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Fear and Loathing on K5

By rusty in Meta
Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:57:16 PM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

With apologies to Hunter Thompson. It was early October, 2000. Three weeks earlier, Kuro5hin had relaunched amid great hype. There was new hardware, new features, more bandwidth, and lots of new people. But when I looked out over that page, all I saw was fear and loathing. There was bad ugliness in this crowd, and they were starting to show their teeth.

K5 used to be a happy place. We used to be a lot of happy people. We got to write the articles, and we all got to decide what was posted. Sure, sometimes your vote would be overruled, but most people got their way most of the time. Then something threw a monkey wrench in the democratic process.

There were sections, now. In theory, the site could handle a lot more content, because we had someplace to put it, so the front page didn't get jammed and cycle through three times a day. But that wasn't happening. We were getting crowded, rushed. Stories were flying past like a crow outside the window of a 747 at 35,000 feet, and people were starting to get mean. Snappish.

Why is everyone so unhappy, I asked myself. Where's the mood of solidarity and common enterprise that once made this site great?

Must be all the newbies, was the common cry. Those degenerate freaks! Who can get a decent discussion in with those tools flinging anything that comes by up onto the front page, like feces at the monkey house! They don't know how it used to be. They can't be trusted to vote for our stories.

But something was nagging at me. We'd had newbies before. They get the hang of it. It just ain't that complicated. And anyway, there were heaps of stories being dropped. The ones getting posted were all at least good enough to be section-only posts. But none of them were. 95% of the stories were going up to the front page. What the hell was going on?

Then I got an email, from a guy named Bob. Bob Galloway, to be precise. Bob said:

Hi Rusty-

It appears that the CVS version of AdminStories.pm has a bug in how it determines front-page vs section-only story posting. (I say "appears" because I have only read the code to see how voting is done, I haven't actually set up a scoop site yet.)

Essentially, the bug is that the section_only field for all votes except "post to section only" is set to "N", and then you do a straight cmp(Y,N) to decide where a posted story goes. That makes the requirement for section-only posts: (section-only votes) > (front-page) + (don't care) + (dump it), which I'm sure you didn't intend.

Great googly moogly! He was right! No wonder there were so few section-only posts. Ye Gods, it's a wonder there were any at all!

Now it all became clear to me. The bared teeth, the paranoia. Why, of course people were paranoid. They were all voting "section Only", only to have post after post show up on the front page. No one was happy because almost no one was getting their way. And who did we have to blame? No one but each other. "Well, I voted section-only. It must be all these other imbeciles putting this up on the front page."

But who's fault was it really? It was all mine.

For 20 minutes, I typed furiously. When the dust cleared, there was a bug fix in place. Now I just had to sit back and see if it finally worked. But could we repair the mistrust and antipathy that had grown in the meantime? Only time would tell.


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Fear and Loathing on K5 | 16 comments (14 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
A neat commentary on open source... (2.70 / 10) (#1)
by skim123 on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 09:42:16 PM EST


Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Thank You, rusty (4.10 / 10) (#3)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 09:50:35 PM EST

I'm sure I speak for a lot of K5ers when I state that I appreciate being informed of the inner goings on of the site (being kept in the loop per se).

It had become extremely frustrating to keep voting stuff to the section pages and have it appear on the front page despite the numerous Meta-articles about this, now that all is explained I feel a lot better.

Great Job, Rusty (3.40 / 5) (#5)
by ubu on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 10:53:58 PM EST

And I think I speak for most of us when I say that the animosity can be put back into its little white box.

As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
Some suggestions (3.00 / 5) (#6)
by loner on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:08:55 PM EST

First off, thanks the entire K5 group for the hard work. Now on to some more suggestions that you'll never have the time to implement:

Get rid of the freakin' LHS column, I don't know about others but on my browser it looks like a mass of letters and horizontal lines (the underlining from links) jumbled together.

