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How can we fix our mistakes?

By pb in Meta
Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 12:46:33 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

No matter how much one person proofreads a story submission, it still invariably has errors. Sometimes we catch them immediately after we submit a story, or sometimes it gets pointed out to us in the comments. Otherwise excellent stories can be voted down for silly issues like grammar or spelling that get in the way of actual discussion.

So how can we fix this?

My most recent idea to fix this is Amendments. "Each story should have a queue for Amendments; this would, to a large extent, replace Editorial comments, or at least the nit-picky ones. Users would submit them, and be allowed to edit the body of the story and post it as an Amendment." (more details and comments follow in the link)

I think this could work, provided no intellectual content is changed. As long as only broken links, spelling, grammar, typos, and maybe some formatting is fixed, then I'm fine with the idea. But it might be an overly complex mechanism, especially if there's a simple answer.

ucblockhead suggested a much simpler approach, namely that of allowing the author to fix the mistakes, and reset the votes on the story, but still keep it in the queue. To prevent clogging up the queue, we could also add an option for votes that aren't expired by a resubmission, but there are trade-offs involved in both cases. IMHO, this would give the author more control over the editing, but might be slower; I bet it would be easier to implement, though.

However, whatever way we do it, I hope we're agreed that this is a good thing? If you have any other ideas for how this might work, or would like to suggest changes to either model, please do so! There's no guarantee that any of this will get done, but if we come up with a truly great idea, I'm sure someone will implement it. :)

Thanks to Thad, Beh Tong, and Uncarved Blockhead for helping out with the story ideas!


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How can we correct errors in story submissions?
o We can't. 1%
o By not making them. 33%
o By resubmitting our stories under the current system. 11%
o By editing our stories in a more automated fashion. 31%
o By having the community vote on changes to the story. 7%
o By submitting it to slashdot and getting all new errors! 5%
o Become a journalist and try to do better. 3%
o Mu 5%

Votes: 54
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Amendments
o suggested a much simpler approach
o Also by pb

Display: Sort:
How can we fix our mistakes? | 34 comments (34 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
The Solution! (3.66 / 3) (#1)
by eskimo on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:34:26 PM EST

Keep everything the same, but allow the writer to change things before the story is posted. Send out the 'your story has reached the threshhold email,' then suggest they proofread it once more, taking into account some of the grammar and spelling issues pointed out while the story was being considered in the queue.

This hopefully will make it seem like less work than watching a rough draft get torn to shreds in an editorial queue, while allowing for a lot of the grammar and spelling issues to be cleared up.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto

Trolls would love that... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by roystgnr on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:54:21 PM EST

How long do you think it would take before the first originally insightful story had all it's links redirected to goatse.cx after it hit the threshold? A week?

[ Parent ]
Okay... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by eskimo on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 09:21:53 PM EST

So my faith in humanity is misplaced? Good point, I guess...

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

I have a plan... (5.00 / 11) (#2)
by rusty on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:38:12 PM EST

My plan on this was to create an "editorial area." I've explained this in depth elsewhere, but the gist is that you'd submit a story first into the edit queue, where anyone could read and suggest fixes/improvements. While in editing, the author could change the story at any time. Once the author feels comfortable submitting, they just hit a button to promote it to voting. At this point, all comments are erased, and the story is in normal voting, like we have now.

I also intend to add some gravy, like a vote for "re-edit", and the ability for authors to cancel or move their submissions back into editing. This keeps coming up... I probably oughta do it sooner rather than later, huh?

Or, of course, someone else could code it. :-)

Not the real rusty

simplier solution??? (3.25 / 4) (#4)
by radar bunny on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:45:41 PM EST

I like the idea of voting for "re-edit"

How about just letting authors edit their story while in the que and letting people change their votes.

For example, I could vote -1 re edit. Post what I think should be changed. Then, when its fixed i could change that vote to a +1.

I think it would be easier to use for everyone.

[ Parent ]
Vulnerable (4.80 / 5) (#6)
by aphrael on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:50:31 PM EST

How about just letting authors edit their story while in the que and letting people change their votes.

