous cowards, even if they don't mind loging in in principle. For such people, you could add a check box to the posting page for "anonymous post." (It could also be a default in the user profile.)

    Still, if you let people see who cast the votes, that means voting is never anonymous. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing. If only some votes were anonymous, I would set my preferences to ignore anonymous votes.

    I think that would work.

    Then we would all want to vote on what we thought of each person's voting history, so as to generate a normalized vote weighting system. :)
  • by lee ( 17524 ) <lee&pyrzqxgl,org> on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @10:03AM (#1966566) Homepage
    Perhaps you could place a total number of comments, as well as the total number of shown comments at the base of the article. That way users can tell what number of comments they don't see. I would like this, because if my normal access reveals 10 out of 200, maybe i might decide to change the level. Also some stories have quite amuzing low level debates. This could clue me into that if there is an unusual number of unshown comments.
  • Didn't CmdrTaco say this article was meant for constructive criticism? This is the appropriate forum to tell Rob what they do/n't like, and what they would like done.

    Ok, Ok, good job Rob. And I do mean it.

  • That's what articles such as this are for! Almost evrey program has features that you have to search for, read the FAQ for, read the online help file for. Most people are aware of this.

  • > [About moderation] This is wrong. It's Evil.

    I happen to disagree with you. You seem to dislike moderation because moderators might abuse their power; should we therefore also condemn democracy, because politicians could do the same? The problem is not with moderation, but with the possibility of there being dishonest people trying to push their own agendas.

    While I know that they exist , I believe that they are a minority (on Slashdot, that is) so their impact shouldn't be too great.

    > Each downward moderation should have a REASON tagged onto it, and the identity of the moderator should be listed

    I do agree with this idea, though. People would know why their post is considered in a bad light by moderators; who knows, the poster might even learn a few things too.

  • I'm not sure I really like the idea of this kind of moderation. I know it is all well and good to try and get rid of the AC "First Post" Fluff, but where does it end?

    And I have heard the thing about changing the threshold to -100 or something like that, so you don't miss anything. But it still doesn't sit right with me because random people are the moderators.

    No matter what anyone would like to think about their fellow human, people still have their weaknesses. Biases and Agendas will still probably creep up in the back of the backs of even the trustworthiest people's minds.

    Now, even though most of the comments aren't really deleted. I don't like the thought of a random person putting a "rating" on my or anybody else's comments. Basically I don't like them saying that any one comment is better, or more important than any other comment. I think it is up to me to decide whether or not a comment is of quality or not.

    The minute that there is a negative 1 or 2 or whatever placed on a comment, it automatically puts the thought in peoples minds that this comment is of lower quality or importance, that's if they even see it, because some people might not have their thresholds set down low enough.

    There are definite biases here on /. Somebody might have a great comment about something that's included with Windows is better than Linux. They may have a great argument and have a well-written comment, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that comments like that could potentially be set to a negative number, because of the biases of the random "moderators". That doesn't seem open, or free to myself. It seems the system that is in place is very judgmental towards outsiders and newbies.

    If there was some way to have a system of moderation that was really impartial without a shadow of a doubt, then maybe I would be all for it, but until then, I am not going to like this system of moderation, no matter what anyone says.
  • by regs ( 18775 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @12:28PM (#1966586) Homepage much people like to whine.

    Rob has two issues that he has to weigh: one is the signal/noise ratio on /. and the other is his clearly stated belief in not censoring anything that anyone has to say.

    Let's look at the two extremes:

    In one extreme, he could delete every message that he didn't like. (Or now with scaling issues, the larger moderator pool of /.ers).

    In the other extreme, he could just let post show up in the order that they were posted and not touch a thing.

    The system (both the old and the new) that he has implemented has inherent beauty and balance. Since day one, he has never deleted a post. He scores it. This gives you a choice... it's an optional rating system, not censorship! If you don't like, DON'T USE IT!.

    Think about it this way: it's a recursion of what /. is about in the first place! /.ers come here to read what has been culled off the net. They could crawl through the net and skim the cream of the technical stories themselves... or trust Rob to do it. But who really wants to sift articles about SAP's Q2 projections and new spew about Office 2K just find the good stuff? Not I! That's why I come to /.: I trust Rob to choose wisely when it comes to posting interesting articles.

    The other dimension of /. are the comments. They have always been scored, the only new change is who gets to score them. It never was and still isn't censorship. It's a review.

    You know, some people won't go to a movie that doesn't get a good review? They find a film critic they like in print or on the net, and if he/she says the film sucks, they don't go. This is the same thing! Lower your threshold and the scores are meaningless, raise it, or keep it at zero, and it's just like consulting a movie review.

    Everybody gets a choice... I don't have to sift through stupid-ass flamewars to find the content that I love.

    You know what... I think I'll raise my threshold to 1.

  • Current moderation scores posts according to how relevant and meaningful the post is. Such a grading system is useful when reviewing a good topic (such as the Linux/Oracle article) and needing to see the most relevant posts. On the other hand, wouldn't other dimensions of evaluating posts be useful, such as:
    • Humor
    • Flame
    • Pinhead Post
    Then you could also have highlights for each day such as "Funniest Posts", or "Toasters", or even "10 Stupidest things said today!" I just hope I don't ever make the last list....
  • Weren't you supposed to hide your moderating powers from us mere mortals? I'm afraid you just said jehova.
    No go ahead and censor me ;)
  • First, why do you need my "REAL NAME"? Are you going to sue me? Why do you even care? Why can't I have multiple identities?