Instead put these links right after the front page stories, heck put the entire contents of each section immediately below the front page stories, but pleeeaaase do not shove everything in one giant <table>, close the top-level table for the front-page first so the browser can render it, then put in the other sections.

Whenever a story is published, indicate the final vote tally somewhere in the story page so we can see how it got there.

And getting way off-topic, the score for each comment should indicate how many voted on it, after all there is a big difference between a score 5 from one user and 5 from 10 users.

LHS column (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:55:27 PM EST

The LHS column looks fine on my browser and is actually very useful for me, since I need a handy way to see what new stories have been posted to sections and do not appear on the front page.

If you are browsing with Netscape, I suggest switching to a standards compliant browser such as Mozilla, Lynx or Internet Explorer to enhance your internet browsing experience.

[ Parent ]
Re: LHS column (none / 0) (#15)
by bse on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 05:41:03 PM EST

indeed, it's very useful.

the latest mozilla builds already surpass netscape 4, and with the new installer you can choose to just install the browser component and nothing else (as well as an array of other choices).

"Please sir, tell me why, my life's so pitiful, but the future's so bright? When I look ahead, it burns my retinas." -- Pitchshifter - Please Sir
[ Parent ]

Aw shucks... (4.11 / 9) (#7)
by bobsquatch on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:09:00 PM EST

...all I wanted to do was to figure out how k5 was tallying votes, so I could suggest some criteria that would cut down on front-page stories. I never thought there'd be a bug in the algorithm, but there it was.

It was a pretty subtle bug, though. The code that set all votes to 'non-section only' by default was about 140 lines away from the code that did the tally. They were in different subs. Both sections looked correct when taken individually; only together did the bug jump out at me, and I only looked at them together because I didn't already know the algorithm.

Anyway, I'm glad it's fixed, though I'm sure that sooner (not later) some other eyeball would have caught it. Score one up for Free Software, for CVS, for fresh eyeballs!

Thanks, Bob (2.00 / 2) (#13)
by kmself on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 09:42:04 PM EST

Good eyeballs, dude. And before we all went nuts.

Hmmm... Maybe we could hire you back and put this Rusty punk on the bus back to DC <g>.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

thanks (3.66 / 6) (#8)
by bakednotfried on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:17:21 PM EST


thanks for keeping us informed (and for fixing the bug). nothing like the depths of an ether, uh i mean bug fixing binge, huh?


-- once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right
Well, it worked (2.00 / 5) (#10)
by el_guapo on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 12:59:14 AM EST

I kept frantically scanning the front page looking for this, until I finally woke up and went, DOH!
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
What's this "K5" thing I keep hearing ab (2.00 / 11) (#11)
by Paul Dunne on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 02:49:01 AM EST

If K12 is roughly primary-school age, than maybe K5 is pre-school, infants? Hey, that would explain a lot!
Glad it is fixed (2.33 / 3) (#12)
by scorpion on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 07:55:13 AM EST

Rusty, glad you got the bug fixed.. I was thinking the same thing! Every time I voted an article to the section only it still went to the front page. Thought it may have been me not understanding the different articles and how they should be posted( as a Newbie!!!!).


Good call (2.66 / 3) (#14)
by TheDude on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 06:17:10 AM EST

Well, that may explain the fact that the stories on the front page get pushed off faster than I can read them. Hell, I remeber the old K5 where stories would sit on the front page for weeks, or even months. Now that was discussion. Glad someone found this problem. Hopefully, I can now start enjoying K5 again....

TheDude of Smokedot
Drug Info, Rights, Laws, and Discussion
Visit #smokedot on irc.smokedot.org

Yay! (2.33 / 3) (#16)
by aphrael on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 05:00:07 PM EST

Yay! It's good to hear the problem has been found, the bug has been fixed, and we can all go about our lives happily again. :) My guess is that the general level of congeniality will come back --- i don't think it ever went *that far* away, in any event. :)

Fear and Loathing on K5 | 16 comments (14 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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