Both of these open up the system to massive abuse. The former would allow someone whose story was about to post to transmogrify it at the last moment into an obvious troll and then use spam accounts to vote it up; The latter would allow people to vote one way and then change their vote at the last minute to keep something trapped in the queue. (This isn't as bad, but it's still problematic).

Both of these seem like stretches, but in a world where people create fake accounts to mod up trolls, neither of them is impossible --- and we should design any 'improvements' to the system in such a fashion as to make abuse less easy not more.

[ Parent ]

Heh. (2.66 / 3) (#5)
by pb on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:46:13 PM EST

Couldn't you have told me that in the edit queue? ;)

Oh well, maybe we'll still come up with some more good ideas. Or, if you're lucky, someone who wants to code this for you...
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

I thought it was called... (3.75 / 4) (#11)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 09:42:21 PM EST

My plan on this was to create an "editorial area."
I thought you had already - and called it "Your Diary".
[ Parent ]
At some point, why even post stories? (4.60 / 5) (#12)
by jasonab on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 09:56:10 PM EST

Although I appreciate Rusty's concept of voting on what gets posted, the length that some stories stay in the queue makes me wonder why we even have posted stories. I appreciate that many people don't vote, but when a story stays in the queue a week (as several have recently), it doesn't really matter if that story gets posted or not.

My point here is that the more layers we add to get a story posted, the more people will have read it by the time it gets posted (if it does). At some point, there are so many hurdles to get a story to the front page, everyone's read it by that point.

I would be interested in seeing how many comments get posted while a story is in the queue, versus the number posted after a story has been voted up. It would make an interesting commentary as to how active users are distributed.


America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
[ Parent ]
Shorter queues are needed (4.66 / 3) (#17)
by sugarman on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 11:04:21 PM EST

Seriously. If there are a couple queues to go through, then make the thresholds lower. Most editorial stuff gets caught pretty quick, and if you're voting based entirely on style, then it's a pretty quick "pass/fail".

But, I'm thinking the thresholds might need to be lowered even now. There's been an influx of fake/dupe/troll accounts lately, and I'm thinking these are skewing the submission queue. Things have taken a lot longer to go through lately. This is partly becuase of a threshold of voters that a) check regularly, and b) bother to vote. Faster cycle times might help.

[ Parent ]

As long as you're at it... (none / 0) (#34)
by Luke Francl on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:59:07 PM EST

Thanks for looking into this problem, Rusty. It's a serious issue for a user-driven community site, with lots of problems with accountablity (anyone read Scripting News? Dave Winer deletes or changes comments all the time!).

If you allow edits, a cool way to provide accountablity would be to store the previous versions of the story, with a link allowing users to look at the old ones.

I would definately recommend a "-1 Rewrite" vote.

The other idea I've seen kicked around is that if you vote +1 on a story, it goes to "your K5" despite what everyone else says. If you vote -1, you don't see it. I think that's a really cool idea. A lot of discussion gets dumped after a story spends a week in the queue with 500 vote for and 500 votes against. Obviously people want to discuss the article, just not everyone.

BTW, is it a "bug" or a "feature" that you can post a topical reply to an editorial comment?

Whew, that's a lot of stuff. Thanks again!

[ Parent ]
My views... (3.75 / 4) (#3)
by skim123 on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:44:04 PM EST

namely that of allowing the author to fix the mistakes, and reset the votes on the story, but still keep it in the queue

Ugh, this would be annoying, I think. Imagine I see an story and I like it, even though I note a couple of typos. No biggie, we all mke typos. ;-) So, I vote +1. OK, I want to be done with this. I don't want to have to REVOTE +1 when the errors are fixed - fixing a couple of silly typos isn't going to make me change it to a 0 or -1, right?

