This is my first Meta-Article. I've tried to steer clear from submitting Meta stories
before because I'm never sure how useful they are. However, I have been thinking a lot about
the (potential?) decay of the quality of discussions on K5 (and Slashdot), and if techinical means can be
used to overcome that trend. I'm generally not a believer in technical means of improving the
quality of discussions. I think it is the intention of the people that matters more, but I agree
that technical means may help guide those intentions.
Here's my (somewhat radical, I think) take on how to improve the discussions. Even if it isn't
adopted, I hope it makes people think about what K5 is trying to achive
Currently, as I understand the K5 story system this is what happens:
At step 2, editorial and topical comments may be posted. At (and beyond) step 3, topical
comments may be posted.
- A story is submitted
- Voting occurs
- The story may move to a section only, the front page or be rejected, depending on votes
- After a certian number more stories have been voted to the front page / the section page,
this story moves off it and into older stuff.
This is (roughly) the way most news/discussion websites work, and have always worked. The
open submission queue is a wonderful innovation, but the flow of stories remains the same.
I'd propose it's time to change this. Recently, many stories have been submitted and
accepted on K5. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but it is my view that it is
making the level of discussion of some articles suffer.
My proposal is to introduce a story property called "Activity Rating". Here's how it
The submission queue remains the same, but people can only vote for
things to be placed on the section pages. Discussion continues there as normal. The stories
that generate the most (or perhaps the highest aggregate|average rating) discussion are
promoted to the
front page, where discussion continues. The story remains on the front page until a higher
rated story appears. The story then returns to the Section page, were it remains until its
activity rating is such that it is pushed off there into older stuff. It remains there, unless
its activity rating increases enough to move it back to the section page.
Why do I think this would be good?
- It would cut down on the number of "duplicate topic" stories. Instead of everyone
submitting "a discussion of digital music distribution" article, or a "Newbies need to learn the K5 way"
article, everyone would see those stories on the front page, because they would remain popular.
- It would promote in-depth discussion. Currently, I think people are rushing their thoughts
(like they do on Slashdot), because they know the story won't be on the front page in a days time.
This isn't good - K5 should encourage less hasty posting.
- It would allow new users to learn from the body of knowledge in a discussion, rather than
posting a new article because they thought they were the first person to think of an issue.
There are problems, too:
I'm sure there are other things people will think of.
- A story with a very high activity rating might stagnate. Therefore, activity ratings
should decay with age.
- We already have the (user configurable) "Hotlist" of discussions. I'm not sure how many
people use it, though.
- "Flamefest" articles might end up having a high activity rating, and flamefest are always
difficult to kill. I'm not sure how to deal with this, especially if people rate up postings
they agree with, rather than good posting. Perhaps stories with lots of postings that some
people vote way up and others way down would lose activity rating?