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anonymizing the submission queue

By Whizard in Meta
Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:48:35 PM EST
Tags: Scoop (all tags)

This is almost a direct repost of the post I just made at scoop.k5, but I'm reposting it here to get some community feedback on it rather than just developer feedback:

A while back, I posted a comment in a story thread with this idea, and it got rated relatively highly, but not much discussion was made on the topic, and the recent issues with the "Anne Marie" story posts have made me wonder about it more. Essentially, what if stories were anonymous until they made it out of the submission queue. Read on for implementation ideas...

First off, I'm sure many former and current /.-ers are going to jump on this idea screaming "Noooooo... Anonymity is eeeee-vil!" However, to assuage the fears of those who react that way, I want to make it clear that this isn't true anonymity, but more an encouragement to vote on stories on the basis of the story and its content, rather than the politics of who posted it. Some may not see this as a problem, and it may not be yet, but this comment (which is on a story still in the moderation queue) was what inspired me to revisit the idea.

Now, for the details. Essentially, what I'm thinking is that all stories in the moderation queue should have the name of the Author hidden, until such time when the story makes it out of the queue and into a section or the front page. Correspondingly, the author of the story should have the ability to post as "Author" to the comments of the story while it's still in the moderation queue, and as soon as the story exits the moderation queue, those comments will likewise revert to the user's real username. This provides a suitable level of anonymity from other readers, preventing people from basing their votes on who posted it, rather than what's being posted, but still allows the admins to handle issues with stories/users correctly.

This seems like it should be pretty straightforward to implement, though I say that without having looked at the code to Scoop. If this is something that people are interested in seeing, however, I will be glad to grab the code and see about adding it as a feature, unless some of the other code maintainers are interested in doing so.


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Anonymized submission queue?
o Good 56%
o Bad 17%
o Ugly 16%
o Rusty 10%

Votes: 110
Results | Other Polls

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anonymizing the submission queue | 17 comments (17 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
So then... (4.18 / 16) (#1)
by elenchos on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 03:47:37 PM EST

...in addition to pointless speculation about whether or not the story is a troll, the story can spend its time in the submission queue being spammed with comments debating about the true identity of the author. Betting is likely to follow. After the author's nick is revealed, more spam can be posted debating who is behind the nick.

No thanks. Glasnost forever.


Is this really a problem? (4.61 / 13) (#2)
by Miniluv on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 03:51:42 PM EST

I voted this up because it's a topic I think needs to be discussed. That said, I view it as something that needs to be cleared from the air rather than given support, because I do not see this as a real issue. If you look at Anne Marie's stories, as an example, the bulk of them have been posted. Why? Because a differential of 95 or so votes existed that leaned towards posting. Were people voting it up purely because it was Anne Marie? I doubt it, since it seems the "community" is really pretty against him/her.

There are a few people who, by virtue of the fame their UID has garnered, are voted on by a percentage of the community purely in light of their UID. Most of these people also have highly distinctive writing styles and topic choices in their submissions. Anonymizing their name is only going to heighten the problem, if there was one, because people will be forced to guess when they vote the way they already do.

I think this issue really boils down to a conflict between the people who comment on K5 and the people who actually make up the K5 community. The former is a small subset of the latter. Just because you and I comment on this site, and submit stories, doesn't make us any more important than the people who merely read and vote on stories and rate comments. If that 95 vote differential, or the 17 vote differential for hiding, exists then the community is working.

The one aspect of your problem I would like to see solved through self-policing is the ridiculous amount of speculation regarding who one or two individuals are, and the intent of their posts. I don't personally care if Anne Marie == KTB == Signal 11 == rusty == hemos == George W Bush. If they write quality stories I'll vote them up, if they write good comments they will be rated well and I will attempt to reply in a fashion contributory to the discussion. Otherwise I'll do what I do now, vote based on story quality and rate based on comment quality. And then I'll sit back and remember K5 is just a website, the views expressed are just opinions, and I'll go engage in other hobbies when I've had my fill.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

Valid point... (2.75 / 8) (#4)
by Whizard on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 03:58:48 PM EST

Ooops! Big thing I forgot to mention is: the problem I see is not people voting up automatically because of who the poster is, but people voting down because of who the poster is. What inspired me to post this is that it seemed to me people were sounding rather negatively biased towards Anne Marie's stories, just because it was Anne Marie, when actually I find most of the stories posted by him|her rather interesting. Maybe it's a perceived problem, and not an actual problem, but the vibes I'm getting from some of the editorial comments are making it out to be an acutal problem.