I think the following features would be cool:

  • The person who posted the story can eradicate it from the queue whenever s/he wants, without waiting for it to be voted down or have it just linger...
  • The person who posted the story could alter the location it fit into on his/her own without having it eradicate existing votes

    I guess the ideal solution - although might object to this - would be if the poster wants to change it, he can, and those who have voted will get an autoemail saying, "The story you voted on has been changed, would you like to read the changes and recast your vote? If so got to this URL..." That way, if I don't really care, my vote still counts. Granted, I may WANT to change my vote based on the changes, but I am the one who has to do something about it to make that change...

    OK, enough rambling, back to work...

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

  • Read on, fearful reader... (3.00 / 3) (#7)
    by pb on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 08:50:53 PM EST

    One option with this mechanism of revoting is that we could have both kinds of votes--namely, one kind of vote that doesn't get reset after a resubmit (a persistent vote) and one kind that does (change it, and I'll vote...).

    However, in that case, I fear people would abuse the persistent votes. However, I seriously would like to have the option of changing my vote anyhow, at least while a story is in the queue.

    One thing I don't want, though, is for an author to be able to change the content of a story arbitrarily. Then, what are we voting for? And I definitely don't want another autoemail. :)
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]
    How about...? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Pimp Ninja on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 09:33:17 PM EST

    How about a rating system where, like the comments, you can place editorial ratings and topical ratings, and when the posting is edited by the author, all the editorial ratings and comments are cleared?


    If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
    dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?

    uh.. (4.50 / 4) (#13)
    by lucid on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:10:59 PM EST

    Call me cynical, but I don't think allowing authors to reset votes on their submissions is always a good thing. Some people get awful upset by how their stories do in the queue. You'd have to have a mechanism there to prevent abuse. Perhaps a "Fix your English. (0)" vote option would be nice, so that the more easily upset people don't have to cope with the stigma a "Dump It" vote stains them with.

    You also describe spelling and grammar errors as minor, but they do seriously detract from a story. I can't say that I Am Who Am Grammar or anything, but it's something I watch for, and it bugs me.

    Uh.... (3.00 / 2) (#14)
    by pb on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:31:55 PM EST

    I don't think allowing authors to reset votes on their submissions is a good thing, either. That's why I proposed a different, more complicated system. You can click the link I provided and read about it, or even propose a different system if you want to.

    I agree that spelling and grammar errors bug people; they bug me too. And editorial comments often bug me as well. So that's why I'm proposing that we get rid of all of these things before a story is posted. Remember, the point here is the story. If someone comes up to me with a great idea, and I love it, then I don't mind cleaning up their spelling a little so everyone else can see their idea for what its worth. That's the idea behind all of this.
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]

    I've got another idea (4.80 / 5) (#15)
    by tlloh on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:44:01 PM EST

    Allowing authors to edit their posts also introduces the possibility that they may amend what they say to suit their purposes, especially if the discussion goes against them.

    If what we're really interested in is that authors get to fix grammar, typos, really quickly - perhaps it's better then that we give authors the right to kill their own stories without having to ask everyone to vote it down.

    To prevent abuse (deliberate killing of story to remove interesting discussion) there should be a time limit on this ability - maximum of an hour after initial submission perhaps?

    What do you think?

    Well, maybe. (3.66 / 3) (#16)
    by pb on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 10:52:13 PM EST

    That's basically what editing and then reseting the score on a story in the queue would do; it's about equivalent to retracting and resubmitting a story without voting it down.

    In my system, I'd be trusting the masses (or possibly the trusted users) not to change what the author says to fit their purposes; the reason they wouldn't is because everyone could see what is being changed, and by whom; even if they did change it, everyone could tell what happened.
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]
    editing messages. (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by chuqui on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:02:53 PM EST

    If you allow edits, it has to be done one of two ways: with an explicit change log (strikeout characters and visually distinctive strings to show deletions and addtions), or some other way of logging the changes.

    Either that, or only allow changes until the first reply is logged, to prevent changes from changing the context. After all, an author can always reply to themselves to note errata.....

    -- Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com> <kuro@chuqui.com> "The first rule of holes: If you are in one, stop digging"
    [ Parent ]
    In the meantime... (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by ContinuousPark on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 11:22:34 PM EST

    how about spell checking? I don't know if there's something like an open tool to do this, I've just seen it in some free email services like Hotmail and I don't know who sells these things, but it could be useful until a better solution is found.

