last updated 02 July 2002 by jon
This document will attempt to explain the moderation system that lies underneath Goats/Slash's vast comment section. It will fail. But read it anyway; I spent a lot of time on it. Well, not that much.
I plan on rewriting a lot of this at some point, but it'll do for now.
The moderation system is designed to sort the gems and the crap from the steady stream of information that flows through the pipe. And wherever possible, it tries to make the readers of the site take on the responsibility, because we like imposing stuff on people.
The goal is that each reader will be able to read the forums at a level that they find appropriate. The impatient can read nothing at all but the original stories. Some will only want to read the highest rated of comments, some will want to eliminate anonymous posts, and others will want to read every last drip of data, from the First Posts! to the spam. The system we've created here will make that happen. Or at least, it sure will try...
- Promote Fun, Discourage Crap
- Make the forums as readable as possible for as many people as possible.
- Do not require a huge amount of time from any single moderator.
- Do not allow a single moderator a 'reign of terror'
- Logged In User
If the system can't keep track, it won't work, so you gotta log in. Sorry if you're paranoid, but this system demands a certain level of accountability.
- Regular Forums Readers
The scripts track average accesses from each logged in user. It then selects eligible users who read an average number of times. The homepage doesn't count either. It then picks users from the middle of the pack- no obsessive compulsive reloaders, and nobody who just happened to read an article this week.
- Long Time Readers
The system throws out the newest few thousand accounts. This prevents people from creating new accounts to simply get moderator access, but more importantly, means that newbies will have to be part of the community for a few weeks before they gain access to the controls to a system they don't understand.
- Willing to Serve
If you don't want to moderate, just visit your user preferences, and set yourself as 'Unwilling'
- Positive Contributors
The forum tracks your "Karma" (see the FAQ). If you have non-negative Karma, this means you have posted more good comments than bad, and are eligible to moderate. This weeds out spam accounts.
So the end result is a pool of eligible users that represent (hopefully) average, positive forums contributors. Occasionally (well, every 30 minutes actually) the system checks the number of comments that have been posted, and gives a proportionate amount of eligible users "Tokens". When any user acquires a certain number of tokens, they become a moderator. This means that you'll need to be eligible for many of these slices in order to actually gain access. It all works to make sure that everyone takes turns, and nobody can abuse the system, and that only "regular" readers become moderators (as opposed to some random newbie ;)
Moderation takes place by selecting an adjective from a drop down list that appears next to comments. Descriptive words like 'Flamebait' or 'Informative'. Bad words will reduce the comments score by a single point, good words increase a comments score by a single point. All comments are scored on an absolute scale from -1 to 5. Logged in users start at 1 (although this can vary from 0 to 2 based on their overall contribution to discussions) and anonymous users start at 0.
Moderators can not participate in the same discussion as both a moderator and a poster. This is to prevent abuses, and while it is one of the more controversial aspects of the system, I'm sticking to it. There are enough lurkers that moderate, that if you want to post, feel free.
Moderation points expire after 3 days if they are left unused. You then go back into the pool and might someday be given access again.
Concentrate more on promoting than on demoting. The real goal here is to find the juicy good stuff and let others read it. Do not promote personal agendas. Do not let your opinions factor in. Try to be impartial about this. Simply disagreeing with a comment is not a valid reason to mark it down. Likewise, agreeing with a comment is not a valid reason to mark it up. The goal here is to share ideas. To sift through the haystack and find needles. And to keep the children who like to spam the forums in check.
The fact that you are reading this document proves that you are already on the right track.
Why can't I suddenly moderate any more?
- Moderator access only lasts 3 days.
- You can't moderate and post in the same discussion.
- Do you still have any moderator points left? You only got 5...
- If you unfairly moderate a comment, you might have your access revoked, although this is almost never the reason people lose access.
Is this censorship?
We're not technically deleting anything. In fact "We" technically aren't really doing much at all. The masses are doing this for themselves (in theory anyway). And you are always given the option of clicking the threshold control over to '-1' and reading everything uncut, so I really have a hard time saying this truly is censorship. But if you really want to call it that, I can't really argue. We're trying to make as many people happy as possible here- if you don't like something, you can probably change it in the user preferences to more suit your tastes anyway.
