Friday, February 8, 2008

Slashdot moderation

In the social media reading group today, Yi-Chia Wang led discussion over Slash(dot) and Burn: Distributed Moderation in a Large Online Conversation Space, by Cliff Lampe and Paul Resnick at UMichigan. It's an interesting study of comment moderation on Slashdot.

I don't participate in comments on /., but I occasionally read them if I really don't have enough other things on the internet to distract me, and was always a little confused about how comments were moderated and decided upon (I never read this little FAQ of theirs). Users can vote for comments to be upgraded or downgraded. Most comments are not moderated (only 28% are), so there is a high tendency for default values between -1 and 2 to remain as-are: -1 is trolls, 0 for Anonymous Cowards, 1 for regular users, and 2 for users with good "karma", which is decided by whether you've posted.

One not-surprising thing was that at a median, 18 hours is how long it takes for 90% of a post's comments to happen. Not sure if it necessarily follows a power law dropoff, but if it does it is somewhat steeper than the -1.5 power law for post-responses in general for blogs that we wrote about in this paper, so I wonder if that is the case with comments for all blogs, or just high-traffic ones like Slashdot.

It's certainly an interesting moderating scheme, considering the computational methods for finding "interesting" things are not there yet.

1 comment:

Quico said...

Sometimes, the internet just baffles me.

Five years ago, when I came out to do my PhD, "Distributed Moderation"
was all the rage.

It had long been obvious to anyone who participated in online
discussions that some kind of system to help participants figure out
the "read-worthiness" of comments at a glance would be necessary to
tamp down on troll wars, crap loading, and all the other little
annoyances that make online discussion so frustrating some time.

Everyone could see that Slashdot was on the right track, but their
system had to be made better, more intuitive, more informationally

There was ferment in the air. Sites like this (
) were going up, research papers like this (
) were getting written. Blogs were going up with names like
"Everything in Moderation" to discuss all the ins and outs of net
community moderation (
) A kind of CMS even got written to replicate Slashdot functionality
( ).

Distributed moderation was THE hot thing...and then, suddenly:

Circa 2005, the whole scene seems to have gone quiet. People just
stopped writing about it. Blogging about it. Researching it. And they
sure as hell stopped writing code about it.

Why? What happened to "distributed moderation"? The need for it is
still out there, the problem is far from solved. Slashdot's system
hasn't failed, it's gotten more and more sophisticated with time. But
look for a plug-in to replicate Slashdot functionality in, say,
Drupal, or Joomla, or any of the other big CMSs, and you just won't
find it.

In fact, the closest thing you're liable to find along these lines is
a Wordpress hack here and there !

Me? I'm pointing the finger to the gormless, "thumbs up/thumbs down"
thing sites like YouTube have made standard: a kind of bastardized,
information-poor, rough-and-dirty emulation of Slashdot style
moderation that breaks up discussions, dooms late entrants to
invisibility, fails to provide the right incentives to commenters, and
basically just sucks.

Actually, I think I hate thumbs up/thumbs down. I really think I do.