Edits: Implemented a complete tone change to remove the confrontational aspect, per FortKnox's suggestion.
Revised to remove the threat of additional carnage at the suggestion of several people.
Also, to the AC: I've already got you beat on the virgin subject (with a woman even!), but if you'd like to go with "unloved and penniless", that's still a distinct possibility.
Original Article follows
Thanks to RxWxS for his mention of Taco's latest JE.
My feedback to Rob Malda, which I will e-mail to him from my primary, non-slashdot account. Please feel free to suggest edits, additions, or deletions, or just drop a line "signing" it if you approve of the content.
You requested thoughts on increasing the ability to downmod users. My thoughts are centered more around the fact that Slashdot appears, by all accounts, to be falling apart and nobody appears to be addressing the underlying issue as to why.
When it comes right down to it, technical solutions to stop the crapflooders can be implemented, strongarm censorship practices to silence individual accounts can be implemented, but "trolls" cannot be stopped unless one thing is done:
Slashdot has to stop creating them.
Slashdot invites abuses, and failure to admit this is the reason that there has been a constant problem with them. We already have a moderation system that allows users who were "abusive" (as a sidenote, I'd like to mention that "abusive" has never actually taken on a material meaning here) to be modded in such a way that other users can choose not to view their posts. What happened? People used the moderation system to silence abusers and people with unpopular opinions alike, and everyone had to start browsing at a lower threshold just to see something other than stagnant groupthink that a handful of people who learned to work the mod system made visible. Whenever I need a reminder of what slashdot's deepest problem is, I just go back to the Farenheit 9/11 story you posted in which one could view two things by setting a +6 on all negative moderation types, and a -6 on all positive moderation types:
1. Trolls and people trying to be offensive.
2. Conservative opinons.
Slashdot has been an exercise in attempting to retrofit technical solutions to social problems. Every time one of these technical solutions is implemented, a whole new group of people are alienated when their legitimate behaviors are lumped in with people who were working the last "fix" to their advantage. A whole new group of people becomes ticked off and look to abuse slashdot in retalition for their treatment.
No retort would be complete, of course, without a personal anecdote.
At one time, TxMxP was an excellent karma account which extolled the virtues of open source, discussed YRO articles with the masses, and even moderated once. After being rejected from moderation for being too active on the site, banned from posting because other people on my subnet were being abusive, and being mod-bombed by people who found my opinions to be unacceptable, I got fed up with the whole thing. I began to identify with people like Trollaxor and OSM, Spiral X, Klerck, and rkz. People who were attacking (or had attacked) the site and its inhabitants from the inside. I began to look at "slashbots" as ignorants who were just perpetuating other people's generalized opinons because it got them upmods that validated them as members of the site. I began to pick out stories that weren't all they appeared to be, citing editorilization disguised as summary. All of this eventually got me repeatedly downmodded until I finally decided I'd had enough, and simply began attempting to agitate people on the site whether individual stories and posts were legitimate or not.
I'll tell you how to fix the site, if you'll consider what amounts to a blow-by-blow criticism of the handling done by you and other managers behind the scenes:
1. Editors must quit editing people's submissions (especially their headlines) to be inflammatory.
2. Likewise, editors must quit accepting unncessarily inflammatory submissions. I've seen numerous cases where angry, retaliatory write-ups that don't accurately reflect the article being referenced have been accepted (the recent mis-characterization of Theo de Raadt's firey comments as indicating Linux is for "losers" comes to mind) only to have other people come into the comments and post their own submissions which were simple summaries without all the editorializing. What really tops it off though is that these posts are often downmodded as "Offtopic" within seconds.
3. EDIT the submissions for clarity, grammar, and spelling.
4. VALIDATE the submissions. "RTFA" doesn't just apply to the users. I've seen stories posted containing erroneous information, complete rips of copyrighted works, and blatant trolls that could have been avoided with five minutes worth of work. I realize you get a lot of submissions, but if you're unable to do your job properly because of the volume, then you have structural issues in the organization that need addressed.
5. Quit using a shotgun to shoot rats. If you ban 253 IP address to try and get one "troll", you could be angering as many as 252 legitimate users just to keep one guy who already posts at -1 or 0 from posting an Old Ike story or a skull troll.
6. Quit relying on IPs in general. I already have a modified SS script that I use to vet proxies that work on Slashdot, I'm sure others that abuse the site have their own methods as well. Unless you ban the whole internet, you're not going to stop anyone who's determined from causing trouble by picking at their IPs.
7. There have been a number of highly controversial people who have held editorial positions at Slashdot since its inception. Two of them engendered a large amount of negative feeling from not just trolls and abusers, but the Slashdot community - especially longer standing members - in general. How can we be expected to take the editors seriously when, from our perspective, it appears that Slashdot doesn't?
8. Provide an easy system for feedback on Slashdot that isn't limited to your e-mail address or technical discussion of the code on sourceforge. Slash isn't that terribly great of a codebase, it could stand some major upgrades and improvements. Stop squeezing every suggestion through your unncessarily tight grip.
9. QUIT ATTACKING THE TROLLS. First of all, I've said it before and I'll say it again: you ought to pay me to post, as much ad revenue as I must generate for you when I get first posts. Half the time, the stories that get huge responses get huge responses because someone posted a well-crafted troll. It's not unusual for the non-root replies to these trolls to branch off into legitimate discussion either. I realize you've suffered a lot of attacks from trolls, but trolling - in stark contrast to crapflooding and general abusiveness - can be a great mixer when opinions stratify and can encourage people to consider all sorts of things they hadn't thought about before.
10. Quit encouraging people to punish individual opinions while rewarding views that the majority approves of. Why is the moderation system attached at all to a person's ability to post? The implication is that a person's value is determined by majority opinion. The irony of a man with liberal views that are currently under attack for not being "mainstream" running a site that punishes non-standard ideas is so thick it's suffocating.
When it comes right down to it, if you want to fix slashdot, quit breaking it first.