Of course, if you post something patently offensive or technically disruptive, we'll rip it right out of there. If you want free speech, go start your own website.
What is a Good Comment? A Bad Comment?
- Good Comments are insightful. You read them and are better off having read them. They add new information to a discussion. They are clear, hopefully well written, or maybe amusing. These are the gems we're looking for, and they deserve to be promoted.
- Average Comments might be slightly offtopic, but still might be worth reading. They might be redundant. They might be a 'Me Too' article. They might say something painfully obvious. They don't detract from the discussion, but they don't necessarily significantly add to it. They are the comments that require the most attention from the moderators, and they also represent the bulk of the comments. (Score: 0-1)
- Bad Comments are flamebait. Bad comments have nothing to do with the article they are attached to. They call someone names. They ridicule someone for having a different opinion without backing it up with anything more tangible than strong words. Bad comments are repeats of something said 15 times already making it quite apparent that the writer didn't read the previous comments. They use foul language. They are hard to read or just don't make any sense. They detract from the article they are attached to.
Karma is the sum of all moderation activity done to a user. Karma is used to determine eligibility for moderator status. Every new user starts with a Karma of 0, and as long as your karma isn't negative you are eligible to become a moderator. This doesn't mean you ever will become a moderator, but it does make you eligible!
3 Days Is Not Long Enough To Moderate!
On the contrary, I think its too long, although maybe I should change it to like "24 hours after you first are informed that you have moderator access". My reasoning is pretty simple: I don't want people to stockpile their points. I want people to use them or lose them. Otherwise people will hold on to their X points until a story comes on that they have a strong opinion in, and they will be tempted to moderate the discussion so as to sway things "their way". By expiring points quickly, moderators are encouraged to use them. Sometimes their points might expire unused, but thats ok: the system will just give points to someone else.
Why don't I get my points back after I post in a discussion I moderated?
Basically because of the following scenario:
- Bob Moderates a Discussion
- Bob Waits Until Tomorrow When the Discussion Leaves the Homepage and Activity Dies Off.
- Bob goes into dead discussion, posts and comment, reclaims his moderator points.
- Lather. Rinse. Repeat
How can I improve my Karma?
What follows was originally a story submission by dkh2. It seemed to me that it would better serve readers here: 10 tips for improving your Karma:
- Post intelligently:
- Interesting, insightful, thought provoking comments are rated higher on a fairly consistent basis.
- Post calmly:
- Nobody likes a flame war. In fact, more times than not the flamer gets burned much more than their target. "Flame Bait" is hit quickly and consistently with "-1" by moderators. As the bumper sticker says... "Don't be a dick."
- If you can't be deep, be funny:
- If you don't have something truly developing to the topic, humor is always welcome. Humor is lacking in our lives and will continue to be promoted. Remember though, what rips your sides out may be completely inane to somebody else.
- Post early:
- If an article has over a certain number of posts on it already yours is less likely to be moderated. This is, less likely both statistically (there are more to choose from) and due to positioning (as a moderator I have to actually find your post waaay at the end of a long list.)
- Post often:
- If you only post once a month you can expect your karma to remain low.
- Stay on topic:
- Off topic posts are slapped quickly and consistently with "-1" by moderators.
- Be original:
- Avoid being redundant and just repeating what has already been said. (Did I really just say that?) Yes, being moderated as "redundant" is worth "-1" to your post and your karma. Especially to be avoided are the "what he said" and "me too" posts.
- Read it before you post:
- Does it say what you really want it to say? Check your own spelling and grammar. Occasionally, a perfectly beneficial post is passed over by moderators because of this completely irrelevant to content feature. This is also a good approach to checking yourself for what you're really saying. Can't tell you the number of times I've stopped myself from saying the opposite of what I meant by checking my own s&g.
- Log in as a registered user:
- I know, this sounds obvious but, "Anonymous Coward" does not have a karma rating. You can't reap the perceived benefits of your own accidental brilliance if you post anonymously. Have pride in your work and take credit for it.
- Read Slashdot regularly:
- You can't possibly contribute to the discussion if you're not in the room. Come to the party and play.