    Although, I've seen some people voting down stories because of a stupid typo (like yesterday in the "100 years of radio" story where Signal 11 typed Macroni instead of Marconi). Isn't that a little too much, having not only the author resubmit the story but all of us to vote again on that same story?

    There's also the question of authors who don't have English as a native language; I for one belong to this group. Now, you could all argue that it's our responsibility to learn and properly use the language but it wouldn't be that unreasonable to give us a break if our grammar isn't perfect from time to time, would it? I'm only referring to instances where you can clearly understand the meaning of a sentence but, giving it a second thought, you realize it's misconstructed, because a line indeed has to be drawn or we wouldn't be able to communicate with each other. But you get my point (or maybe not and that would be pretty ironic ;)

    Typo / Vote Down (none / 0) (#22)
    by Speare on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 12:41:44 AM EST

    I've seen some people voting down stories because of a stupid typo (like yesterday in the "100 years of radio" story where Signal 11 typed Macroni instead of Marconi).

    I made mention of the typo since it was the key name on the topic, but I didn't vote the story down for that. I do vote down stories if the poster has no clue about basic grammar or spelling, because who wants that sort of junk on the front page? It was pretty clear that this was a simple mistake, so I treated it as such.

    [ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
    [ Parent ]
    Ok, my mistake. (none / 0) (#23)
    by ContinuousPark on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 01:04:58 AM EST

    Bad example. And I certainly should have checked your voting decision. I agree with what you did, mentioning the typo and not voting it down because of that.

    [ Parent ]
    diff (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by kovacsp on Wed Jan 24, 2001 at 11:56:41 PM EST

    Why not just post a diff -w of the changes so that we can see what the author is up to? After all, we don't want authors changing the content of stories, right before they get voted onto the front page.

    err, yeah. (none / 0) (#20)
    by kovacsp on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 12:02:08 AM EST

    And let the author make as many changes as he wants. Or at least keep old versions around, so that there is some accountability for rogue changes. I prefer the diff -w because it really highlights what exactly has changed.

    [ Parent ]
    err, yeah. (3.00 / 2) (#21)
    by pb on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 12:11:41 AM EST

    I like that, in theory; in fact, that's part of the original method I outlined. You'd basically be combining parts of my method and ucblockhead's method. I swear I went over a few of the possibilities that we're all discussing in my original diary entry, but maybe I wasn't as clear as I thought.

    As for posting the changes, I tend to prefer diff -u just because I can read it. However, for a website like this, I'd also appreciate some smart highlighting; that can look pretty snazzy. :)
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]

    A good thing? (4.00 / 2) (#24)
    by bjrubble on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 01:55:30 AM EST

    My feeling is that the story, like any comment, is part of the discussion. It's a record, a piece of history, and should be irrevocable. If you forget something in the story, put it in the comments; I'll read it. If you make a mistake, well, everyone else is in the same boat.

    And I'm not encouraged by that site where the editorial powers simply provide an excuse to be slipshod. If you have glaring typos in your story, you probably didn't reread the words and thoughts very well either. So if the threat of derision makes a writer spend 2 extra minutes going over it one more time, then I'm all for it.

    Proper cut & paste for a repost? (4.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Mantrid on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 08:25:48 AM EST

    One problem I have is to resubmit something I usually end up cutting the text off of the original story and pasting it into the new one. The problem is that the text gets all messed up and involves lots of clearing out of blank space (leading to the possibility of still more errors). Now I suppose I could keep copies of submissions, but it would be neat to have a log or a way to go back to plain wrap around text for cutting and pasting properly.

    Or is there a way to do this already that I'm just plain missing?

    Obvious to me (4.50 / 2) (#26)
    by ehayes on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 11:04:46 AM EST

    I just looked this up... HTML 4.0 specs still allow the <STRIKE> tag, which puts lines through the letters, as in legal references such as books of laws.

