A Parable of Karma
Joe Slashdotter signs in for an evening of /. reading, and catches a just-breaking story: the MicroWidget Corporation has just announced TeraWidget 1.0 (Open Source, of course, of course) and it's the greatest thing since punched cards. Joe happens to have some expertise in the HDW (High-Density Widget) field, so he posts a deeply insightful comment explaining his take on this development. He then settles in for a few hours of reading others' comments and responding thoughtfully and informatively to them. Everyone perceives Joe's insight, knowledge and incisive wit as a wonderful enhancement to the TeraWidget discussion, and continue to ply him for more. Before long, he's posted thirty comments, each with an initial score of 1, and an enthralled audience mods them up to an average of 4.5. His karma quickly caps at 50.
After the furor dies down, and folks begin to realize that TeraWidget 1.0 is really only GigaWidget 2.0 (or MegaWidget for Workgroups), later moderators won't perceive the same value in Joe's posts and mod them down as overrated. His thirty comments are reevaluated to an average of 2.5.
Now, look at what just happened. Joe has posted thirty comments today, which have now been modded up an average of 1.5 points each. His karma, though, now stands at -10, no matter what it was yesterday. His comments may now be initially scored -1, rendering him invisible to the vast majority of Slashdotters.
Is this scenario realistic? Perhaps not, but it happens all the time on a smaller scale, so it may happen periodically to this degree or something close to it. I just checked my stats: I've already made three comments today, and they were modded up to 3, 5 and 5 respectively. One of my comments was the site of a mod war which, after eight mods, brought it back down to 2. As a result, my karma now stands three points lower than it did this morning, even though my three comments for the day were modded up an average of 1 1/2 points.
Anybody else notice localized problems like this? I have a suggestion for a fix, though I'm sure there are better solutions:
Create a Glass Karma Cap. If a user is constantly pressed against it, with a large percentage of his comments being modded up, the pressure eventually causes the cap to yield. A secondary cap comes into play at 150, and the user can then post with a score of 1, 2 or 3 once he reaches 100 karma. If the user allows his karma to fall below 50, the cap reappears.
I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this idea, or why it won't work, or why another idea (or the current setup as it stands) is infinitely better.