    Second, charge me $29 and I'll go away. I'll bet most everybody will go away. Has been tried, doesn't work.

    Third, DejaNews makes Usenet quite usable.
  • How about a slashbox with comments above a certain threshhold?

    Also, do my own comments show up when they are below the threshhold I have set?
  • Well, if you don't like moderation, don't use it. No one is forcing you to. You can choose to use other people's decisions on what's good and what's not, or you can choose not to.

    If you read a newspaper, or read books, or even watch TV, you're taking other people's word at what's good and what's not (they're called editors).
  • First, Rob, I'd like to say that I think you are doing a GREAT job. This new moderation scheme is definitely a very good thing for slashdot.

    There are a few things you should add, however. I agree with the comment regarding a score history. It would be very beneficial to the posters if they knew why they got negative points (along with the moderator ID--keeping them anonymous).

    If you have enough of a moderator base you should cycle moderators. I believe this will avoid the "I don't care anymore" syndrome, to an extent. ie. eliminating useless moderators over time. I believe you are thinking of this in a way but instead of revoking a moderator just for being bad, revoke them for being a moderator too long regardless of their history (unless it's someone you know personally, obviously).

    It's a democracy one way but what about the other ? The moderators get to vote on the posters so why can't the posters vote on the moderators? This can be done by requiring moderators to give reasons for how they moderated on some number N comments. It would be too time consuming to comment on every single one. Then the moderator would have a specific id associated with them. This way the users of slashdot can see what our moderators are like and vote accordingly. You (or some committee you pick) then make the final decision. So, to sum it up, you would cycle to a moderator, they would have a trial period to comment on N comments. The users of slashdot would then vote on their opinion of the moderator - in essence, grading them.

    You could take this a step further and allow the users of slashdot to select what moderators influence the score (but it would be completely local to that user). ie, Mod1 votes -2, and Mod2 votes 3. The current user has Mod1 selected as one of their preferred moderators, and Mod2 deselected (you can implement this a zillion different ways i suppose), so Mod2's vote doesn't matter.

    Stefan Preble

  • This is exactly why he decided on using more than a handful of moderators. It will be next to impossible for all 408 moderators to get together to force an agenda. Heck, people have a problem trying to agree what they should have for lunch. The moderators most likely don't know who the others are. (With the exception of CmdrTaco :) ) The only way to find out for sure who all the moderators are is to reveal themselves & that gets the status taken away. And they are probably under orders to reveal any unappropriate activity by any other moderators. Colusion is harder to get among that many people.
  • by watanabe ( 27967 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @12:57PM (#1966645)
    First, The kudos to Rob, et al: Way to go. There are very few collabarative discussion groups of this size _anywhere_ which do not suffer from the problems people have are complaining about: excessive noise, moderators "playing favorites", and overworked moderators. You are pushing toward a brave new world. : ).

    Even places like [] with similar daily hits to slashdot do not have this sort of borad-based moderation in place... Phil Greenspun [mailto], database-backed web design guru, might be interested, in fact.

    A few thoughts:

    1) Although nothing makes up for the versatility that humans have for moderation, perhaps an adaptive scoring system could be added on: functions like "set score += 1 if post contains 'linux'" or "set score = -10 if post contains 'luzer'" implemented on a per-user basis would be more expensive, but even more valuable than the current system. In this way, the moderators scores could be taken as a base. Those who are happy with the moderators, and only want to make sure they see their own posts at the top have an easy road ahead of them. Likewise, those who feel the moderators are fascist pigs.

    2) The scoring system has one strong benefit people do not seem to be mentioning: Conscientious moderators encourage better, and more posting. My goal is clear: Get ratings of 3-4 on all my posts! Additionally, I am more motivated to post knowing that if my post is good, it will reach a wider group of people.

    The broad-based scoring implements a small free market economy of ideas: the posters of dreck can continue in their ways, (reaching fewer and fewer people) while those who want a voice will be forced to value their fellow /.'ers time and intelligence.

  • So only the moderators who wrote over 100 articles have earned moderator points? Prolific.

    And here I was just an AC until a week ago because without the /. customization features I didn't want another account/pw for my meager comments...can I reclaim my past comments? :-)

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @01:19PM (#1966651) Journal
    You're reinventing the annotated web. Not surprisingly, a lot of web technology has been studied a lot...

  • by Foamy ( 29271 ) on Tuesday March 23, 1999 @09:59AM (#1966657)
    I'll try this again.

    How about a simple scale like 1-10? Each post starts out a 5 and each moderator has 10 radio button for each post then can select a _defined_ level for a post. 1=First Post, LINUX r00lz; 10=well informed, thought out and presented argument. Then if a moderator submits a new level, it a _averaged_ with all other moderations to give the story a new level. This way if I want everything I set my level to 1. If I want only the best posts, 9 or 10. This also alleviates the problem of an okay post being lowered by numerous moderators to a level way lower than it should. The same goes for increasing the level.

  • another way to fight flames is to make it possible
    for a user to correct flames. A corrected flame
    is a reply that retracts statements made in the
    flame. This has to be approved by a moderator.
    This is a bit more than self-regulation, because
    it also gives mechanics to correct bad (human)
  • if a person has two moderator logins (this is quite possible), then a bot could quickly generate lots of articles which are 'cross-rated' between the two moderators. Similarly, any circular dependency will do it. Unless there are no safeguards against similar abuse, a moderator could 'skyrocket' his own rating artificially. some sort of time limit (ie. only X moderated posts per day limit for a rookie moderator) could prevent at least certain types of 'old boys network' abuse. What do you think?

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.