So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]
I understood... (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by Miniluv on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:36:07 PM EST

I thought I had made clear in my comment that I understood that to be the perceived problem, and that I still do not feel it's really an issue. My point with mentioning the fact that these stories get posted is that even if a few people are doing this, is it having any effect?

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
The drawback (3.46 / 13) (#3)
by sugarman on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 03:54:11 PM EST

Nowhere does it say that free speech and anonymous speech are derived from one another. If you would wish to have the ability to speak freely on a subject, then you must be willing to take responsibility for the things that you said.

If the trolling is bad now, it will only get worse if the queue gets anonymized. One could post any old thing and spam the queue without fear of reprisals, or being held accountable for their actions, however you wish to phrase it.


Perhaps... (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by Whizard on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:10:59 PM EST

It seems to me that the people who are going to spam the submission queue aren't necessarily worried about the other users holding them accountable for their actions, or they wouldn't be doing it in the first place. Perhaps that's just my view of it.

As far as allowing the administrators to deal with the problem, if someone did choose to spam the queue, there would still be a name tied to the article, and you'd still have to have an account to post...it just wouldn't be visible until the point when the story left the queue.

So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]

A question (none / 0) (#16)
by ZanThrax on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 01:10:24 AM EST

Responding both to the parent, and to this.

Does having a story voted down have a negative effect on mojo? If so, then the quick beat downs that spam submissions recieve may prevent any one poster from flooding the queue for any length of time. I realise that said spammer can just create more accounts, but the same spammers who have nothing better to do than annoy K5 readers will spam us with comments if not with stories anyhow.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Good idea (4.50 / 10) (#6)
by Refrag on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:27:40 PM EST

At first blush this sounds like a great idea. One that will allow users to post their stories without fear that someone will see their name attached to it and automatically -1 it.

However, it also brings up more problems than I feel it is worth. The biggest problem is that it will allow people to plagarize other's stories much more easily. Imagine the following scenario:

Alpha posts a story on MacOS X, but it gets voted down do to formatting / spelling errors. Beta reposts the story with the errors fixed. No one knows that it's a different author plagarizing the story and it gets submitted to the frontpage.

How would you feel if you were the original author? Don't say this is highly unlikely, because people have taken highly rated Kuro5hin comments and pasted them to Slashdot in order to gain karma.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

Ew. Yes. Very good point. (3.33 / 3) (#8)
by Whizard on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 04:46:06 PM EST

I wish it wasn't, and that we didn't have to think about things like that, but yes, that's a very good point. I don't have a good answer for it, either. Some technical wizardry could be applied, i.e. a check for a certain level of similarity in content to previous stories when a new story is posted, and if two stories were too similar, the authors would have to be compared. But I don't like that, it's taking the control of the content away from the users, and probably is far more trouble than it's worth in the first place.

Stuff like that is why I posted this. Intelligent feedback!

So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...
[ Parent ]

No technical wizardry needed (3.33 / 3) (#10)
by sugarman on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 05:36:31 PM EST

I don't think any technical wizardry is required here. The current neural network that k5 has employed seems to do the job adequately. ;-)

I think it would help more if we could see a list of rejected stories to see whether a particular story is a repost / resubmission though. As it stands, you have to be here pretty religiously to recall if they are.

As it stands, I can recall 2 instances with this duplication a/o reposting has occurred. Both involved Signal 11. One involved Anne Marie. That's why it helps to keep the submission queue open. So past transgressors can be scrutinized. The articles can still be voted on according to their merits, but it helps to keep a watchful eye.

[ Parent ]

A fix for this (3.40 / 5) (#9)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 05:08:22 PM EST

Allow trusted users to see who the posters are. If someone does what you're suggesting, they scream bloody murder and then everyone knows who is going to notice anyway. It isn't perfect, and it can still be abused, but so can everything, and I think it is better than what we have now, where certain peoples' stories can get nuked for no reason and other peoples' can get posted for less reason than that. Still, even that isn't a horrid problem because it isn't as common as people want to believe, so maybe this should sit for awhile and be stewed, chewed, and otherwise considered.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Well, Rusty could always introduce more complexity (3.33 / 3) (#14)
by ZanThrax on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 12:59:26 AM EST

and add a 'resubmit' function for the original author, allowing for whatever changes the comments have said are needed, and have the queue display "resubmission" on those stories that the author has used the resubmit function for. Reposts that don't say "resubmission" are either plagarised, or by an author who didn't know how to use the resubmit feature...