    How about allowing the author of a post to edit that post, and then everything that was there originally is encapsulated in <STRIKE></STRIKE> pairs and the new stuff is encapsulated in these things [] ?

    Maybe a revision history listing at the bottom, too, if you wanted to get really fancy...


    Reseting votes (3.66 / 3) (#27)
    by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 02:11:35 PM EST

    The simplest way might be to allow submitters to edit the story any time they want. Then, when any editing is done, all votes get reset and the score goes to zero. This provides an easy mechanism for people to fix spelling mistakes and the like without allowing them to sneak crap in by editing at the last minute before the score goes over the threshold.

    Then, add a new vote option, "-1, Dump it no matter what" that works just like "-1, Dump It" but isn't reset. This would prevent people from using resubmissions to clog up the queue forever.

    (This was originally posted here in the diary the originated this story.)
    This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

    A different scoring method (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by squigly on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 04:35:07 AM EST

    4 options: Post, Dump, edit, don't care.

    People who voted edit get to change their mind after it is editted.

    If PostVotes - DumpVotes - EditVotes > PostTheshold then post.
    If PostVotes - DumpVotes + EditVotes < DumpTheshold then dump.

    This would mean that the editors can prevent something from being dumped without risking it being posted before being modified. But, repeated editing of a terrible story will not keep it in the queue forever.

    People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
    [ Parent ]
    The edit queue (4.33 / 3) (#28)
    by leviathan on Thu Jan 25, 2001 at 02:50:48 PM EST

    I personally like the idea of an edit queue where no real voting takes place, but readers provide editorial comments. Stories can be promoted to the submission queue by the author, and can be knocked back to the edit queue (for little things like misspellings; it's not nearly as drastic) by user's votes. It's a little like your amendments idea.

    Well, something like that; Rusty explained it far better than I can. I think this is on his to-do list anyway.

    I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
    - Dogbert

    Edit queue (none / 0) (#30)
    by nstenz on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 11:34:40 AM EST

    If we have an 'edit queue', I think it needs a topical/editorial comment drop-down like the submission queue... and I don't think all of the comments should be cleared once it's sent to be voted on. Quite a bit of discussion goes on about a story while it is being edited/voted on - people want to talk about things when they see them, not wait until this-and-that is changed and then go back to re-read something.

    Anyone else care to comment? That story about Microsoft/Windows = bad hung in the queue forever, but there was a TON of discussion there... I get the feeling that would happen in an edit queue too. Not allowing that would simply cut down on the amount of discussion generated because people would have to wait to post anything meaningful- and people like me would forget an awful lot of what they thought the first time they read the story.

    Of course, only the people who like to help people out and edit stuff could hang out in the edit queue, and people who don't want a 'spoiler' of the final submission could just wait for stories to enter the submission queue. Hey, that works out pretty well. =) Perhaps I'll just shut up now.

    [ Parent ]
    Yes, that's how I envisage it working (none / 0) (#31)
    by leviathan on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 11:43:28 AM EST

    But you're probably right and there will be people who read it in the edit queue and don't bother to comment when it comes into submission. I already have that problem with the queue as it is; I tend not to make topical comments while it's still being voted on, but I rarely remember to check it once it's gone into its section page (I guess I'm not the only one, considering how rarely my comments made out of the queue get rated or replied to).

    It's hard to say how it'll work. Maybe if you really can't make topical comments when it's in the edit queue, you're only going to read it with an eye to making editorial comments. <shrug> — this is an evolving technology, I reckon it'll be better than it is now and if it is broke it can always be fixed.

    I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
    - Dogbert
    [ Parent ]

    Trial and error (none / 0) (#32)
    by nstenz on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 12:22:19 PM EST

    Isn't it fun working on a live system where no one seems to agree on how to do something? Here we can just randomly try different approaches until one works reasonably well. I love that. =)

    Try doing that without open source when you're not the author of the software. (Sorry... I'm not normally an open source zealot, but it is damn convenient in a situation like this to be able to screw around and do things however you feel like doing them at the moment.)

    [ Parent ]
    How can we fix our mistakes? | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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