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