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Some more thoughts (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by MrSpey on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 05:56:09 PM EST

I had been thinking about something similiar to this recently that I was going to submit as an article as soon as I had the time to write it up. Basically, I've seen some comments to submissions still in the queue that went something like, "even though I don't like the article, I voted this +1 because [author] usually writes good stuff," or, "normally I'd let a couple a grammar mistakes slide, but given how bad the grammar of [author] has been in the past, I voted it -1." What I wanted to ask the community was:
  • Does who they are really matter at all?
  • Does it effect the quality of the post?
  • Does past performace indicate future results? Even if it does, we have the submission in from of us, so its not like we're voting on name alone.
  • If we are judging partly on the name of the author, what do we gain? And is this the sort of thing we want to encourage others to do here?
For what it's worth, I don't think you should pay any attention to the author's name when deciding how to vote. K5 is not a popularity contest, so we should vote based on the quality of a post even if the author is usually really obnoxious. Conceivably, we could end up voting based on whether or not we agree with the views of the poster, which is pretty bad.

It isn't just what people should do, (none / 0) (#15)
by ZanThrax on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 01:03:56 AM EST

its what people do do. While you, me, and every other poster here is going to say that article voting (and comment rating for that matter) shouldn't be affected by personal bias towards the poster, and most of us will say that we don't, there are people who do, and will. Many of those who don't mean to will be influenced sub(or semi)conciously one way or another, even if they don't mean to be. I know I have trouble leaving my accumulated bias behind when reading thurler's comments, and seeing siggy's name on a story submission often elicits a groan...

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Two things (3.60 / 5) (#12)
by Elendale on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 06:33:22 PM EST

First, is this needed? I'm not quite sure, but then again i'm not big on the idea that people are +1/-1'ing stories based on identity (other than 5 or so who do it to every story that a certain person makes). I'm one of the people irritated at anne marie, yet i found myself +1'ing the last two of her stories in a row. In addition, despite the fact that some people consistently give her -1 (for whatever reasons) she has had quite a few stories posted. Perhaps there are some other people who are suffering abuse of this variety, but if so i haven't noticed and it seems like it would be a rather large problem (after all, we have a story talking about anonymizing the submission queue to prevent a suspected troll from vote abuse).

The two main reasons not to anonymize the queue are the paranoia and problems with spam/duped stories. Firstly, don't think people won't say "this is anne marie, -1 troll" and then "no its not you fuckwit" :) More than that, its a perfect way to let trolls have a playground here. The submission queue is already the weakest part of K5 (IMHO) and anonymizing stories might reduce user abuse, but at the cost of troll abuse. Imagine having some jackass post spam to the queue because he's anonymous? Won't be able to find out who he is unless Rusty steps in, and Rusty is already busy coding us new features. Why is /. falling apart? Because Taco and the gang are busy fixing trolls and not fixing the weaknesses in the system.

-Elendale (just my .02USD)

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

Some further thoughts. (4.60 / 5) (#13)
by Whizard on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 07:47:03 PM EST

I've seen a lot of very interesting points made in response to this, and am happy about that...if I hadn't wanted people to point out the flaws in my idea, I would have just started hacking rather than posting. The stuff I've seen here hasn't convinced me entirely that it's a bad idea, but it has convinced me that it's not as good an idea as I originally thought, and probably convinced me that it's not necessary yet.

The basic problem is that no matter what, the k5 admins are going to end up having to trust the users to Do The Right Thing[tm]. 97% of the users here are going to do that. It's the other 3% of the users we have to be worried about, but the more I think about ways to try to prevent it in software, the more slippery the slope becomes, and almost all the routes I can see end up putting the decisions in the hands of a select few, at which point, k5 becomes /., and I have to find something else to do at work during the day. :-> (Well, yeah, there's that whole work thing, but that's a pain in the butt.)

I can think of a few revisions to the concept that might change the way it would work, things like only waiting until after a person has voted on the article to reveal the Author's name, but that still doesn't prevent that same 3% from just posting who the author is in a comment, and once again defeating the purpose. *sighs* I guess this is just one of the drawbacks to open communities. They're open. ;->

So Lawrence Lessig, John Perry Barlow, Rusty, and Prince are having dinner...

Alternative suggestion (4.80 / 5) (#17)
by hugorune on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 05:18:45 AM EST

At the moment, you can't see the score or the way other people have voted until you vote on a story yourself. Why not conceal the author's name in the same way so that you can find out who posted it, but only after you have voted?

Phil Harrison
anonymizing the submission queue | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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